GoArt! visits the CCA Andratx in Mallorca

April 16, 2019

In March GoArt! visited the beautiful island of Mallorca and talked to Patricia Asbaek – founder and owner of the CCA Andratx about her art institution.

Miriam Bers (MB): Do you live in Mallorca? How does your day start?

Patricia Asbaek (PA): I live here half the time, approximately 5 months a year. I commute between Mallorca and Copenhagen and will be back again during Easter. Then I will stay for July, August and September. My husband Jacob is here all year. My day starts as you saw by making order everywhere.

Miriam Bers und Patricia Asbaek

MB: You and your husband have been owners of a gallery in Copenhagen for over 40 years. It is now run by one of your sons. You decided to found this wonderful center of contemporary art CCA Andratx in Mallorca almost 20 years ago – can you tell me more about the idea and the process behind it?

PA: We had a gallery for 45 years. It is not the same as our son’s gallery, which is called Martin Asbaek Gallery. He founded his own independent gallery and did not take over from us, but he kept three of our artists in the gallery portfolio. Martin is our middle son. My older son Thomas is an art consultant, who recently (2018) opened his own gallery together with his wife Tania – the space is called ‘Collaborations’ and is located in Copenhagen.
Martin Asbæk has the best photography in Scandinavia and Thomas’ ‘Collaborations’ is working together with Johann König, Esther Schipper, etc. He has curated shows with Alicja Kwade to name only one.
Alicja and Gregor Hildebrandt have been here in Mallorca as well. Gregor is a true film enthusiast and already saw my youngest son Pilou, who is an actor, in the Danish TV series Borgen. He was one of the first ones who – from outside of Denmark – who knew Pilou before he became world famous (today he plays in Game of Thrones, etc.)
Alicja and Gregor are some of the nicest people we have had staying with us. Recently I went to Berlin and visited Alicja’s studio. It is even bigger than CCA, and she has more staff than we ever had during all these years.

About CCA: In 1988 we bought a piece of land in Mallorca, which was supposed to be only for ourselves (an old Finca that Jacob renovated to become our summer house). But it was too beautiful to keep it for ourselves, so we wanted to share it with artists, art lovers and collectors. We wished to create a hybrid that had never been done before, which is why it is so difficult to define. CCA is both: a residency, a Kunsthalle and a gallery.
The land was termed ‘zona rustica’ but when the island heard about our plans they changed it to ‘zona social’ which roughly means that you are only allowed to build a hospital there or that the place is reserved for military or cultural sites. It still took us 5 years to get the permit to build CCA. All the locals thought it was a place to launder money. But as my accountant said: If it is supposed to launder money, it must be a very deep hole, since the money never shows up again!
We created CCA because we felt it was a necessity and it was something that had never been done before. CCA is made with a passion for art. After 35 years in Denmark, we wanted to create an international platform for artists, where different cultures and nationalities could meet, get inspired from each other and work together, instead of against each other.

CCA Andratx

MB: What was the purpose of this place before you transformed it? Who designed this beautiful building complex? There is so much space to sit, to enjoy and to pass the time watching, walking and talking – in other words: it is much more than just an exhibition space.

PA: We bought a finca and the land CCA was built on came with it. Jacob Asbæk (my husband) is the architect of CCA and he made the drawings of the construction together with a local technician. The guy who built the stonewalls is kind of an artist. He is the best on the island, but also the most expensive. In the beginning we had a lot of money, but as we started building there was no money left.
We opened CCA in 2001 thanks to a lot of good friends who supported us. From the art world Karola Grässlin and Christian Nagel helped out. Today Jochen Hempel is still supporting us.
The funny thing is that it is all the foreign galleries that have already helped us. Now, 18 years later, the local galleries finally also want to collaborate – back then they did not even come to our dinners.

I built this place because I felt the passion is disappearing, you know, art is becoming more and more commercial.
When I was sitting in the Art Forum board competition was incredibly high. That was the end of the fair. I still remember trying to go to dinners and mingle, but it did not help.
So we wanted to build CCA to show that people can be together in a friendly way and work for a common purpose – also trying to transcend the borders between galleries and institutions. Galleries are the ones taking the chances with younger artists and for that they deserve respect.

CCA Andratx

MB: You are collaborating with international artists such as Shiharu Shiota and Claus Rottenbacher as well as talents from Mallorca. You also established an ‘artist in residence program’ at CCA Andratx where you have four studios at your disposition. What are your selection criteria?

PA: CCA is made a little like a cloister – the heart of the place is the artists’ studios. We receive more than 600 applications a year and we can only accept 48. Quite often 50% of the selected artists are from Berlin. As my good friend Christian Nagel used to say: Berlin is the only city in the world where you have 8000 artists, 800 galleries and 80 collectors.
Since we have a lot of applications it is not difficult to take away the first majority (500 out of 600). We only accept professional artists; but from the 100 leftovers in the end it is extremely difficult to decide. The trouble starts when people want to come back: and we love them so we want them to come back!
When I select the artists I get help from Jackie (daily leader and art manager at CCA) and Malou (curator and artist liaison at CCA). Sometimes when I have a handful of artists that I need to choose from I consult with my good friend Barry Schwabsky.
When people say art is a matter of taste I do not agree. It is simply not the case. If you talk with art professionals they will always choose one artist or work over the other. Of course not in the same order but 10 out of 100 professional people will always have the same opinion – it is therefore not about taste. We have preferences of course: I like minimalism, some are more into expressionism and some are more into conceptual art, but I can still see what is good in those genres. I do not think there is any category that is better than the other.
Another criterion for the selection process is to avoid epigones; this makes it easy to dismiss the first 500 applications, because they are ‘copies’. To be selected the artists need to have their own signature, and my knowledge of what is original and what is an epigone has become empirically inherent to me from seeing so much art during the past years.
Over all you can say that my quality criteria are a mix of intuition and study. I can feel a sensation in my neck. It is this feeling that makes me wonder: Why are the artists doing this, it is different. You can feel it, but how can you explain that to people who do not feel it?

Talking about this inherent knowledge of having seen a lot of art, Patricia mentions the Danish publisher Jarl Borgen, who was a friend of her family: ‘When I was 24 and studying he invited me to go to Prague with him. He forced me to look at everything: art, architecture, design, etc. That is how I started using my eyesand learned how to look methodically and with great thoroughness.’

MB: I very much like Arrels. Art Ceramic in Mallorca, still on view until June 2019. You exhibit concept art, painting and ceramic arts at the same time. Is this a personal statement or rather the idea to open the center to a larger audience?

