The Gallerists Of Gallery Weekend: Interview with Johann König

Katharina Grosse, o.T., 2015, Acryl auf Leinwand / acrylic on canvas, 394 x 422 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Johann Ko?nig, Berlin © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn Photo: Olaf Bergmann
Katharina Grosse, o.T., 2015, Acryl auf Leinwand / acrylic on canvas, 394 x 422 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Johann Konig, Berlin © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn Photo: Olaf Bergmann


This Gallery Weekend, let Sleek  be your guide. In collaboration with 38Hours, we are excited to release our Gallery Weekend Berlin Guide, available for download through the App Store. In addition to restaurant recommendations and a responsive map of Berlin’s premiere galleries, the app also features exclusive interviews with Berlin-based artists and gallerists. First up: Johann König discusses his gallery’s recent move to St. Agnes.

Designed by Werner Düttmann, this brutalist behemoth now plays home to Johann König’s gallery. The former church has recently been converted by Arno Brandlhuber into an 800-square-metre exhibition space and will show both Katharina Grosse and Jeppe Hein during Berlin Gallery Weekend.

As a monument of the brutalist era, St. Agnes is a historic building with its own personal history. What was the decision process behind moving the gallery from its current location on Dessauerstrasse?

It was love at first sight. When I first visited the church, it was still in use–it got me. In addition, Arno Brandlhuber’s vision of dividing the space in two was already articulated!

The gallery acquired St. Agnes in 2013. Since then, how have the preparations for grand opening been?

We spent the most time negotiating the permits to change St. Agnes from a landmark–and protected community centre–to a cultural centre.

St. Agnes. Photo by Philipp Langenheim. Courtesy the photographer and Freunde von Freunden
St. Agnes. Photo by Philipp Langenheim. Courtesy the photographer and Freunde von Freunden

Katharina Grosse has been paired with Jeppe Hein to inaugurate the space. Visually and theoretically, the artists work in very different ways. How did you decide who to show? 

Katharina will have the major space, the nave and the area upstairs. Meanwhile Jeppe will show a piece in the former side chapel downstairs. You can only understand both of their works when you physically experience them. 

What challenges did your team face in reinventing St. Agnes as a contemporary art gallery?

 Any possible challenge you can imagine: it was very complicated to establish a fully-functioning gallery and storage facility, while also protecting the Sixties-style architecture.

Katharina Grosse, o.T., 2014, Acryl auf Leinwand / acrylic on canvas, 392 x 800 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Johann Ko?nig, Berlin © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn Photo: Olaf Bergmann
Katharina Grosse, o.T., 2014, Acryl auf Leinwand / acrylic on canvas, 392 x 800 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Johann Konig, Berlin © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. Photo: Olaf Bergmann

On the topic of Gallery Weekend, which are your must-see shows, and which parties can’t be missed?

After St. Agnes, a must is our group show “MATERIAL” in the Dessauerstrasse space. It’s a selection of works which are all material-driven. From Isa Genzken’s concrete windows to Alicja Kwade’s marble blocks, everything is included: steel, brass, gold, rubber, lead. 

As you have started to settle down in the neighbourhood, have you found any favourite spots for dinner and a drink?

My absolute favourite is the St. Agnes cafeteria, with its great lunch and Sunday breakfast.

Anything else you would like to add?

We are going to be open on Sundays as well!

“The Smoking Kid” by Katharina Grosse and “Bear The Consequences” by Jeppe Hein will both open on Friday, 1 May, from 6 PM until 9 PM at St. Agnes. 

More: Gallery Weekend, as it happens

More: read our studio visit with Katharina Grosse

 

NEXT ARTICLE
Ian Cheng: Emissary in the Squat of Gods