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September 2020

LUXEMBOURG ART WEEK

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Through a selection of cutting-edge European galleries, Luxembourg Art Week offers collectors and art lovers the chance to sample the very best of contemporary art. We talked to some of the participating galleries to get their take on what it means for them.

Since its creation in 2015, Luxembourg Art Week has expanded rapidly, from 19 galleries in a single room, to a total of 64 in 2019. This year, the fair is spread throughout the comfortable, well-lit spaces of La Halle Victor Hugo, in central Luxembourg. The programme of events runs from the 20th to the 22nd of November.

What is the reason for the show’s sustained growth? According to Jörg Goedecke, Director of galerie Gebr.Lehmann, a contemporary fine arts gallery based in Germany who’s been part of the adventure from the beginning, it comes down to one word: quality. “Galleries are showing more higher quality works and you see more young galleries year after year.”

Constantin Chariot, gallerist at La Patinoire Royale-Galerie Valérie

The market makers

Exhibitors at the show come mainly from Europe, with Brussels, Paris, Cologne, Berlin and Milan all well represented. The modest size of the event in the early days helped to foster a close relationship between the galleries, the city and the show itself.

For Constantin Chariot, gallerist at La Patinoire Royale-Galerie Valérie Bach, based in Brussels, what started as an emotional bond soon became an annual event not to be missed. “I have a deep emotional connection with Luxembourg that started during my time as a banker here.” This year’s Art Week will be his first participation to an art fair since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Chariot, who has been participating in the Luxembourg Art Week since its second edition, also notes to the focus on quality: “I’ve seen the fair improve markedly over the last couple of years” he says. “This has been, for me, an annual affirmation of my desire to repeat the experience.”

Connoisseurs sans frontiers

There’s a truly cosmopolitan clientele,” highlights Chariot. “Luxembourg is home to people from across Europe, due to the global reach of its financial industry. And, at the same time, we have clients coming over the border. It’s very interesting.

New visitors attend the fair every year, mostly from neighbouring countries such as France, Germany, Belgium or The Netherlands. “We have met collectors here that we have previously only seen at leading international art fairs such Art Basel or Art Cologne” says Goedecke. “International collectors are mobile and are attracted by Luxembourg.”

Home is where the art is

Although the number of residents in Luxembourg is relatively small, a high proportion of the population is interested in contemporary art. ”The Grand Duchy has a good number of public and private collectors, which reflects the importance of the Luxembourg art market” notes Jean-Pierre Arnoux, Founder of Galerie Arnoux, in Paris.  “I realised that Luxembourg, more than any other neighbouring country, boasts a good number of private collectors and museums interested in art from the 50s” he adds. For the last 35 years, his gallery has specialised in this area.

2020 will be Arnoux’s third participation in the Luxembourg art fair. “The first two exhibitions were a huge success in terms of contacts, as well as in terms of sales to collectors and museum” he says.

For Arnoux, there are clear differences between the buyers at Luxembourg Art Week and other international art fairs: ’’It’s a genuine market. Visitors come to the fair not only to browse, but also to buy.” 

Arnoux explains that collectors at other fairs are often too heavily influenced by art trends and so are incapable of displaying any personal sensitivities. By contrast, “Visitors to the Luxembourg Art Week give me the impression of seeking an emotional and personal connection with the art piece.

Small is beautiful

The rapidly growing event has maintained a friendly and co-operative outlook. As a result, “’It’s a people-friendly fair. All of the dealers end up becoming well-acquainted with each other,” says Chariot. “There isn’t the same snobbishness as one would find in the larger international fairs. Exhibitors all know each other and share information.”

While all art fairs will have to adapt to the post-covid world, the big international fairs will be more directly impacted. Fairs following the Luxembourg model seem better placed to cope with the new normal. “These are fairs where your presence is not lost in the noise of excess supply,” says Arnoux, “You have an actual presence.”

Jean-Pierre Arnoux, Founder of Galerie Arnoux

VIP programme

Strategies for art fairs have to be carefully developed for the long-term, in coordination with museums, art institutions and the local government. It is the programme around an art fair that attracts international and leading collectors.

Luxembourg Art Week’s main challenge is to hold its own in the international art calendar. The VIP programme is an important part of this. Reflecting on last’s year VIP programme, Goedecke explains: ‘The private programme includes a small dinner, allowing us to showcase artworks to new collectors and galleries.”

This informal approach is a winner for Luxembourg, in Goedecke’s eyes: ”The huge fairs have some problems because they are all very similar. When you go to Art Basel or Art Basel Hong Kong, you see 98 per cent of the same galleries and the same art.”

The fact that collectors and galleries come together so naturally in Luxembourg makes for a much more enjoyable, engaging experience. “This is the strength of the Luxembourg Art Week,” concludes Goedecke.