PA: The artists want to go into the essence of artmaking when they are here, so they dive into drawing and ceramics. I have never met any good artist who is not really good at drawing. And even though ceramics was considered passé 10 years ago, the artists love it still today, perhaps even more than ever.
As I said before there is no bad genre of art. We have always exhibited photography, painting, sculpture, ceramics, video, installations, etc.
For many people we are a little too conceptual, but our aim is to exhibit cutting-edge contemporary art.
One of the most beautiful exhibitions I have ever seen is Oxalis. It is like a drawing in the room. The artists Shane Bradford, Benedikt Hipp, Mary McDonnell and Sissel Marie Tonn are young but they are really talented. During the creation of Oxalis they lived in the space, they inhabited the gallery and therefore got the feeling of all the possibilities it has to offer in terms of lights and shadows e.g. Probably that is why they managed to see all the different points of views and were able to use the room rather than the walls. If you want to learn how to look, it is a wonderful exhibition. There is all this harmony; there is not one line, not one shadow that is not thought through! In Oxalis you can also sense diversity, it is almost like a theatre inspired by arte povera.

Some people walk into a space, look around and say: ‘I do not like it.’ I see it as our responsibility to give people guidance when it comes to looking at art.

courtesy: CCA Andratx

courtesy: CCA Andratx

MB: How did the Majorcan react to this prestigious art hall? Is there collaboration with political players or the city of Palma? Do you receive funds and help from the island?

PA: We started in 2001. In the beginning, only the local Ajuntament Andratx supported and believed in us.
Last year we received the Golden Medal of Culture from the president, which has never happened to foreigners before, so we are extremely proud and thankful for that!
Moreover Pilou, who plays the role of the bad guy Euron Greyjoy in Game of Thrones has turned out to be a very good guy for us: Last year he was appointed the new cultural ambassador of Mallorca by the president superseding Michael Douglas. Following all this, in 2019, we received a beautiful invitation to exhibit in the Pelaires Gallery in Palma as the start of our new membership of the Art Palma Association.
The exhibition is called A Landscape of the Nature within and shows works by the German painter Carsten Fock (now living in Berlin), and the two Danes Absalon Kirkeby and Karl Troels Sandegaard. All three have stayed in the CCA studios within the past few years. The exhibition opened on Saturday March 23th and will last for 3 months.
Talking about all the good things that have happened to CCA within the last two years, Patricia says: ‘It is like a pelican: you look at it and think it cannot fly, because it is way too heavy, but then all of a sudden it flies just fine! Everyone has talked about us not making it, but we are still here!

Summing up from past to future prospects:

Now we have many more people coming than two years ago and we are selling more works as well. So it is definitely going in the right direction.
Our sons are very helpful and supportive, but they are busy with their own careers. We have to find partners before I turn 80. We are looking for someone who understands what we have built over the past years. We have never regressed in terms of quality of the exhibitions. I am thinking maybe it should be someone from Germany. Germans are better educated than Danish people when it comes to art, because of all the Kunstvereine and the Kunsthallen.

MB: Could you tell me about your upcoming projects?

PA: Our current artists in residence Kristian Kragelund, Karl Monies, Elisabeth Molin and Nathan Peter will open their exhibition on March 29. Additionally, we will have a more official opening during Easter when more people are on the island. On April 18thwe show Le hasard et la nécessicité which refers to the Nobel prize winning philosopher Jacques Monod, but is essentially about the works of the four artists all somehow dealing with the tension between change and necessity that life is all about. Indeed, we have a double opening: On the same day our exhibition ALL INCLUSIVE starts featuring our current artists in residence Ditte Ejlerskov and Johan Furåker.
In May we are looking forward to welcoming some of my favourite artists in the studios, who have all been here before many years ago. Matthias Bitzer, Sebastian Hammwöhner and Gabriel Vormstein. Our fourth artist will be Michael Sailstorfer, whom I also like a lot – for him it will be the first time in Andratx. I am very much looking forward to this group!

CCA Andratx

Coleccionar Arte Contemporáneo in conversation with GoArt!

March 15, 2019

Vanessa Garcia-Osuna interviews Miriam Bers on the topic of ‘Tendencias des Mercato del Arte’ for coleccionar arte contemporáneo.

Miriam, how did you become an art advisor?

Already during my art history studies with focus on modern and contemporary art I was intrigued by artistic developments and their gradual positioning on the art market. At the time I started doing freelance journalistic work. After collecting work experience in commercial galleries I became the director of Galerie K&S in Berlin, an institutional exhibition space and showroom of Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin and the ZKM Karlsruhe. In my position as curator I accompanied grad-students from all over the world on their career paths as well as selected international artists living in Berlin. Eventually, in 2006, I founded GoArt!, an agency for art advisory and mediation.

Miriam Bers, art advisor and founder of GoArt! Berlin.

How would you explain the increasing influence of the art advisor within the art system?

In my opinion there are various reasons: The amount of collectors but also the working artists have multiplied. Factors such as internationalization, the Asian market (especially China!), investors from Eastern Europe or the Arabic countries have influenced the chain of supply and demand. Besides, in times of low interest policy with classic financial assets there is a higher number of investment in art objects. Not all advisors are coming from the field of art and those who regard the art object as cash item occasionally work in the financial sector. Here the secondary market plays an enormous role. Collectors and art enthusiast with sustainable agenda make up one side of the coin in the art-jungle where everybody needs to constantly keep track of trends and expertise with regard to content. This is where the art advisor – to which I count myself – comes in: in the first instance with focus on the primary market meaning galleries and artists specifically.

What are the advantages of working with an art consultant? What does your work consist of?

From the outside the art market may seem complex and difficult to navigate through. The work I do is always different and highly depends on the client. Is it a newcomer to the art world I try to spend as much time as possible with him to find out what he might be interested in and what a future art collection could entail. This is also one of the reasons why I lately started to take on the concept of “art classes” for my agency: developing an understanding of art, quality criteria and market correlations are complex topics. I often try to come up with a pre-selection – also depending on the portfolio or digital image renderings of the rooms that need to be equipped. This is important for clients who are already in the process of collecting and occasionally travel to Berlin – the world’s biggest production place for contemporary art – from afar.

Working like this I can save an immense amount of time and the rough direction and genre of works can be determined before a personal meeting with galleries or artists. Additionally, I have an elaborate network that facilitates glimpses behind the scenes. Surely, art consultants do not represent artists or galleries but the client, therefore they should have a neutral approach. Ultimately, my multilingual team and I take care of all services relating to the purchase: We visit fairs by order of the client and optionally oversee the handling, transport and hanging of the works.

What are the main challenges a contemporary art collector has to face nowadays?

The main challenge is definitely the constantly growing market and tied up with this the increase in online offerings. It is difficult to align yourself with numbers when it comes to emerging artists because naturally art is bound to many different factors: Questions concerning the inventory, continuity as well as the significance of individual works play a role – nobody wants to buy art works that are already in the process of losing value! These are decisions of importance: Should the collection be an investment in the medium turn or in the long run? Should it merely represent the mainstream? And more importantly: What consequences result from the clients’ preferences, from the decision for a specific genre like photography, video art or performance? This line of questioning goes on to thoughts on conservation.

photo credit: goart!berlin

How can the choices of certain collectors influence the art market?

