If one were to write a rulebook for art fair directors, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” might make an appearance in its very first pages. Fairs annually tout a host of additions and special features for their upcoming edition. But on the whole, the repeat visitor is unlikely to notice major changes to the bones of the beast. Collectors and, in turn, the gallerists and dealers who sell to them, aren’t generally all that fond of change. This is especially the case when it means they can’t autopilot to their favorite galleries’ long-held real estate on the fair map to place a hold on—or, better yet, throw down some plastic for—their most sought-after pieces.
In the seven years since Daniel Hug took the helm of Art Cologne, sales and exhibitor quality have been on a steady rise. The fair, unrivaled in Germany, certainly ain’t broke. Quite the opposite, in fact. Yet 2015 sees the most dramatic change to its structure since Hug’s first year in the Rhineland: the addition of a third floor, splitting the fair into relatively distinct sections for modern and postwar, established contemporary, and nascent to emerging art. It’s a move that has ruffled some feathers. But in my perusal of the fair’s aisles ahead of Wednesday’s VIP preview, at least from an experiential point-of-view, the change is a big win for the world’s oldest fair.