After months of enforced slumber, the art world is stretching its limbs and taking a breath of fresh air. Projects waiting in the wings, events put on hold and venues kept under wraps are now seeing the light of day. Here’s our pick of this renaissance.
The buildings are ready, the art is hung and launches aren’t on hold any more. Here are the new galleries, foundations and institutions rolling out the welcome mat.
Helga de Alvear is quite the character. An effusive, German-born octogenarian who has called Spain home since the 1950s, this gallerist turned collector has a voracious appetite for impossibly sized art, which has led her to accrue one of Europe’s largest and most impressive private collections. She is also incredibly patient. After bequeathing everything to the city of Cáceres in Extremadura back in 2003 – on the condition that it build a modern museum worthy of its mesmerising contents – she’s weathered two crisis-riven decades while waiting for her much-anticipated museum to open its doors.
Now that it has finally happened, De Alvear, chattier than ever, is delighted about being able to share her more than 3,000-strong cache with the world. “Giving culture to people seems fundamental to me,” she says. Although part of the collection has been rotating through a century-old building in Cáceres since 2010, the recently unveiled extension by Spanish architects Mansilla & Tuñon Architects is a striking addition to the edge of the city’s old quarter.
The high-ceilinged halls now house an outlandish array of contemporary art’s most subversive somebodies but the collection also includes some of history’s biggest names: there are pieces by Joseph Beuys and Picasso, a first-edition illustrated book by Francisco Goya and immersive installations by Olafur Eliasson. “I know the collection even better than Helga,” says José María Viñuela, one of Spain’s most distinguished art conservators. He is also one of De Alvear’s closest friends and helped her to realise her vision.
Only a small fraction of the collection is on display for the foundation’s first show but there are plans to curate rotating exhibitions every few months. Visitors are encouraged to get up-close and personal with the art and there’s not an angry sign or precautionary rope barricade in sight, while provocative films aren’t hidden naughtily behind black curtains. Succinct quotes by the artists accompany every piece, providing context without forcing interpretations down onlookers’ throats.
Annie Vartivarian was already a key player in Beirut’s art scene as a co-founder of contemporary commercial gallery Letitia. But when last August’s blast killed her daughter, Gaïa Fodoulian (a product designer), and destroyed parts of her city, she embarked on a new, highly symbolic project. AD Leb is a platform dedicated to up-and-coming artists and designers from Lebanon and beyond. Starting last September, Vartivarian worked to set up an inaugural group show with the results ready to view this spring, in the first of many exhibitions that she intends to put on. “People didn’t believe I would do it so quickly,” she says. The initial idea was to put her daughter’s unseen modular bench design into production but the project soon went beyond that.
AD Leb is the continuation of an idea that Fodoulian, a former manager of Letitia, came up with to evolve the gallery’s business model. She had wanted to set up temporary exhibitions of works by emerging and established artists in odd places – finding spaces with real character beyond post-industrial hangars. The chosen location for the debut show, the Tabbal Building, has bags of charm. It’s an ornate, cream-coloured 1890s structure that had been damaged by the blast. The team secured the space for the exhibition by promising that they would sort all essential repairs at Vartivarian’s own expense. “They were looking for an ngo to restore the building but none were helping, so I said that I could fix it and clean it, which was much costlier than renting the place,” she says. “But I was happy to do that.”
The exhibition was an instant success. “It really was non-stop,” says Vartivarian. “Some people came over and over again.” The project ended up feeling personal – and meaningful – for plenty of people besides her. “Unfortunately, people will often defer any cultural production in times of crisis,” says artist Hatem Imam, who was showing a chaotic-looking series of works on canvas and paper, titled Cataract. “But it becomes even more relevant in those times because people aren’t just looking for livelihood and sustenance; they’re looking for hope. People are desperate for a reason to stay in the country and to build something meaningful.” Designer Samer Bou Rjeily, who contributed a huge, majestic table made from burnt wood, agrees. “The idea of doing this exhibition was really important for everyone,” he says. “An initiative can give you the strength to continue.”
In the future, AD Leb will take over a new venue for every new show. The next is scheduled for the end of August, when Vartivarian plans to pair every artist with a designer and invite them to collaborate on a piece. Ultimately she hopes that the initiative will move beyond Lebanon’s borders. “We want to give a chance to everybody,” she says. “And create an opportunity to find hidden talent.”
