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Potential, D'You Know What I Mean?

Notes on Supermarket Art Fair 2023 Stadsgårdsterminalen

May 11-14, 2013

Christine Dahl Helweg-Larsen with Detroit (Stockholm)

Just before swinging inside this year's edition of the Supermarket Art Fair, I quickly recall to mind how much potential this fair really informs within its operational scope and wonder how much of that potential will have come to full fruition...this year and this instance of the fair. Now, once back by the computer, I figure I might need the aid of some music to pin me properly down to the chair and in order not to cop out from penning this review (the glorious summerish Sunday weather certainly isn't helping) and on a genuine whim without further thinking put on the Oasis' 1997 Be Here Now album which I'm sure I haven't heard in over ten years. It occurs to me the choice must be a subconscious one; a sonic translation of sorts of a vibe or a mood, relating to the fair. "The questions are the answers you might need", sings Liam.

As for the potential and pull of this fair, I've also benefitted from it in my aim of making space for emerging artists; such space that does not organically just emerge from thin air without an active effort. C-print's first ever fair participation was in the fall of 2021 and was unexpected, unplanned and a last minute call. I had been in the process as a curator of working with three young BA grad candidates of Konstfack, all coming from a discipline other than Fine Art. It occured that the fair could be a possible platform to shine light on these three talents (Ebba Alling, Wilma Harju and Iris Hautaniemi), using the agency of our C-print platform. It proved a very rewarding experience for all involved. One of the three later went on to be named a future literary luminary in the big daily newspaper (Dagens Nyheter) and is now the youngest graphic novelist at the prestgious publisher Kaunitz-Olsson. The mere fact that the fair stint was possible, shows as far as I'm concerned, the great capacity of the fair.

Bianca Maria Barmen with AURA (Lund) It's Stockholm Art Week and Supermarket Art Fair is back on the schedule next to Market Art Fair; the fair that boxes in the top Nordic galleries of the commercial art scenes of the region. It's been widely made understood in the past that Supermarket Art Fair once was created as a reaction and in contrast to its more "high-brow" counterpart. Chart Art Fair, Market Art Fair's closest "competititor" in Copenhagen set a "new" precedent in 2021 when extending a section called the Experimental section including 11 artist-run and alternative gallery spaces from the Nordics (at least two galleries who over the years have participated at Supermarket Art Fair were invited). Market Art Fair's closest move to such notable leap is a return to the much less stretchy feature of a Debut section for this year's edition. Such possible overlaps that were evidenced in Copenhagen certainly is an exciting thought and welcome, I think, but not necessary. In a way such merger could be seen as a bit of a chimera? What's always struck me as more pivotal however is to not undercut or "undersell" the realm of artist-run gallery practice and for an artist-run gallery fair to artistically be found as strong as its more "commercial" counterparts.

I feel that an unitiated visitor should ultimately be able to visit the two big fairs in Stockholm back-to-back and possibly find the garish allure of the more "high-brow" fair to have a certain kind of pull, but should nevertheless not have to find too huge discrepancies artisically in the art on display at both fairs. I've also enjoyed the charm of an allowing and inclusive artist-run fair but the artistic threshold in some instances on view at the fair appears almost counterproductively "low", disservicing both "the brand" of the fair itself and the stronger art on view. Supermarket Art Fair is a most crucial and important window into not just the Nordic artist-run scene but an interntional one. The regional media coverage for our regional artist-run scenes is atrociously and so unfairly low and something that have been addressed in more than just one panel talk I've moderated in still recent time. Supermarket Art Fair appears to be that token annual window when media has its gaze and spotlight directed towards the scene and you wish people would be able to say; "Damn, in terms of art, the artist-run fair gave the other a run for its money" (pun intended). I don't think we've at any point in recent years been close to anyone wholeheartedly voicing that opinion. Yet. Could happen. Should happen one day, no? It's not a very controversial thing to say; I'm only mouthpiecing a sentiment that has been expressed to me by several artists and participants too of the fair, over the past ten years.

As I walk around the fair and note the domiciles of some of the participating galleries I find; Armenia, Colombia, Algeria, Palestine and Chile. A wow-moment, it's impressive. I also look at a standing rollup that credits all the public agencies around the world who've lent their financial support and extended efforts for the fair to be able to have this geopgrahic reach. So much potential.

Lisa D Manner with AURA (Lund)

The fair begins on a high note immediately as I spot the booth of the Lund-based artist organization Aura that runs an exhibition program in Krognoshuset in said city. Krognoshuset runs a very impressive and strong exhibition program and only in the last year has exhibited some artists I'm very passionate about; Julia Selin and Matti Sumari (who incidentally are exhibiting with Galleri Flach at Market Art Fair this year), EvaMarie Lindahl and Samaneh Roghani (who I've curated myself in an exhibition at Kulturhuset in Stockholm).

I catch a chat with the current chief curator Anna Jin Hwa Borstam and tell her how much I love the moneky sculpture "A friend" by Bianca Maria Barmen that makes part of the booth. Bianca Maria Barmen is such sculptor who's been around a long time and very succesfully continues to exhibit without the backing of a traditional gallery (once was connected to Galleri Magnus Karlsson). The sculpture will hands-down be one of the favourite art works I've seen all week on the occasion of Stockholm Art Week. While the booth is more of a showcase of artist members of Aura I can also spot a print by Peter Johansson (represented by Wetterling Gallery) and a wonderful painting by Lisa D Manner (represented by Galleri Flach). So overlaps between scenes evidently exist and sees daylight also at Supermarket Art Fair.

