Since its inception in 2021, the young Vienna fair has been making headlines and establishing itself as an important stop in the international art fair calendar (read the 2021 & 2022 stories). After a hiatus in 2023, it is back in full force in 2024 (15-17 March 2024) with its unique concept of solo presentation booths of equal size, a heavy emphasis on curation, and its special focus this year on “The City in Dialogue” in the historic Marxhalle. Artistic directors Walter Seidl and Jan Gustav Fiedler answered some of our questions about the upcoming SPARK.
Q1: As curators how do you feel about curating in a commercial context e.g. the art fair Spark? What difference/benefit do you see here, in contrast to institutional work?
WS: Coming from a curatorial context where you conceive of and contextualize themes for exhibitions, the situation is not entirely different. For exhibitions, you often collaborate with galleries to obtain loans from specific artists. What we four curators were doing is also to look at certain artists and inviting their galleries to participate. Thus, the situation at a fair is a double-fold one, you can invite both artists and galleries, yet the focus lies on galleries and the art market.
JGF: For me as a curator the aim has always been to create a platform for artists and their narratives. Spark provides exactly this by focusing exclusively on solo presentations, thus allowing for deeper interaction with the exhibited artists and their creative process. The commercial aspect is of course way more present within the curation of a fair than in an institutional context but the initial approach remains the same: building a connection between art and audience.
Q2: Since the fair has no official “focus” this year, is there an emphasis you are giving your curation/ selection and is there a collective process or do you each work within the fair separately?
WS: There is indeed a curatorial concept, which is entitled: “The City in Dialogue” and which has been sent to galleries in order to make them think about how their artists’ work can be contextualized within the fair. The concept revolves around the notion of the city and the necessity of heterogeneous and hybrid forms of cohabitation. The demographic development of Vienna with its circular arrangement of districts has led to the development of an artistic hub with its concentric circles reaching out to the whole of Europe and beyond. SPARK 2024 focuses on this amalgam of artistic representation by reflecting both the international focus of domestic galleries and the attraction of international artists and galleries.
Q3: Your three highlights to look out for at the next Spark edition.
The individual solo shows by each artist represented.
SPARK Expanded, which is a series of large-scale installations in the vast open spaces between the booths.
The film/video program, which will be shown at the GLOBE theater, and is a new feature added by us curators for the next edition.
Q4: What made you want to become a curator in the first place, and has this vision/dream/idea proved to be accurate/ come true?
WS: There has always been so much art around, which I considered interesting, and which made me think why not put different artworks and artists in a dialogue? This, in the end, manifested itself in numerous exhibition formats, which I have realized over the years around the globe. Hence, the initial idea became true.
JGF: The relationship between art and its surrounding space has always intrigued me and made me want to become a curator. How to approach an empty space? How do the architectural surroundings change the way we perceive an artwork? So yes, thankfully that vision has come true by being able to work in the most different places and now bringing together so many international positions within the amazing architecture of the historic Marx Halle.
Q5: One thing you would like the audience to know about Spark 2024
Please explore all the new works and artists represented. There will be so much to see and discuss that it is worth coming several times.
Save the Date and check out www.spark-artfair.com
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WALTER SEIDL is based in Vienna and works as a curator, writer, and artist. He has realized numerous exhibition projects throughout Europe, North America, and Japan. His writings include catalog essays for artist monographs as well as reviews published in international art magazines.
JAN GUSTAV FIEDLER is working as a curator for various galleries, interim spaces, and museum formats. The curatorial practice of his international projects aims at supporting young and emerging artists.
Text by Anna Maja Spiess