The façade of the global HQ of Pernod Ricard, close to Paris’s Gare Saint-Lazare, comprises thousands of tinted glass strips that capture the changing light. The building was designed by architect Jacques Ferrier in 2013, and the French wine and spirits giant moved in last July. Since then, with Niney et Marca Architectes (nem), it has renovated the ground-floor space to make room for its cultural foundation. Pernod Ricard has long had a penchant for the arts; its co-founder Paul Ricard was a painter. The group financially supports artists and helps to grow the holdings of public museums. “We’re motivated by the conviction that art is only meaningful if it is shared,” says Paul’s grandson – and current ceo – Alexandre.
Alongside a café, a library and a shop, the lobby is dotted with artistic interventions. “We asked nem to think of the foundation as a toolbox that artists could use to develop their work,” says director Colette Barbier. “We want to reflect the art of today.”
The Dia Art Foundation is best known for Dia Beacon, an enormous museum in upstate New York that’s dedicated to large-scale installations. But Dia has also been operating a gallery in the city’s Chelsea neighbourhood since 1987 which, following a two-year expansion and renovation, reopened this spring.
Dia’s buildings have never followed the white cube template and the refurbished Dia Chelsea is no exception. Visitors are greeted by a spacious art bookshop as well as a large space for public talks. It’s a welcoming layout that encourages discussion.
Set inside former industrial buildings, the new exhibition spaces are debuting with a series of commissioned works by Arizona-born artist Lucy Raven. “Ready Mix”, one of the most compelling works, is a black-and-white film about the production of concrete in central Idaho. It depicts the vast scale of the manufacturing process on an equally imposing screen, while nodding to the history of the building that houses the gallery.
‘Lucy Raven’ runs until January 2022; diaart.org
From enormous numerals on a wall to tiny towns in the countryside, the exhibitions calendar this season is as adventurous as ever. Get out there and see for yourself.
“When you walk through the gallery, you’re confronted by some stark numbers, as we all have been during the past year or so,” says Luc Tuymans as he sits, smokes and considers his new show, Seconds, running at Antwerp’s Zeno X Gallery. He’s speaking from his studio in the same city, not far from Mortsel, where he was born in 1958. “Numbers are universal and also abstract,” he says. “Mine happen to be very physical, rather sculptural. After all, they are three and a half metres high,” he adds with a chuckle.
The art of Luc Tuymans invites the viewer to fill in the blanks. To look, then look away and wonder. To see Seconds is to be confronted and dwarfed by these dark, monumental paintings of numbers. In a sense, these are nothings but Tuymans’ work always seems freighted with consequence. In another sense, viewer, you do the math.
A painter who’s often heralded as having breathed new life into the medium some 35 years ago, Tuymans has dwelt on important, often troubling subjects and then painted their adjacency – the innocent iceberg, as it were, rather than the sinking ship. He has portrayed complex history, contemporary society, colonialism, corporatism, Nazism and the Holocaust, Hollywood and Disney. So this new show and its little numbers painted so big clearly add up to something greater than the sum of their parts. “I’m curious to see how people react physically,” says Tuymans. “I tested them on people who came to the studio and most of them were overpowered, which was impressive,” he adds, grimacing in mock horror. Typographically, the numbers are those of an old office calendar from which small pages are ripped off and discarded. “Has the meaning of the calendar now changed for us?” asks Tuymans. “Are these numbers a piling up or a calming down? And when I paint a number that’s supposed to be so concrete, does it become less so?” The act of painting itself, physically filling these large canvases with oils, feels anything but abstract. It gave Tuymans what he calls “a real kick”.
“Numbers are universal and also abstract. Mine happen to be very physical, rather sculptural. After all, they are three and a half metres high”
Beyond the numbers, the show has three more large paintings – “The Stage”, “Intermission” and “Clouds” – and 20 very small paintings suggestive of something that doesn’t become whole until visitors see a final strobe-lit film. The trio of canvases are classic Tuymans: an empty, slightly heraldic-looking stage that’s lit for performance but with thick darkness off; the view from a stage looking into the void of the auditorium; a slice of yellowish cloudy sky, perhaps becoming a storm, as though viewed from a high window. Harbingers cloaked in innocence, all of them.
“The stage was a little bit based on a weather-house where two figures go in and out,” says Tuymans, bringing to mind a year of politicians and scientists tripping out like milkmaids on a mechanical clock to provide yet more numbers on TV. “In fact this came from my fascination with Hopper. Everything about it is a set-up, it has emotions – but these emotions are staged.”
