In a sudden but not entirely unexpected decision, Koelnmesse, the Cologne-based parent company of the Art Berlin art fair, has decided to call its quits on the city’s main art-industry event.
Berlin’s most prominent art fair evolved out of its previous iteration, Art Berlin Contemporary, and was held for the past three years in the historic Tempelhof airport each September, showing mostly contemporary art. But the fair’s owner which also runs Art Cologne, has decided after months of discussions that the conditions in Berlin are too unpredictable for its liking.
Gerald Böse, CEO of Koelnmesse says that “under the given conditions, we do not currently see any possibility of realizing an event in Berlin that meets our expectations.”
A perfect storm of problems sealed the fair’s fate. Earlier this year, organizers were able to secure Tempelhof airport as a venue only at the last minute, and the agreement did not extend into 2020, which made planning future editions difficult. Nor did the fair make as much money as Koelnmesse had hoped. “Our focus, now more than ever, is the art fair in Cologne,” the company said in a statement.
Koelnmesse acquired Art Berlin in 2017, and the fair was led for the past two years by Maike Cruse, who also directs the robust Berlin Gallery Weekend. The two events are complimentary but independent. Koelnmesse expressed its gratitude to Cruse for her work “under the given conditions.” Cruse declined to comment for this story.
Sources close to the situation say the city of Berlin shoulders some of the blame for the fair’s demise.
Unlike many other European art fairs of its scale, such as Vienna Contemporary or ARCO Madrid, Art Berlin received no support from the state or city. Although the Berlin Senate created an umbrella organization to oversee Berlin Art Week, which took place at the same time as the fair and supported the city’s institutions, no money was filtered to fair organizers. Yet despite its commercial structure, art berlin was an institution in the Berlin arts scene.
Berlin Art Week did not respond with a request for comment.
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