Talk with the artistic director of viennacontemporary

From 21 to 24 September 2017 around 100 galleries and art institutions from 26 countries will present their artists at “viennacontemporary” art fair at Marx Halle, Vienna.

The fair aims to not only function as a marketplace but also as a location for the presentation of young and established artists and for the information on the development of the art scene.

I had the chance to ask the artistic director of Viennacontemporary about this year’s edition, taking a closer look at the dialogue between established and young artist presentations, the artistic development of Vienna and the importance of social media for contemporary art.

Atelier Judith: What can visitors expect from this year’s edition of viennacontemporary?

Christina Steinbrecher-Pfandt: A lot of exciting art – from established international positions to emerging and intriguing young artists from Austria and Central and Eastern Europe. In addition to over 110 galleries presenting their artists, viennacontemporary offers a wide range of special presentations and programs for all age groups. This year I am particularly looking forward to Solo & Sculpture, curated by Portuguese curator Miguel Wandschneider and ZONE1, curated by up-and-coming Viennese curator Marlies Wirth. Also the Focus Hungary special project will offer a unique view on the avant-garde movement of the 60’s and 70’s in the country. Finally I would highly recommend joining the thematic guided tours and the talks program “Borderline” curated by Kate Sutton. I am sure everyone, from the most seasoned collectors to the contemporary art novice, will find many interesting things to discover, learn and enjoy.

AJ: How are you building a bridge between established artists on one side and young, unknown exhibitors on the other side? Is it your aim to reach a different audience through this concept?

CSP: As a fair, we offer a platform where the Austrian, the Central and Eastern European and the international art scenes meet under one roof. This is the unique thing about vienancontemporary, the fair is a place where East and West get the opportunity to get to know each other better. It’s is not our role to bring artists to galleries – we are a market place for galleries but of course the networking between galleries and art institutions of the various countries is a big part of success formula of viennacontemporary as well. We do our work in organizing a competitive art fair and it is the work of the galleries to develop their artist portfolio.

AJ: Viennacontemporary is not only showing fine arts but also offering a cinematic program, including video and film presentations. Why do you think art fairs should include all forms of art?

CSP: Art fairs should bring what they think is appropriate towards their audiences and what, ultimately, supports the sales of the exhibitors of the fair. Any special presentation or side project should fit in the overall concept of the fair. If this means presenting many types of art production like video art, performances or sculpture and painting why not. For viennacontemporary the Cinema program was created because we saw a clear demand from the exhibitors. At our fair many young artist are presented and they work more and more in mixed art forms such as video, digital and interactive work, so why not offer a platform for these positions as well? This year Cinema is in its third edition and became a very popular format by a very young audience as well – they can relate much better to video content then to more traditional ways such as painting and sculpture. So we – as an art fair – also try to bring artistic content to the newer generations and hopefully awaken their curiosity for contemporary art.

AJ: Many associate the Austrian capital with traditional museums showing old masters. How significant is Vienna in comparison to the European or international contemporary art scene?

CSP: The contemporary galleries and museums in Austria always did a great job in promoting contemporary inside Austria and outside Austrian contemporary art. Together with the fair we all managed to streamline program  and put Vienna back on the international art fair calendar and are now being perceived as an up and coming, very competitive, fair in Europe. A substantial part of this success is also due to the fact that Vienna has an unparalleled offer of contemporary art. The audience at large just does not see or know it that well. But with a dozen of internationally renowned art institutions and museums, a vibrant gallery scene and vienancontemporay – Vienna has a lot to offer. It’s our job, in close cooperation with the local galleries and museums and institutions, to change that old-fashioned perception and show Vienna as the contemporary art hub in the region and steadily growing presence on the European and international level.

AJ: How does Viennacontemporary influence Vienna as a cultural hotspot?

CSP: I would not say we influence it – I would say the fair is a major part of it. An event such as vienancontemporarybrings a lot of international attention to the City and its art scene on the one side and on the other side – during the week of the fair – we see the complete Viennese and Austrian art established together, which does not happen that often in such extent. During the fair we have the highest concentration of local, regional and international art professionals and collectors in town of the year. No other contemporary art event brings this mix of people under one roof, at one given time – the perfect moment for expanding networks and setting up future projects.

Aj: Which galleries (or special exhibitions) would you recommend visiting in Vienna? And which Austrian artists should we put an eye on right now?

CSP: See ZONE1 we are especially proud that we have many young galleries that opened in vienna including the ones that moved to Vienna from abroad.

AJ: Viennacontemporary also publishes content on its own blog viennacontemporarymag.com! Do you think social media and digital platforms, such as Blogs and Instagram are an inevitable tool for contemporary art projects? And which specific role does it play in the mediation of Viennacontemporary?

CSP: The use of social media and digital channels has become a pure necessity and I believe no fair or event could function without it in this day and age. It is about reaching your audiences where they are and when it is suitable for them. viennacontemporary operates on a wide geographical framerowk and we reach out to people who are always “on the move” from one fair or event to the other. Social and digital channels are also the best ways to get our content out and be in touch with our target audiences but let’s not forget that, although digital is growing and growing, a good outreach and performing marketing plan is a mix of print, social and digital – as well in external communication, press work and advertising.

AJ: What are your plans regarding the future of Viennacontemporary?

CSP: I have now been artistic director of the fair for six editions and I still see a lot of potential and challenges to make the event better content wise, quality wise and keep growing the fair on the international level. After each edition we thoroughly evaluate and set goals for the future so let’s see what plans we can come up next, but for now we fully focus on the 2017 edition and are confident you will enjoy it too.

Thank you for the interesting art talk! Interviewer: Judith Bradlwarter


Biography of Christina Steinbrecher-Pfandt *born 1983 in Kazakhstan. Find out more about her career in the art world.

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Photo credits: viennacontemporary ©

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