Art Cologne is big and busy with a wealth—albeit, rather regimented in layout—of lively art on show. The NEUMARKT section is the clear favourite for team Elephant, and as is usual when fair fatigue hits a high level, humour wins the day: from dancing sloths to impostor fake fruits.

Sebastian Burger, R.O.R.S. 2017, Oil on aluminium, 120 × 90 cm. Courtesy Galerie Tobias Naehring

Art Cologne takes place within a strange environment. Coming across from the river, you approach the massive Messeplatz in which the fair is held through an enormous construction site, the building sitting island-like in the midst of chaos. Inside, things are organised, clean and business-like which, in the areas that aren’t quite to one’s specific taste can feel too controlled, but for me, the third level, featuring the NEUMARKT section, is a real treat.

The section was introduced last year and has a strong selection of galleries showing young contemporary art in what is certainly the freshest area–artistically–of the fair. Chris Hood, who we featured last year in Issue 26, is one of the most exciting solo presentations, showing with Lyles & King from New York. His paintings have become less frenzied of late, still working with a similar, heavily layered technique but with toned down colours and less in-your-face busyness. The effect of his paintings all together here is actually rather calming, dominated by pastel peaches, greens and lilacs.

The solo presentation of Stefan Marx at Ruttkowski 68—who have a sprawling ground floor and basement space in Cologne, currently full of works from Marx which range from comical partitions covered in kangaroos to enormous handmade vertical carpets—is another winner, with a mix of whimsical pieces (we especially enjoyed the confused-looking white handmade banana sculpture hanging out with some real fruits on the gallery’s desk) and paintings. Some are in the artist’s signature jet black and white, while there are bursts of colour too.

Painting is also strong at Galerie Tobias Naehring, from Leipzig, who are showing the works of Sebastian Burger—a pair of red and silver paintings teeter on a line visually between hand-painted and digital–as well as sculptures from Wilhelm Klotzek—an endearing pin-legged figure in a dark jacket holding a cigarette in stick fingers is excellent—and pieces from Timo Seber.

There are some curious objects at Markus Lütten, namely, a pair of trainers which look as though they’ve been set into big chunks of ice. Adriano Amaral’s Untitled comprises a pair of real blue trainers in ultrasound gel and prosthetic silicon. The gallery has mixed modern fabrics—such as these trainers—with weightier pieces in the booth, which also contains three enormous metal sculptures and a wall-hung carpet.

Lars Friedrich, from Berlin, also features a soft wall-hung work, though, this one is a little more modern. Miriam Visaczki’s happy navy blue felt sloth straddles a tree and holds his arms out as though he’s dancing. I shall return to him again and again when in need of a pick-me-up.

For those who prefer a less cuddly laugh, head to the combined booth of Rob Tufnell, from London and Cologne, and Aurel Scheibler, from Berlin. The pair are showing a solo presentation of works from the late David Robillard, which are emblazoned with lines such as: “Your exe’s always try to squeeze the parts they are no longer interested in” and “Are you a risk or an investment are you worth your salt.” It’s a bitter and funny selection of work.

Those thinking they’ve spotted an original Picabia work out of place on the third floor have become the butt of the joke at Lucas Hirsch–the ten pieces happen to be signed copies of the late French artist’s transparency paintings. 

Art Cologne runs from until 29 April. All images © Koelnmesse

Installation view Art Cologne. Courtesy Galerie Tobias Naehring
Chris Hood Synthetic Sill Life, 2017 Alkyd on canvas 70 x 58 inches 177.8 x 147.3 cm
Courtesy Markus Lütten, Cologne. Photo: 0815 studio, Cologne
Miriam Visaczki, Barista, 2017, Felt and wire 95 x 105 cm. Courtesy the Artist and Lars Friedrich, Berlin
Stefan Marx at Ruttkowski 68, Art Cologne 2017. Courtesy Ruttkowski 68
Chris Hood Other People’s Politics (Lovers in Peril), 2017 Alkyd on canvas 70 x 58 inches 177.8 x 147.3 cm. Courtesy Lyles & King, New York
Nolan Simon, free to ride our machines, 2017, oil on linen 36 x 29 inches (91 x 73 cm). Courtesy the Artist and Lars Friedrich, Berlin
Don't miss out.
Get the latest from Elephant straight to your inbox and 20% off your first purchase.
Sign me up!
You can unsubscribe anytime.