Botox to the Danish art scene

By Mikkel Carl

The truth about art fairs is that they only make a real difference after you have been through repeated treatment. It applies to the promotion of artists hitherto largely unfamiliar to collectors, but also to the case of Denmark per se, the art scene of which need some botox shots – at least the use of anti-age cream is long overdue – shall we keep up appearances. Or, as the unlucky gambler tells himself: “Better luck next time”. Often collectors and other interested parties need a couple of years before they truly invest themselves in new initiatives. So even if the gallery lost a little on red last year, it doesn’t necessarily apply that they should go and put everything on black this year, or that they should stop playing for that matter. It’s all about building long-term relationships, and it’s therefore nice to see that Tobias Naehring from Leibzig, Natalia Hug from Cologne, and Kai Matsumiya from New York, among others, are back. And even Galerie König from Berlin despite the neglect of care last year’s ambitious Tue Greenfort presentation was subjected to. He has finally gotten a large work grant from the Danish Arts Foundation, his first solo show in Copenhagen is up at Den Frie – Centre of Contemporary Art, and his retrospective at Sorø Kunstmuseum was among the best shows within that genre, so all things considered, this artist must be next in line: Henrik Olesen, Elmgreen & Dragset, Danh Vo… And you can still get in “early”.

Claire Fontaine (Artist curated booth), Code Art Fair 2017. Photo by I DO ART Agency

A lot has happened since König fifteen years ago at Art Forum in Berlin showed Greenfort’s mug shots of sausage-stealing foxes caught red handed in the artist’s DIY photo trap. For instance, the gallery works with Katharina Grosse, the Phoenix who recently had the courtesy to simply show some large canvases instead of airbrushing the entire HQ (the newly renovated brutalist church St. Agnes). Her standard method was successfully applied at Rockaway beach vandalized by the hurricane Sandy and recently also at Marselisborg Beach in Aarhus, where many inhabitants, quite contrary to their American peers, were outraged. On a quick side note: Grosse’s work was part of ARoS’ show The Garden, curated by Marie Nipper who is yet another female freelancer who, having learned her lesson at ARoS, went on to hold the reins at Tate Liverpool for a little while, and has since then not looked back. Another woman who successfully did just about the same trip only in reverse is Birgitte Kirkhoff who started out as a gallerist, but since curated the critically acclaimed series Materiality plus the afore-mentioned Tue Greenfort show at Sorø Kunstmuseum, and is now the hard-boiled director of the contemporary art museum in Roskilde just outside of Copenhagen. Good on them.

Tue Greenfort, Galerie König, Berlin. Photo by Code Art fair

Despite the fact that Galerie König now has two venues in Berlin, it has not (yet) become a franchise like so many other galleries. Apparently, the general lack of wealthy collectors in Berlin is not a problem and the rent still seems reasonable even when it comes to churches. Then you also have room for a small “allotment garden” featuring outdoor works by gallery artists including “Danish dynamite” duo Elmgreen & Dragset, Alicja Kwade (in Denmark she was “discovered” when she had a solo show at last year’s CODE tug-of-war champion, Christina Wilson) along with Camille Henrot. Her order of things was a perfect match for Kunsthal Charlottenborg – far better than New Museum in New York if you ask me. Applying the logic that makes Croy Nielsen participate at Chart, König is a somewhat “Danish” gallery.

And speaking of franchises and “New Nordic,” Elmgreen & Dragset + video artist Jesper Just (he started out at Christina Wilson too), is also represented by one of Code 2’s main draws: Perrotin. A true power house staking on both old, new, and new-new money it has set up shop in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul. It is pretty crazy that they now set sails for Copenhagen, no doubt thanks to Caroline Bøge. “Though this be madness, yet there is method in it”: Klara Kristalova just had a solo show at Kunstforeningen Gl. Strand. Sophie Calle once did a memorable exhibition at Christina Wilson and she has also shown at Lousiana. Thilo Heinzman is close to being the team captain at Andersen’s. Michael Sailstorfer is highly topical with his show at Kunsthal 44 Møen. And Gregor Hildebrandt, whom gallerist Peter Amby has spoken highly of for many years, is always hitting the fan at Avlskarl. And Gregor Hildebrandt, who gallerist Peter Amby, has spoken highly of for many years, is always hitting the fan at Avlskarl.

Karl Horst Hödicke, König Galerie, Berlin, Code Art Fair 2017. Photo by I DO ART Agency

Lights are out at one of last year’s main attractions Vilma Gold, who is now searching high and low for a more sustainable business model. Fortunately, several other London galleries are still playing that funky music as part of this year’s roster. That includes Arcadia Missa, situated underneath the overhead railway in Peckham south London, carrying themselves very well with their particular brand of post Internet collective thinking. I guess in this case the future really is female (Amalia Ulman, Maja Cule, Ann Hirsch…): @polygamistfamily. Another beacon of light – in a city that at least from afar looks more and more like a gated community – is Carlos/Ishikawa.

