Berlin’s Future Gallery Recounts its Past—and Pushes Forward
Last weekend, Berlin’s Future Gallery inaugurated its new location on Schöneberger Ufer with the group show “Grand New.” When gallery founder Michael Ruiz came across the abandoned subterranean apartment, badly in need of renovations, he immediately saw the potential in it. And what better site could there be, for a young gallery, than cozied up between established fixtures like Esther Schipper, Isabella Bortolozzi, Aurel Scheibler, and Barbara Wein—all situated directly across the canal from the landmark Neue Nationalgalerie designed by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe?
Cycling back eight years to the origins of his gallery career with “THE FUTURE | Gallery,” a project Ruiz ran out of his living room, it seems fitting for the young gallerist to settle once more into a converted domestic space. “When I moved to Berlin, I wasn’t seeing the type of art I was interested in that I thought was relevant to the moment,” explains Ruiz. “I wanted to show art I found online, and put it in a physical space, for no better reason than to start a dialogue around it.” Much of the work that Ruiz has shown since then has been bracketed as Post-Internet Art, however, as Ruiz is quick to point out, “A lot of these artists wouldn’t necessarily associate themselves with this term.”
Early on, artists like Constant Dullaart, Brad Troemel, Harm van den Dorpel, Rafaël Rozendaal, Ryder Ripps, Lindsay Lawson, and Billy Rennekamp participated in solo and group shows that ran out of his home and later in a small, rented storefront—but still, Ruiz had bigger aspirations for the gallery. “With the title [of the gallery], I wasn’t trying to suggest that this type of work was the art of the future. It was very geographical,” explains Ruiz. “We thought, maybe if this grows, we’ll move into a ‘future’ gallery at some point. There was always this goofy idea of moving built into the project.”
At the time, Ruiz was still an art student at the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK), where he leaned on two of his professors, artists Gregor Schneider and Anselm Reyle, for guidance. “I started to invest in traveling, going to every art fair and trying to sneak into every event I could. I just started to hustle, and do that very naively. I learned my chops in the first year or two from moving around and asking questions,” Ruiz remembers. “We shouldn’t build any illusions. The art world is extremely exclusive and very difficult to access. There are very few participants and even fewer successful ones.”
As much as hard work and perseverance can pay off, Ruiz also hit a streak of good luck; showing artists whose careers took off around the time he officially founded Future Gallery, in 2012. “I didn’t think I was going to do this. I happened into becoming a gallerist. I didn’t always want to be one. Now that I’m here, I wouldn’t want to do anything else,” he explains.
Since the gallery’s beginnings, Ruiz has worked closely with Oliver Laric and Jon Rafman, now influential artists, and in 2011, he co-curated the “Post Internet Survival Guide” with artist Katja Novitskova. All three artists contribute work to “Grand New,” which inaugurates the gallery’s new space. Also on view are works by Anne de Vries, Brenna Murphy, and Kareem Lotfy, who have previously shown at Future, Martin Kohout and Jaakko Pallavsco, who both mounted their first solo shows with Ruiz at the start of their careers, and newcomers Femke Herregraven and Emily Jones.
Gallery communities are often equated with the close-knit dynamics of families, and Future Gallery is no exception. Ruiz openly admits that there is no professed theme to “Grand New,” rather it is a gathering of artists who have influenced Future Gallery’s past, present, and future. With most of works in the show, this objective comes full circle. In de Vries’s Whole Wide World (2016), for instance, a NASA image of the earth is stretched into a circle and mounted on the wall—an earlier version of the work was the first piece Ruiz sold at his first art fair, Artgenève.
Even as writer Timo Feldhaus, in a recent article for Spike, prophesied the official end of “Post-Internet Art” with the coming of the DIS-curated Berlin Biennale, the jury is still deliberating on agreeable terms for popular aesthetics in contemporary art of the last ten years—the results of which only the future can tell.
“Grand New” is on view at Future Gallery, Berlin, Feb 20–Apr. 2, 2016.