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viennacontemporary 2017

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The number of art fairs has been growing world-wide thanks to the growing interest in art collecting as well as the shift from traditional sales in galleries to art shows. A new and ambitious kid on the art fair block is viennacontemporary, which was held between 21-24 September.

Vienna has been among the top global tourist attractions and the city constantly ranks in the top 3 with the highest quality of life. The Austrian capital has offered a vibrant cultural life and having been a central meeting point between the East and West, its historical role is unquestionable. Vienna has recently developed a “hip” status too by mastering the ability to address different layers of society and present culture in a cool and fresh way. It is well worth throwing yourself into the Viennese nights and experience for instance one of the top global contemporary museums, the Albertina’s thematic social-educational get-togethers.

Thus, considering Vienna’s cultural importance and unique flavours, it is not surprising that the city has grown a new contemporary art show scene. The viennacontemporary was held from 21 until 24 September for the third time this year and it coincided with the first Vienna Biennale dedicated to art, design and architecture.


Although Vienna had an art fair focusing on Eastern-European and Asian contemporary art, viennacontemporary in its current form is the brain-child of three individuals.

The current managing director Renger van den Heuvel started the current concept in 2012 as VIENNAFAIR The New Contemporary, which became viennacontemporary in 2015.

The chairman of the board is Dmitry Aksenov, the founder of Russian holding company RDI Group and he set up the Aksenov Family Foundation, a charity to support cultural and social innovation.

Christina Steinbrecher-Pfandt is the artistic director of the fair. She is Kazakhstan-born, German-raised, studied Contemporary Art at Manchester University in Great Britain and now she lives in Vienna. Her cosmopolitan background and art professional experience has a direct influence on the colourful selection of art presented at the event.

The show

vienacontemporary was held in the Marx Halle, which used to be the central cattle market back in the late 19th century. The heritage-protected building gives home not just to shows, but other cultural events and concerts. As we learned at the press conference, the event launch was rather difficult this year, due to a fire just days before the fair. It caused damages in the building, but thanks to the organisers, the workers and partners, the event could be held nonetheless.

The fair lined up ca. 110 galleries and institutions from 27 countries in thematic sections.

Solo presentations by young Austrian artists (born or educated in Austria), curated by Marlies Wirth from the MAK (Austrian Museum for Applied Arts / Contemporary Art in Vienna), were shown in ZONE1. Curated by Miguel Wandschneider, the Solo & Sculpture section included the most significant and established representatives of sculpture. Contemporary artists from Finland, Denmark and Sweden exhibited in the Nordic Highlights section.

Every year, the Focus section welcomes a different country. This time it was Hungary with highlighted attention to the Hungarian neo-avant-garde of the 1960s and 1970s. Hungarian art historian and critic József Mélyi was the curator who presented modern artists by three Hungarian galleries: acb Gallery, Kisterem and Vintage Gallery.

Beyond the exhibition viennacontemporary organised film screenings called the Cinema showing “my own little happiness” through the eyes of Austrian and international artists under the guidance of curator Olaf Stüber.

Kate Sutton curated the panel discussions entitled Talks: Borderline, which focused on the comprehensive changes that European cultural institutions face on a political, social, and cultural level as seen from the perspectives of artists, art historians, international collectors, museum directors, dealers, critics, and curators.

Other collateral events in Vienna

Many events were organized across Vienna between 18-24 September to offer an even broader view of the contemporary art scene.

With the involvement of different local galleries and international curators, curated by_vienna was a festival by the Vienna Business Agency. Parallel Vienna was defined as a “hybrid between art fair, exhibition, gallery and studio”. This week offered a great connection with cross-disciplinary events such as the Humanities Festival with the main topic of “Revolution!” or the first Cultural Hackathon co-organized with PIONEERS.



Gastronomy belongs to the Viennese lifestyle just as art and culture. More than 60 restaurants in the city are listed in the Michelin Guide and there is a great variety of high quality establishments with fresh and organic food. The regional cuisines of Austria can be enjoyed just like international kitchens. This year viennacontemporary teamed up to spoil their guests with MOTTO (offering international cuisine – with an Austrian focus), the IKI Restaurant (a Japanese Canteen with high quality Asian food) and the kind-of-iconic “Zum Schwarzen Kameel” (with fine delicatessen, buffet and restaurant).

The necessary coffee was taken care of by Illy. Illy was founded by Francesco Illy – a Hungarian business magnate – in 1933 and was later led and expanded by his son Ernesto Illy. Art is very important for the company – by “making important contributions to the creation and exposure of contemporary art, by supporting artists, institutions and international exhibitions”. About two decades ago the company rethought the “coffee cup” and elevated it as a little object of art with the “Illy art collection”.


viennacontemporary closed with a record 29,767 visitors and strong sales by the participating galleries.

“This year, we could once more increase the fair’s quality and the number of visitors. Both the galleries’ shows as well as the special presentations were met with great enthusiasm by the audience. I’m especially delighted to see that the international response to the fair is steadily growing. The large number of art collectors who came to Vienna especially for the fair is proof that the continuous development of our program was well worth the effort. We confidently look forward to the coming years” – rejoiced Christina Steinbrecher-Pfandt, artistic director over this year’s successful edition.

I cherry-picked few galleries and artists who captured my attention. Find them here



Photo credits: Loupiosity.com.
The photos were taken at the viennacontemporary art fair. All images used for illustrative purposes only. All registered trademarks are property of their respective owners.
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