Marx Halle, where Vienna Contemporary takes place. Photo: Vienna Contemporary.

Vienna Contemporary Presses On with IRL Event Despite Covid Surge, Tightening Restrictions

Though the country has recently experienced a spike in coronavirus cases and increased restrictions surrounding travel, Vienna Contemporary, Austria’s largest art fair, is scheduled to take place on September 24–27 as planned at the Marx-Halle, Artnet News reports. Organizers and dealers have gone to great lengths to make this happen, with the former providing a “dedicated Covid-19 representative,” reducing booth fees by 50 percent, and assigning visitors timed slots, and the latter finding unique ways to collaborate.

Vienna currently accounts for 50 percent of all Covid-19 cases in Austria, and last week was named a high-risk area by Germany’s central biomedical institution, the Robert Koch Institute. Among the restrictions affecting the fair, which typically draws contingents from Central and Eastern Europe, are Switzerland’s imperative that anyone entering the country from Austria must quarantine, and Hungary’s hard border, imposed September 1.

In response, the fair, which is hosting just 65 galleries representing 16 countries, down from last year’s 110 exhibitors, has shifted focus to local galleries. “Given the external limitations, we were able to put a spotlight on the great local galleries and those from surrounding regions, and strongly focus on the quality of content that is being presented,” said the fair’s director, Joanna Chromik.

Exhibitors from countries affected by the travel restrictions have collaborated across borders in order to bring their works to the fair, with some sharing booths with physically participating galleries, and others working with local art advisors to present their artists. It is expected that younger collectors, starved for in-person events, will account for the bulk of attendees; a digital extension of the fair is available for those unable to attend.

Chromik remains optimistic despite the many obstacles the fair is facing. “Especially since the creative and art scene has been strongly affected by these challenging circumstances, it is more important than ever to set a strong signal for contemporary art,” she said.