Felicia Gränd and Alice Máselníková of the Supermarket Art Fair team

Some feets away I spot Tiger Strikes Asteroid from LA and immediately leap forward in exictement. Tiger Strikes Asteroid is a non-profit network of idependetly programmed, artist-exhibition spaces across the US with locations in Philadelphia, New York, LA, Chicago and Greenville (South Carolina). The network does what appears to me as great exhibitions and I've been in and out of Chicago for the past year and have been trying to catch an exhibition to no avail.

The group booth does not disappoint and affirms my belief that I have to pay a visit to the venues in New York and Chicago for my next trip in June. Chris Ulivo's humorous and absurdist narrative-based paintings in egg tempera are as endearing as they are immediate on the eye. I make a mind note that I need to research him further later in the next week. I'm amused to think he is a close kin to my favourites; Swedish gem and art duo Tilpo. The similarities are quite evident and it's all good as a discovery. From the booth Polish artist Anita Kucharczyk's painting series Modular is "just" that; modular paintings that can arranged together in various formations and here are on display in a big line that has glowing gradient character. They immediately pull you into and inside the booth. "I contrast distant perfection with immediate imperfection - mechanical precision and human error, sharpness and bluriness", she says on her website. Indeed, and as such it's a very interesting painterly study of perception.

Anita Kucharczyk with Tiger Strikes Asteroid (LA)

Heino Aho (represented by Galerie Anhava in Helsinki, one of the more reputable galleries over there; I'm making a point of gallery representation to stress "overlaps" with Market Art Fair, as you've been able to tell by now) is presenting kinetic glass sculptures that appear a formal play on the notion of the hourglass. They're pristine in the making and in appearance somehow in their pipe glass constructions bring to mind a recent graduate of the Royal Institute of Art who made such an impression on our team at last year's MFA grad exhibition; Christine Dahl Helweg-Larsen. I've been meaning to meet her for a studio meeting (note to self: DM her about it).

Chris Ulivo with Tiger Strikes Asteroid (LA)

What happens next is almost mindboggling to me and also in a sense is a part of the beauty of Supermarket Art Fair; that anything can happen and today it sort of just did. Unbeknownst to me Christine Dahl Helweg-Larsen is also showing at the fair! What are the fucking odds? Eletric eel shock all over! We share pleasanteries in what is another very solid booth at the fair; that of artist studio collective Detroit, based in Stockholm. The elegant booth has been curated into an exhibition rather than a showcase booth. On one side, a spine-looking sculpture of glass pipes, by Christine Dahl Helweg-Larsen, that appear both erotic and clinical at once. A sculpture that would be showstopper in many possible exhibition contexts. On the other side Eliska Kovacikova's spatially suspended black wooden-panelled abstract construction seated in appearance somewhere between shell and wreckage....Whatever it is, it's stunning and is the most refined work I've seen of hers to this date.

Christine Dahl Helweg-Larsen and Eliska Kovacikova with Detroit (Stockholm)

The independent arts and culture journal Hjärnstorm is a fixture at the fair and presents a display of artworks based on the magazine issue theme "alchemy" for which the very idiosyncratic and distinctive artist Lisa Jeannin wrote a piece on spagyria, which is herbal alchemy or the production of herbal medicine per alchemical procedures. I also learn that Lisa Jeannin is among the only artists in Sweden expressly practicisng alchemy. I immediately remember a time when Lisa Jeannin and Rolf Schuurmans were connected to what is Larsen Warner Gallery (formerly Christian Larsen Gallery). Works of Lisa Jeannin's work are presented and I'm happy to get to revisit her work; it's been a while for me.

Helena Pehrsson with ID:I

At ID:I, the artist-run gallery that recently celebrated 20 years (full disclosure my colleague Alida Ivanov and I co-curated their anniversary exhibition in Stora Galleriet at Konstnärshuset), I'm seriously mesmerized by Helena Pehrssons's sculptural and architectual paper houses that offer small peeping "windows" (through the small-scale doors) into what are a sensory light experiences that call to mind James Turrell. It's not so arbitrary for me, I recently came back from visiting The Matress Factory in April, in Pittsburgh, that houses three whole permanent spatial installations by the seminal American artist (dating as far back as 1980). I'm still struck by the impressions had there and I love how Helena Pehrsson's work connects me back there and to Turrell. I know Helena Pehrsson primarily as a painter and have only heard of these light sculptures existing. I hope the local art scene will make room and house them, also outside of ID:I and the artist-run scene. They certainly deserve it.

Helena Pehrsson with ID:I

Altogether it's a smoothly oiled fair edition; easy to get through, not as punky or deliberately "unruly" as it has been some years. The greater art on view, as always, is great. But there is potential, I'm sure of it, of a fair that would give many other fairs a headache at night as a "threat". Somehow it begs the question; how long a fair can be run in the same direction before it loses its ability to reinvigorate with fresh new vision(s). Not to discredit anyone's leadership but it's really a genuine thought that comes to mind, considering how most fairs and annual events of this scale reinvents its helm every five years or so. Nevertheless, Team Supermarket you did it again, hats off to you for bringing the art world (in a certain true sense) to Stockholm once more.

Ashik Zaman


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