Vienna has grown its reputation as a place for contemporary art. This is due in part to the curated by_vienna gallery festival: beginning in 2009, international curators were invited to design a parcours of exhibitions with the support of the creative center departure. Then the public funding landscape was restructured, and curated_by has had to operate the festival under its own steam in 2018. Sponsors of the festival discuss the status and future of Vienna’s gallery scene in the following.
What has changed for Vienna’s gallery sector since curated_by was launched?
Martin Janda: Previously, only galleries that participated in international art fairs would cooperate with curated by_vienna. This ensured the outward orientation of the project and the cultivation of international contacts. Now there’s a group of younger galleries which have immediately sought positions within the international context. I’m pleased that colleagues who have long established themselves on the market view this as a sign of revival.
Ursula Krinzinger: I’ve found the strength of the programs designed by Viennese galleries to be very convincing. As a consequence, a considerable number of Austrian galleries have been accepted for participation at international fairs. Rosemarie Schwarzwälder: This demonstrates how important international audiences and buyers are for younger galleries. curated by_vienna also attracts international curators and collectors, and close cooperation with the viennacontemporary fair also creates additional synergies. Gabriele Senn: Synergies are important for galleries. The location of Vienna also asserts itself through its many artists and an exciting new scene that requires such synergies.
Martin Janda: At curated by_vienna, content always occupied the foreground. Many of the curators are now museum directors; they’ve led the documenta or achieved something similar.
Emanuel Layr: Participation means dealing with people at the top of their games, who will bring the project around the world, teach or discuss it in courses, etc.
Can content-based work be financed on a market basis? Galleries without a mega global reach would have a hard time …
Ursula Krinzinger: A maximum of ten mega-galleries worldwide achieve sales in the billions, and they are found at many art fairs. As a result, mid-sized galleries need to pursue other strategies: communities, collaboration, sponsors, etc.
Martin Janda: It’s enormously important that Austrian museums have larger acquisition budgets. Gabriele Senn: There has long been an idea to set up an Austrian foundation. Implementation and cooperation with business would help greatly. Rosemarie Schwarzwälder: Politicians often think that galleries lack nothing. It doesn’t suffice that only younger galleries receive assistance, because the art community also lives off long-established galleries that have done lots of work.
Martin Janda: curated by_vienna is not a commercial project, but one that is tied to its site. It performs the function of an ambassador: if a few galleries enjoy international renown, they share it with the boys in the pool.
Ursula Krinzinger: But it can also happen that while attempting to realize the idea of a demanding curator one drops deep into the red. Following attempts to compensate with other exhibitions or fairs usually proves extremely difficult. One conflict seems inherent to curated by_vienna: a group of galleries assembles resources for the project and determines which galleries participate, while others would like to be part of it.
Emanuel Layr: Yes, we all suffer from that, because we’d like for new galleries to participate in order to increase the overall quality of our program. But it was crucial for a start to be able to continue the project at all. We have to consider how the selection process will be run in the future.
If the project requires such intensive investment and financial risk, what makes it worthwhile after all?
Rosemarie Schwarzwälder: Inviting curators is a way of entering an entirely different form of dialogue, expanding one’s program, and creating new continuities.
Ursula Krinzinger: The international appeal is really impressive. That creates a bigger plus for us beyond the mere financial. One must emphasize this over and over again: politicians do not realize what galleries are doing for Vienna as a location.