The KÖLNER LISTE presents a truly unique art-viewing experience. Taking place in parallel with Art Cologne between April 20th until April 22nd, the fifth edition of the fair will fill the hall of XPOST Köln with a wide spectrum of emerging contemporary art at affordable prices. Bringing together a remarkable selection of galleries, KÖLNER LISTE will serve as a meeting place for both art collectors and enthusiasts.
Presenting a stunning collection of art in a stimulating, friendly and communicative atmosphere, the fair will encourage a dialogue with artists and gallerists and connect with the international art community. Including a diversity of objects and media, it will feature painting, sculpture, graphic prints, mixed media, installations, video art and even performance. The highlights include sections dedicated to Urban Art and Photography.
To find out more about the latest edition of this Discovery Art Fair, we had a chat with the fair’s director Jörgen Golz. In an exclusive Widewalls interview, he talks about the beginnings of the fair, this year's highlights, the secret of its success, future plans and projects, and much more.
Widewalls: Founded in 2013, KÖLNER LISTE offers a truly unique art-viewing experience. Could you tell us how the whole idea of the fair was initiated and what motivated you to be a part of such a venture?
Jörgen Golz: The story of our fairs began with the BERLINER LISTE when, in 2004, a group of gallerists involved with the Berliner Art Forum wanted to go out on their own. Berlin is now one of the world’s leading production sites for contemporary art and one of its central hubs for international networking, but as a site of trade, the German capital lags behind regions like the Rhineland. It was therefore logical for us to establish an independent fair in Cologne, based loosely along the lines of "the fisherman goes to where the fish are."
From the very beginning, the autonomy of the fair has been of utmost importance to me, as I trust people’s individual judgment and don’t condone it when gallerists, art experts, or other institutions postulate the prerogative of the interpretation of art. Although I am fully cognizant of the fact that a representative display of the global art scene is an impossibility in a 4,000-square-meter exhibit hall, it is my intention to give as varied a view as possible into the current line-up emerging in artists’ studios around the world.
The fair is a concentrate that enables the visitor to ride the currents of the art scene in not much time.
Widewalls: What are the challenges and advantages of the fair dedicated to emerging contemporary art?
JG: The current situation is both a blessing and a curse: There are new things to be discovered at the new edition of our fairs; that is fascinating! Human creativity is a never-ending resource and is always ready to surprise. On the other hand, the new must first capture its place in the art market.
Our profit margins are far from the record sums being met by users of the secondary art market or those in already established positions. Yet the fair is especially suited to buyers with a keen eye since here they can purchase the stars of tomorrow at low prices.
The challenge for us lies in detecting new, exciting players and setting up contact with the mercantile art market since they might not have had any experience with the challenges of sales.
Widewalls: Coming back for the fifth time this year, the Fair will bring together an extraordinary selection of international galleries showcasing a wide spectrum of emerging contemporary art. Are there some highlights you would like to mention?
JG: This year’s line-up of participants promises real variety and numerous highlights in all four sections. Exhibitors from more than 20 countries have signed up and the fact that among them are gallerists from Estonia, Ukraine, Finland, Korea, and the Philippines underscores the fair’s international profile while simultaneously offering the chance to discover art scenes barely known until now.
For example, we’re looking forward to the Regina Gallery from Seoul, which has up till now only presented its collection at well-known art fairs in Asia and will be entering the European art market for the first time as an exhibitor at the KÖLNER LISTE. At their stand, we’ll be experiencing a solo show of contemporary relief paintings by the Korean artist Jeung Gul Lee.
The gallery offerings from the other European countries are also exciting and quite varied. This includes, for example, the participation of the ArtSiO Gallery from the Czech Republic, specializing in the presentation of modern glass and crystal sculptures. The Avivson gallery from London will be presenting works from Fabio Mauri, a participant at Documenta and multiple Venice Biennale, and the Ars Cracovia gallery, specializing in Polish artists, will be showing multimedia pieces by Andrzej Bednarczyk, a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow.
We’re also looking forward to the variety of young as well as already established galleries from all across Germany that will be bringing with them strong collections. The bildpark gallerie from Munich, just founded in 2017, will be showing new pieces by Valsugo, who last year had been described as the most exciting discovery of the fair by Cologne’s largest daily paper, the Kölnische Rundschau. Also making a return this year is the HLP Galerie, situated between Cologne and Bonn, which will be presenting at their booth sculptural paper art by Kalle Paltzer along with delicate pieces made by Angela M. Flaig from the flying seeds of thistles and other plants.