Generally speaking collecting is often viewed as a prestigious activity. A collector can set public trends with his paintings, photos or objects. In fact, an influential art collector has more capital than most museums and can this way consolidate young artists faster than state-run art institutions. Never before have so many private exhibition spaces or publicly accessible collections been founded: Christian Boros comes to mind. He bought a WWII bunker in Berlin, converted it into a private museum for his collection and was one of the first who rooted for artists like Olafur Eliasson. Another example is the established collection Maramotti, owned by the fashion label Max Mara. Luigi Maramotti discovered artists such as Jacob Kassey long before he was a competitor on the art market. An almost mythic status enjoys Charles Saatchi, art patron and –venturer, who – in the 1990s – promoted young artists like Damien Hirst or Sarah Lukas. He bought and sold their works in large numbers and consequently influenced prices, curators and other collectors.

photo credit: goart!berlin

The art market has reached unprecedented levels. What aspects would explain this exponential growth?

Simply said there are far more wealthy people than before. Classical art works up until the classical modernity are highly competitive while the reception of contemporary art in the age of the knowledge-based society is easier, accessible and popular. New markets have developed: Asian or Arabic countries, such as Hong Kong or Dubai and Abu Dhabi have become centers of the Middle Eastern art world. Art opens doors and at the same time it is publicly accessible. With this added value it is more exceptional than lets say gold that is securely stored in the safe. Moreover, art connects people of various cultures and ethnicities, establishes an international identity, networks and a surplus value that should not be underestimated.

photo credit: goart!berlin

What have been the notable changes you have seen in the art market over the past years? (For example the emergence of the Internet, globalization, etc.)

The phenomenon of globalization has indubitably changed the art world. That way there are Blue-Chip galleries as well as fairs that open branches in Berlin, London, Los Angeles or Singapore. Galleries become agencies to manage international projects and co-operations more flexibly. Additionally, there are gallery owners who switch to working in auction houses. Newer trends develop in the field of real estate: Financial advisors who as of now also have art works in their portfolio. A macro trend is the very speculative and snowballing secondary market that also boosts the prices for contemporary art. Coming along is a growing body of young collectors who are very familiar with our digitalized society. Online market offers and artists who promote themselves directly via online portals present subsidiary challenges for the collector. That way he can visually pre-consider his choices.

photo credit: goart!berlin

Can art be a good investment? Could you give some examples of this?

Yes. In fact, there are numerous examples also in the field of contemporary art. First of all art is a value-adding and goodwill-creating investment. An artists’ career develops through complex connections: emerging artists have gallery owners, museum experts, art associations, critics and curators behind them who invest many resources to their oeuvre. We live in a time of image consumption that is why selection criteria are more important than ever. I carefully observe artist careers for more than two decades: Think of Thomas Demand who had his first solo exhibition in Munich in 1992 while today his works are shown in the Bilbao Guggenheim or the MoMa in New York. Shiharu Shiota – whose works I presented when she was still a master student of Rebecca Horn – has recently become the shooting star of Blain Southern gallery with branches in London and Berlin. The same applies to the unconventional performance and video artist Katarzyna Kozyra who by now belongs to the pool of most notable contemporary Polish artists of today. One of the most successful and internationally prominent German painters is Jonas Burgert who – in 2004, only 15 years ago – could hardly make a living of his art.

Shiharu Shiota, The Key in the Hand, Japanese Pavillon, Biennale 2015, photo credit: goart!berlin

Are there any specific regions, movements or artists you would advise paying attention to?

An exciting new tendency lies in the field of street art. That has a lot to do with the current zeitgeist and the enthusiasm for a hip-hop subculture. Berlin – city of departure and upheaval with all its liberties – accommodates many urban artists. Meanwhile there are museums and galleries that are professionally dedicated to that trend. This is appealing for young collectors in particular, because the prices are still in the four-figure range. At the same time photography is a medium in demand. In general, I think that Europe and its focus topics of sustainability and migration is a major hub for artists and collectors. Berlin alone has one of the biggest international artist networks: official numbers show that more than 20.000 international artists live and work in the German metropolis. Among the protagonists are Olafur Eliasson, Thomas Demand, Thomás Saraceno or Katharina Grosse who became famous here. Art is like a plant that grows where it finds suitable humus to thrive on. The attraction exercised by cities like Paris or New York has today shifted towards Berlin – also pivot point to Eastern Europe. Spain on the other hand has been the gateway to South America since many decades not only proven by the Arco in Madrid.

 

photo credit: goart!berlin

Römer + Römer’s new exhibition on view at Haus am Lützowplatz

January 18, 2019

The exhibition ‚Burning Man – Electric Sky’ runs from January 18 to March 10, 2019. Nina and Torsten Römer are a German-Russian artist couple. Both studied painting in the Academy of Düsseldorf and were master students of A.R. Penck. Already during their studies they collaborated artistically. Their works were displayed in many exhibitions including Manifestina Zurich, the 56. Venice Biennial 2015, the CCA Andratx Mallorca and the Palais de Tokyo. Römer + Römer live in Berlin.

Römer + Römer at Burning Man 2017

Miriam spoke to Römer + Römer about their new exhibition:

 

MB: How does your day start?

R+R: We open the window and deeply hope that the Duang Xuan Center in front of us does not burn again – an image we have seen once at the horizon of our Kreuzberg apartment.

MB: You are an artist couple living and working together. How do your works materialize  – do you develop everything together or do you split the procedure somehow amongst each other?

R+R: Ping pong! We develop all our projects together, already since 1998 when we still studied with A.R. Penck in Düsseldorf.  There, we also finished the Meisterschüler degree with a collaborative work. We have no division in our work and realize everything based on a dialogue: from the idea via research through the realization of the concept. The paintings as well get done side by side.

MB: Your most recent show opens right now at Haus am Lützowplatz. What is it exactly you show in „Burning Man / Electric Sky“ whose paintings are based on your participation at the Burning Man Festival in Nevada in 2017?

R+R: Apart from one, all paintings are about the night in Black Rocky City, the temporary town of the “Burning Man”. The focus of our series lies in the fire and particularly in the interaction of the burner with all these phenomena. Also, we do not intend to represent the whole festival – our painterly interest is specifically in these aspects. The paintings are mostly large scale, the biggest is a diptych of 2,30 x 6 meter.

exhibition view at Haus am Lützowplatz, photo: Eric Tschernow

MB: What fascinated you most and how do you integrate emotion in the artistic work?

R+R: Emotion talks probably the most through colors, shining out of our paintings. Indeed, many aspects were fascinating to us at Burning Man. It is no festival in the traditional sense but a huge interactive hedonistic art spectacle adventure in the desert! The ‘culture of giving’ is fantastic, there is nothing to buy (apart from ice cream and coffee) and everybody is delighted in making each other happy. It is a completely different social interaction being practiced there.

Rabbit Transit, 2017, oil and acrylic on canvas, 230 x 300 cm, photo: Eric Tschernow

House of Enlightenment, 2018, oil on canvas, diameter: 120 cm, photo: Eric Tschernow

MB: Guideline of your oeuvre is the confrontation with politically and socially relevant major events, for example the Carnival of Rio. Are your latest works based on one another, Kulturkommunismus, Partysträfling? What in particular motivates you in these exceptional situations?

