vonFridey Mickel 11.05.2017

Context is Half the Work

Seeing comes before words, and culture can be defined at any given moment.

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Kristian Jarmuschek has made a name for himself for making both great Art Fairs and again and again discovering new art. His latest Art Fair installation, Paper Positions, opened it’s temporary doors for a second time at Bikini Berlin at the end of last month. The fair should be championed for many greats: great location , great size, and definitely great art. The name Paper Positions states the obvious, but there’s a lot of very unexpected paper-influenced art to be found. I spoke to him about his idea, his drive and some of the highlights of the fair….

Angela-Glajcar, Terforation, 2014, copyright Angela Glajcar, courtesy of Galerie Nanna Preußners


Kristian Jarmuschek: Last year at the same time, the Bikini Berlin initially invited us to launch an exhibition. It was such a successful event that we wanted to do it again- only more international, more global, with younger artists and also those who should be rediscovered. And this is why we are now doing this bigger edition of the Paper Positions here.


Yeah, but this year it’s crazy with how there’s so much going on in Germany at this very moment—it’s sort of Gallery Weekend here in Berlin, the Art Cologne started and then the Rundgang in Leipzig; and running along with it is this Paper Positions art fair here… I think it’s really cool that everyone is doing what they want to do and not organizing it by city, but it is sort of a challenge, too, to compete with all of this.

The Art Cologne had to rescedule it’s date because of Easter holidays, this year, which is why the fair happens to take place parallel to the Berlin Gallery Weekend. First we didn’t know, if the people would visit both Cologne and Berlin, but at this point and as organisers of Paper Positions, we are very happy with the number of visitors this year!


Inka Bttner, Frühling, 2007, collage, 32 x 22cm, copyright Inka Bttner, courtesy of Holthoff Mokross Galerie


I think it’s interesting how Art Fairs seem on the surface– maybe people like to imagine them being this template that’s uniform and totally, like ‘corporate, but that’s hardly ever the case, at least with the good ones. What I like about your Art Fairs and the projects you do is this sort of this layer that goes on in the background—there are a lot of familiar elements going on. I’ve been here for fifteen years now, so looking at this Paper Positions Art Fair, I see this undertone of sort of the Berlin Art Legacy: Dr. Julius AP, Kunstsammlung Poll… What I’m trying to say is that when you know a little bit about art, you can clearly see that you’re not simply selling stands to people who have the money; you are really thinking about who you show and the stories they bring with them. It’s about interesting positions.

Yes. It’s nice that you’re able to see it this way.

For us, it’s not a question of the ‘name’ of the gallery, we rather take a look at the artists, the quality of the art works and how the gallery works. Of course: it’s important, that the galleries sell at our fairs, but we also like to present unexpected artistic positions that affect the audience and give new impulses. And the work of galleries is very important for this.


Visitors at Paper Positions 2016, copyright Bikini Berlin.


I totally agree with that. I don’t understand why people don’t go a bit deeper into them. Just looking at the Art Fairs that go on in Berlin every year alone, it’s so interested! They all have their own genre, you know? People don’t see that they are all totally different entities. And sometimes these entities change. I mean, I remember being at the very first Preview you did, and back then there was this boom in the Brunnenstrasse with all the young galleries and a lot of them were showing at Preview. So back then, it was clear where the young feeling came from. I think this is a really great feeling that you keep in your Art Fairs.

In my feeling, it’s always an ‘offer’—everybody should stay open to look at art in his own way. It’s not a question of hearing about art, it’s a question of looking at it. It doesn’t matter to me what other people are saying about art —if it’s ‘cool’ or ‘uncool’ or whatever. I mean all these ‘cool things about cool artists’—it bores me. That’s why we wanted to create this offer – for the artists and for their galleries.


Michael Merkel, o.T., photo by Florian Wehking, copyright Michael Merkel, courtesy of Jarmuschek + Partner


I feel like when selling is all that’s talked about—as well as this focus on what’s hip now, you realize that the positions of art you are showing would be missing if they weren’t there.

That’s true.. Berlin is big enough to have many different projects and it’s especially known as the place of the production of art. There are more studios and artists than (commercial) galleries and collectors. In Berlin, from the1990s to around 2000, it was enough for people of the art scene to just visit each other and to see the artworks. (Smiles) Now we are older and Berlin is becoming more expensive – we now need to see that the money comes back.