The Artist Section of the curated fair also covers all types of art forms ranging from the captivating and light drawings by Berlin-based artist Kaja el Attar, to the photorealistic paintings by Jean-Pierre Kunkel, to the sculptures by the Cater sculpture collective from Italy.
Of particular inspiration are the works being presented at the fair that move between art and other, adjacent fields, such as the light sculptures by Munich-based artist Fabian Gatermann, which join art, light, and design in poetic unity, or Rob Voerman from the Netherlands and his pieces, which are located between art and utopian architecture.
Widewalls: The Fair showcases a variety of forms of artistic expression, including specially curated sections dedicated to Photography and Urban Art. Could you tell us more about these sections?
JG: Hardly any other section has experienced as much change and development in the past years as that of contemporary art photography, and Urban Art still seems to have a difficult time moving from the streets into curated spaces. With this fair, we hope to be the spearhead in the current movement, which is why we are presenting both of these sections to the visitors.
Photography is a very democratic art form. You don’t need any expensive equipment today to take a good picture; everyone can afford it. The same goes for street art. That’s why both genres fit in well with the fair, which identifies as a highly current, democratic fair without elitist barriers to entry.
But because the offerings in both areas are very unclear and exhibit a large differential in quality, we are very happy to have authorities on the scene on board here as curators. Stefan Maria Rother, a renowned photographer and university lecturer, will be in charge of our Photography Section and the Urban Art Section, which was added two years ago, will be curated by gallerist and urban art expert Guillaume Trotin. We can certainly look forward to their exciting selection this year.
Widewalls: How do you see the position of the fair in the landscape of contemporary art market? Who are the visitors of KÖLNER LISTE?
JG: Our fair has carved out a spot for itself in the art market and becomes more relevant each year. On the one hand, we offer classic galleries a marketing channel through which they can also reach many new customer bases in one place. On the other, we reproduce the new structures within the arts: The online world opens up additional marketing channels, artists gain greater self-confidence and marketing know-how, and project spaces and temporary galleries offer fantastic work. At our fair, we bring together those involved in both the classic and new art markets.
Just as diverse as our exhibitors are our visitors: Of course you will find established collectors among the guests, but you are just as likely to find middle-class art-lovers as architects, lawyers, or doctors. Young or old? We have everybody! You’ll find the student who’s fallen in love with a work of street art as well as the retired teacher planning to purchase an oil painting. What unites them all: a tolerant view of the world and a curiosity for new things.
Widewalls: Each edition of the Fair was very successful in terms of sales. What is your secret?
JG: It is likely the mix of a successful collection and enthusiasm. We make a promise to our visitors about what they will find at the fair and we keep this promise. They will find a great variety at affordable prices and an open atmosphere with communicative participants who enjoy talking about their work – whether they be artists or gallerists. We are able to successfully bring contemporary art to old and new audiences without an academic or elitist filter.
Widewalls: The Fair offers a relaxing and stimulating environment for both collectors and art enthusiasts. What would be your advice to a starting collector out there?
JG: Actions speak louder than words. What I strongly urge is: just start! It’s really an improvement in the quality of life to be able to deal every day with work that does the soul good and brings you joy. I even personally own unique pieces for under 300 euros that I take pleasure in every day.
And if you’d like to take the next step as a collector, then you should consider why you’ve selected the pieces you bought and in which direction your collection should go. Then it becomes serious, and here there is a need for the acquisition of an expertise, which can be a very exciting process. What I also strongly recommend to young collectors: gallerists, curators, and art critics are also just people. Get informed but don’t believe everything. Trust your own taste and intuition.
Widewalls: How do you see the concept of the fair evolve in the future?
JG: The successful solutions of yesterday are a guarantee of failure tomorrow. I can’t yet say in which direction the fairs will develop. But one thing is clear: The experiences with the next fair will flow into the preparations for the one after.
If I dare to make a prediction: Alongside our current sites in Berlin, Cologne, and Frankfurt, we are going to expand geographically, there will be a blending of online and offline words, the boundaries between classic galleries and self-marketing artists will become more permeable, our cooperation with universities, academies, and non-profit organizations will be built up, and projects, platforms, and initiatives related to the marketing and support of contemporary art will be incorporated into the fair – both the physical and virtual one. But one thing will always remain the same: the experience of coming into direct and close contact with contemporary art.
Featured image: Portrait Joergen Golz, photo by Stefan Maria Rother; General view, Koelner Liste 2017, photo by Julius Gnoth. All images courtesy of Koelner Liste.