Berlin Has a New Art Fair. Can It Attract the Buyers?

The centerpiece of the week was a new art fair at Station Berlin, a postindustrial exhibition venue. Art Berlin, featured 112 galleries, almost 80 percent of which were based in Germany. The event, owned and co-organized by the owners of the Art Cologne, replaced the gallery-run Art Berlin Contemporary (ABC), which for the previous nine years had struggled to market large-scale artists’ projects within the commercial context of a fair.

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Art Berlin featured work from 112 galleries, almost 80 percent of them based in Germany.

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Carsten Koall/European Pressphoto Agency

“There’s a perception that people will come to a fair in Berlin, but they won’t buy,” said London-based Pippy Houldsworth, one of just five exhibitors with galleries in Britain or the United States. “In the current global climate, some dealers were nervous about trying a new fair.”

Ms. Houldsworth said that Art Berlin’s owners had managed to bring in collectors from Germany’s more affluent Rhineland region, as well as from Belgium and the Netherlands. The fair attracted 33,000 visitors, according to the organizers.

“They wanted to bring in a new audience, and that did happen,” Ms. Houldsworth said. She said she had made five sales, including the 2017 painting “Yellow Siller,” by Uwe Henneken — a Berlin-based artist much preoccupied with Shamanism, who was also on show at the Sammlung Boros private museum. Priced at 12,000 euros, or about $14,400, it sold to a German collector.

The organizers made a deliberate effort to keep the costs relatively low, enabling younger galleries to show works by emerging names at approachable prices.

The Berlin dealer Katharina Maria Raab said smaller booths had cost exhibitors about €4,000. Ms. Raab, who opened her gallery in 2015, was showing a concrete and steel relief, inscribed in Arabic “Do you want freedom?” by Manaf Halbouni, a Syrian-born artist based in Dresden. In February, Mr. Halbouni stirred controversy in that city with his sculpture “Monument,” made from three upturned buses, like barricades in war-torn Aleppo. His much smaller piece at the fair, whose exposed barbed wire and concrete stressing rods had a special resonance in postwar Berlin, sold to another German buyer, priced at €7,000.

“It was so much better compared to last year,” a local collector, Gudrun Wurlitzer, said of Art Berlin….

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