We at S2S don’t care so much about some of the hyper commercial art fairs in town this weekend, but we couldn’t ignore the strong presence of Berlin galleries at The Independent this year. In it’s fifth year, The Independent 2014, drew a total of nine galleries from Berlin, some like Société attending the fair for the first time, while others like Galerie Neu have already been a part of it for several years in a row. Participation in the fair is by invitation only. Located in the light filled former exhibition space of the Dia Art Foundation, this year’s fair was conceived by founders Elizabeth Dee and Darren Flook, developed in conjunction with creative advisor Matthew Higgs of White Columns and Director Laura Mitterrand.
S2S had the chance to talk to Alexander Schroeder of Galerie Neu, Monty from Société, and Nikolaus Oberhuber, co-owner of KOW.
On Friday evening NEU’s space was very lively. The works by Klara Liden, Gedi Sibony, Marka Michanowicz, and Victor Man were rather subdued, however a group of NEU fans were energetically assembling in the narrow presentation space allocated to the gallery. The charismatic Alexander Schroeder, co-owner of Galerie Neu explained that NEU had been part of The Armory Show years ago but lost interest in the fair once it became too commercial. They prefer the vibe of The Independent, which they participated in for the third time. Schroeder finds it well-organized, appreciates the steady stream of knowledgeable visitors and being among great colleagues. Unlike other fairs, at The Independent there are no booths that separate one gallery from another, which makes it sometimes difficult to figure out who is showing whom, but also creates a more congenial atmosphere. Like NEU, most of the other Berlin galleries are no strangers to New York and its art fairs.
Meyer Riegger, veterans of The Independent, were busy as well with numerous people who were inquiring about the beautiful collages reminiscent of Hannah Hoch, created by Prague born artist Eva Kotàtkovà.
Galerie Société is the new kid on the block of the Berlin galleries at this year’s fair. Their space was a little more separate, which made for a strong presentation of the work of New York artist Josh Kolbo. Société, instead of showing a hodge-podge of works by artists on their roster, opted out to exclusively introduce to New York one of its local artists. Josh Kolbo, who lives in Brooklyn was discovered by gallery directors Hans Bulow and Daniel Wichelhau on one of their visits to the city.
Gallery KOW, known for not shying away from the political or the theoretical, participated in the Indi for the first time last year and were invited back this year by Elizabeth Dee & co-organizers. Nikolaus Oberhuber, co-owner of KOW, also prefers The Independent over the Armory because its size is more manageable. Bigger isn’t always better. To Oberhuber, The Independent, even though much smaller with only 50 plus galleries, presents a good mix of new as well as more established galleries with quality works and the audience to match. Oberhuber pointed out that Berlin’s art world is very different from New York, in that it is more a location of artistic production while NYC is becoming less so and more a place for consumption. That said, he doesn’t take it for granted to sell all the works at the fair. KOW is showing the Detroit artist Michael E. Smith, documentary photographer Tobias Zielony, Russian artists collective Chto Delat? and a sculpture by Franz Erhard Walter from the 70s that had been originally exhibited at documenta 5.
Walter lived a couple of years in New York and has been shown at the Dia Art Foundation. An interesting choice, considering that in 2011 Walther had also been entangled in a law suite with Urban Architecture gallery over the ownership of the artist’s installation 1. Werksatz (1963-69).
One of the most interesting and radical works shown at The Independent was by Cologne Galerie Susanne Zander. Not surprisingly the gallery will open a Berlin branch in September of this year. One is immediately drawn to a series of color photographs taken in the late 196os. In each photo, we see the same woman in various stages of undress. Already fascinating from an aesthetical and historical perspective, the importance of the photos becomes apparent once the nature of the work is revealed.
They are part of Günter K. “Margret – Chronik einer Affäre (chronical of an affair). Hundred’s of photos and meticulous typed notes about K.’s infidelity with his secretary were discovered in an estate sale. Every sexual act is described with bizarre accuracy i.e. exact time, frequency, sexual position, etc. Though reminding one of the diaristic conceptual works of Sophie Calle, we don’t know what the actual purpose of this secret diary was inspired by; was it simply to record an erotic affair by two real people or was it something more significant? As they say, life is stranger than fiction.
The Independent continues through Sunday at 548 West 22nd Street, Chelsea; independentnewyork.com.