Personally, I look very much forward to seeing übercool Gallerie Neu in action: Last autumn Kai Althoff had a solo show at MoMA, and despite the fact that I’m not personally a fan, his dystopian (inner) puppet show was very well timed concerning that landslide change to the post 9/11 world order prompted by the American people.
· Mathias Faldbakken possesses (or is possessed by) an unusually icy version of Nordic gloom (why don’t we do a fair centered around that?).
· Sergei Jensen needs no introduction.
· Gedi Sibony was an equally quick draw when it came to neo abstraction. Please note that this was well before zombification kicked in.
· Claire Fontaine, Reena Spaulings, and Bernadette Corporation are some of the hottest art collectives around. And rumor has it that Claire Fontaine this year will do the artist-curated booth at the fair. Hurrah!

Arcadia Missa, London, Code Art Fair 2017. Photo by I DO ART Agency


· KOW from Berlin as an impressing tracking list when it comes to art fair participation: Liste, FIAC, Art Cologne, Art Bruxelles, The Armory Show, Artissima, Paris International, Arco, Art Basel Miami, ABC Berlin, Unlimited (Art Basel), Independent New York, Frieze London.
· The “Danish” gallery Anne Mosseri-Marlio Galerie from Basel works with Lars Christensen, A Kassen and Nils Erik Gjerdevik, who tragically passed away last year.
· Galerie Steinek from Vienna has some pretty impressive heavy hitters on their roster: Robert Barry, Alighiero Boetti as well as Carol Rama, who was the great rediscovery at the Venice Biennale in 2013 curated by Massimiliano Gioni from New Museum.
· Krobath also from Vienna works with Danish artist Sofie Thorsen.
· Pilar Corridas is another gangsta gallery from London. At random: Ian Cheng (”open world” self- transforming videoscapes), Leith Ledare (solo show at Charlottenborg back in 2013), Philip Parreno, Rirkrit Tiravanija, who back in the day was guest professor at the now-defunct professor school
Mur og Rum, and who’s large pavilion is also part of the Aros Triennale.
· Geukens & De Vil recently had a show with Asger Dybvad Larsen. Perhaps that was the reason why his contribution to the Jutland Art Academy graduation show looked more like a retrospective – and he hasn’t even turned 30. Maybe you remember his work from last year’s themed exhibition Danmark curated by yours truly. It was hanging from the matching concrete staircase.
· Galleria Continua scores on their exotic branching out: San Gimignano, Beijing, Les Moulins, Havana.

Lone Haugaard Madsen, Nagel Draxler, Cologne/Berlin. Code Art Fair 2017. Photo by I DO ART Agency

Finally, we arrive at Galerie Nagel/Draxler from Cologne/Berlin. Among many others, they represent Lone Haugaard Madsen (another case of Danish art scene “childcare neglect” – I promise we will mend our ways), JPW3, Heimo Zobernig and Guillaume Bijl (his show at Galleri Nicolai Wallner was talk of the town last year). And also – hold on to your knickers – Josephine Pryde (represented by Galerie Neu too), Andrea Fraser and Martha Rosler. Code curator Saskia Draxler definitely knows what is right for you.

In all fairness, I should mention that besides these more or less no-brainer highlights, Code has also made room for a number of galleries I have not previously heard of. Among them are Hans & Fritz.

Contemporary from Barcelona, featuring a small, Danish post-colonial colony ruled by the three “female artists” – Katja Bjørn, Jeanette Ehlers and Lilibeth Guenca Rasmussen.

It’s super exciting to see how things turn out. Chart is steady as a rock whereas Code is once again in way over its head with a rich blend of Danish and foreign galleries. I sincerely hope this second edition will be a game-changer.

Pilar Corrias, London. Code Art Fair 2017, photo by I DO ART Agency

About Code Art Fair
In 2017, Code 2, the fair’s second edition, will present leading as well as emerging galleries from all over the world. The exhibiting galleries are selected by a curatorial team in a mission to exhibit progressive and thought-provoking presentations, providing the viewers with enriching artistic experiences.

Dates & Hours
August 31 – September 3, 2017
Code 2 (in Bella Center):
Preview: Thursday, August 31, 11-16
Public Vernissage: Thursday, August 31, 16-20
Fair: Friday, September 1, 11-20, Saturday, September 2, 11-18
Code on Sunday (in central Copenhagen):
Sunday, September 3, 11-16

Address: Center Boulevard 5 2300 Copenhagen S, Denmark

About Mikkel Carl
Mikkel Carl is somewhat of an art-world multitasker. Besides making and exhibiting his own artworks internationally, he also serves on boards and committees including the Danish Arts Foundation’s Committee of Visual Arts Grants Funding, and works as an independent curator at galleries and institutions around the world. One thing seems to connect his activities: the relationship between language and perceptual experience in the field of art.