CHART Art Fair’s New Model Spotlights Women Artists across Five Nordic Cities
It’s been months since the last physical art fair in Europe. As summer rapidly turns to autumn, we are at long last seeing some public events take place—the occasional socially distanced concert, outdoor theater performances, and some experimental music gigs. As the continent braces itself for potential second waves, the progress has been gradual.
When lockdowns were enforced throughout Europe in March, the organizers of Copenhagen’s CHART art fair were told that their usual August run date would not be given the go-ahead, forcing them to make the tough call to either move this year’s all-women themed edition online or cancel it entirely. With galleries confirmed, and artists commissioned, there was a lot to consider. “It’s been fairly brutal,” said CHART director Nanna Hjortenberg, noting a 90 percent drop in sales from Danish galleries alone.
After much deliberation, Hjortenberg and her team decided on a hybrid model, which will now run from August 28th to 30th both virtually and in person. Rather than gathering solely in Copenhagen, however, Hjortenberg decided this version of the fair would also take place in Oslo, Reykjavik, Stockholm, and Helsinki, unified by a one-off publication titled De-centred.
In addition to featuring works by participating artists like Mamma Andersson, Mandy El-Sayegh, Nina Beier, Roni Horn, and Chantal Joffe, the book will also include articles by prominent female critics including Zoé Whitley, Valeria Napoleone, Christian Viveros-Fauné, and Jennifer Higgie.
Once the fair decided on how to present this year’s edition, it became a matter of getting regional galleries to participate; most of them had already written the fair off and were now navigating the tricky waters of largely being remotely operated commercial galleries in a landscape of canceled fairs.
“We had canceled seven trips in the first few weeks of the year. Paris Photo New York got canceled, Market Stockholm got canceled,” said Jesper Elg, co-founder of CHART and director of Copenhagen gallery V1. Staff at V1 opted to work socially distanced through the lockdown and re-opened in May with the group show “Today’s Special.” Its presentation for the fair will feature work by the painter Sara-Vide Ericson.
Meanwhile, though fairs are especially essential for galleries situated in remote locations, Börkur Arnarson, owner and director of veteran Icelandic gallery i8, was looking forward to being able to spend a few months at home. “I immediately said, ‘Count me out of whatever you’re thinking,’” recalled Arnarson. The gallerist was not interested in taking part in a solely digital fair. The moment the book was mentioned, however, he changed his mind. “If you are sending something with a stamp in an envelope today, that’s absolutely wonderful,” he continued. “I’m not against everything that’s going on online, but there’s plenty of it and not all of it works.”
As lockdowns throughout the region have eased up since June, the market has slowly begun to pick back up. In Norway, the nation’s Office for Contemporary Art looked after galleries like Oslo’s Galleri Brandstrup by supporting the development of online capabilities through the pandemic. Even with the additional support, however, gallery owner Lisa Brandstrup was still relieved to hear CHART’s solution. “I expected the physical fair to be canceled, but I think this will be interesting,” she said. The gallery will be showcasing new collaborative works by Apichaya Wanthiang and Anna Daniell.
Anna Daniell, Girl and sculpture, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Galleri Brandstrup.
Anna Daniell, Flower, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Galleri Brandstrup.
In place of coming together in person—something that is usually at the core of CHART’s ethos—this new way of doing things helps spotlight the participating galleries and allows them to control their level of participation and their safety procedures according to what is happening in their regions. “It puts the focus back on showing how important the galleries are for the fair,” said CHART’s Elg. “This fair only exists because of the galleries. This is a way of saying, ‘This is where it all comes from.’”
By getting creative, Hjortenberg and her team managed to rally CHART’s 28 participating galleries and bring the Scandinavian art community together to celebrate women artists despite the pandemic. “We have all been craving something tangible because so much of our professional lives exist in the digital world,” said Elg. “Here, you have the whole online part of it and you can go and see all the work presented in your city.” With CHART’s newly formed De-centred edition up and running, it’s now up to visitors to show up, and for local collectors to buy and maintain the rich international gallery scene that has been flourishing throughout the region over the last few years. “We wanted to make that call to action across the Nordic capitals,” said Hjortenberg. “If we want to keep the art scene and the galleries that we have, this is the time to shop locally.”