R+R: From distance, the carnival in Rio seems like a big sexy Samba-Party. However, once you are there it becomes quite political. One group for example put the topics racism and slavery into an extreme action. Experiencing the get-together of participants from so many different districts and regions – also from many favelas in the prep station in front of the Sambódromo, the Concentracao – was very exciting. One image series arises from the other. After „Sambódromo“ we worked with the topic of the “Fusion Festival” for several years in which we got immersed five times.
In these collective exception states we are interested in the emerging cosmos of temporary communities. The rules are different than ‘outside’. For us this is the artistic research and therefore a combination of analysis and empathic experience.

LED-Bus, 2018, oil and acrylic on canvas, diameter: 100 cm, photo: Eric Tschernow

MB: Say a few words about your technique…

R+R: In our current works we combine spray and glaze painting on canvases, combined with thousands of hand dabbed spots.

MB: I am very interested in how you translate photography in painting: the pixels on the photograph becoming thousands of handmade dots. Is it a way of consolidating the snapshot via painting and is supposed to convey a moment of contemplation?

R+R: On the one side, the dots are a reference to the pixels and on the other our idea is to achieve a certain liveliness and shimmer by dissolving the shapes in the paintings. After that the effect of looking ‘frozen’ is gone and it becomes something cinematic. The process of painting is a very concentrated one and creates lots of energy.

Art, 2017, oil on canvas, 100 x 130 cm, photo: Eric Tschernow

7:30 between GlamCocks and Contraptionists, 2018, oil and acrylic on canvas, 230 x 300 cm, photo: Eric Tschernow

MB: How does your day end? Do you enjoy cooking and have a recipe idea for us?

R+R: Yes, a simple version of Okonomiyaki:

Mix 100 g flavor, 100 ml water, 1 egg and 10 cm of a peeled and grated yams root, cut 100 g cabbage in thin strips and cut some slices of scallions separately. Add 100g of shrimp and mix everything well. Fry two omelets and eat it with mayonnaise and soy.

Hexagon Lounge, 2017, oil on canvas, 150 x 180 cm, photo: Eric Tschernow

Regina Maria Möller at Michael Janssen Gallery Berlin

November 16, 2018

Regina Maria Möllers’ exhibition ‚The Moth’ runs until November 17, 2018 at Janssen Gallery Berlin. Born in Munich Möller firstly took up her studies at the Philosophical Faculty of Ludwig Maximilians University. She spent a large part of her career as a professor/visiting professor as well as artist (since 1993) amongst others in New York, Stockholm, at the NTNU Trondheim, Singapore as well as MIT in Cambridge. Today she lives in Berlin. With ongoing and often interdisciplinary projects such as ‚regina’ or ‚embodiment’ Möller focuses on socially relevant topics that partly autobiographical. She consistently works at the interface between culture and everyday life.

GoArt! meets Regina Maria Möller.

MB: Regina, how does your day start?

RMM: When I am in Berlin I usually go to the SSE – I swim.

MB:  At first glance, the gallery showcase is covered with a heavy black curtain. Entering the front space the visitor is confronted with a stage-like set of historical theatre curtains. Only after passing through does he reach the props warehouse, which is in the backspace of the gallery, exhibiting more of your works. Consequently, it becomes an indirect stage direction for the viewer – what role does the moth play in this production?

RMM: During the exhibition visitors pass the gallery through the main curtain and thus become participants. There is a shadow play in the center of the “stage” and by moving the curtains it reveals a new perspective to the viewer. Dramaturgy and orientation move circular – similar to the behavior of moths orbiting round the light while simultaneously being attracted by darkness. In this case I am referring to the ‘clothes moth’. An unwelcome visitor in our wardrobes, but at the same time it is a quality guarantee in digitally and plastic dominated ages: their larvae live on keratin, a protein that is a component of an animals fur and horn. Therefore fibres of high quality like wool and silk are a desirable resource for larvae.

Generally speaking, a heavy theatre curtain is often associated with something dusty in which thousands of moths larvae are romping about. It is penetrated, eaten and if it is not conserved in a theatrical prop it consequently lands in an old stuff bag. Moreover, the fabulous creature ‘The Mothman’ is an allegory for the Grim Reaper and so do the clothes moths remind of the Ephemeral.  For me, this is a memento mori to our senses and to material as a tangible body.
In addition, the porcelain vases come into play: For the first time they are endowed with a moth motif and produced together with Uli Aigner One Million as well as with the porcelain manufacturer Nymphenburg. Handcraft and porcelain production have taken on a new significance in our technological world. All the more I love its delicacy and imperfection. Like so many materials I work with porcelain has its own character – a life – that provides surprises. So does the moth.

MB: Originally, you have a theoretical background, and among others studied art history. 1994 you also emerged as an artist with works like the magazine ‘regina’ and the label ‘embodiment’ – designing dresses, wallpapers and furniture as well as art works. Noticeable are the biographical components, for example, ‘Reproduktionen’ or other photo works, even the robes in it function as requisites. Do you place yourself in the genre of the self-portraying artist?

RMM: Generally, I do not consider myself an art piece and do not stage myself as an artist. But as an author, an artist, I naturally identify with my works and in this sense each piece leaves an imprint, an image of myself. On the one hand important issues of ‘regina’ and ’embodiment’ is the question of identities showing themselves in everyday life – intercultural and medial – for example via ‘clothing’ (dresses, textiles, interieur). But also the attribution and penetration of role models are of particular relevance. In our fast pace digital age people use multiple identities. Like this biographies become a mirror of a entertainment society. Nevertheless ‘regina’ and ‘embodiment’ go back to the 90ies where these issues were still quite different. Today they have a new relevance – their physical (embodiment) and analogue (regina) presence.

MB: To me, objects in the show awaken protagonists of the cultural life like the Brechtian curtain, a time travel through different epochs and genre. Is the moth synonym for a pioneering spirit of researchers, for artists, even for you, in your artistic context?

RMM: No. But it is part of it.

MB: Besides, a topic that interests me a lot is food – also part of ‘regina’ -of course in a vital way. The social importance of food, of nutrition, up to recipes. What place does food/cooking have in your artistic context?

RMM: The Eat Art concept of Daniel Spoerri has taught me early on how closely art and cooking are interlinked. To me the kitchen is a meeting place. Communal cooking and eating create the climate for fruitful exchanges between cultures. I myself enjoy cooking and I like carefully prepared tables – simple as well as magnificent – but always elaborate ones. Besides, there is king Louis II of course – the fairy tale king of Bavaria – with the fabulous ‘Wishing Table’…

MB: Recipe idea?

RMM: Re-educating our senses and sensors.