What of the title itself? “It refers to the fact that you could walk through it very quickly or it could be a huge contemplation; it’s a delusion of that idea of contemplation,” he says, running a ruminative hand over his chin. “So the stages are plain and the sky could be romantic but it’s not, it is rather matter of fact; to the bone.”
‘Seconds’ runs at Zeno X Gallery until 26 June; zeno-x.com
Teaming up with the Hellenic parliament, Athens-based art foundation Neon has completed the restoration of the city’s 1930s tobacco factory, turning it into a spectacular new 6,500 sq m art space for the Greek capital. “We tried to keep the memory of the space alive,” says Neon’s director, Elina Kountouri.
The venue opens this June with its inaugural exhibition, Portals, a group show featuring 59 contemporary Greek and international artists. “Our cultural programme aims to highlight this moment in history,” says Kountouri. “We’re exploring ideas about what the post-pandemic reality might look like.”
‘Portals’ runs until December 2021; neon.org.gr
Before the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo became the best contemporary art gallery in Turin, its founder Patrizia converted a palazzo in the town of Guarene, just south of the city, into her first art foothold. Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, the private foundation is branching out with a permanent sculpture park. Alongside a programme of contemporary installations by big names such as Carsten Höller, a series of events will be hosted amid 2,000 newly planted trees. At the same time, Guarene is being adorned with artworks by Michael Armitage, Laure Prouvost, the Chapman brothers and more.
Miami’s Superblue, a huge new space across the road from the Rubell Museum, was set up by Pace Gallery’s Marc Glimcher and Mollie Dent-Brocklehurst. It opened this spring with three massive installations: one by the modern master of light James Turrell; a film/mirror maze by Es Devlin; and a series of interactive works by Japanese collective Teamlab. It’s easy to be cynical about an art gallery that’s hoping you’ll take snaps as you visit but Superblue is likely to do it very well.
After creating the first-ever Madagascar Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale, artist Joël Andrianomearisoa and his friend Hasnaine Yavarhoussen considered how they could continue to build interest in the Malagasy art scene. “Locally we want to build more infrastructure for the arts,” says Andrianomearisoa. The result is Hakanto Contemporary, a non-profit contemporary space, which opens in June with a multidisciplinary exhibition on the island’s post-colonial history. “Madagascar isn’t often discussed on the global arts stage,” he says. “We want to change that.”
More than a decade in the making, the sprawling Luma Arles campus of contemporary art finally opens fully on 26 June, transforming a small Provençal city famous for its photography awards into an even bigger cultural draw. Although parts of this complex made up of former factories have been hosting exhibitions and art spaces for a few years, a shimmering new tower by Frank Gehry is set to become the centrepiece. Designed to recall Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”, painted nearby, and the Camargue landscape, it is made from 11,000 stainless-steel panels that refract the sky.
Maja Hoffmann, Luma’s founder and patron, has commissioned site-specific works for the vast gardens and brought her own extensive collection here too. More than just a space to display art, she thinks of this set of venues as “a polyphonic score where everything is possible”.
His signature beard blowing back and forth in the breeze, artist Julius von Bismarck has his eyes fixed on the cargo of a passing barge. Normally stacked with coal or steel, today the flat-bottomed boat is transporting some unusual goods: a miniature city that the artist is shipping from his studio in Berlin to a sculpture trail in and around Duisburg, where it will be installed as a permanent public artwork.
Created in collaboration with the architect Marta Dyachenko, Neustadt comprises scaled-down reproductions of 23 buildings – including residential complexes, wartime bunkers, churches and pools – that were torn down in the industrial Ruhr district within the past 20 years. The project reflects the massive change that this densely populated area has undergone in the past 60 years, as both coal mining and the steel industry took a downturn. “In Neustadt, the history of society and buildings is not revealed through new creations but through the decisions on which architecture was removed,” says Von Bismarck. “The whole complex becomes a negative of current building policy; a city as an anti-version.” In recent years the German artist has played with spatial, sculptural installations that challenge people’s perceptions of physics and the space that surrounds them. From ceiling lamps that spin in a mysterious pattern to a revolving concrete platform topped with a bed and a desk, he is used to working with both the large-scale and the symbolic.
