Market Time Again

Stockholm galleries and Danish ’hygge’ will set the tone at Market Art Fair. Fewer Norwegians present as the fair will open on Norway’s Constitution Day 17 May.

Market Art Fair takes place at Liljevalch’s konsthall in Stockholm, 17–19 May. Photo: Jean Lapin.

Thursday evening saw the programme release for this year’s Market Art Fair. The event, hosted at the Finnish cultural attaché’s Artek-clad residence, offered polite small talk with people who understand the importance of a well chosen indoor shoe. Artists and press were conspicuously absent, but those present did get to meet the boys from a well-known whisky company – one of this year’s sponsors – who might have learned something about contemporary art in the process. Things are simmering away in the Market factory.

Market might be the largest art fair in the Nordics, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the most fun, as one Swedish gallerist bluntly put it. The perennial comparison between Copenhagen’s Chart feels a bit worn out now, but several people I spoke to mentioned how the energy levels differ at the two fairs. Sales go well at Market, but Chart is much more fun.

“The Danish gallery scene is dynamic and constantly growing, and in recent years we have seen a significant proportion of the applicant galleries come from Denmark. In the rest of the Nordic region, there are far fewer commercial players, which means that we mainly see Swedish and Danish galleries represented at the fair,” explained Market’s Acting Director Josefine Hardstedt, filling in for Sara Berner Bengtsson, who is on parental leave.

Of the nearly one hundred participating artists, only five are from Norway. These include well-known painters such as Ida Ekblad at Oslo heavyweight Peder Lund, and Olav Christopher Jenssen, whose work will be shown in a joint venture between trusty Galleri Riis and the Danish Galleri Susanne Ottesen. This year’s only Norwegian newcomer, QB Gallery, has opted for the breezy painter Liv Tandrevold Eriksen. In the press release, she is said to represent a tendency among this year’s participants to work in the grey area between craft and art.

Finland is represented by Helsinki-based Galleri Anhava alongside Helsinki Contemporary, presenting Aki Turunen, Emma Ainala, and the Swedish hyperrealist sculptor Roland Persson. Most pleasing is that last year’s Icelandic newcomer Þhula, which showed at Market Debut, returns with a larger presentation of Sunneva Ása Weisshappel and Guðmundur Thoroddsen. Still, two Finnish galleries and one Icelandic gallery is a bit disappointing from a Nordic perspective.

“This year’s representation from the Nordic countries is roughly the same as usual,” Hardstedt said, but added that there might have been fewer Norwegian applicants this year because the fair opens on 17 May, Norway’s beloved and highly celebrated Constitution Day.

Ursula Reuter Christiansen, The Eternal Fascination I / Den evige fascination I, 1995, oil on canvas, 235 x 135 cm. The Swiss-Dahish gallery Von Bartha will show Reuter Christiansen alongside Imi Knoebel.

On the other hand, eleven Danish galleries will show a total of twenty-five Danish artists. Established players like Galleri Nicolai Wallner and Galleri Bo Bjergaard are joined by Market debutants 2112, HAGD Contemporary, and Wilson Saplana Gallery. The Swiss-Danish gallery Von Bartha has announced one of this year’s more interesting clashes: Danish-German Expressionist painter Ursula Reuter Christiansen and German minimalist Imi Knoebel, both of whom recently turned 80. Another veteran, represented by 2112, is Swedish neon sculptor Gun Gordillo, 78, who for many years showed with the legendary Paris gallery Denise René.

Both Nicolai Wallner and V1 Gallery have opted to present a larger selection of artists this year, the latter in the form of a promising presentation inspired by British biologist Merlin Sheldrake’s acclaimed book Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds (2020) and including Kaspar Oppen Samuelsen, Loji Höskuldsson, and Sara-Vide Ericson.

As in previous years, half of the fair is made up of Stockholm galleries. The provincial impression is reinforced by the fact that only three non-Nordic galleries are participating. Of these, Berlin-based KEWENIG and Dorothée Nilsson Gallery are both showing Swedish artists: Market debutante Elisabeth Frieberg and veteran Lotta Antonsson, respectively.

Sunneva Ása Weisshappel, Brynja (Armor), 2023. The Icelandic gallery Þhula will present Ása Weisshappel alongside Guðmundur Thoroddsen.

The general impression is that the participating galleries will be playing it safe. Furthermore, there are there no artist-run galleries with alternative funding models participating in 2024, which last year’s Market Debut gave us hope for. Since Market’s business model is not compatible with initiatives operating outside the traditional gallery system, many artists are excluded from the exposure and financial resources offered by the fair. If Market took greater responsibility for regrowth, it might be seen as a more serious player on the Nordic art scene.

The fact that CF HILL is launching its presentation of Marie-Louise Ekman as if it were an exclusive solo exhibition surely doesn’t surprise anyone, but it does highlight a sore point: Is Market an important art event, or mainly a concern for the galleries and their buyers? I found no answer to that question among the piles of salami and mozzarella on the Finnish cultural attaché’s buffet table. Whether audiences will flock to the event remains to be seen.

“I think the public’s knowledge of what an art fair involves is quite limited. This year we will work more actively to raise awareness of what an art fair is and what visitors can expect. After all, Market Art Fair is a unique opportunity to experience works by over one hundred Nordic artists at one and the same time,” Hardstedt concluded.

Three presentations to look forward to at the 18th edition of Market Art Fair:

Marit Tingleff, Divided Plane, 140 cm, 2003.

Marit Tingleff, Galleri Format, Oslo

Oslo-based design and craft gallery Format presents Marit Tingleff, one of Norway’s leading ceramic artists. Hopefully, Tingleff will show something oversized and archaic that takes the edge off all the two-dimensional works on canvas that otherwise dominate Market.

Erik Uddén, Deep Shells (Blue Mustang) och Deep Shells (Horizon & Shelter), 2022. Photo: Paulina Simon.

Erik Uddén, Jamila Drott, and Charlotte Walentin, Elastic Gallery, Jädraås

Elastic Gallery, recently relocated to the forests of Gästrikland north of Stockholm, presents an unusually dense Swedish trio consisting of Erik Uddén, Jamila Drott, and Charlotte Walentin. All three have previously tackled surfaces and materials in a fairly unsentimental way, which promises to make for a rugged presentation.

Maria Wæhrens, Englen (the Angel), egg tempera, charcoal and oil on canvas, 220 x 490 cm, 2023.

Maria Wæhrens, Wilson Saplana Gallery, Copenhagen

Danish artist Maria Wæhrens has more pronounced religious thematics than we are used to seeing at commercial fairs. Her presentation for Wilson Saplana Gallery will hopefully be a fresh contribution to Market Debut.