Studio Visit with Klaus Killisch

Klaus Killisch
September 4, 2018

GoArt! studio visit with Klaus Killisch

„Mann vor Mauer“ (1988) by artist Klaus Killisch is part of the group show „ Die Schönheit der großen Stadt“ at Ephraim Palais, running till October 28th, 2018. The exhibition shows 120 top-class works by artists who represent the urban and social structures of Berlin in the 19th and 20th century. Born in the former GDR, Klaus Killisch lives in Berlin since 1972, first studied industrial design, later painting at the Academy of Arts in Weissensee. Expressionism as well as the Bauhaus idea, pop and punk, bands such as Einstürzende Neubauten or Nick Cave have influenced the artist’s style from the beginning – a particular kind of collage painting. Music as sound, or rather as material – vinyl, record sleeves or portraits of these models often represent a component of Klaus paintings.

Miriam met the artist in his studio.

Miriam Bers: You told me that the above named heroes of the eighties also swept to the former East of the city, to the Art Academy in Weissensee. This is hardly comprehensible for someone who never lived in the GDR. How does it coalite: Punk and GDR? How come that these movements have significantly shaped your work?

Klaus Killisch: My interest was listening to cool music while painting; for example Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds or Einstürzende Neubauten inspired me a lot. This kind of music best expressed our feelings, the awareness of life at that very moment. It was like a motor stimulating me while painting and propelling me into trance. And it still works the same way today. Much later I understood how much ‚Zeitgeist‘ was turning up in my paintings. This for example is highly visible in ‚die Seele brennt‘ or ‚Teutonisches Bild‘, showing a wolf-man rising out of the image-space.

MB: You mentioned the pottery workshop of Wilfriede Maass being important for you and for other artists, who later also had a gallery in Berlin Mitte in the 90ies.

KK: In the 80ies, the pottery workshop of Wilfriede Maas was a kind of salon and meeting place for the subversive art scene in Prenzlauer Berg, East Berlin. Artists like Cornelia Schleime, Wolfram Scheffler or Angela Hampel painted their pottery there. When I met Wilfriede, many of them had already left the East to live in the West. This exodus was a big loss, but at the same time it helped us going one step further. Together with Wilfriede, Sabine Herrmann and Petra Schramm I founded one of the first artists run galleries in East Berlin. We invited other artists to work there. The ceramic works being produced in the workshop have then been exhibited together with the respective actual work. I therefore had designed blue wall paintings and exhibited my pottery in front of it. That was pretty cool! In the nineties we moved to Gipsstreet with the gallery. We were pioneers of the art boom in Mitte. One highlight was the exhibition ‚Sake Bar‘. It was the idea of Mikael Eriksson. You could sit in a recreated Sake Bar, drink from the vessels but also buy them. Neo Rauch, Carsten Nicolai and many others participated.

MB: How has your work grown in the nineties until today, in the spotlight Berlin? Have you instantly had contacts to people living abroad, after the fall of the wall? I know that in 2004 you co-founded the group ‚Collective Task‘, a kind of mail art together with a poetry scene in New York. How does it work and what is the idea of the collective undertaking about?

KK: When the wall felt through our peaceful revolution I was kind of fortunate: I have been invited to the Biennial of Venice! My expressive works were part of the show Berlin! inthe Italian Pavillon. That was totally exciting and new. With the help of fellowships and exhibitions I traveled a lot and also stayed in Japan for a while. There, I met the American poet Robert Fitterman with whom I have a very long friendship now. He had the idea of ‘Collective Task’. We both organize CT for more than 10 years. The idea is relatively simple: Each month an artist sets a task and the others answer, each in his or her creative way. The results and its variety can be seen on our website. In 2012 we were even invited presenting the work at MoMA. This was thrilling.

In my artistic work I am open for inspiration. Thus several years ago I have been asked by Sangare Siemsen to create a ceiling look for his bar ‚ambulance‘, with records he dj‘ed in the nineties. With this work my passion for vinyl break out. I started experimenting with acrylic color and screened motifs from advertisement thereby developing my collage painting. Talking in terms of music, there is Sampling. And this is how I conceive my art – as a mix of a piece of everyday culture, of the club scene, of trash and painting. Unfortunately the bar no longer exists. In the meantime the ceiling has been covered. Perhaps one day it can be uncovered again.

MB: What will be shown at your next solo exhibition “Endless Rhythm” in Chemnitz? Where and when can it be seen?

KK: The show will beon display at gallery ‚Weltecho‘, starting October 20th, 2018. I already look forward to realizing a wall work there, on the 5 meter high walls!

MB: Which is your favorite place in Berlin?

KK: My studio.

MB: Which is your place of longing?

KK: Parpan, a little village in Graubünden.

MB: How does your day end? Do you cook yourself or do you eat out?

KK: Both. But cooking at home and dining with my family is best.

MB: Recipe idea?

KK: My children often ask for pancakes. And most of the times they turn out well/filmly cut. There are so many options to enjoy them – with salmon, mushrooms, salad or as a desert.

photo credit: Klaus Killisch

GoArt! Berlin art consulting

 

 

Klaus Killisch
Klaus Killisch
Klaus Killisch
Klaus Killisch
Klaus Killisch

10th Berlin Biennale

August 16, 2018

 The 10th Berlin Biennale is on display until September 9th, 2018. Under the title ‘We do not need another hero’, Gabi Ngcobo’s team of five curators has brought together 46 artistic positions dealing with political and social events, power structures and historiography away from the Eurocentric perspective, with a focus on African or South American contemplations.

Miriam Bers spoke with Nomaduma Rosa Masilela, one of the co-curators of the 10th Berlin Biennale:

MB: What expectations did you have when you came to Berlin – how was /how is the work here as a curator for the 10th Berlin Biennale? How international is the scene compared to New York, what inspired you, what surprised you and what disappointed you?

NRMI lived in New York for over a decade, spending nearly all of my 20s in the art ‘scene’ there, therefore I’m not sure if I am yet at all able to provide any real comparison to the Berlin scene, which I have really only been experiencing for less than a year. While I don’t think that many cities can compare to the international quality of the New York scene, a difference that I have noted is that while the forces of the capital are overwhelmingly present and influential in New York, the Berlin scene appears more directed by state/singular funding sources, which dictate the direction and overall interests of the season. What has inspired me the most about Berlin has been meeting the many artists who live in this city, sharing their work, and being able to imagine a way of collaboration in a much more free way than what is possible in New York, in which most activities are centered around a concern for a profit or popularity margin.

MB: It is very inspiring that the curatorial team of the 10th Berlin Biennale has managed to combine politics with poetry. You comprehend the message of many works without knowing all the details and backgrounds. Themes such as colonialism and oppression characterize the style of the exhibition venues – without a moral pointing finger, but with different artistic worlds partly involving the viewer. For example, The participatory performance of Okwui Okpokwasili and Peter Born in the Kunst Werke, which deals with one of the most important women’s protests in the world, incorporates the viewer, asks them questions that in a next step link them to lyrics or songs. Can this be understood as a work in progress, as a new story?

