“Will Galleries Fall by the Wayside?”A Conversation with Gallerist Christine König
Christine König, owner of the eponymous Vienna gallery, has seen the art world change. Since its opening in 1989, the gallery’s success can be attributed in large part to its owner’s intelligent, precise, and witty tone of voice. Having shown the likes of Jimmie Durham, Ai Weiwei, and Rebecca Horn, the gallery’s programming also supports emerging artists who mold the space into a timely, subjective experience. Not only are König’s artists of different races, genders, and ages, but their adventurous exhibitions are accompanied by publications, conversations, and interdisciplinary interventions. We recently spoke with König about her impressive roster of artists, the future gallery space, and breakfast.
Artsy: I suspect that when one of your artists offers to hula hoop naked in your gallery, you’re not surprised, since you can locate it on a historical and cultural trajectory. So what, if anything, takes you aback? At what point is a project impossible to realize?
Christine König: Your question refers to American body artist Skip Arnold, whose work ranges from being extremely physical to extremely passive, and who has been exploring fundamental gestures and concepts since the early ’80s. What does take me aback? The only reason to refuse a project would be lack of intelligence, depth, and artistic innovation.
Artsy: What are the best and worst things about having a well-known gallery and a list of celebrity artists such Ai Weiwei and Jimmie Durham?
CK: My advantage when I started in 1989 most probably was the acquaintanceship of artists like Rebecca Horn, Jannis Kounellis, Louise Bourgeois, and Pierre Klossowski, who showed with me from the beginning. This enabled me financially to start a program with young Austrian artists at the same time and with artists from Eastern European countries, like Adriena Simotova, Rudolf Fila, Anetta Mona Chisa and Lucia Tkáčová
When I showed Ai Weiwei and Jimmie Durham for the first time, they were far from being celebrity artists. There are neither best nor worst things in a well-managed gallery with good staff.
Artsy: Your gallery is known for its specificity to the site, its in situ work. As art morphs from canvas to video to wherever else, how do you envision the future gallery space? Is the white cube dead?
CK: I would say that the future gallery space depends on the requirements of the young artists who all are very much into technology, who all work in new genres.
“Relational Changes,” curated by Cointemporary with the artists Valentin Ruhry and Andy Boot last September, turned our whole gallery space into a social meeting point and bar, where people came every night to discuss certain topics, to play chess, and to listen to scientists’ lectures.
Reflections on the very idea of an “exhibition” space and how we view art were main issues: Will galleries fall by the wayside, as paper dollars and euros likely will, or will they just morph into something new?
Artsy: How would you advise a younger artist, a younger gallerist, a younger writer, and/or a younger collector?
CK: I would advise them to study art history very well, to visit the old masters around the world’s wonderful museums, to read as much literature (novels, poems) as possible. Besides that, no advice from seniors.
Artsy: How do you like your eggs?
CK: Soft-boiled three minutes, peeled off, in a glass together with rye bread, butter, and chives.
—Himali Singh Soin