After he’s finished filming the launch from a small boat off the main barge, Von Bismarck joins Dyachenko on deck to survey their creations up close. Built to a 1:25 scale, the project’s tallest buildings, such as a mid-1970s residential tower from Bergkamen, loom above the artists, while the smaller structures, including a modernist swimming hall built in Marl, can be scrutinised from above. For research, the duo visited a number of miniature parks across Europe but whereas the latter often replicate famous historic buildings, Dyachenko and Von Bismarck wanted to represent projects designed mostly by local or unknown architects. Yet these are buildings that many citizens of the Ruhr might have seen and visited first-hand.
“These sculptures are a machine for memory,” says the project’s curator, Britta Peters. “Every one has its own story and as you spend time with them, you start talking about public life and its institutions.” As the artistic director of Urbane Künste Ruhr, an organisation that initiates public art projects in the Ruhr region, Peters believes that art can play an important role in helping to shape a new identity for post-industrial areas. “The Ruhr district is a network,” she says of its 53 municipalities. “The idea with Neustadt is that it’s a project where parts of all the different areas in the region appear together to make a fictive 54th town.”
“Every one of these sculptures has its own story. As you spend time with them, you start talking about public life and its institutions”
Peters is one of a number of invited guests who are boarding the boat at different stops along the 10-day journey from Berlin to Duisburg so that they can take part in a series of talks. Dyachenko and Von Bismarck hope that these talks, which they want to eventually turn into a book, spark a wider public conversation about what is lost when a work of architecture is destroyed. “I want people to see that these decisions are important,” says Von Bismarck. “For the building industry, it’s better to tear down and rebuild rather than renovate, because that’s where the money is.”
An interest in the environmental impact of such practices is also reflected in the artist’s choice to transport his works by boat. Not only is it the cleanest way to do so but, as Dyachenko points out, by putting their city in motion they can show the connection between the raw materials usually carried on the boat – coal and steel – and our built environment. Eventually, when they are installed in the grounds of the sculpture park at the Emscherkunstweg (Emscher art trail), the miniature buildings will be left to assimilate with their surroundings and nature will grow around them. Neustadt will join a network of 18 other works scattered across the trail, which are free to visit.
Besides the construction of this new scaled-down town, the duo hope to turn their experience of travelling by boat through Germany, at the leisurely speed of 12km/h, into an art film. “We have two cameras, one each, and we’re focusing on the buildings moving through other cityscapes, where you don’t really know which part is real,” says Dyachenko. “It’s going to be a very slow movie,” adds Von Bismarck, jokingly. “Some people might fall asleep but I hope that they’ll have interesting dreams.”
Banish online viewing from your summer schedule because ambling in person through museums, galleries and art foundations is a far greater joy. Here is our diary of big-box exhibitions – from light installations to works on paper; photographs to woven textiles – that will more than make up for time lost during lockdown.
Known for her work with design companies such as Vitra, Dutch designer and artist Jongerius has turned her attention towards abstract objects. In Woven Cosmos she taps into an ancient craft to examine the power of weaving. Partly the result of a residency
in Gropius Bau’s upper studios, the exhibition is interactive, evolving and beautiful.
‘Woven Cosmos’ runs until 15 August
Ikeda and The Vinyl Factory go way back. The Japanese artist took over a carpark in London’s Soho for the art organisation in 2015 with an exhibition of flickering digital artefacts, and he filled the ground floor of its brutalist 180 The Strand venue with a dazzling installation in 2017. Now he’s back with more intense, immersive, intelligent technological art.
‘Ryoji Ikeda’ runs until 1 August
The influence of American artist González-Torres has only grown since his death in 1996, aged just 38. His signature piles of sweets and fortune cookies laid a path for playful participatory art that many artists have since followed. But his art was also critically engaged and often deeply emotional. This retrospective features his biggest hits.
‘Félix González-Torres’ runs until 12 September
Over the past 28 years, US artist Walker has built up a personal archive of more than 600 drawings, collages and studies. These intimate works on paper have been kept under lock and key in her studio, until now. Her first major solo show in Switzerland will offer a rare chance to see them, alongside several striking new works.
A Black Hole...’ runs from 5 June to 26 September
Tuo creates complex art, weaving his subtle visual works together by pulling at countless thematic threads. This, his first major institutional show, explores the history of shamanistic rituals. The result is a meditative body of work that’s as engaging as it is austere, standing out for its quietness in a world of loud ideas and brash art.
