Vienna Contemporary impresses with a focus on Armenia’s uncharted art scene and more

Vienna Contemporary impresses with a focus on Armenia’s uncharted art scene and more

Vienna Contemporary may be opening today for what is only its fourth edition but the budding European art fair has cemented its staying power, having committed to its location at the city’s Marx Halle for the next ten years. With hundreds of fairs vying for collectors’ attention, Vienna Contemporary stands out for its dedication to Eastern European galleries, boasting the highest concentration of any art fair on the circuit.

New to the fair this year is the Explorations section, presenting curated booth exhibits by featured galleries and overseen by curatorial advisor Nadim Sammam. Artists here seem to be preoccupied with the turmoil of global events from this year, from Philip Aguirre’s meditations on the refugee crisis to Maen Florin’s macabre sculptures. Vienna’s Croy Nielsen provides the antidote at its Explorations stand, with an open bar transported from its gallery space.

The relatively young state of Armenia comes to the fore in a special presentation curated by Sona Stepanyan – the first overview ever of contemporary art from the former Soviet Union republic at an international art fair. Nodding to the city’s rich musical heritage, the Living Image programme hits a high note, bringing music performances by artists to life in augmented reality.

Six ways from Sunday makes for a full week, 2018, by Alexander Viscio. Photography: Alexander Viscio. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Michaela Stock

Meandering further into the lofty surrounds of Marx Halle, there’s a number of gems to be found at Vienna Contemporary. Brigitte Kowanz’s Instagram-friendly light-based work Connect the Dots (2018) at Galerie Krinzinger seemed to regularly stop fairgoers in their well-heeled tracks, and Julio Rondo’s new series of acrylic paintings on glass at Galerie Andreas Binder’s was a revelation.

One to watch at the fair is young Lisbon-born artist Valter Ventura at Portugal’s Kubik Gallery, whose complex photographs and multimedia installations have won him this year’s Q21 artist residency scholarship. In other Prize news, Nana Mandle (represented by Vienna’s Galerie Lisa Kandlhofer) scooped the Bildrecht Solo Award, while the Artproof grant for photography went to Armenian artist Piruza Khalapyan.

Elsewhere in the city, the Curated By gallery festival (14 September – 13 October) marks its ten year anniversary: Francesco Gennari’s mesmerising wooden ‘mausoleums for worms’ – an ongoing series sitting at the interstice of sculpture and architecture – are worth a look at Galerie Hubert Winter. Several institutions located in MuseumsQuartier Wien will also be open for extended hours on Thursday 27 September as part of MQ Night. §

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