Johann König Showcases Berlin’s Brightest Artists at RBMA

Ahead of the Red Bull Music Academy in September, we sat down with legendary gallerist Johann König to find out more about what you can expect.

Devoted to realising a democratic vision of the creative industries, the Red Bull Music Academy breaks down barriers separating different media and demarcating the limits of ‘high’ and ‘popular’ culture. The result is an immersive experience focussed on sparking creative exchange. Organised under the maxim ‘create, collaborate, celebrate’, the academy’s twentieth anniversary edition will see Berlin’s historic Funkhaus converted into a creative melting pot bringing together the city’s leading artists and designers.

As well as bespoke furniture from Berlin designers New Tendency, the former GDR state radio headquarters will serve as home to five weeks of concerts, club nights and public lectures, alongside an exhibition of Berlin’s most promising emerging artists. The exhibiting artists have been carefully selected by the founder of König Galerie, Johann König, a curator who has been at the forefront of the Berlin art scene for over fifteen years. Ahead of the five-week event in September, we sat down with the legendary gallerist to learn more about what you can expect.

As part of this edition of the Red Bull Music Academy, you will be installing an exhibition of work by emerging and establishing German artists. What were your criteria for selecting the participating artists?

The exhibition consists of two parts — younger emerging artists who are all living and working in Berlin, and the second part, taking place in the lecture hall, presents artists from different career levels. It’s manly sculpture, and the selection is driven by this choice of surreality and it’s got more the vibe of Alice in Wonderland.

One of the stated aims of the Johann König gallery is to bring contemporary art to new audiences. Is this aim similarly reflected within your participation with the Red Bull academy? How so?

Yes, absolutely. We believe that art has to function in all disciplines. We work in the fields of fashion, music, dance, theatre and literature to encourage more people to look at art and get in touch with it to then build their own opinion about it.

This edition of Red Bull Music Academy is taking place in the Funkhaus. How has this choice of venue impacted your curatorial approach?

The lecture hall is a very impressive building which is completely wood-surfaced on the walls with New Tendency’s interior design matching the whole vibe of the space. We add a collection of absurdity to that and special objects; you’re going to find a mobile or parts of a sinking ship or a cactus made out of wood. So it’s like a cabinet of curiosities which definitely picks up on the existing space and then the other rooms which will be devoted to five or six different artists spaces in Berlin, they are all going to react to the circumstances of the space.

The Red Bull Music Academy prides itself on its variety and your art curation will be combined with music, public talks and works. How will this impact the viewing experience?

I think that it won’t solely be a ‘viewing experience’. I think that the whole concept is to live through the entire project mainly for participants, so it’s not like the classical approach you have with a museum visit or a gallery show where you go there, see the work and create this relationship with it. Here, I think it’s more of a living by or viewing by of everything. So, it will be an entire experience rather than an exclusive view of an art work because it’s a complete environment. It’s not only the spectator and the art work, it’s everything around it; the furniture, and the whole experience of the Funkhaus, which some of us Berliners know, but not everybody globally.

More generally, would you say that exhibitions and cultural events are moving more towards that experimental format and, if so, how are curators and galleries responding to the challenge of making exhibitions more interactive and experience driven?

I think that this project which we are doing here in collaboration with the Red Bull Music Academy and all the other participants, like New Tendency, is a specific project of its own. It can’t really be compared to an exhibition in a museum or in a gallery. It’s more of a teaser to get encouraged to interact with art, in general, and this academy is a platform for musicians to exchange knowledge and experience and impulses. But of course it’s not replacing the own studio practice.

The Red Bull Music Academy‘s 20th Anniversary Edition runs from September 8th to October 12th at the Funkhaus

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