‘Empty Handed into History’ runs from 6 June to 5 September
Since winning the Silver Lion for most promising young artist at the Venice Biennale in 2013, French artist Henrot has created epic works. The best from the past decade – including “The Pale Fox”, an immersive room-sized installation with roots in Aboriginal dream maps – will be exhibited here alongside new works on paper.
‘Is Today Tomorrow’ runs from 18 June to 24 October
With their fashionable clothes and cropped hair, the “new” women of this exhibition were easy to spot in the 1920s. They captured the revolutionary changes taking place around them, embracing the camera as a mode of expression and shaping photography in the process.
‘The New Woman Behind the Camera’ runs from 2 July to 3 October
Documentary photographer Markosian’s mother had been fantasising about moving to California since the collapse of the Soviet Union. But when she took her two children from Moscow to Santa Barbara it wasn’t what she imagined. Through photos and film, this show explores her immigrant experience and the mirage of the American dream.
‘Santa Barbara’ runs from 3 July to 7 November
She’s the only woman to appear ona Swiss banknote, yet Taeuber-Arp is little known, even in her native country. Hoping to change that is this retrospective on the multidisciplinary artist and member of the Dada movement, which flourished in Zürich in the First World War.
‘Sophie Taeuber-Arp’ runs from 15 July to 17 October
One of Mies van der Rohe’s few museum commissions, a glass box erected in 1968, the New National Gallery has been closed since 2015. It reopens in August after a renovation by David Chipperfield Architects, with a show from Berlin-based German-Italian artist Rosa Barba, whose works deal with how we approach time.
‘In a Perpetual Now’ runs from 22 August to 16 January 2022
Gallery openings big and small help to cement a town’s cultural clout, and things are looking up for one South African city with energy in abundance.
“Historically, Johannesburg is a mining town; it’s a pioneer town,” says Clive Kellner, executive director of the Joburg Contemporary Art Foundation. “So it’s always in the process of discovery and reinvention.” The new exhibition venue and research institute, housed in an old electricity station in the leafy northern suburb of Forest Town, is one of the spaces that has had an effect on the city’s recent cultural revival. “Johannesburg is layered,” he says.
Although Cape Town often tends to get much of the attention when it comes to artistic matters in South Africa (some of the country’s finest institutions, including Zeitz Mocaa and the Norval Foundation are found there), Johannesburg first laid a valid claim to being the country’s cultural epicentre decades ago – and now it’s putting up a great fight to make a well-deserved comeback.
“When I first came here 39 years ago, Joburg was the cultural capital and Cape Town was still a peripheral place,” says artist and photographer Roger Ballen, who is in the process of opening his institute. A sharp, grey brutalist exhibition space and headquarters for his photography foundation, the venue is another of a spattering of openings that are energising the scene. Commercial gallery Stevenson, for example, having already made a name for itself on the international art-fair circuit, has recently reopened in a bright new home-turned-gallery in the artsy area of Parktown North. And the gallery-cum-project-space bkhz, founded by artist Banele Khoza, has proved that there’s plenty of room, and appetite, for independent, daring locations too. After launching his own downtown gallery two and a half years ago, Khoza relocated to a narrow one-room space at the Keyes Art Mile in Rosebank earlier this year.
Perhaps it is because of Johannesburg’s past as a mining town, which makes it rough around the edges, that creating pockets of beauty has often felt like the result of personal initiative. This city of scrappy self-starters has often applied a business-minded approach to culture; creativity has often felt like a necessity in order to succeed.
That might be why there’s no shortage of exceptional commercial galleries here. These include Everard Read, the continent’s oldest; Goodman Gallery, now an international operation; leading contemporary venue smac; publisher and exhibition space David Krut; and Gallery Momo, one of the country’s few black-owned art galleries. These players have helped to construct a solid market base for the city and, with global attention on African art increasing, the roster of venues looks only set to increase. “The more places promoting art, the better,” says Ballen, clearly seeing strength in numbers. “The more people experiencing it, the better it’s going to be.”
Big annual art fairs have been another force behind this evolution. Events such as fnb Art Joburg, Turbine Art Fair and Latitudes Art Fair draw local and international galleries and collectors. “Our art fairs have character,” says Latitudes’ co-founder Lucy MacGarry. “Joburg has an energy and vibrancy; it feels unique.” Having worked as a curator for a larger fair in the past, MacGarry and her team launched upstart Latitudes in an attempt to open up the conversation around these events, where top-tier galleries usually dominate the space. “It’s important that we change this narrative,” she says.
