COLOGNE—As the international importance of Art Cologne has diminished in recent years, former gallery owner and new fair director Daniel Hug chose a back-to-basics strategy for this year’s edition, held April 22–26 at the Cologne Exhibition Centre. The fair has reduced the number of participants to 180, from more than 200 last year, in order to “enhance quality,” according to fair organizers Koelnmesse.
Results were mixed. Organizers said attendance this year was 56,500, compared with 55,000 last year. Some dealers, such as Klaus Benden, Cologne, reported robust sales. Benden sold a large painted-metal work by Tom Wesselmann, Red Ending, 1997, for about €200,000 ($265,000), and Jean-Pierre Ritsch-Fisch, Strasbourg, France, sold works, mainly for prices in the mid–five figures, from a wide range of offerings by such artists as Francis Marshall and François Burland.
Dealer Ernst Hilger used Art Cologne to highlight the participation of two of his artists—Miha Štruckeli and John Gerrard—in the Venice Biennale, and sold enough works to fly back to Vienna with “some money in the pocket,” he said. He also reported sales of works by Sara Rahbar (appliqué and Iranian cloth on American flag), Leo Zogmayer (aluminum sculpture) and Julie Monaco (computer-based art) at prices under €20,000 ($26,800). Thomas Levy, of Levy, Hamburg, was cheerful, having sold several recent drawings by Mel Ramos for €15,000 ($20,100).
Altogether, it was a lackluster performance, but the fair will most likely continue to have a future, as observers said that collectors and dealers were still eager to keep Art Cologne alive.