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>> Deutsche Bank at Art Cologne: VIP Lounge by Karim Rashid
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"Like a UFO"
Art Cologne and the Deutsche Bank VIP Lounge in the Press

The 40th round of Art Cologne, the oldest art fair worldwide, was held under the sign of change after fair director Gérard A. Goodrow had markedly reduced the number of galleries exhibiting. "Open Space", the new section set up last year, was enlarged, the entrance area to the fair renovated, and the aisles widened. Starting next year, Art Cologne will be expanded and moved up to April, while a branch will be opened in Palma de Mallorca in the fall. Deutsche Bank, which sponsors the fair, was present in Cologne with a VIP Lounge designed by Karim Rashid ; in addition, it held symposia on a wide range of themes connected to the art market.

Deutsche Bank's VIP-Lounge at the Art Cologne,
designed by Karim Rashid

Along with ten live horses in a spacious booth, a reenactment of an installation by Jannis Kounellis from the year 1969 that spread a pungent stall aroma throughout the fair halls, the Deutsche Bank VIP Lounge was one of the main attractions at this year's Art Cologne. Leading up to the fair, Inken Herzog of Decoration, the Lounge's media partner, conducted an extensive interview with Dr. Ariane Grigoteit in which the director of Deutsche Bank Art described Rashid's design: "Basically, you can view the lounge as a UFO set to land at the 40th Art Cologne. It has nothing but round forms, with no corners and all the walls curved. Rashid originally wanted to exhibit his own paintings. But we've decided to take works from our own collection instead, because the reason Rashid's UFO is set to land there is to show how special our collection is."

The entrance to the VIP-Lounge

Grigoteit also explains what connects Rashid's design with the art philosophy of the Deutsche Bank Collection: "It's the drive to look ahead – to think about what a step towards the future could be. For me, the positive surprise about Rashid is his social component. He creates places that connect people, and that's the basic thought behind our collection: to create access, to make contemporary ideas intelligible and to discuss things. It's an architecture that comes from America, but is inspired by Rashid's Egyptian heritage. In this sense, for me the Lounge reflects the new international movements where things come together from around the world, and no one can be classified nationally anymore. I think that if the Cologne Fair works with projects such as these, it has a good chance at playing a major role together with the other international fairs."

Vernissage-TV dedicated an entire report to the futurist environment, and Carl Friedrich Schröer from the Kunstzeitung was just as enthusiastic: he also found that "Karim Rashid's completely unique interpretation of a gesamtkunstwerk looked like a UFO." He found the "extremely invigorating ambience" of the fluorescent-colored lounge by the "trendsetter of the international design jetset crowd" to be "galactic and alien, but uncommonly enticing." In the same art fair issue of the Kunstzeitung, Marion Leske reported on the symposium "Art and the Law", a cooperation between Deutsche Bank and the Financial Times Germany, where "prominent speakers" informed the public what "art dealers, collectors, and artists need to know to find their way through the legal jungle."

Futuristic shapes: interior view of the VIP-Lounge

Interior view of the VIP-Lounge

On the other hand, the fair's approximately 70,000 visitors had an easier time finding their way around than in previous years: "The art jungle has grown lighter; it presents itself in a clearer and more inviting way to the viewer, with the quality standing out more now", according to Anette Schroeder in the Kölnischer Rundschau. The decision made by fair chief Gérard A. Goodrow to drastically reduce the number of exhibitors met with positive response in the press. "Through a reduction by around 80 galleries in comparison to the previous year, the 'mother of art fairs', which has been so difficult to navigate in the past, has become slimmer and fresher", as Johanna Di Blasi writes in the Hannoversche Allgemeine. "The aged art fair has taken a deep breath this year", according to the Baseler Zeitung. On Artnet , Henrike Schulte remarks: "Work has also been done on the fair's outward appearance. The aisles are wider and more airy, the booths and resting areas as well. The entrance area to the fair has been designed so elaborately that even Basel might get envious." And Daniel Kothenschulte from the Frankfurter Rundschau was impressed by Art Cologne's anniversary fair: "When you walk today through the fair, which is visibly more generous now thanks to its director Gérard A. Goodrow, the flea market character of former years is gone entirely and has given way to a museum feeling. The Art Cologne might not be the most important art fair anymore, but it could very well become the most beautiful. Part of this is the noticeably slower effect it has on the visitor, who is learning how to stroll again."

Works by Marc Quinn in the VIP-Lounge

Yet, like many of his colleagues, Kothenschulte also mentions the diminishing importance of the "former art metropolis Cologne" and, hence, its art fair. The competition has grown quite strong. "Where this Rhineland capital once enjoyed monopoly status, attracting top international gallerists and collectors, there are now 10 major European competitors, with three of them in Germany and Art Basel just across the Swiss border", as David Galloway writes in the International Herald Tribune. And Georg Imdahl bemoans in the Kölner Stadtanzeiger : "More and more influential galleries are going to other fairs. Their absence is demolishing the international body of collectors. As a consequence, over the past several years the 'mother of all art fairs' has dropped out of the top global selling markets. Even the reduction in participants, a strategically correct decision to insure the concentration of quality, does not pave a direct path back to the league of Maastricht, Basel, London, or Miami Beach." For Swantje Karich from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, "the fair still hasn't attained its optimal form. Reestablishing connection to the international top league has to occur in the spring of 2007. The current fair is good, but without the glamour."

Interior view of Deutsche Bank's VIP-Lounge

Yet the Art Cologne seems to be on the right path, with its much-praised special shows, such as "Open Space", the "oasis-like free field for art without confining booth walls, organized for the first time last year." ( Bonner Generalanzeiger) In the "relaxed exhibition landscape", according to the Stuttgarter Zeitung, galleries like David Zwirner from New York, Krinzinger from Vienna, or Buchholz from Cologne show primarily young positions. And for Christiane Hoffmans of the Welt, it's also "the perhaps most interesting section of the fair." "Cologne is riding again" is the title of Ralf Niemczyk's article on the Art Cologne for the taz. In any case, he registered at the fair "a defiant, 'we'll show you now' attitude", and sums it up thus: "On the Rhine, it's more a case of spring in the air than a funeral dirge."