“Joburg has an energy and vibrancy; it feels as though you’re experiencing something unique”
Historically, most of the collecting base was international, as foreign buyers benefited from South Africa’s weak rand, but an appetite for acquiring art is growing among locals too. “We have collectors ranging from twenty-somethings to those in their eighties,” says bkhz’s Khoza. For him, the aim has always been to create a bridge between emerging artists and the community. “I realised that there was so much [market] interest in my work but I wasn’t seeing it unfold to my contemporaries,” he says.
The city’s residents are also keen to explore informal, experimental spaces – something that works in favour of up-and-coming artists. “If you put on a show and advertise it, people will come,” says artist Serge Alain Nitegeka, a Rwandan immigrant who showed his paintings and sculptures at Stevenson earlier this year. “And there’s drama here,” he adds.
As the country’s economic hub, Joburg has long drawn migrant workers from all over Africa. “The influx of people from the continent, and the movement in and out, means that we have a greater diversity and cultural representation,” says Kellner. Ultimately, it’s this variegated city’s soul that reels new residents in. “Artists come here for the energy,” says artist Nicholas Hlobo, whose studio in an old synagogue is filled with contorted rods of copper. “It pulls people in from different walks of life. The diversity and the different cultures are motivating.”
Watching the numbers rise on an online ticker will never match the jittery tension of a live evening sale. We meet the auctioneers hammering that excitement home again.
“This past year has been busy for us and the art market in general, which is interesting and promising,” says Cassi Young, head of sale for contemporary art at Bonhams London, on the eve of the first in-person auction at the company’s New Bond Street saleroom in months. Despite digital auctions gathering interest, there’s still a special excitement about being back in the room. “There is a drama to a physical auction that can’t be replicated online,” says Young, who took up her usual position at the phone banks on the evening in question. Being present allows her to read the room and advise buyers accordingly. “It’s a bit nerve-wracking, especially when you’re bidding on the top lots,” she says. Now, thanks to new cross-departmental sales opening up the field, a new generation is getting involved with auctions. “We had a lot of young, trendy people in,” says Young. Night at the auctioneers, anyone?
Despite being born into Denmark’s most established family of auctioneers, it was a one-year course in fine arts at Christie’s in London that gave Alexa Bruun-Rasmussen the confidence to get involved in the family business. “I could finally join the conversation at the dinner table,” she says with a laugh. Today the 46-year-old is the third generation to head the Bruun Rasmussen auction house – and she’s supposedly the country’s sole female auctioneer. She regularly leads the house’s auctions, as well as overseeing the more than 80,000 items which come in and out of the offices every year.
How do you go about leading an established auction house into the future?
I like to hold on to tradition while still moving forward. That means maintaining a hands-on experience, holding auctions in the same central Copenhagen location and nourishing relations with our longstanding clients. But we also have to expand to online auctions and virtual tours. We need to interact with our clients differently.
How do you approach younger clients?
It starts with us changing how we present ourselves. Collecting art and auctioneering has long been reserved to a select few. But with younger people buying second-hand more than ever, we need to start communicating in a way that is approachable. We are experts and that’s how we want to be seen.
How do you see the wider industry evolving?
With crypto art entering the game, it raises the question of what art is and who can judge it. We’re going to enjoy the fact that the next generation will be very well informed and much more interested in art and design. More and more, people want to invest in items that have a past and a story. And this is a trend that will keep growing.
What advice would you give to people who want to start collecting art?
Figure out the kind of art that you are interested in. It’s important to pick a specific area, otherwise things can get pretty overwhelming. Then just go for it. Be brave when you go to a live auction but set your limit. Remember, there are some very charming auctioneers out there.
Contemporary African art is booming as international biennials take place all over the continent. Find some hidden gems among the growing stars of the scene at this smaller sale.
15 June; artcurial.com
Most expensive living male artist at auction? Jeff Koons, $91.1m (€75m). Most expensive living female? Jenny Savile, $12.4m (€10.2m). This sale of works by the likes of Niki de Saint Phalle, Dorothea Tanning and Berthe Morisot might help to level things up.
16 June; christies.com
Bag some stunning works on masculinity and the male body by Henry Scott Tuke, Polychronis Lembessis, Keith Vaughan and Marcel Dyf.
