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Say Hi to Spark – A Different Kind of Artfair in Vienna
Almost ready to return for its second edition
News 06 Mar 2022

by Anna Maja Spiess


While the world was holding its breath during the first waves of the pandemic and wondered what it meant for the art world and galleries and how large exhibitions and gatherings such as fairs would be possible again and if – what role they would play, the tenacious and creative team around Renger van den Heuvel – an all-female all-star troupe, by the way, launched the first edition of SPARK in Vienna against all odds and winning us over with a unique concept and an amazing vision. 

SPARK is returning for its second edition this spring to a somewhat more normal yet still cautious art world and its one-of-a-kind approach to an art fair is getting the attention it deserves. We spoke with Elmerice Habsburg-Lothringen (institutional relations), Mia Legenstein (international relations) and Fiona Liewehr (curator of the section The Fourth Wall) about what is in store for 2022 and why this is a must-see in the calendar for this art year. 

Marie Bovo, Jours blancs 01H29, 2012 Courtesy Galerie Kamel Menour 

Due to the unique Architecture of the exhibition halls, the fair is divided in 4 sections.

The main platform offers solo presentations per gallery in equal-sized booths of 30qm ( very feminist if we consider the early matriarchy societies with equal-sized housing ;). Galleries are invited to participate by the fair or curators. The curators are brought in per edition of the fair for example Sabine Breitwieser in the first edition, a curator known for her institutional and non-commercial work, which speaks volumes about the quality and concept of the fair.

Anastasia Samoylova, Gatorama, 2020, Courtesy of the artist & Sabrina Amrani

The artists shown are and that is also a unique first, to be celebrated in the 2022 edition: over 50% female with both emerging talent, underrepresented mid-career discoveries and established historical relevant positions, some presentations will include never-before-seen works. The approach to showcase one artist in its complexity and range of work sure can be a gamble but one that seems to pay off for those invited to attempt this new feat.

Furthermore, there are also three curated sections at the fair, “SPARK Expanded”, “Photography” and “The Fourth Wall”, in which 28 individual artists will be represented.

“SPARK Expanded” can be seen as a “mini UNLIMITED” as it allows for installations,  large scale environments , and immersive works. Curated by Christoph Doswald we’ll see works:”too extensive, too unwieldy, too ephemeral, or too experimental for widespread commercial use.” What an exciting prospect!

Stano Filko, From the series Self-Portrait SF, 1970-1980, Courtesy Linea, Bratislava and Layr, Vienna 

The “Photography” section is curated by Marieke Wiegel and Bettina Leidl with a focus “on female photographers, whose artistic approach to the medium is currently receiving significant international attention.”

Lastly “The Fourth Wall” was curated by Fiona Liewehr. The title is borrowed from the performing arts where the fourth wall of a stage is the imaginary wall that the audience is looking through. This section is inspired by the unusual architecture of the Spark fair, which is reminiscent of a revolving stage and offers all participants the same space, following a democratic principle. According to the idea of a Gesamtkunstwerk, it is dedicated to artists who not only transcend boundaries within artistic disciplines but also seek to break through the imagined wall to the audience by inviting visitors as actors into a social space in which art and shared experience coincide.

Anouk Lamm Anouk, Lesbian Jazz Nr.4, 2021, Courtesy of the artist

We are very excited to see this IRL and invite you to descend on Vienna with us. Let’s explore the 90 solo presentations and a great mix of 80 Austrian and international galleries, let’s see what a post-Covid Artfair must look like, what should be dared, and what will be won.

We are holding our breath again with the current situation in Ukraine, Syria, and elsewhere and want to acknowledge that, alas we are certain to come together, to appreciate art, and to communicate and exchange is now more important than ever.

Must-sees include:

Galerie Hubert Winter: Simone Fattal (Pioneering position, 2019 MOMA PS1 show)
max goelitz: Lou Jaworski
König Galerie: Johanna Dumet
Vintage Galeria: Vera Molnar
SOPHIE TAPPEINER: Lone Haugaard Madsen

Kamel Mennour: Marie Bovo (hasn’t been presented at an artfair in quite some time)
Sabrina Amrani: Anastasia Samoylova

Galerie Nicola von Senger: Beni Bischof
Layr: Stano Filko

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