Kunst Wien 2002, Oct. 17-20, 2002, at MAK, the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna, Austria.
Kunst Wien 2002, or Art Vienna as it is also known, was a four-day extravaganza of mostly Viennese galleries for a mostly Viennese audience. A smattering of dealers from Salzburg, Graz, Linz and elsewhere across Austria attended the fair, but it is clearly the Vienna galleries that are the workhorses of the Austrian art scene.
Austria can boast of more than a handful of internationally important artists working and living in the country. Galerie Meyer Kainer represents at three of the best known ones -- Franz West, Gelatin and Heimo Zobernig. Their work looks good together. The witty Gelatin collaborative, four artists who famously removed a window from the 100th floor of the World Trade Center during a 2001 residency there, displayed a pile of stuffed animals sewn together into a mountain of legs and arms and torsos resting on an old chair.
Ursula Krinzinger has operated her gallery for 30 years, many of them in Vienna. Last spring she opened an additional gallery called Krinzinger Projekte, a sprawling space intended for younger and lesser-known artists and special projects. In the gallery's dense booth at Kunst Wien she displayed a photo series done as a collaboration between Erwin Wurm and Sylvie Fleury. The stark, posed photos featured one artist or the other posing with comic props in the manner that Wurm has made his trademark.
Other important Viennese based artists with international reputaions include Muntean & Rosenblum, Elke Krystufek and Gerwald Rockenschaub, who are all represented by Galerie Georg Kargl. Krystufek recently had the inaugural exhibition at New York art dealer Kenny Schachter's new Vito Acconci-designed space in Greewich Village. Visitors to the international art fairs may remember Muntean & Rosenblum for their carefully rendered, wry paintings of youthful malaise and furtive unrest, with boldly banal social commentary written below the images. The spot-on timing of these works combined with their accessibility have made Muntean & Rosenblum among the most mimicked artists in Vienna. All the "similiar works" (i.e., bad copies) could have filled their own space at Kunst Wien.
Galerie Knoll, which operates spaces in both Vienna and Budapest, displayed a small series of na´ve looking drawings by artists Brener & Schurz. Though the team is known for aggressive performance pieces, these quirky political drawings in colored pencil look as if their makers would never hurt a fly.
Standing in the middle of an aisle, more white walls, some photos. . . then blue lights start flashing and sirens go off -- or maybe it was all the cell phones -- anyway the flashing grabs your attention. It's a work by Richard Hoeck, with blazingly blue rotating emergency lights. Galerie Kerstin Engholm opens an exhibition of Hoek in collaboration with John Miller and Sam Durant this month.
Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac of Paris and Salzburg has this art fair thing down. His clean, one artwork to each wall hanging plan went unchallenged at Kust Wien, where as a rule a salon-style, more the merrier esthetic reigns. In center ring at Ropac is a clear glass table by local artist Peter Kogler, featuring the artist's ubiquitous worm-ish scrawl printed on its surface.
I made a point of searching for young and emerging artists from the Vienna scene at Kunst Wien. As it turned out, the first and best and only gallery at the fair with young local artists was Kunstbuero. One real standout there was the video work of Viennese artist Susanna Jirkuff. She's put together a boffo animated television program that features (imaginary) segments like a conversation between Bruce Nauman and Pam Anderson, In the Streets with Bill Gates and Liberace playing the "astonishing" 1952 version of chopsticks -- all wonderful and well done.
Another interesting artist at Kunstbuero is the Danish artist Lisa Harlev, who lives in Berlin (and who was also at Manifesta this year). She makes cheap Xerox posters that pose survey-type questions to the viewer, like "Do you think it is important to visit other countries?" The works are a simple but keen way of distilling the way huge life questions are processed through disposable advertisement culture, getting lost on whatever wall or tree they may have been pinned to.
Marcin Maciejowski, a 28-year-old artist living in Poland (who originally showed at Kunstbuero), had four pieces at Galerie Meyer Kainer. We Were Happy Together is a crudely painted, cinema verite-style image of a happy couple in a thought bubble floating above a woman in repose, whose drug paraphernalia (or whatever were the tools of her demise) has rolled from her fingers to the floor in one final act. These paintings, at best, have an enviable straightforwardness and natural story-telling agility.
Galerie Ropac displayed a free-standing sculpture by New York artist Vincent Szarek, a work that is all about flash -- it looks like designs for high-tech, high-fashion tennis shoes. It was a demented metallic olive green and moody magenta of a slightly stressed Christmas and it worked.
Not so new or emerging but mostly unknown outside Austria and her native Brazil is the artist Inés Lombardi, who had works in the booth of Georg Kargl. This mid-career artist has made what one viewer called "too beautiful" photos of a voyage by barge across Europe from Rotterdam to the Black Sea. Lombardi's painstakingly considered moments are framed in a large format with three conjoining smaller images below. The smaller images can be very similar to the larger one, or just a barely skewed glimpse that is like a reminder of what we just saw and what we could see in a few seconds more. Like the river itself, Lombardi carefully guides our eye.
The Viennese are notorious for taking themselves very seriously. And so they should -- especially concerning the success of Kunst Wien 2002, where the Viennese gallery scene is enviably thriving while the art scenes in many other European cities are only struggling along along. Congratulations to all.