NRMOkwui Okpokwasili and Peter Born’s project, Sitting on a Man’s Head (2018) was a newly commissioned work for the 10th Berlin Biennale, however it is the result of ongoing research that far predates their involvement with the biennale. Okwui’s research into this practice, and its implementation in the early 20th century in Nigeria, informed earlier performance productions, such as Poor People’s TV Room. However, this specific iteration, which we produced for the biennale was really only possible within the context of an ongoing exhibition. Also, the ongoing participation of both activators and audience members, which is so integral to the piece, is also reflective of the ongoing nature of protest and its resultant possibilities of change.

MB: In the Academy of Arts, Firelei Baez shows her version of Sanssouci. Sanssouci as a former ruler and today’s artistic desire place? What is the story of the Haitian Sanssouci and what do we learn from it? What message does Firelei Baez attach to her work?

NRM: I think this question can best be answered through reading the beautiful essays that Portia Malatjie wrote about Firelei’s Sanssouci project in the biennale catalogue and exhibition guide. Portia’s essay clearly explains the importance of the Haitian Sanssouci and of the Haitian Revolution, not only within Firelei’s practice and this biennale, but also as a model for the necessary changes that need to occur. Firelei insists that by layering or ‘triangulating’ histories, one is able to open up a third space of enunciation – one of possibility.

MB: Last but not least in a few words: What is your key message and what’s coming next?

NRMWe have avoided providing keys throughout the exhibition, as that eliminates any of the interesting work that one has to do in interpreting and deciding how things are on ones own. What we want is for each viewer to be able to engage with the works and have their own feelings; to question themselves and the structures that they have possibly always taken for granted; and in so doing, to create new possibilities of being and of imagining the world and those within it. 
As for me, what’s next – I’m now based in Berlin, having moved permanently from New York in February, and am currently prioritizing completing and submit a dissertation for the department of art history at Columbia University in New York. I am also focusing on making my own art work and planning a sister publication to the curatorial publication that I organized for the biennale, Strange Attractors, which combined commissioned works by contemporary artists (such as Temitayo Ogunbiyi, Mame Diarra Niang, Adrijana Gvozdenovic, and Beau H. Rhee) with archival materials (the herbarium pages of Rosa Luxemburg, the sketchbook of Mildred Thompson, and notebooks of both Octavia Butler and Audre Lorde) in order to look at the comforts and complications of familial love and communication.

 

10th Berlin Biennale
10th Berlin Biennale
10th Berlin Biennale
10th Berlin Biennale
10th Berlin Biennale
10th Berlin Biennale

 

photo credit: 10. berlin biennale

photo 1 © F. Anthea Schaap, photo 2 © Liz Johnson Artur, photo 3 © Smina Bluth, photo 4 © Timo Ohler, photo 5 © Timo Ohler, photo 6 © Timo Ohler

GoArt! Berlin tours

Fashion Week Berlin – König Souvenir x Kollektiv Ignaz

Fashion Week Ignaz Kollektiv
July 13, 2018

A very exciting and rather atypical presentation at the Berliner Salon during Fashion Week Berlin was the cooperation of a contemporary art gallery and the over one year ago founded Kollektiv Ignaz. König Souvenir had been launched in 2017 and is a young product line of the successful Galerie König that recently opened a dependency in London.

König Souvenir creates editions like shirts, hoodies, beach towels and further accessories, whose prints refer to artists’ works being shown in the gallery and furthermore focuses on socially and politically relevant topics that define our everyday life. For example, there are leggings with a print of a work by Claudia Comte or the Guilt Cap by Monica Bonvicini but also a EUnify Hoodie calling for critical commitment to the European project. Kollektiv Ignaz lives in Frankfurt cutting a dash with music, design and photography related events, also in cooperation with the Museum of Applied Arts. Stated goal of the triple is arousing interest of young and creative peers currently graduating from school being less text-heavy than their predecessors.

Miriam Bers spoke with the protagonists during Fashion Week Berlin.

MB: Why founding the group, what moves you?

KI: Our group is based on friendship. We are friends for years now and have lived out our own creative ideas. At a certain point we began exchanging projects and became a team. Above all, we want to express our own creativity using the collective as a platform.

MB: König Souvenir, why collaborating with the collective during Fashion Week Berlin?

KS: We have been known Ignaz for a while and took notice of them through their creative projects. When the anti-Semitic attacks happened we were in a close dialogue with each other setting an example for tolerance and against hate while developing the Solidarity Hoodie together.

MB: The Solidarity Hoodie is a brilliant idea: A kippah stitched on a hoodie. In this way, you create a political lifestyle–product representing different minorities. The kippah as a Jewish symbol, the hoodie once synonym for marginalized groups, later popular in the hip hop scene and nowadays indispensable. Sometimes also connected to anonymity and denial.

MB: Where did the idea come from?

KI: The hoodie does not play a certain role. We all come from a generation where an outfit is not about its past but about its look and coolness. Both, attacks against the Jewish as well as against other religions unfortunately still happen too often in Germany. We are sick of the press and the society discussing religious details over and over again when the general free practice of religion is just not possible.

MB: Who is your target audience?

KI: There is no specific target group. Everybody who is for the freedom of religions and wants to stand up for people being religiously discriminated is invited to wear this hoodie.

MB: The hoodie is an edition of?

KS: The hoodie is an edition of 500 and currently available in the colors black, blue, yellow, grey and green.

MB: How does it feel to be represented together with König Souvenir at Berliner Salon during Fashion Week Berlin? How is the reaction to the Solidarity Hoodie?

KI: Of course it is a great honor and a huge opportunity to collaborate with König Souvenir. Even before the cooperation we were big fans of them.

KS: The Berliner Salon during Fashion Week was the perfect platform to show the Solidarity Hoodie. We received a throughout positive echo and even requests from the US.

MB: What’s next?

KI: Within the last months, we have fully dedicated ourselves to this project. But of course we will carry on soon.

MB: König Souvenir, which will be your next highlight?

KS: We have currently two new shirts in store created on the occasion of the exhibition by Andreas Mühe presenting his new works „Prora Sport“ and „Totilas I“. Furthermore, there are other collaborations being planned which of course will be surprises and available in our online shop Koenig-souvenir.com as well as in the gallery here in Berlin.

Photos: Jakob Blumenthal 

Portrait: Nick Leuze

IG: @goartberlin @koenig.souvenir @ignaz.de @nickleuze

GoArt! Art & Fashion Tours

Porträt Kollektiv Ignaz, Fashion Week
KSxIGNAZ
KSxIGNAZ
KSxIGNAZ

World Press Photo 18 Berlin

World Press Photo
June 12, 2018

The World Press Photo Award 2017 goes to the photographer Ronaldo Schemidt. He photographed José Víctor Slazar Balza (28) during the protests against the Venezuelan government, who was caught in flames when the tank of motorcycle exploded. Balza survived with severe burns.

The annual World Press Photo Arward is the world’s largest and most prestigious competition for press photography. Since 1955, the mission oft he World Press Photo Foundation has been „to maintain high professional standards in photojournalism and to advocate a free and unrestricted exchange of information“.

