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When Market Found Its Groove (Back)

Notes on Market Art Fair 2023 May 12-14, 2023 Liljevalchs Konsthall

Men in Black; the BMW drivers of the visitor car service being instructed

“We are having the time of our lives” reads the single first work to be spotted on site at Liljevalchs in this year’s edition of Market Art Fair. Are we? While the wryly double-entendred supersize statement piece (literally) by the often ingenious collective SUPERFLEX might not be so callous as to just refer to debauchery; were we, courtesy of the fair? Well, yes, provided that we were equipped with added crew members ready to take no prisoners in order to allow us to smoothly navigate through the rooms without getting stuck in conversations along the way (exit manuevers were also planned beforehand), the fair proved a firmly good time. A day earlier at the press viewing, the fair director Sara Berner Bengtsson, now with a third fair edition to her credit, shared in her exchange with us, the members of the press that the fair will never be Art Basel and that there’s no aim in trying – and true and sound that. But in the context of a long-standing leading Nordic art fair with a provincial scope, the current shape and muscle flex of the fair is notable and vigorous.

SUPERFLEX with Von Bartha. On the image: Hedwig Edsforth, Showroom manager of Konstnärshuset

The fair has seen many people come and go in the core team over the years. Being privy to insights and also with parts of our team having at one point held title as "Artistic Manager", we can count about a handful of fair directors in less than a decade. It needs to be said, the current team appears solid and to have found their groove together. Cudos to them! Except for this year's Market Talks looking a bit underwhelming and motivated partially by partner relations rather than fresh ideas ("Explore through the lens of fashion and art"...with Vogue Scandinavia - no thanks, that'll be a pass), few significant loose edges can be traced.

Sara Andy Ludvigsson of Andys Gallery

The fair again opens up for broader entries with "debutantes" at the “ball”; a stint that brings back memories of a similar debut section with galleries like AnnaElle Gallery (later Anna Bohaman Gallery) and Galleri Steinsland Berliner in the basement cloakroom of Liljevalchs back in 2015 which wasn’t very popular that year; such blatantly hierarchical order driven by spatial constraints has instead been subtracted out of the equation with the ”juniors” now bestowed their own "palatial" domicile at the adjacent Spritmuseum. Among the galleries are Coulisse Gallery and Andys Gallery from Stockholm and Lagune Ouest from Copenhagen. Sara Andy Ludvigsson of Andys Gallery, with a past in GSA Gallery (formerly known as Galleri Andersson Sandström) has a great eye but is a little underrated in relation to the attention she sould have for her smart choices and program. A gallerist who does her own thing outside of the perpetual cycle or the generation-canonical thing you tend to see a lot with new and emerging gallery transplants in Stockholm. For the fair she is showing Sigrid Holmwood and Hilda Hellström, in parts with Old Norse-y vibes reeking out, that at least we read as tongue-in-cheek.

Julia Selin with Galleri Flach

Over at Liljevalchs again, Galleri Flach has stumbled on a stroke of genius by allocating their booth to artists and life partners Julia Selin (who has been working with the gallery for years) and Matti Summari who are among the artists with ties to Umeå Art Academy, based in Malmö, and found at the helm of what is Malmö’s finest artist-run gallery and fixture in that scene; ALTA. Galleri Flach like some of the other "legacy galleries" in Stockholm too can be a hit or miss sometimes but this is joy to watch. Curators in their own right, the two artists, together with the gallery amp up the playfulness to unparalleled heights at the fair (as far as this year goes), treating the regal Liljevalchs so unpreciously that Matti Sumari’s sculptural components are seen hung very low, embellishing the dark brown wooden wall/floor beams. Unorthodox and sets a ”new” precedent for this art venue (ping! Vårsalongen!). As a visitor, on a general note, the more curated the booth, the more fun. It occurs to us that the Finnish galleries in particular omit out a curatorial POV with their booths, something that has now been evident more or less, over years.

Matti Summari with Galleri Flach

Camilla Engström with Carl Kostyál

Camilla Engström currently is a very buzzed about Swedish artist. Reports from Artsy about her being one of the most searched artists seem to have sent some pundits in and of the art market to frenzy. Read only the other that she was one the most acclaimed Swedish artists internationally right now, as though acclaim is equalized with numbers, notoriety and internet fame. No. Camilla is great, let there be no doubt, and it was a real pleasure to see her work last summer in a hand-in-glove staging with Koenig in Berlin at their St Agnes complex. Immediately remarked on her as an artist of the future to watch for. At the fair what is hoped to be a ”banger” with Carl Kostyál ends up looking like a crammed booth shoehorning as many big paintings in as possible, defying any logics and rationales beyond sales opps and no surprise, it’s an art fair; an expression of art market transaction per mere nature. Great works but the booth would have struck you with more appeal, with emphasis on less works and a gaze properly allowed on the details.

Henning Hamilton and Linda Pedersen with ISSUES

Artist couple Henning Hamilton and Linda Pedersen’s booth with ISSUES while among the smallest also is easily one of the best looking at the fair as far as we could tell. The booth comprises an exhibition in sober unison feel - generating great feels. Thorough with just a few works of exquisite crafts(wo)manship. It’s been a while since we came across Linda’s work but we will remember a time when she was connected with affection from two galleries in Stockholm - Loyal and Galleri Steinsland Berliner, while still just graduating from Konstfack with what felt like a mini biennal pavillion at that year’s degree exhibition.

