The end of the year gives space and time for reflection. 2016 was incredible for us. We launched our app Exhibitionary during the hot days of summer, which – now in winter – seems so far away. Within a few months, Exhibitionary grew into a global art guide with curatorial picks in major art centers around the world. We are on our way to nothing short of being a guide to the entire contemporary art world. Impossible as it may be, this is just the beginning. Most of you use our app already, and for the few who don’t, we invite you to download the app, share it and send us your thoughts. We promise to answer every email we get.
Reflecting back over contemporary art 2016, several trends emerged: diversity (identity-politics is reimagined), fabric and fiber art (paintings as tapestries and the return of technique/craft), re-discovering artists from the 60s (including octogenarian artists and older), the reappearance of relational aesthetics (which we see as a response to neoliberalism) and the return of art-brut (because it has an element of the genuine).
Why these trends now? There is a new anti-establishment institutional critique and fatigue with art that is too insider. They point a way for art to be free from irony (post-irony), still critical and driven by conviction or even obsession. To respond art institutions should (according to Okwui Enwezor) “be deployed as a staging ground for difference, for that which has yet to come.”
After our trip to Basel, we came home to Berlin to work on the launch of Exhibitionary during the grand finale of the DIS-curated Berlin Biennale during Berlin Art Week in September. The constantly reinventing abc art berlin contemporary was a chance for young galleries to present exciting emerging artists while at the same time galleries around the city debuted solos, such as Christophe de Rohan Chabot at EXILE and Bryan Morello at Neumeister Bar-Am, which were especially thrilling.
A more historical perspective was welcomed in a year of devastating heaviness and fraught times. The 68-year-old Adrian Piper (along with Hito Steyerl, Trevor Paglen, and Josephine Pryde) gave weight and depth to BB9 among the younger emerging artists, proving that activist art from the past can point the way to the future.
Championing horizontality and thinking in archipelagos we launched our second city: New York. We arrived there for the season-opening, and it is needless to mention that there are more galleries and museums in New York than any other city on this planet. Our curators hand-select only the best spaces by draining the swamp from Chelsea, Lower East Side, Upper East Side, Brooklyn to the burgeoning Harlem.
We applaud artists in New York at the height of their career, there are many examples but the block-buster shows at Hauser & Wirth really shined. Rashid Johnson’s stunning Fly Away revisited themes from his earliest work including questions of race, class (and privilege), and representations of blackness in art. While the urgently important Zoe Leonard’s In the Wake and her massive public work President for the High Line were examples of art post-medium that opened up and queered (hetero)normative narratives. Also, it was interesting to see galleries to take a chance and give an artist their first solo show; a stand out was Jordan Kasey at Signal Gallery in Brooklyn.
Under the guiding principle of deterritorialization (still even now, inspired by Deleuze and Guattari) we charted another city, this time in Poland. The 2016 Warsaw Gallery Weekend expanded out from the strong core galleries LETO, BWA Warszawa, Raster, and Stereo. Part of our mission is to give visibility to Eastern and Southern European cities.
In October we rolled out to London during Frieze, a fair that may (or may not) be in crisis. It proposed the question, what is the future of the art fair model? Everyone was wondering what impact the Brexit would have on Frieze and FIAC. The immediate answer was only a small slow down the bounce back seemed to come very quickly.
November was all about Turin, proving our motto—no matter where in the world great art is, we show you how to get there. We also launched a major update of our app, adding a search function, which makes it easier to find what is important to you.
It would not be the contemporary art world without prizes, and we are looking forward to seeing more of these three winners: Cécile B. Evans who won the Illy Prize in Turin (and just had a first collaborative show with her partner Yuri Pattison in Berlin), Anicka Yi won the prestigious Hugo Boss prize in New York (for which she will have an exhibition at the Guggenheim in 2017), and Marguerite Humeau who just had her fantastic institutional debut at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris and won the prize for best work at the Moscow Young Art Biennial.
In December we launched an exciting partnership with the New Art Dealers Alliance. Together we support emerging galleries around the world through the NADA x Exhibitionary Prize for an international gallery exhibiting at one of NADA’s two fairs for the first time.
Of course, we headed to Miami and made great new contacts at our booth at NADA. We also visited that little fair ABMB right down in South Beach. Some highlights were Kaspar Müller‘s solo project at Société and the amazing booth of neugerriemschneider consisting of numerous rooms, each dedicated to its own artist. We especially liked the new neon works by Tobias Rehberger and Elizabeth Peyton’s tender homage to David Bowie.
Besides, hotels were down occupancy over 2015. But why was that? Is the big Trump card busting the art world bubble or was it just the fear of Zika? Nevertheless, this year dinners were the new parties. Jay Jopling hosted a party at Soho Beach House where soul diva Chaka Khan rocked the stage. Overall there were fewer parties than last year and the much anticipated 25th Anniversary of KW party with MoMA PS1 turned out to be a huge disappointment. (Sorry, Klaus)
Regardless of what happens at art fairs, the art world is bigger than the art market. There were great shows on every level be it museums or emerging galleries. We always advocate for spaces taking risks and showing artists for the first time, since we love to watch the rising of bright young stars.
Have a great New Year’s Eve and make sure you won’t miss our preview of 2017 which will be posted by the time the hangover wears off.
– Justin Polera