Altogether more than 4500 photographers with 73,000 photos took part in the competition. All award-winning photos will be shown in an exhibition that will be shown in 45 countries. Freundeskreis Willy-Brandt-Haus, Gruner+Jahr and the magazines Stern and Geo present the World Press Photo exhibition for the 15th time in the Willy-Brandt-Haus.

Exhibition: June 8th – July 1st, 2018, Willy-Brandt-Haus Berlin

World Press Photo 18

Installation View

World Photo Press 18

Installation View

World Photo Press 18

Installation View

World Photo Press 18

Long-Term Projects, 1st Prize, Carla Kogelman, The Netherlands, I am Waldviertel, 19 July 2012 - 29 August 2017 > Hannah and Alena are two sisters who love in Merkenbrechts, a bioenergy village of around 170 inhabitants in Waldviertel, an isolated rural area of Austria, near the Czech border.

World Photo Press 18

Carla Kogelman, Hannah und Alena, 2017

World Photo Press 18

Environment, 1ste Prize Stories, Kadir van Lohuizen, The Netherlands, NOOR Images, 23 February 2016 - 9 July 2017 > Humans are producing more waste than ever before. According to research by the World Bank, the world generates 3.5 million tonnes of solid waste a day, ten times the amount of a century ago. A documentation of waste management systems in metropolises across the world investigates how different societies manage-or mismanage-their waste.

World Photo Press 18

Kader van Lohuizen, Garbage is collected in the center of Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

World Photo Press 18

Environment, 3rd Prize Singles, Thomas P. Peschak, Germany 1 Mach 2017 > A historic photograph of an African penguin colony, taken in the late 1890s, is a stark contrast to the declining numbers seen in 2017 in the same location, on Halifax Island, Namibia. The colony once numbered more than 100,000 penguins.

World Photo Press 18

Long-Term Projects 2nd Prize, Fausto Podavini, Italy, Omo Change, 24 July 2011 - 24 November 2017 > The Gibe III Dam across the Omo River in Ethiopia impacts not only people living along the Omo Valley, but those around Lake Turkana (into which the Omo empties) in Kenya. People of eight different ethnicities live along the valley in delicate balance withe the environment.

World Photo Press 18

Fausto Pdavini, Murrst women, wearing bras given to them by tourists, return to their village after fetching well water.

World Photo Press 18

A man from the Mursi ethnic group prepares for a traditional stick-fighting contest against a neighboring village.

World Photo Press 18

People, 2nd Prize Stories, Anna Boyiazis, USA 17 October - 29 December 2016 > Traditionally, girls in the Zanzibar archipelago are discouraged from learning how to swim, largely because of the strictures of a conservative islamic culture and the absence of modest swimwear.

World Photo Press 18

Anna Boyiazis, Students from the Kijini Primary School learn to swim and perform rescues, off Muyuni.

World Photo Press 18

Anna Boyiazis, Swimming instructor Chema (17) snaps her fingers as she disappears underwater, in the ocean near the village of Nungwi.

Food Revolution 5.0

Food Revolution
May 18, 2018

The museum of Decorative Art in Berlin has openend the by Dr. Claudia Banz curated show Food Revolution 5.0 on May 18, 2018. Themes such as food in the future, dwindling resources or climate change make nutrition to a hot political issue. What scenarios develop artists for the food of tomorrow? Miriam Bers met the curator of Food Revolution 5.0 and the Museum for Decorative Arts.

MB: Food Revolution 5.0 has already been shown at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg. There, the participating artists had developed commissioned works. Will you exhibit the same pieces in Berlin?

CB: Yes, more or less but we could enlarge the show by other new important contributions. So also an exhibition is an open project. In Berlin, we work much more in the outer space. In the ‘Piazzetta’ comes an “Urbane Streuobstwiese” (urban meadow orchard) into being, a project of the Dutch city planner and designer Ton Matton. On an up to now unused terrace of the museum the Planwerkstatt of the Technical University of Berlin in cooperation with the landscape architect Katrin Bohn realizes “Essbare Gärten” (eatable gardens). Particularly for this exhibition Silke Riechert has developed the participative installation ”Störung im Schlaraffenland” (disruption in paradise), a critical look at the food industry but at the same time a nutritional knowledge transfer for school children. Susanna Soares and Andrew Folkes show their project “Insects au Gratin”, here researching future food in the context of insects, nutrients and 3 D prints. Chmara.rosinske participate with their work “Mobile Gastfreundschaften” (mobile hospitalities) and the Center for Genomic Gastronomy present their latest project  “ To flavor our teares”.

MB: Food is more and more important and in our western world and became a prior lifestyle topic. Thus, it has lots of exciting societal and aesthetical components, health aspects, then again ecological and political meaning and its downside: lack of food, disappearance of resources and famine. The Austrian Klaus Pichler for example works in a critical and at the same time very aesthetical way on the subject ‘food in abundance’. According to statistics, about one third of the worldwide foodstuffs are discarded. Most of it in industrialized countries. In contrast, 925 Million people are threatened by hunger. What is the message of the exhibition, does it offer alternatives?

CB: Yes, this subject plays a major role in the work of Pichler, as well as in the ones of Kosuke Araki, who designs plates and dishes by food waste, thereby demonstrating that it can be a valuable resource. Our consumption is so important, the respectful treatment of resources. Subtext of most of the works is consumption as a question of attitude and responsibility.

 

MB: What are you referring to with the title Food Revolution 5.0? How is your vision for future food?

CB: The title resulted by beforehand researches: I think in the meantime it has arrived in the center of society that our nutrition system is the main cause of the climate change and that it needs to be changed radically. 5.0 stands for a wise use of technology, connected with traditional cultural techniques and agriculture, handcraft knowledge and DIY, preserving and further specifics of farming. At the same time it stands for degrowth and the idea of commons. The earth’s resources belong to all humans and not only to a few large companies. Accordingly, all men shall have equal access to it.

MB: Are the designers’ works applicable or rather reflections and utopia of future food?

CB: We show best practice examples like an indoor farm growing salad or a mobile beehive for the urban space from the ‘Beecollective’. You will also see a tomato-fish project operating according to the principle of an aquaponic, and a seaweed farm for the building façade. But there are also speculative works such as “Digital Food” from Martí Guixé creating a vision of a customized nutrition. On the other side Johanna Schmeer with her piece “Bioplastic Phantastic” studying possibilities to use bio– and nanotechnological knowledge for the future food production.

 

MB: Would you tell us something about the concepts of Werner Aisslingers or Marije Vogelzang, what is the Sharing Dinner?

CB: Especially for this project Werner Aisslinger developed a communal cooking landscape. It is a hybrid of an archetype hob, arena/steps functioning as a symbiosis of analogue cooking and social aspect of a shared cooking, eating and communication. Marije Vogelzang in “Volumes” presents a possibility to change our eating habits positively.

MB: Berlin is a good example for a city, where creative minds deal with the issue sustainability. Successful urban gardening projects, an increasing number of restaurants and chefs cooking with local ingredients, organic supermarkets, the Berliner Tafel, distributing foodstuffs to deprived persons and last but not least inhouse farming/vertical planting. How do you see this development, do we have a lead role?

