PARALLEL VIENNA transforms temporarily vacant buildings into presentation platforms for contemporary art. Presenting both emerging artists as well as well established practitioners, the fair brings together art associations, galleries, project spaces, off spaces and art spaces, both Austrian and international. Describing itself as a hybrid between art fair, exhibition platform and artist studio, it does away with art fair booths, opting instead to give each exhibitor their own room in which to make their presentation. Taking place in Vienna’s WKO office building between 22 and 27 September, we spoke to Mia Legenstein (PR), Daniel Haider (Managing Partner) and Isabella Hofmann (curatorial assistant), to learn more about this year’s fair.
Can you tell me a little about Parallel?
Daniel: The initial idea was to give artists and galleries an opportunity to exhibit their works who can’t afford to show at viennacontemporary, the international art fair in Vienna, so we have developed our own format parallel to the main fair. Lot of galleries are taking part in both fairs, showing different positions, at PARALLEL it is more about emerging artists, at viennacontemporary mainly established ones.
Isa: PARALLEL VIENNA is not an ordinary art fair, but an exhibition that connects galleries, project spaces and artists. It transcends the classic White Cube by exhibiting in a vacant building every year. This is what makes PARALLEL so special, because every place we choose already has a history before we fill it with art.
How have you gone about preparing in the midst of corona madness?
Isa: We have basically prepared ourselves in the same way as we have in recent years. Of course, this year we have to focus more on security measures in particular and not everything can be implemented as we are used to. Nevertheless, it is important to us, especially in such difficult times, to support the art scene and offer them a platform so that they can demonstrate “Hey we’re still here too!”. I myself simply remain optimistic, one might have to adapt to the situation if necessary, but we try to organize it as well and safely as possible. We owe that to our exhibitors as well.
Daniel: At the beginning everything went smooth, but the closer it got as more confusing it became with all the different appearing regulations. Of course we had to cancel our big parties, we have less … at the bar, less entries, so a big financial loss but we are happy that we still can have a fair.
Mia: One of the key issues these days is creating an atmosphere of trust, so exhibitors, artists, journalists and guests feel safe. It’s a balancing act, as the situation is new to everyone, so even the authorities have no regular plan. So we have to evaluate the situation from one day to the next and stay what we call “situationselastisch”. The art world has never been a steady place, so we have learned to accept the current situation and get through this as best as we can. A strong, motivated team is a great base to master this difficult endeavour.
What are you most excited about at the fair?
Isa: This year we have invited numerous classes from Austrian art universities. I think that the art students in particular are bursting with creativity, so I am very curious to see what they will decide to do with their rooms.
Mia: This year again PARALLEL takes place in an amazing building. The light inside is great to show artwork. All rooms have windows so we will have fresh air all day long which is a liberation especially in corona times. There are many strong artist statements and gallery shows, it will not feel like an ordinary fair, but more like a temporary contemporary art museum.
You host Parallel in vacant buildings; how do you find them?
Daniel: Each year we spend hours calling and socializing to get acquainted with potential landlords. We have been really lucky every year and we are very thankful to all our supporters.
Mia: PARALLEL acts as an interim use and breathes new life into abandoned buildings. Some of them have been vacant for a long time.
How do you go about selecting artists and galleries?
Isa: Every year we invite renowned as well as young galleries, as we want to support up-and-coming galleries and projects on the one hand, but at the same time we also have high quality standards. In addition, the renowned galleries serve as driving forces for collectors and help the new, smaller galleries to establish themselves. We keep our eyes open for emerging artists throughout the year, visit vernissages, exhibitions and tours and then invite those artists who are especially memorable to us.
Are there Austrian artists we should have on our radar?
Isa: We are sure to hear a lot more about the artist Alfredo Barsuglia, who was born in 1980, over the next few years. He is also represented with an ARTIST STATEMENT at PARALLEL. At the large forecourt we will present his large work entitled “Das Wunder” which was created during the lockdown, as a response to the car-free and empty streets.
What are your plans and hopes for the future of the fair?
Daniel: First of all we wish to have another great location next year. Furthermore we are trying to do smaller group shows during the year combined with digital activities such as promoting our online platform, our app and creating more content for our website. We would love to transfer our format abroad with group shows in smaller buildings and spaces parallel to main art fairs (e.g. Art Basel)
Mia: We definitely want to boost international connections in order to exchange ideas, concepts, artworks, group shows etc. with other art fairs and spaces all over the world. This exchange may help to present Austrian artists on an international level, to strengthen our local art scene and also support other communities worldwide.
Interview by Lizzy Vartanian