The Art Fair as a Social Rally: CHART ART FAIR 2016 in Copenhagen

Lizete Riņķe



Everybody who has an interest in ‒ or is in some other way engaged in ‒ art has probably from time to time heard discussions on the elitism of the art world and contemporary art in general. Art fairs in particular, and especially the largest and most prestigious of them, are often the subject of much debate. They are considered to be an exclusive marketplace for collectors, specially invited wealthy potential buyers and other VIPs, and to be dominated by the same large players on the international art market, while being inaccessible for the smaller fish: the rest of the public are just onlookers.

Regardless of how much truth there is in these claims, CHART ART FAIR once again seemed to prove that an art fair can be a lot more than that. The 4th edition of the fair opened on Friday, 26 August, simultaneously to and as part of the Copenhagen Art Week, with yet another blast of an opening party in the courtyards of Kunsthal Charlottenborg and The Royal Danish Academy of Arts. The opulent opening party with live musical performances is open to the general public and admission is free of charge. It has established itself as a major event in Copenhagen and this year attracted a huge crowd once again.  

CHART ART FAIR was founded in 2013 by five of the leading galleries in Copenhagen: Galleri Susanne Ottesen, Galleri Bo Bjerggaard, V1 Gallery, Andersen’s Contemporary and David Risley Gallery. Ever since the launch of the art fair, the focus of CHART has been the Nordic region, featuring a small number of specially invited galleries from Scandinavia that present some of the best Nordic art alongside international art. This year, the number of galleries has risen by two, now totalling 30 participants. Two of the galleries are from Berlin, but with roots in Copenhagen and Helsinki. The gallery presentations have been specially curated by the five founders of the fair and thus have more of the air of an exhibition than an art fair, which undoubtedly is to a certain degree also due to the absence of the regular fair booths and the grand historical settings. Some of the galleries have been exclusively allocated one of the smaller rooms, whereas others are placed side by side in the large exhibition spaces. This requires focusing from the visitor, as it can occasionally be slightly confusing to distinguish which gallery the works actually belong to. However, the layout also generates an interesting dialogue between the works.

During its short history, CHART ART FAIR has experienced an immense success internationally, as well as locally, not least among the citizens of Copenhagen. Since the beginning, one of CHART’S major goals has been to challenge the traditional idea of an art fair by implementing different initiatives aimed at making art more accessible without compromising on the quality. The social aspect is a high priority for CHART. Last year, CHART launched a new platform CHART SOCIAL with the objective of building a bridge between visual art and other disciplines, including architecture, design, music, performance and gastronomy.

Pavilion SKUM created by BIG Bjarke Ingels Group, a part of CHART SOCIAL Special Projects. The pavilion had a premiere at this year’s Roskilde Festival. It will travel to ARoS Aarhus Art Museum in Aarhus as part of their European Culture Capital program in 2017


For this year’s edition, CHART SOCIAL has been further expanded and presents an extensive programme of diverse cultural events running alongside the main fair. Many of the events actually started before the fair and are spread around the city, while others take place on the grounds of Kunsthal Charlottenborg during the fair. Among the events in the city, for almost a month now people have been encouraged to go out and try to spot one of the Douglas Coupland’s slogans from his work Slogans for the 21st Century. The slogans are placed in the public space as posters, shown on metro station screens, hung on private balconies and are printed on limited edition t-shirts.

Douglas Coupland at CHART ART FAIR

It is significant that the public can gain free admission to most of the special events during the fair, including the Talks programme featuring prominent artists, architects, curators and museum directors. This is a clear attempt on the part of the organizers to encourage broad public participation and engagement. Apart from the obligatory talk programme that has become an indispensable part of every art fair, there were performances, including a chance to encounter the Japanese performance artist Tatsumi Orimoto with loaves of bread wrapped around his head performing Bread Man on the opening night. Orimoto has performed the work around the world since 1991. It was also possible to sit or lie down and relax on scaffolding upholstered with green moss in one of the small courtyards of Charlottenborg, listening to the sound work Off Seasons, a collaborative project by the Danish artist duo Stormglas and the Finnish-Swedish artist Hans Rosenström.

Once again this year, graduates from five of the leading Nordic schools of architecture and participants of the CHART ARCHITECTURE competition were invited to design and build pavilions in the main courtyard to house food and drink. In one of these pavilions, visitors had to kick off their shoes in order to avoid getting them wet before they could reach the bar and order a glass of wine, because the floor of the pavilion was a tub of water, which caused considerable surprise and amusement.

Pavilion in the CHART ARCHITECTURE competition Wet Oyster Dry Champagne by Nicole Strelcheva, Trine Thy, Aleksander Nowak, Tamara Kalantajevska

A new initiative at this year’s CHART was CHART EMERGING, a collaboration with the Academy of Fine Arts aimed at promoting aspiring young artists. The works of the artists are presented in a separate specially curated exhibition entitled The Curves of the World. The exhibition is inspired by the literary concept of Cyberpunk.

There was also a particular focus on design this year with the launch of CHART DESIGN and THE CURIO, which makes good sense considering the renowned Scandinavian design tradition. CHART DESIGN is a new section situated in one of the buildings of the Academy of Fine Arts and showcases some of the very best contemporary and classic Nordic design presented by six Nordic design galleries. In contrast to the main fair, every gallery had its own booth that was converted into highly aesthetic superbly furnished living space. THE CURIO is a platform that introduces some of the emerging design talents in Denmark working in a range of design disciplines, both to the industry and the public. This new initiative accentuates just how important to CHART and how carefully put together the whole settings surrounding the fair are. To attend CHART is a complete aesthetic experience.  

Curves of the World. Installation view. CHART EMERGING

Karin Mørch. Tones. 2015. CHART EMERGING

Installation view. V1 Gallery (Copenhagen)

Jon Pilkington (background) and Cali Thornhill DeWitt (foreground). V1 Gallery (Copenhagen)

Rolf Nowotny. Sur Pollen. 2015. Christian Andersen (Copenhagen)

Clare Woods. The Repeater. 2014. Martin Asbæk Gallery (Copenhagen)

A Kassen. Bronze Pour XXVI. 2016. Nicolai Wallner Gallery (Copenhagen)

Heini Aho. Stalagmites. 2015. Galerie Anhava (Helsinki)

Evren Tekinoktay. Harlowe. 2014. David Risley Gallery (Copenhagen)

Installation view. Nils Stærk (Copenhagen)

Mette Björnberg. En tyst sång/A Song of Silence. 2016. Galleri Magnus Karlsson (Stockholm) and Poul Gernes. Untitled (C). 1965. (background) Galleri Bo Bjergaard (Copenhagen)

Alexander Tovborg at Nicolai Wallner Gallery. (Copenhagen)

Jesper Spicero (foreground) and Tabor Robak at Johan Berggren Gallery (Malmö)

Eva Hild (foreground) and Tatjana Valsang at Gallery Andersson/Sandsröm (Umeå)

Susanne Gottberg and Not Vital at Galerie Forsblom (Helsinki)

Installation view. Galerie Nordenhake (Berlin/Stockholm)

Pavilion Gowing Sphere by Sine Lindholm and Mads-Ulrik Husum. CHART ARCHITUCTURE

Pavilion Cups of Light by Nanna Kley-Jacobsen og Victor Fruergaard. CHART ARCHITECTURE

Galerie Maria Wettergren. (Paris) CHART DESIGN