Werner Berges, Komisch, 1971, copyright Werner Berges, courtesy of DavisKlemmGallery


But it’s definitely still somehow a passion thing—you doing these Art Fairs for so long. How is it doing this project at Bikini Berlin? I mean, you will get the usual art visitors, but I think there’ll definitely be a slightly different flow of people coming through here.

I guess it’ll be the same people who visit us here. This show might not take place in Potsdamer Straße or Auguststraße, but it’s great to do it at Bikini Berlin because it’s well known and well located next to spaces like C/O Berlin, the Museum of Photography and many others. People do walk around here anyway…


Bikini Berlin with a view of the Gedñchtniskirche, copyright Bikini Berlin


It’s such a cool space, too. You feel so cool when you come inside this building. (Smiles)

In the late 70s and early 80s, there was the ‘Staatliche Kunsthalle’ (State Art Gallery) in here. The Bikini Haus actually was also an exhibition space for a long time. There’s this black line around the building with ‘Fashion’ and ‘Design’written on it… the last word written there is ‘Art’. The building is about bringing many different things together.


Patrick-Angus, Self-Portrait, aquarell on paper, 25 x 204cm, copyright Douglas Blair Turnbaugh, courtesy of Galerie Fuchs


So how did you select the galleries and the works you are showing at Positions? I mean, some are really staple positions from Preview, but how did you pick the other ones?

We, Heinrich Carstens, me and our whole team wanted to give an overview on the gallery scene exploring the question: „How and in which way are artists working on paper?“ It’s art on paper, it’s with paper -everything about paper. We examined the artists of the applying galleries on their approach of working with the medium of paper, but also how they interfere with the works of other galleries artists. That’s how we created a versatile profile of works within the entirety of the art fair. Some galleries applied and we looked at their program and suggested: What about this artist—could we show some works from him? We examined how this artist maybe contrasts an artist from another gallery. So, we curated this show, using works from the participating galleries.


Hartmut Bähm, o.t, copyright Hartmut Bähm, courtesy of Dr. Julius Boehm


These two themes are really great leitmotivs. Do you have a personal leitmotiv going through the Art Fair? I mean, you are the ‘director’ or whatever, but as you say you curated it….

Well, first I have to say, that especially Heinrich Carstens did a great job in choosing the artists for PAPER POSITIONS and also in motivating the galleries to work with this concept. For instance, we are happy to present the Galerie Fuchs showing Patrick Angus. And did you see the pictures from Hedda Sterne? Hedda Sterne was one of the few female artists of the Abstract Expressionist time during the 1950s in New York together with Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning—there are photos of them together. She was born in Romania, she was Jewish and had to leave Romania around 1941 by ship. Some years ago, there was a foundation that found her early artworks—the works she had done before leaving Romania. The Nasui Collection selected some of the early works of Hedda Sterne from their collection to show here. They show a major development point in her career. You see that she’s starting around 1920 with drawings of the reality, then you start to see the influence in her drawing from Salvador Dali and Max Ernst, Picasso and the others of the time. And she’s getting into these initial ideas of the gestures of drawing surrealistic things. We are very happy and proud that we can show this. She was someone who was very well percieved in her time, which was unusual for a woman and we like that we can show something of, which lead up to this.


Visitor at the Paper-Positions 2016, copyright Bikini Berlin


These drawings from her here are quite mad. I’ve never really seen anything quite like that, and they’re so small!

I saw this show from Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch with their art collection. They collected surrealistic painters and those of Abstract Expressionism – trends which can be also found in Hedda Sternes artworks.


Herbert Kaufmann, Bildsaeule, 1963, collage + mixed media on wood, 175 x 60cm, copyright Herbert Kaufmann, courtesy of Galerie Poll


Anything else you want to show me?

Dr. Julius AP always shows great things and this artist, Ray Malone, I really like his idea of transferring ideas of music composition into these kind of ‘three dimensional’ drawings. If you look closely from the side, you can see how the lines vary in it’s height. It’s surprising. (Smiles)


The Art Fair closes 13. May 2017.


Paper Postions Art Fair

(28/04 – 13/05/17)

Bikini Berlin / Budapester Strasse 38 – 50, 1. OG / 10787 Berlin / Mo – Sa 10 – 20h

Images courtesy of Paper Postions Art Fair, all rights reserved.


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