Javier Peres Brings Hollywood to Berlin

Javier Peres is the proprietor of Peres Projects, manning a pair of galleries in the city of Berlin—a place the Cuban native now calls home. Is it the gallery he has opened in his dream location, the quality and diversity of the local art scene, or the fact that he’s fallen in love with a German that keeps Peres rooted in the city? We had to ask, and Peres was happy to oblige. He even shared behind-the-scenes installation shots of his newest exhibition of Alex Israel’s work, which opens this week in Berlin.

Artsy: What brought you to Berlin in the first place? What keeps you there?

Javier Peres: I initially came to Berlin to do studio visits. A curator friend from Copenhagen thought that I would be excited by the art scene in Berlin; this was circa 2002 or 2003. From that first trip I met several really interesting artists, and one in particular, Kirstine Roepstorff, really stood out. I returned to Berlin to see Kirstine and during that trip it became obvious that Berlin was where I wanted to be and I set out to establish a gallery here.  

I love to be in Berlin and while I of course have a huge respect and love for Los Angeles as well, Berlin really has become home. The new gallery at Karl-Marx-Allee 82 is a dream come true, I wanted to have a gallery on this important and historic avenue from the first time I laid eyes on it. On a practical level, Berlin is one of the major cities for contemporary art in the world, artists want to show here, and many want to live here. Also, I am in love with a German, so Berlin is home.

Artsy: You recently moved your gallery from the centrally located, historic section of Mitte to Karl-Marx-Allee. Why? Can you describe this new area?  

JP: KMA was where I wanted to be since I first came to Berlin, (for one I can actually pronounce the street name). But more importantly the spaces on these historic avenues are ideal for contemporary art, and the location so close to Alexanderplatz makes it one of the most convenient locations in the city. Also, I think the reality for me is that I really enjoy the challenge of using new spaces and after two plus years in a more intimate setting in Mitte, the challenge of a beautiful, large space with so many windows and walls was just irresistible.

Artsy: What’s exciting in the Berlin art scene right now?

JP: For me, the most interesting part of the art scene in Berlin is what is happening in the galleries and the off spaces. We have so many great galleries and off spaces doing an amazing job that even though we don't have much in the way of contemporary art museums, especially in comparison to other major German cities, the amount of quality art you can see here is astonishing!  

Artsy: With artists from Brazil, Los Angeles, the U.K., Italy and Denmark on your roster, your program reflects the internationalism of the city. Is there anything still characteristically “Berlin” about the art world there? How has this affected your program?

JP: Being a foreigner in Berlin, and not speaking German, I don’t know that I am the best person to ask about what is "characteristically Berlin".  The Berlin I know is international, and very diverse not just in terms of where people come from, but also in terms of their aesthetic background and interest.  Berlin has become a center for a wide array of artists who make the German capital their home. It’s an easy place to live and work, and many of us find the quality of life here to be just the perfect [match] for what we want to accomplish.  

The other really major development in Berlin is how international it has become. It’s not London or NYC, it’s Berlin; it has its own flavor and style, it’s not a copycat city.

Artsy: Can you tell us what you'll be showing for Gallery Weekend Berlin?

JP: We are presenting our second solo show by Alex Israel. I did Alex’s first solo show in September 2011, soon after he received his Masters from the University of Southern California, and in the 1.5 years since he has continued to expand his visual vocabulary to include a variety of works that somehow reference and are about Southern California. This time, Alex is presenting for the first time a new body of work he calls “Self-portraits”.

Alex derived his 20 self-portraits from the logo of his talk show project As it LAys. The original inspiration for the graphics comes from Alfred Hitchcock’s movies, and the moment when the director turns into a line drawing of himself in profile. Creating the mock-ups in his studio, Alex then turns his graphic logo into a sign which the artisans at Warner Brothers produce in fiberglass and paint in a variety of color combinations, reflecting different aspects of L.A. culture but also with art historical references.

Los Angeles is a central subject of Alex’s work. He makes several references to the entertainment culture that is what allows L.A. to exist and function the way it does. Using the Hollywood system to produce his works, he is once again referring to the strong legacy of the entertainment industry in the city.

For me, these new works have an additional element of Southern California culture; they remind me of surfboards. Alex uses the base materials used for surfboards, and paints them in a way that also references the wild colors of the boards. They are a really interesting addition to his oeuvre and really cool works.  

On view at Peres Projects, Karl-Marx-Allee 82, Berlin from April 26th through June 15th, 2012.