My reflections on art, collectors, marchers and contemporary art auctions
Shutdown: galleries in crisis
Berlin has around 400 galleries that are closed indefinitely due to the Corona crisis. What does this mean for people and their companies? We asked five Berlin gallery owners how they deal with the exceptional situation
When Gallery Weekend was cancelled, we uploaded the Loie Hollowell works we wanted to show to the digital showroom and immediately sold one for €250,000. In my opinion, viewing rooms are the wrong way to go. People want to experience something, to identify with art. The whole thing energized me. We now do live tours with the gallery artists every morning at 10am on Instagram. We started with Jorinde Voigt, then came Jeppe Hein, then Michael Elmgreen. At the end, viewers can ask questions. The energy in talking to Alicja Kwade was so strong! You can also see that on YouTube.
Johann Koenig, Koenig Gallery
We are a larger ship with 23 colleagues. We have been holding daily telephone conferences with the two galleries in Berlin and one in Leipzig for years, this situation is not new. Solidarity is now the most important thing: In addition to the collectors and artists, my main concern is now the colleagues. In order to keep our close-knit team together, we have to exhaust every means, including short-time work. A ship like Eigen + Art can only be built with professionals. When the wind blows in the sails again, we'll be the first on the high seas!
Judy Lybke, Gallery Eigen+Art
Even when the first e-mails came, ›We are closing‹ or ›temporarily closed‹, I thought that was the wrong message. We have to send a signal that we're here. Culture helps to stay sane in these times. So we set up a video library and show artist videos online, which we also share on Instagram and Facebook, starting with three videos by Anna Witt. There are mini-interviews with the artists in the stories on Instagram. What do I wish for? That funds are set up for culture and galleries, that VAT is reduced to seven percent or more, that trade fairs reduce their contributions: we would like to grow, but the rent in the young section is around 12,000 euros for a larger stand 25,000 euros – you have to make that leap first. I wish the city of Berlin would recognize what the galleries actually achieve!
Tanja Wagner, Gallery Tanja Wagner
For a one-man company, what is now emerging as a result of the corona crisis is an existence-destroying catastrophe. A larger sale fell through a week ago because the collectors - who work in the event business - had to go from 100 to 0. No more orders, no more art purchases. Suddenly, bare survival becomes important. Since I can stay at the gallery, I will retire there if there is a curfew. There's enough to do.
Semjon H. N. Semjon, Semjon Contemporary
We as a gallery are by no means in a crisis. On the contrary, I think it's about time and it's a good thing that many of the developments of recent years are reconsidered and questioned. Many an event, be it one or the other trade fair or exhibition, will no longer take place. But this should be seen as an opportunity. I think there are now over 800 fairs and over 500 biennials worldwide. The fact that one or the other 'event' is no longer taking place will benefit the quality rather than detract from it.
Save yourself who can/Every man for himself' by Christiane Möbus, an impressive installation from 2001, is not a politically apodictic statement, but a poetic statement. Associative open to all sides. She wants to be neither moral, nor political, nor apocalyptic. But with a touch of irony, she strikes a chord with the viewer. Rather a symbol for our mental state of overcoming borders and limitations. But perhaps also a provocation to critically question our own attitude and ability to empathize in such difficult times. Before the opening, we could not have imagined in our dreams how much this work would find itself in the spirit of the times. So it's all the nicer to see that this 20-year-old installation hasn't lost any of its explosiveness, excitement and topicality.