Die Discovery Art Fair Cologne präsentiert zeitgenössische, junge Kunst in der rheinischen Kunstmetropole Köln. Vom 25. bis 28. April 2024 zeigt die beliebte Entdeckermesse in der imposanten Halle der XPost endlich wieder ein breites Spektrum aufstrebender, bezahlbarer Kunst. Foto: Holger Peters
The Discovery Art Fair Cologne is a showcase of contemporary, young art in the art metropolis of Cologne. From 25 to 28 April 2024, this popular fair will finally return to the imposing XPost venue to present a wide range of emerging, affordable art. Photo: Holger Peters

Discovery Art Fair Cologne 2024: all kinds of art except “old”

For the 2024 Discovery Art Fair Cologne, the main hall of the city’s XPost venue will be transformed into a huge art space. Painting, sculpture, photography, installations, graphic art, mixed media, street and urban art – the forms of artistic expression are as varied as the artists and galleries that will be exhibiting. But there’s one thing all of the works have in common – they’re all brand new. With the focus firmly on discovery, this is a fair that seeks to attract not only young artists but also first-time buyers.

As you enter the Discovery Art Fair Cologne 2024, you’re greeted by… balloons! Lots and lots of brightly coloured balloons. Artist Hakan Eren has linked them all together to create a huge sculpture that floats from the ceiling. The result is a very fun-fair-style start to the tour but one that is also a subversive comment about the art market. The balloons will, after all, be considerably deflated by the end of the fair’s four days and the works will have undergone a transformation – just as the meaning and value of a work don’t automatically remain constant forever.

Der Direktor der Discovery Art Fair Köln 2024, Jörgen Golz, will mit der Messe eine lukrative Verkaufsplattform für junge Künstler*innen schaffen. Foto: Holger Peters
The director of the 2024 Discovery Art Fair Cologne, Jörgen Golz, is looking to create a lucrative sales platform for young artists. Photo: Holger Peters

The curators behind the 2024 Discovery Art Fair Cologne have chosen artist Hakan Eren for the event’s special show, which means he gets to present his works in the entrance area – even if his kinetic, transitory art is perhaps not as marketable as other exhibitors’ works.

Other than that, says director Jörgen Golz, the fair is very much about selling art. “We’re not a museum”, says Golz. “We want our exhibitors to be happy and selling a lot makes them happy.” With an established collector structure and its long history as a place of art, Cologne is the ideal location for the fair, which is now being held for the ninth time. In addition, the Discovery Art Fair is an ideal extension to the time-honoured Art Cologne fair, which is held every autumn.

All styles in the mix: Die Discovery Art Fair setzt ganz bewusst auf junge Künstler*innen und richtet sich an ein junges Publikum. Her betrachten potentielle Käufer*innen ein Bild des Künstlers Kingsley Ogwara. Foto: Holger Peters
Potential buyers admiring a work by Kingsley Ogwara – the Discovery Art Fair makes a conscious choice to concentrate on young artists and a young audience. Photo: Holger Peters

The Discovery Art Fair Cologne seeks to make exhibition practice more democratic

According to Golz, there are quite a few differences between the two fairs. “The prices at Art Cologne are higher”, he says. “The works we show sell for an average of between 3,500 and 7,500 euros. At Art Cologne, you’d have to put a 1 in front of that and, at worst, another 0 at the end.” Another thing the director stresses is different about the Discovery Art Fair is: “We allow the artists to participate without any intermediaries. In the art world, it’s standard practice for the galleries – not the artists – to exhibit the works. In fact, many gallery owners prefer to be able to determine artists’ market power and the interpretation of their works, while leaving the artists in their ateliers.”

Visitors to the Discovery Art Fair will find not only a wide variety of genres (such as painting, sculpture, illustration, photography, mixed media, graphic art, object art, kinetic objects, street art and urban art) but also – in most cases – the actual artists that created them. One such artist is Marco Reiffenrath, whose hyper-realistic, huge-format oil paintings only use food as their subject. “Taste in art” certainly takes on a very different meaning when you look at his pictures of sushi and currywurst.

Cologne artist Karina Syndicus will be showing her collages at the fair. In them, she reflects on the problematic human thirst for more expansion and growth. Ulrich Schröder, on the other hand, will be presenting his comics. He’s one of just three illustrators to have worked for the Disney Studios. And artist Nicolette Bénard will be surprising visitors with humorous yet critical sculptures based on the idea of dolls as beauty icons.

Discovery Art Fair 2024: young international art made affordable

With a total of 112 completely different exhibitors from 14 nations (two thirds of which are artists and one third galleries), visitors can look forward to a dazzling array of contemporary art. There’s one common denominator, says Golz though: “We’ve got all kinds of art except ‘old’. No Rembrandt, no Renoir, no classical modernism. Most of it was produced in 2023 and 2024.” The fair also consciously seeks to appeal to a younger, less established audience.

“We’ve got all kinds of art except ‘old’.”

Jörgen Golz, Director of the Discovery Art Fair

But it’s not just visitors who might be at their first art fair – a number of the artists will be too. With this in mind, the Discovery Art Fair Cologne organisers try to help whenever they can, says Golz. “We advise the artists, provide sales contracts, give them recommendations, coaching and price suggestions. Some of them are already experts at communication and marketing but we do recommend that those who aren’t so good at the selling side of things arrange to be represented by a gallery”, he explains.

“The art has to sell itself”

The art has to sell itself – that’s the idea behind the Discovery Art Fair. So it’s not just the curation of the artists and their works that’s important, presentation plays a role too, according to Golz. “Basically,” he says, “it’s like a play. People arrive with all of their day-to-day worries but when they enter the hall they get that ‘wow’ feeling. The curtains open, politics, inflation and the intricacies of everyday life disappear, and they immerse themselves in the art world of a whole lot of different people – it’s international understanding in practice.” The hall at the XPost venue, which used to be a parcel processing centre, is the ideal platform: “We make very conscious decisions about the way everything’s presented, working with lines of sight and disconnects so we don’t end up with rows of ‘hutches'”, says Golz.

“Sometimes we group genres together but sometimes it makes sense to disconnect them on purpose. And we think of the artists too, of course, because they have to feel comfortable next to each other.” But you shouldn’t expect devout silence at the Discovery Art Fair anyway, says Golz: “There’s chatting, discussion, talking and laughter – it’s a fair full of life.”

Discovery Art Fair: 26–28 April 2024, opening event 25 April 2024, XPOST Köln, Gladbacher Wall 5, 50670 Cologne, tickets (day ticket: 18 euros) available here.

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