The increased number of collectors present at Art Berlin in comparison to abc (a fair never known for its strength in sales) was echoed with the dealers throughout the fair. The presence of collectors from the Rhineland, the heart of Germany’s art market, was particularly welcomed. One dealer even quipped, “One wonders why they have not come before?”
The history of Art Berlin’s predecessor is a mixed one. The first art berlin contemporary (abc) opened in 2008 as a satellite Verkaufsausstellung or selling-exhibition that ran parallel to the now defunct fair Art Forum Berlin, not unlike Paris Internationale’s relationship to FIAC today. It was an anti-fair whose format was to be more open and experimental, and most of the works were less than 10 years old.
“At first the idea was to have it travel to different venues every year, to have something more thematic that would allow [for] less commercial projects not possible in big international fairs,” said Berlin gallerist Esther Schipper
, who was among the group of dealers that founded abc.
“The needs in Berlin were very different” at the time, she said.
Early in its nine-year life span abc was hit with an identity crisis. When Art Forum was shut down in 2011, abc was suddenly expected to be Berlin’s main art fair, said Cruse. abc experimented with a number of different formats and themes, concluding last year, with around half the number of galleries participating than once did and a format much more reminiscent of a traditional art fair.
“abc was trying to accommodate different interests. People wanted abc to go in different directions,” Schipper said. “When the opportunity offered by Art Cologne to become a real commercial art fair came, many of us where super happy with the idea to get back to something more structured.”
While she did not disclose sales, Schipper’s enthusiasm for the new model continued in Art Berlin’s first days, calling the quality of the work on offer at the fair “surprisingly good.”
’s Workshop Trolley Jochem Killmer
(2017)— a museum technician’s wagon from the Villa Zanders complete with tools, chocolate, and personal belongings such as a small flower vase—forms the centerpiece of Schipper’s own booth, joined by one of ’s
American flags covered in a gauzy white layer that the artist said was inspired by the dust that covered flags at Ground Zero after the September 11th terrorist attacks, an
sculpture, and a
photograph, with prices ranging from €4,500 to €250,000.