"Real rivalry" between two art fairs
Last weekend here in Stockholm, culture vultures had their choice between the city's two rival art fairs. But what's the nature of this rivalry, and does it really exist?
The Supermarket art fair sprawls over two floors at Stockholm's House of Culture. Just a few hours before the opening, the atmosphere is still charged as artists put the finishing touches on their work. A Swiss artist is busy painting a thick layer of industrial grease onto a plastic playground slide. Meanwhile, another group of artists is still at work drilling and hammering their installation, which appears to be nowhere near finished.
Malin Lindmark Vrijman is an artist who works with organic farmers on the island of Öland. One of her paintings reads: "We shall make art like farmers and farm like artists." During the fair, Vrijman will even be making her own cheese. Why did she choose to exhibit at Supermarket, rather than trying to show at the rival fair, Market?
"Market is a totally different thing," she says. "We would not fit in there. We're not a commercial gallery. We're artists creating a platform for other artists to explore things together – farming, in our case."
Five years ago, a group of gallerists gathered together to start what they hoped would be a quality art fair in central Stockholm. They called it Market. But that sounded too commercial to some artists, so they founded their own art fair. Thus, Minimarket was born, and eventually, that grew into what is now called Supermarket.
Project manager of Supermarket, Pontus Raud, says that compared to Market, his fair is "more about the experience. It's like this chaotic, vivid feeling you get when you get in contact with contemporary art and you really really feel the atmosphere from all the artists who are really working."
But he says that the competition between the two fairs is healthy.
"The art world is quite hierarchic and has its mechanism... if you want to be a part of it, you have to fight yourself in, and that's what we do," says Raud.
Meanwhile, just a few blocks away is Market, held at the Royal Institute of Art. Here, the people manning the booths tend to be gallerists, not artists, so it's a little bit more formal. And the work tends to take more traditional forms, too, like painting and sculpture.
Among the pieces here are Andreas Eriksson's bronze casts of molehills. They resemble piles of dirt sitting on the wood floor, and the gallerist says the work is about how nature disturbs farmers' fields. The artist – very likely with these sculptures – will represent Sweden at the next Venice Biennale, one of the art world's most prestigious events.
This says something about the calibur of artists that Market draws. Works from behemoths of contemporary art, like Sofie Calle and Olafur Eliasson, are even sprinkled into the mix here.
Niclas Östlind is the director of Market. For him, the main difference between the two fairs comes down to the way their run.
"I think there's a level of professionality," says Östlind. "That doesn't say they're not professional, but one can have different kinds of standards and ideas about how things should be run."
He agrees that the rivalry could be a publicity stunt and says, "It could be seen as an ideological divergence," and adds that he will certainly attend the "rival" fair, Supermarket.