GSA on so many occasions have presented dull booths venturing rather back in time and which will not have resonated as ”zeitgeisty” in the least, and have appeared to accomodate for the taste buds of…elders. However, we all agreed in the team that included the addition of our film critic friend Kasia Syty in yesterday's round, that this booth is beautifully calibrated ”in time”, between classical sculptural expression (per Kjell Erik Killi-Olsen) and painting that bears a feel of timelessness as well as nifty vibing with today’s Nordic painting per Siri Elfhag (emphasis: Nordic). The concentration of colour seated in a view of understated disposition was soothing to look at. Of all the presentations with paintings boxing sculptures in on podiums in the middle or in front (there are a few), this is the showstopper.

Trine Søndergaard on Martin Asbaek Gallery

As for photography, we absolutely have loved the work of artists like Trine Søndergaard (below) and Elina Brotherus - still do - and while it’s not personal - it has to be said that going to an art fair, that in terms of photography most years have appeared to be lightyears away from the likes of Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Clifford Prince King, Yushi Li or Thalia Gochez making entries any time soon, leaves a bit of a, or actually a very bitter taste in the mouth. In parts of the local art world it’s as though photography is suspended in a time where certain currents in art have never been heard of. Elina Brotherus in 2015 with Galleri Heino. Elina Brotherus with Helsinki Contemporary in 2023. Trine Søndergaard with Martin Asbaek Gallery in 2021; again in 2023. Again, appreciate these specific artists very much but this is symptomatic for how slowly Nordic contemporary photography is allowed to move forward, beyond a number of poster names. That brings us to MELK from Oslo that is among the most-forward-reaching photography platforms/galleries in the Nordics, taking part this year in the Debut section at Spritmuseum and that being a welcome surprise.

David Shrigley with Galleri Nicolai Wallner. On the image: Kasia Syty, artistic director of Bergmanveckan

Last year Danish blue chip gallery Nicolai Wallner set a jovial mark on the fair with a very playful booth exhibition of works by Elmgreen & Dragset, Jeppe Hein and Cornelia Baltes et alia. This year one of the standout paintings at the entire fair - a fiery red painting by Kinga Bartis (was also a favorite at last year’s fair) is on a view alongside a plethora of a real crowd pleaser; a series of works by the always witty David Shrigley (mostly already sold, we would assume). In light of Spritmuseum being part of the scope of the art fair; thought shoots back to his solo pre-pandemic of giant inflatable swans that had us missing works like these and now that we got them…well, the fair wouldnt complete without this genre of humour that is up our alley.

Ditte Ejlerskov with Anna Bohman Gallery

If the superhuman Beyoncé landing her spaceship in Stockholm to set camp here for the start of her Renaissance tour was all the buzz this week (Side note: the impact on the city seen from a specific lense; Grindr has never looked as much like Puerto Vallarta over a few days) the strongest connection to her on site is Ditte Ejlerskov who earlier in her career; just about a decade ago devoted her work to a study of Queen Bey. Her gradient abstract works with Anna Bohman Gallery are gorgeous! But her sculpture in the booth of two female bodies wrestling is a homerun for us who exhibited a relief version of this work in our curated three-part wrestling exhibition ”The Ring Beyond the Mat” at Riksidrottsmuseum/Konsthall 16, ending this past January. With the sculpture, Ditte Ejlerskov creates an intervention in the historical portrayal of wrestling as a male-coded sport by adapting and paraphrasing the iconic classical sculpture "The Wrestlers". Many people will instantly recognize this work, with bodies grasping each other, which is forever being reproduced and has contributed historically to gendering the sport.

Charlotte Gyllenhammar with CFHILL

The first review we ever penned for C-print was Charlotte Gyllenhammar's exhibition at Carl Eldh's Studio Museum back in 2013 (the first artist to be invited to the museum after the re-inauguration of the annual fare of a summer exhibition). Charlotte - one of Sweden's most seasoned artists (parts of the team has had the pleasure of working with her at the late Stockholm space of Galerie Forsblom) is exhibited by CFHILL at the fair in their first ever participation, with a solo presentation. The bronze sculptures bear her distinctive characters but visibly appear uppdated with additional pizzazz to play with time signifiers. A juxtaposition found on the centerpiece sculpture seeing a body of a ballgown length skirt layered with a bomber jacket as a top says it all. Hence a humorous stretch beyond the frilled collars and monarchy-aired attributed of her sculptures from a few years back. Notably, on the note or monarchy, later in the month a site-specific commission of hers will be added and unveiled in the growing Princess Estelle Sculpture Park on the island of Djurgården (also home to the fair, by way of Liljevalchs).

Duda Bebek with Galleri Magnus Karlsson

As for the sculpture hall, a stellar moment and perhaps spatially the most unique presentation this year alongside Galleri Flach is Galleri Magnus Karlsson's solo presentation of Duda Bebek's paintings with domestic motifs fittingly installed along the walls of the grand staircase in the sculpture hall. Supposedly the allocated space was not what the gallery had initially expected but sometimes the unexpected calls for creativity and this seems like one of those succesful moments.

Team C-print, with Kasia Syty


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