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#MeToo meets the Berlin art world: Johann König accused of sexual misconduct

High-profile Berlin gallerist Johann König has been accused of sexual misconduct by 10 women. We outline the latest developments.

Johann König at the recording of the NDR Talk Show in Hamburg, June 2022. Photo: IMAGO / H.Hartmann / Future Image

One of Berlin’s top gallerists has been accused of sexual misconduct by 10 different women. Johann König, the owner of several eponymous galleries around the world including König Galerie in Kreuzberg, is accused of sexually inappropriate behaviour dating back as far as 2017.

The accusations, first made in Die Zeit, centre around reports of improper touching, forcible kissing, unsolicited sexual comments and inappropriate restraint towards female employees of other galleries and artists. One woman said König tried to drag her into a toilet, another claimed he held her so tightly at an art party that she couldn’t move for 10 seconds. The woman told Die Zeit “he abused his position because he knew I couldn’t have made a scene on such an important night,” adding that she felt too intimidated to report such a powerful figure on whom she was professionally dependent.

The combination of party or nightclub atmosphere, crowded rooms, alcohol, darkness… may have led to women or even men feeling harassed.

Of the 10 women who came forward, two have now been named. Sarah M. is an architect, while Alexandra Goullier works as a curator in Paris. Both of these alleged victims say they now feel free enough from the threat of any potential retaliation to go public, which may not be the case for other accusers – who may still work in the Berlin art world or face other types of backlash. 

König has denied all accusations made against him. “The Zeit report is false and misleading.” he said in a statement. “Certainly the incidents did not occur as described….I will take action against this defamation.”

He added that he could imagine that his “dissolute and impulsive way of partying, dancing, and talking, the combination of party or nightclub atmosphere, crowded rooms, alcohol, darkness… may have led to women or even men feeling harassed by me,” but that: “At no time did I cross that line.”

It’s reported that although Die Zeit journalists spoke to König for ​​90 minutes at his Berlin gallery while researching their article, his lawyer later barred any quotes gained at that meeting from being used when it was published.

Johann König is the son of famous curator Kasper König, and nephew of the art book publisher Walther König. One of Germany’s most successful and well-connected gallerists, in 2002 he leased the brutalist church of St. Agnes in Kreuzberg from the Archbishop of Berlin and established his gallery there. König Galerie represents big-name artists such as Alicja Kwade, Katharina Grosse, Jeppe Hein, Helen Marten, Monica Bonvicini and Tatiana Trouvé.

König Galerie in the former church of St Agnes, Alexandrinenstraße. Photo. IMAGO / Jürgen Ritter