STROKE Art Fair: Interview with Marco Schwalbe, artistic director

On the occasion of our partnership with the German fair STROKE Art Fair, we asked our questions to Marco Schwalbe, artistic director. Meet a passionate man. 

1)  Artsper : The fair is growing up ! Can you explain how you decide to initiate the project ? What is the main goal of STROKE Art Fair ?  How is it different from other fairs ?

Marco Schwalbe: The Art Fair started with the idea to establish a new art fair in Berlin – parallel to ART FORUM – representing new contemporary art and urban art. Since it was not possible to find partners in Berlin, i decided to run the project with my brother. Through my own Gallery INTOXICATED DEMONS i was already quite good connected to the german and international art scene.We had two big goals for STROKE. First of all on the participants side: usually art fairs are quite expensive and especially young and passionate galleries can‘t afford to participate. We wanted to change that. Now – the participation fee for STROKE is around 1/10 to 1/20 of the average fee from big art fairs. This is the reason, why we can say, that at STROKE we have really „fresh material“. We are already thinking about a participation for free. Second on the visitors side. We wanted to have an art fair that is separated from other fairs by the way everything works. We really wanted to have a hedonistic approach. Art  is culture, lifestyle and authentic. We tried to get rid of the classic „rabbit hutch like“ architecture. STROKE is more than just an art fair. It‘s a celebration of art.

2) A: What are the new things of this year edition ?

M.S: Well – we always got asked, what is new this year…this year, we celebrate our 5th anniversary.  I‘m pretty sure that our visitor numbers will rise again and with more then 25.000 visitors, we are already the number 4 art fair in germany. As always we have a very colorful selection of galleries, live-art, program and music.

 3)  A: Germany is known to be a big place for street art. Can you tell us more about this movement ?

M.S: Street Art – regarding its movement and its terminology is back in the underground, the same way it happend to Graffiti in the late 80ies. After the media hype – everything goes back to daily business. But lets face the facts – the hype around Street Art openend the way for a numerous art developements. In the last 30 years, there was so much energy and new ideas, that we can today look on a very interesting new art movement, that some people call Urban Art or New Contemporary Art. For myself i use the term of Postmodern Art. The urban environment and the corresponding lifestyle can be counted amongst the fundamental sources of inspiration for contemporary culture.

STROKE Art Fair regards itself as a vivid event formula for cultural progress and innovation. Curiosity and enthousiasm are replacing fear or a prejudiced lack of interest formed by elitist circles. STROKE Art Fair presents young, emerging and the most important: affordable art. Beside known contemporary aspects, we set a focus on digital art, design and various other forms of urban lifestyle and culture.

4)  A: Can you explain how street art belongs in galleries, and why does it deserve a fair of its own ?

M.S: Street Art is is an often misused term. If you count stencils, Paste-Ups and Stickers together – you have Street Art. What we are looking at, is way more then simply Street Art. But in general the question: what belongs into a gallery is obsolete. Take a look back in art history and you will see so many „art works“ – that are not standard just look at „Ready Made“ for example. Gallerists will always look for something new, something that they can sell.

But please – STROKE is not an art fair for street art. STROKE represents a whole new art movement and its cultural context. If you walk around STROKE – you might see 10% of Street Art.

5)  A: Live performances seem to be very important to you. Why ?

M.S: Its part of the culture and of course people love to watch artists working.

6)  A: What is your long term vision of the fair? Would you give it an international scope ?

M.S: Absolutly. We‘re currently working with a team in Brazil to bring STROKE to Rio de Janeiro by the end of the year.

7) A:  What was your greatest discovery on Stroke Art Fair? Are you yourself a collector?

M.S: Yes – i‘m a collector too. But my passion is not oriented on possible investments. I buy what i like. But unfortunately – usually i dont have the time to see everything at STROKE. The art fair is produced by a small team of passionate people – that means – we still have a lot of work.

8)  A: Your fair focuses (among other things) on digital art. What do you think about Artsper and online selling ?

M.S : Well – digitial art – and selling art online are two different things. We love to discover new art – especially art, that is made digital. There are so many amazing digital artists outthere. We hope, that we can spread the word. Buying art online opens the art market and makes it more international. You can directly search for your favourite artists and follow them – or you can simply just get inspired by browsing a website like artsper and discover great new art. At the end – there is something for every intention.