Code Art Fair hits the spot

Interview with Julie Alf, Head of Code Art Fair, and curator Caroline Bøge

Being the first international art fair in Scandinavia, Code Art Fair is ambitious and just as interesting and progressive as the galleries who take part in it. Conclusion following the first year after its inception? Code is hitting the spot! The art scene has warmly welcomed the fair with great curiosity. Now, Code is ready for its second edition and the strong team behind the fair hasn’t felt short of ambitions. On the contrary, this year, Code has raised the bar. We met with Head of Code, Julie Alf, and curator Caroline Bøge to talk about Code 2 and the importance of art fairs, the need to keep innovating the art fair format and daring to think more holistic. The vision is to create a space for people to observe the world in new and thought-provoking ways – through the prism of art.

Head of Code Art Fair, Julie Leopold Alf
Caroline Bøge

As a new and ambitious art fair, returning for its second edition in 2017, what is the motivation behind Code Art Fair and what is the vision of the fair?
JULIE: The motivation behind Code Art Fair has been to establish an international art fair in Scandinavia – that has not been done before. The vision is to present international and local galleries on a very high level – at Code you will meet galleries, who represent some of the most interesting and progressive artists today. Our ambition is to place Copenhagen on the art agenda. Our capital is truly a destination city, and people travel here to experience the art, the architecture, the fashion, the gastronomy, our sights etc. Establishing an international art fair in the midst of all this seems to be hitting the spot.

Code Art Fair took place for the first time in 2016, presenting an international art fair format in a Danish context. How did the audience receive this new player on the art scene?
JULIE: Through many years of working with a local fair, I knew from my trips to art fairs around the world that the interest towards an international fair in Copenhagen was greatly present. Also, the Danish art scene welcomed the initiative with great interest and curiosity. As most first editions we had room for improvement, but I felt the audience was still positive and supportive. The immense support and high expectations have made it even more exciting and important for us to present a strong Code 2.

The scope of your program is very international, attracting galleries and visitors from around the world. What is it that draws audiences to Code Art Fair and what makes Copenhagen an interesting art destination?
JULIE: Code 2 presents a strong mix of highly established powerhouses as well as younger progressive galleries from around the world that offers our audience and collectors an international art experience in Copenhagen. Along with world class museums, great institutions, a strong gallery scene, and many interesting artists living and working here Copenhagen – and Denmark in general – is increasingly becoming a part of the global art and culture scene.

How has the process of planning the fair been this year compared to last year, when the fair for the first time met its audience?
JULIE: This year – the second time around and with a new team of curators consisting of Caroline Bøge, Saskia Draxler and Irene Campolmi – we have raised the bar even higher in terms of participating galleries, weighed the importance of a great talks, film, and performance program (the film program being a new addition from last year), held focus on attracting both domestic as well as international collectors with an attractive vip-program, and offered corporate partners free guided tours by art advisors to support private and corporate collecting.

As something new this year, you present the concept ‘Code on Sunday’. Can you tell a bit about the thoughts behind this new initiative?
JULIE: We wanted to do something else – something that would draw the art and our visitors into the city center in a more informal setting. As we had an ambition about putting emphasis on performative art, it seemed natural that ‘Code on Sunday’ would focus on this. Curated by Irene Campolmi people can thus experience Marinella Senatore in Illum on Sunday September 3rd.

Code Art Fair provides an excellent platform for the buying and selling of contemporary art. How does the fair seek to inspire art collectors?

JULIE: The presentations of the selected participating galleries will be very inspirational in and of itself. The galleries at Code 2 are all highly professional, and will surely all be the best ambassadors for their artists. Collectors can also find inspiration in our talks, films and performances, and as our VIP-program includes visits to Danish private collections there is ample room for new discoveries and inspiration for visiting collectors.

What do the exhibiting galleries and the works that they will be presenting reveal about the character and status of the international art scene?
CAROLINE: Across the board no one seems to be playing it safe, which I like. There is a will to take risks, and not just bring, what typically sells. I think galleries realize that they cannot keep presenting the same format over and over at fairs – that they need to shake things up a bit. For instance, there will be quite a few solo and duo presentations, and we will see several works by elderly artists, such as Jacqueline De Jong at Dürst, Britt & Mayhew, and Karl Horst Hödicke at König. The rising interest in oeuvres of older, somewhat overlooked artist is a tendency in the art world that I find very compelling and interesting.

What is your opinion of the current state of the art fair system and its future?
CAROLINE: There is a lot of talk about art fair fatigue, but I very much believe there is a need for the art fair as such. It is at the fairs that galleries get chance to present their artists to a wider international audience, and thereby expand their client base and network in general. The art fair is also a place where many other players on the art scene such as artists, curators, researchers, and journalists meet and connect. I do however think that there is a need for art fairs to keep innovating and think more holistic to keep offering collectors and galleries a great experience. Something we have aimed for in our preparations for Code 2. I also like the new initiatives such as Condo, which is a collaborative exhibition of international galleries where host galleries share their spaces with visiting galleries.

What are some of the events and program highlights of 2017 that you are most excited about?
CAROLINE: First of all, I look very much forward to seeing the floorplan come to live! There will be so many great presentations and amazing works, and I cannot wait to walk down the aisles and see them ‘live’. From the program I am very excited about Hassan Khan’s performance on Friday nite and Marinella Senatore’s performance during Code on Sunday, and although I wish I could attend all the talks, I will  surely find the time to hear Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo and Jérôme Sans a.o.  talking to Irene Campolmi about ‘Making Art Institutions’.


Your mission statement underlines your commitment to exhibit progressive and thought-provoking art. How is this reflected in this year’s presentations?
CAROLINE: It will be evident through several presentations of ‘content heavy’ conceptual art such as Laurent Grasso at Perrotin, Julius von Bismarck at Alexander Levy, Kader Attia at Nagel Draxler, Ahmet Öğüt at KOW, Neil Beloufa at NIL and many, many more. Also, you will see great works in new media, as well as experimental paintings, sculptures, installations and photographic works.

Your program seeks to discuss the cultural, intellectual, political, and economic forces currently shaping the contemporary art scene and market as well as our society as a whole. Do you believe that art has the power to change the world? And if, what role does Code play in this matter?
CAROLINE: What a great question! My answer would of course be yes. Art is part of our collective memory and forms our cultural identity and conscience. Seeing the world through the prism of art is to allow oneself to see other perspectives—to observe the world from multiple angels; to broaden our horizons culturally and intellectually thereby increase the overall depth of tolerance and acceptance in our world. Something that is needed more than ever in our current political climate! Art fairs support, discuss, and promote art – and have the ability to reach a lot of people – including people who would perhaps never attend a gallery show or a museum exhibition. By this, the fairs, including Code Art Fair play an important role in terms of accessibility both for collectors and connoisseurs, but also for a general public.

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