For its second Cologne outing, the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) has whittled its selection down from 33 participating galleries in 2012 to 24 this year. The main fair also reduced its number of exhibitors in the “New Contemporaries” category, dedicated to young galleries. “We felt that if we made both fairs a little bit smaller, we would get more sales and exposure for the galleries,” explains Katie Loughlin, the Assistant Director of NADA.
The decisions may have had to do with the slow sales reported last year. A few notable galleries — including the New Yorkers Lisa Cooley and Nicelle Beauchene — haven’t come back. But the less-is-more strategy seems to be paying off. “We spoke to more people yesterday than we did last year during the entire fair,” says Shane Campbell, from Chicago’s Shane Campbell Gallery. The dealer has chosen to present the artists he showed at the inaugural NADA Cologne again, hoping this will help buyers recognize the gallery more easily. And the plan has worked out pretty well, it seems. A color pencil on paper by Mark Grotjahn, “Untitled (Orange and Green Butterfly) 45.02,” sold for a handsome sum, Campbell says, while two paintings by Jonas Wood (“Small Bird Painting,” 2013, and “Yellow Orchid with Cup and Book,” 2013) each sold for between $10,000 and $20,000.
“People are extremely serious about art in the Rhineland,” says Blanket’s Natalia Hug. The Canadian dealer, who recently relocated her gallery from Vancouver to Cologne (she is married to Art Cologne director Daniel Hug), has shown several times at NADA Miami. She specializes in abstract art, and by yesterday morning had sold nine works on paper by the emerging artist Johannes Bendzulla priced at around €1,000 each.
The reduced number of booths makes for a satisfying compactness, in the view of many fairgoers, and many exhibitors have used Art Cologne’s general atmosphere of concentration to their advantage. Manchester’s International 3 has a thoughtfully curated booth that juxtaposes eerie C-Type prints by Pat Flynn with graphic sculptures by Andrew McDonald. London’s Josh Lilley is presenting a Christof Mascher solo show, featuring a selection of delicate semi-figurative paintings, rendered ceramic-like by a layer of epoxy resin, that are priced between €3,500 and €4,000.
Sales are not brisk everywhere, but as NADA’s Loughlin points out, “the buying culture is very different here.” Continental collectors tend to visit the booths discreetly in the first few days and come back later (sometimes months down the line) with a check book. The main problem for NADA so far has been a lack of brand recognition. “People don't really know what NADA is,” says a dealer who prefers to remain anonymous. “Maybe there's some marketing to do to improve the way it is integrated [into the main fair].”
It will take time, dealers agree, but things seem to be moving in the right direction. The decision to display sculptures outside NADA’s fair-within-the-fair enclave helps break down the divisions among the fair’s different players. Collectors tend to be creatures of habit, but NADA seems to be slowly but surely gaining their trust.