In London, the countdown to Frieze is on – but before the cacophony of avant-garde mixed-media creations, a more painterly focus can be found in Austria at the ViennaContemporary art fair (which opens its doors today until Sunday September 30) – where many of the world’s best painters are brought to the forefront.
Top of the list this year are the artists from Leipzig and Cologne, where painting retains its prestige. Leif Trenkler’s works combine the surrealist and realist to create an almost dreamlike impression. In the 1990s, he was instrumental in shaping the “new figuration” movement in German art and is still one of its most interesting practitioners. His Il Bambino Va a Pescare can be purchased at Galerie Karl Pfefferle for €8,400. Meanwhile, Leipzig artist Benedikt Leonhardt at gallery Feldbusch Wiesner Rudolph makes paintings that combine oil with acrylic and resemble blood or pink flesh underneath a patch of snow (Untitled (CO/CYD-MD-W), €10,500).
Other German and Austrian painters of note include established names Franz West (Galerie Meyer Kainer), Martha Jungwirth (Galerie Krinzinger) and Daniel Richter (Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac; his Unpässliche Minderheiten – Indisposed Minorities – is priced at €275,000). Germanic art is often associated with the darker aspects of existence, but their pictures prove that its artists are also some of the world’s best colourists, and for their small expressions of jubilation alone, this expo is worth a visit.
Also of interest are artists from eastern Europe, in particular Hungary and Romania. Chief of these is Roman Cotosman at Jecza Gallery, who was one of the few artists to challenge the all-dominant socialist realism imposed on eastern Europe after the second world war. His paintings on wood panel (€16,500-€27,000) have a chromatic intensity reminiscent of Matisse with the iconic grandeur of Malevich. Meanwhile, Czech artist Jiri Georg Dokoupil’s Rosa Traum II or Rosy Dream II (€33,000) at Galerie Karl Pfefferle is a field of coloured bubbles,
In addition to the main fair, it is worth visiting the Parallel exhibition around the corner – particularly stand EG14, where there is a show of women artists from Leipzig and Berlin, organised by the MalerinnenNetzWerk (MNW), including works by Justine Otto and Isabelle du Toit, which demonstrate the extraordinary richness of a new generation of emerging female painters. The works on this stand range between €1,800 and €14,000, but might not remain at this level for long.