CB: yes, absolutely. There is an unbelievable density of different players dealing with the food subject and an interesting start up scene for innovative and sustainable food products and its useful distribution. Besides, Berlin is the first city having a Nutrition Council, based on the Anglo-Saxon model. This is important to create awareness in politics. And there are also lots of exciting art and design projects being seen by an international audience. Berlins  art- and design universities deal with this issue.

MB: Do you like cooking, which are your criteria?

CB: I like cooking and in the meantime check out where products come from. Local and regional ones are very important for me. I go shopping more frequently to reduce my food waste. It is a pity that there are still few stores offering food without packaging – even organic supermarkets use as much as the others.

MB: A recipe idea?

CB: in the meantime, there are also recipe books for insects, within others from the Suisse designer Andrea Staudacher, participating in the show as well. I would spend more time with insects used as food and try different recipes not least due to the new European law permitting insects as aliments.

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Food Revolution 5.0
Gestaltung für die Gesellschaft von Morgen

May 18th – September 30th, 2018 

GoArt! Food Tours

Food Revolution

Johanna Schmeer, Bioplastic Fantastic, 2014, © Johanna Schmeer

Food Revolution

Klaus Pichler, Erdbeeren, aus der Fotoserie „One third“, 2010-2012, © Klaus Pichler

Food Revolution

Officina Corpuscoli - Maurizio Montalti, System Synthetics, seit 2011, © Maurizio Montalti

Food Revolution

Fraunhofer UMSICHTinFARMING, 2017© Fraunhofer Umsicht 2017

Food Revolution

Chloé Rutzerveld, Edible Growth, 2014, © Chloé Rutzerveld, Foto: Bart van Overbeeke

Food Revolution

Marije Vogelzang, Volumes, 2017, © Marije Vogelzang

Food Revolution

Austin Stewart, Second Livestock, 2014, © Austin Stewart

Interview with Berlin Fashion Designer Isabel Vollrath

April 12, 2018

Isabel Vollrath is a German fashion designer, working in the fields of modern Couture and fine art. She was born in 1980 in Freiburg and started her career by learning the craft of gentlemen’s tailoring in Baden-Baden. Afterwards she studied fashion at the renowned art university in Berlin-Weissensee. For Isabel Vollrath, garments are three-dimensional drawings, collages, objects of “sculpture”, sociocritical / political statements and/or “cultural travel reports”. Choosing extraordinary materials and details of high quality while working in an area of tension between fashion and art, the Berlin fashion designer leaves traces with a high recognition factor. By means of integrating both historicizing and avant-garde, sculptural-futuristic stylistic elements, high-contrast, abstract but at the same time figure-hugging cuttings, the resulting silhouettes are expressive and extensive, functioning as in-the- room-lying “bowls” or rather as integrative to the human moving body.

Isabel Vollrath has already received various national and international awards, amongst them the promotion prize of the Wilhelm-Lorch-Foundation, the Elsa-Neumann-scholarship from the state of Berlin, the Baltic Fashion Award (2011) and the award of the “International Talent Support” in Trieste/Italy (2012). 2015 she founded her label I’ VR ISABEL VOLLRATH. Ever since, she shows her collections twice a year during Berlin Fashion Week or in the context of Berlin Salon / Vogue Salon at Kronprinzenpalais. Miriam Bers met the Berlin fashion designer for an interview.

MB: How does the day of a Berlin fashion designer start?

IV: Contrast showers, coffee. Afterwards I jump on my bike and go to early yoga or ballet class. After that, I go to my atelier…

MB: Why a sculptural design-language?

IV: When I finished high school, I actually wanted to study free arts and become a sculptor. At the same time, there was this passion for fashion and the craft of tailoring. So I decided to study tailoring in Gerhard Schmauder’s custom tailor for men in Baden-Baden for three years. This is where I learned how to develop a “second skin” for men out of fabric.

Basically, this was also a kind of “sculpting” and an essential fundament for my following studies in fashion. I guess, in Berlin I am one of the few designers that still fabricate their whole sample collection on their own. For this, I combine my sculptor activities with the technical know-how of tailoring and a very high demand on precision, I observe with the eyes of an artist and still have the necessary sense of functionality in the back of my mind.

 

During the work process, I focus on the message, the statement, a story, an emotion and less on the aim of addressing the consumers of the mass market. The majority of my collection pieces could also be hung on a wall as an art object or be placed inside of a picture frame, instead of being hung in a closet. They function as both: body- and room objects. My collections will always stay limited edition. Only that way, I can stay true to myself and do fashion as well as art. Before I think of elegance, I “romp”: In experiments, in forms, playing with material and cuts – with the curiosity of a child and the “flow” of my hands.

MB: Your oeuvre, summarized in three phrases:

IV: I’d prefer three words: Idiosyncratic. Authentic. Uncompromising.

MB: Which designers inspire you?

IV: There are designers/brands of the past and present, who I really adore and whose life’s work and creations I appreciate a lot. For example those of Coco Chanel, Vivienne Westwood, Rei Kawakubo or Iris van Herpen and Yves Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen or Hussein Chalayan. I like a strong visual expression, the courage to use extraordinary forms, colors, materials and an individual signature with a recognition value.

MB: Which exposition did you see last?

IV: Actually, I attend openings very often.

That’s why now I’m trying to remember, which expositions really fascinated me during the last months… It’s been a while, but spontaneously I recall “Jonas Burgert: Zeitlaich” at Blainsouthern and „Cornelia Schleime: Full House” at Michael Schultz and obviously also the Biennale in Venice last year. I’m very excited about Gallery Weekend that will be taking place soon.

MB: Which writers inspire you?

IV: Old masters as Goethe.

MB: What is you favorite place in Berlin?

IV: Close to the water and in the country. Or a terrace with a wide view over Berlin’s rooftops or a nice wine bar around the corner. ONE favorite place actually doesn’t exist…

MB: Your place of longing?

IV: Italy. Venice. The sea.

MB: How does the day of a Berlin fashion designer end? By cooking on your own or going out to have dinner?

IV: Extensive cooking – that is rather something I do, when I receive visitors. When I’m alone, I have a salad and a glass of white wine. Or I make plans to have a drink somewhere.

MB: Any idea for a recipe?

IV: For visitors, I always like to serve “antipasto misto”…-colorful vegetables like zucchini, fennel, pumpkin, pepper, rosemary potatoes from the oven – with goat cream and olive oil. This comes with a side salad: radicchio, chicory, lamb’s lettuce – with tomatoes, cucumber, toasted sesame and pomegranate. If desired: wild salmon with a lemon-honey-sauce and wild rice in coconut milk.

MB: When and where can one see your next collection?

IV: The fashion week for spring/summer 2019 starts at the beginning of July. The exact dates of my fashion shows are not definite yet, but they’re being planned and will be announced soon in the calendar of Berlin Fashion Week or  Berlin Salon.

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Photos: Key visual Det Nissen

1/3  Thomas Thernes, 4 Katy Otto, 2 Philipp Wolfart