16 June; bonhams.com
As Native-American art flourishes, this sale centres on the painted pots, blankets and hides of the modern era.
27 August; bonhams.com
The art market had to become more transparent during the pandemic and is now keen to attract new buyers, making it more appealing to those who want to take their first steps into collecting. We ask some seasoned hands how to go about choosing the works to invest in.
An explorer publisher, writer and the first man to have reached both Poles and the peak of Mount Everest on foot, Erling Kagge has been collecting art from his Oslo home for more than 20 years. He discovered this passion aged 21 when he exchanged a bottle of wine for a lithograph by Norwegian artist Ole Hauki at a friend’s party. “It was Munch-inspired; I loved it,” he says. But it wasn’t until he founded his own publishing house in the mid-1990s – now Norway’s largest publisher of non-fiction – that Kagge started collecting with purpose. Since then he’s acquired works from more than 100 artists. He shares tips on starting a collection and the importance of experiencing art in person.
What was your most recent purchase?
It’s called “Ascending” [pictured]. It’s a 2021 painting by German artist Anna Glantz, which I bought out of sheer curiosity. I really like the use of colour and that the meaning behind the painting isn’t easy to grasp. I like to buy art from artists early in their careers and collect more in-depth over time. I buy a piece and keep it in my living room for some weeks and see what I feel – and then maybe buy more from the artist.
What led you to collect art?
I grew up surrounded by jazz music and literature but with no great art on the walls. I was always curious about contemporary art, how it can be difficult to understand and yet always available. I discovered how I love the feeling of having great art at home.
Has your collecting changed over the past year, with so many shows moving online?
Not really, because I seldom buy art from just seeing images on a screen. I prefer to see art in the flesh so I can study it properly. I’ll maybe buy a piece online from an artist I know well, or if I have a friend who can check it out for me. Those might be the only exceptions.
How do you approach the task of collecting?
I read about it, talk to people, go to exhibitions. I always say that you collect with your eyes, ears and nose. Talking about art is just as important as seeing it.
What advice would you give to someone who’d like to start collecting?
I’d suggest purchasing three pieces by three different artists and leaving them at home, seeing how they fascinate you. Then buy a second piece from one of those artists, then other art from other artists. Just get started. You don’t need much money; you can find surprisingly great art by some of the best artists around. Collecting art doesn’t have to be expensive.
Köln-born Chantal Blatzheim bought her first piece aged 18. She was studying art history in Madrid while working at the city’s Galería Helga de Alvear (see page 81). When she began helping out at fairs, she chose to take home a small work – a collage by Spanish artist Jesús Palomino – in lieu of being paid. “Before then, I always thought art belonged in museums.” Blatzheim now lives in Zürich and is the director of her own cultural consultancy as well as a board member of the city’s Kunsthalle. Her focus is on contemporary art that’s often conceptual and mostly made by women.
What was your most recent purchase?
A neon work by the Swiss artist Pamela Rosenkranz, which was part of her 2019 exhibition at the Frauenmünster, a church in Zürich. She installed leds in the former courtyard of the building. This piece represents a window; I saw it and loved it but everything had been sold. Then the Karma International gallery called me last year and they said that a buyer had pulled out, so I bought it. In our house, it’s a window between two windows.
Why did you buy it?
I have always been interested in Rosenkranz’s exploration of colour and light; she often chooses blue because it’s a colour of contemplation and a symbol of salvation in art. The work comes with a remote control so that you can change the intensity of the blue. When it’s bright it fills the whole room.
What makes you decide to buy something?
Passion. I grew up surrounded by art. My parents, and their parents, were collectors. I’ve made a few good investments but I haven’t sold anything. We live with art; the house is full.
How has the past year affected your buying habits?
I’ve taken time to look at things more closely. I’ve visited galleries in Zürich, when they’ve been open. Some got creative, inviting people to look through windows. I’m not into online viewing rooms and I’m more of a gallery buyer than a fair buyer because I take my time.
Do you have any advice for first-time collectors?
Go out and look. Visit museums and galleries, and ask questions. Go with your gut rather than what’s supposed to be expensive or cool. Mostly, be curious.
Photographer: Ben Roberts, Maria Klenner, DePasquale + Maffini, Jussi Puikkonen, Felix Brüggemann, Stephanie Veldman, Thomas Ekström, Maurice Haas, Jan Søndergaard, Trisha Ward