Photo by Jarka Snajberk
Andreas Koch may have shut down his art space Koch + Kesslau in 2004, but the Berlin artist continues to have a full palette.
Alongside art newspaper von Hundert is his work designing catalogues for the likes of Olafur Eliasson, Veronika Kellndorfer and Elmgreen & Dragset – and of course his own art, including the exhibition wo sind wir jetzt, now on view at Kunstverein Arnsberg in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Koch + Kesslau was quite a landmark in the Berlin art scene. What made you close it?
By 2004, we were at the Art Miami Basel, Art Forum in Berlin and the Frieze in London. At the same time, as an artist, I had eight group exhibitions and one solo exhibition. I also designed three books. It was a lot, but it worked out. However, what was not there was a perspective on the future of the gallery. We knew that if we wanted to progress, we needed to invest much more time, energy and money at the expense of my art, which I liked doing more.
If a collector met us at Frieze and then came to the gallery to pick up the work, then he and we were aware that it was just a small junk room in the backyard. Suddenly it was like when your West German mother-in-law comes to visit you in your dorm room. I’m not really compatible with rich people, or just with very few. They take a look at your shoes, they compare cars, they talk about expensive real estate… none of which interests me. Without an affinity for money or its owners, you cannot make a gallery. That became clear to me in 2004. But even eight years after its closing, I still hear about the space.
Currently, you are preparing the 20th issue of von Hundert. How has the publication changed in the past decade?
I started von Hundert in late 2006, and the attention I get for it is perhaps a small compensation for the (absence of) gallery. Since its inception, the number of pages, columns and editions has increased. We have greater writers, a better structure and reputation. Barbara Buchmaier makes a great co-editor. Nevertheless, we are still an off-magazine, a small thorn that pricks sometimes.
Even though your space has closed, you are still present.
Of course, ‘presence’, for me, is very important. I only work if the stuff will also be seen. I only make art when I can also exhibit it. In general, I am a very product-oriented person. I mean, products made me. I am interested in the result, regardless whether it’s a book, a text or an artwork. People probably know me from different contexts, and the longer one works in the Berlin art world (for me now, it’s 20 years), the more set one gets on ideas. Maybe my soup gets better and better the longer I cook it. I will also always be throwing in more and more new things, in the hope that the people won’t get sick and that they will continue to recognise and treasure the individual components.
And the Berlin art soup? How has that been cooking in the past 10 years?
Exhibition spaces are scarcer and more expensive, but we are still better off than the scene in New York, London or Paris. Not only has a large part of the city been gentrified in the past 10 years, but the art too. Much is produced for the market. Gallerists, collectors and artists popping the corks together and then getting into their SUVs. And even though that accounts for only a small part, it still means that the social gap in the art world is now the equivalent of a Central American banana republic: 0.5 percent superrich, 5 percent oligarchs, the rest art proletariats who earn their money from those mentioned above.
I, however, belong to what can be called a slowly emerging centre layer in the art world. This is of course, the most luxurious and free situation: neither exposure to too much money, nor too little. Also, this long-lasting attractiveness of Berlin: artists who came to Berlin in the 1990s and who are now getting on in years, and the 20 to 30-year-olds who open their spaces. Both scenes coexist, without overlapping. English, stylish, beards, big glasses, collages and leaning-against-the-wall silvered branches vs mid-forties, tough, neon, clinging-to-his-Becks!
So you’re saying, although the face of Berlin looks different, some elements have remained... oder?
Sure. For someone like me who has been here long term, the changes, although they seem massive, are actually not so big. First, because artistically I still do the same things I did over the years, and second, I also appreciate the phenomenon of continuity. Whether now it is boutiques or dilapidated houses around me, I don’t really care. Previously I would’ve gotten annoyed about my smelly coal stove; today, it is large cars and overcrowded LPG nuclear family shopping carts, but still only sometimes.