How CHART is Reimagining the Art Fair during the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Contemporary art and design from the Nordic region is a rising stock on the global art scene. Since 2013, Copenhagen-based CHART Art Fair has been connecting the Nordic art scenes with the rest of the world guided by an ambitious vision — as regards both the artistic content on offer and its take on how a 21st century art fair should look like.

“Obviously, many things have radically changed in the past months — for all of us — and we have also had to adapt to a changing world and consider what the most responsible way for us to contribute to an art world in serious crisis is,” says Nanna Hjortenberg, Director of CHART.

“This has to lead us to develop a radically new format for an art fair which we are now working to realize,” Hjortenberg continues. “In brief, we are moving from our normal ‘home’ at the Royal Academy in central Copenhagen to the 28 participating Nordic art gallery spaces across the five Nordic capitals. Those who are unable to travel will connect through CHART’s online visitor’s program where we set up meetings between collectors and curators and the participating artist and gallerists.”

Denmark in New York sat down with Nanna Hjortenberg, Director of CHART, to find out what it takes to keep pushing the art world forward during the COVID-19 crisis.

This interview forms part of a new series of COVID-19 Culture Conversations, through which Denmark in New York engages key local partners on how to rise to the occasion in a time of crisis. The series spotlights innovative initiatives and crisis response in New York and Denmark amid the global pandemic.

Denmark in New York: How do you see the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic when it comes to the future of art fairs and art consumption in general?

Nanna Hjortenberg: I do think — and hope — that what we have learned in the past months about rapidly adapting and changing our habits is something we can hold on to.

The reduction in travel has proven less problematic than we would have thought and we are all more selective in what we spend our time and money on.

What does that mean for art fairs and art consumption? I think a lot of people have realized how important art — and culture — is for all of us in a time of crisis. I hope that we will all support our local art scenes if we want them to survive. Go to the galleries, visit the museums. As for art fairs, I think what will survive will be the strong local scenes where communities are brought together and a strong identity prevails.

CHART is using this year’s art fair to raise awareness of gender equality in the arts by presenting only women artists — a bold first move for the international art fair community. We hope to raise awareness of one of the biggest structural barriers in the art market and inspire us all to think and act differently. We understand that no one can solve this challenge of gender imbalance alone, but collectively we can push for change.

The latest statistics from the Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report 2019 was a real eye-opener. For CHART it awoke a sense of urgency, especially when recognizing that there has been no significant change to this imbalance over the past five years, including in the Nordic countries. It became evident that a more balanced art market will not develop on its own. We felt that we had to not only discuss this challenge but also take radical action to create an impact and drive a positive change.

Supported by all our participating galleries, CHART 2020 is a strong collective statement and a way to reflect on everyone’s role in developing a more diverse art scene, which reflects our society and gives way to all great artistic talents.

What are some of the innovations CHART hopes to bring to the art fair space that have been prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Nanna Hjortenberg: The limitations are that we can’t physically gather our entire CHART community of artists, gallerists, curators and other art professionals together with a broad local and international public audience to celebrate, discuss and explore the fantastic Nordic contemporary art scene.

However, this year we have the chance to support the different local art scenes in the Nordic countries by encouraging everyone to go see the great show and take part in events in each gallery. And like many other organizations, the coronavirus lockdown has been an opportunity to develop our online presence and find new ways to reconnect the local and international art community.

As one of the leading art fairs of the Nordic region, what drives you to keep pushing the agenda for the art scene in the Nordic countries and globally?

Nanna Hjortenberg: As a non-profit organization we are driven by creating impact, so for us, it is only natural to push for development and mobilize our community when doing so.

CHART was founded in 2013 with the ambition to challenge the traditional format of an art fair, combining the commercial fair with a public program to engage the entire art community in a celebration of contemporary artistic practices.

This year we asked ourselves how to use this network to instigate a positive change. Given the recent studies in gender imbalance in the art market, this was a challenge we simply could not ignore.

Looking ahead we will keep pushing both ourselves and the art industry to direct attention to areas where new developments are necessary.

The eighth edition of the CHART Art Fair will take place from August 28 — 30 August 2020 and will present the foremost galleries from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Learn more here.

Sofus Goldschmidt Pedersen is the Politics, Culture and Public Diplomacy intern for Denmark in New York.

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The Official Medium Blog for the Consulate General of Denmark in New York. For all things Danish, #DenmarkInNY.

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