LUXEMBOURG ART WEEK’S COMING OF AGE
ALEX REDING, ONE HALF OF GALLERY DUO NOSBAUM REDING, HAS BEEN AT THE FOREFRONT OF LUXEMBOURG’S CONTEMPORARY ART WORLD SINCE THE 1990S. HAVING CUT HIS TEETH IN CLASSICAL SCULPTURE, HE TRANSITIONED FROM MAKER TO MATCHMAKER AND NOW GATHERS SOME OF EUROPE’S MOST EXCITING TALENT FOR THE BENEFIT OF ART LOVERS OLD AND NEW. LFF CAUGHT UP WITH HIM AHEAD OF THE LAUNCH OF THE 5TH EDITION OF LUXEMBOURG ART WEEK…
Reding sets the (art) scene, observing that the Luxembourg of 20 years ago was not a place where a budding artist such as himself could flourish: “Back then Luxembourg was not the city we know today; the Casino had only just opened and the contemporary art scene was yet to emerge.” Spotting an opportunity, Reding embraced the notion that he could foster an ecosystem of his own. Teeming with ideas from his training and experience of the art world in Paris, Carrara and Düsseldorf, he and his girlfriend decided to use their experience of organising events and shows. They opened a space for artists, “not really a gallery” but more of an incubator for those aiming for their first or second year of exposure.
Back then Luxembourg was not the city we know today.
Their successful formula led to them to become Basel regulars between 2004 and 2010, by which point their space had turned into a fully-fledged gallery featuring professional artists: “At the beginning it was called ‘Alimentation Generale’, which was the name of a grocery shop on the place de Strasbourg. We then inaugurated our namesake (husband and wife) gallery brand at our Fischmarkt location in 2006, expanding the space further just two years ago.” But the vision was greater, and in order to turn Luxembourg into a true destination for art, Reding felt that “it needed to have its own flagship event, to showcase the quality and range of talent to the whole country, so I decided to create it.” He got to work to develop the required foundation to attract not only galleries but also locals, newcomers and expats in the shape of Luxembourg Art Week. Now in its 5th edition, Reding looks back at the challenges behind the launch in 2015; “in the beginning I self-financed (the project), and although it was challenging I managed without incurring any risk. You can’t wait for others if you want to do something, because if it is the right thing to do and the moment is right… only you must prove this to others. Either they follow or not.
Luxembourg Art Week’s main challenge is to compete with other important art events in the calendar which land in the same week.
I can’t claim to have had the best idea; but it’s all in the execution…”
Luxembourg Art Week has since expanded from having 19 galleries (including Nosbaum Reding) in the room to a total of 64 this year in the Halle Victor Hugo. This scale of evolution demands a strong focus on quality. Reding believes that it is their responsibility to offer a broad mix that is not solely focused on the contemporary: “it is important to have elements from the past too. Some of the featured shows include one of Man Ray’s works, the Eva Meyer gallery, and one or two ‘Ecole de Paris’ galleries focused on the 50s and 60s. We have a contemporary art segment and we have street art, but a historical approach is important too.”
Having now reached the point where they have more applications than available places (over a hundred, up 30% from last year), they formed a selection committee of 6 experts last year, featuring top collectors and gallery representatives, to finetune the quality of the exhibitor selection. Being commercial is not Reding’s sole raison d’être, “it is within our power to be accessible, not only to feature existing galleries but also to attract other Luxembourg associations and smaller groups. We don’t just exist for top tier buyers and galleries.” Reding notes that this openness was what led to government support for boosting creativity at a grass roots level, “we want to see young galleries rise and succeed; they must have a role in our art world.” He adds: “it was a proud moment when we opened the first edition and Prime Minister Xavier Bettel made a speech.”
Exhibitors mainly come from Europe: Luxembourg, Brussels, Paris, Cologne, Berlin and Milan. Reding believes “they like it because it is manageable in terms of distance, effort and cost, plus they are visiting a country with real economic growth. It provides them with a hedged risk in terms of their bottom line, which is why they keep coming back.” Diversity is evolving too, with one exhibitor coming from as far away as Colombia.
Luxembourg Art Week’s main challenge is to compete with other important art events in the calendar which land in the same week: “There are around 500 fairs per year and this time of the year is very busy; the likes of Paris Photo contends with 2 or 3 others in the same city, and the most important fair in Torino, Italy, called Artissima, takes place a mere week before. Düsseldorf takes on the baton a week after and features a lot of German galleries. It’s difficult to motivate them to come to Luxembourg as an extra step on the circuit. Of course, we don’t like to give up on them without putting up a fight” says Reding wryly.
Although his growth intentions are clear, he is not willing to sacrifice comfort: “While it’s important for us to be a showcase for Luxembourg, we also want to create an environment which is cosy and easy to navigate; we don’t want people to feel stressed by the size of the event.” Looking ahead, he’s thinking about the 10th Anniversary plans, and big gallery collaborations. He is grateful to partners, sponsors and other key pillars such as the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Economy and the City of Luxembourg for enabling its continued trajectory into adulthood.