AMÂ recently had a chance to sit down with Johann Haehling von Lanzenauer, Co-Director of the Circleculture Gallery in Berlin for a little talk about the history of the gallery and Johannâ€™s insight into the art world. Circleculture have been a long time supporter of the international underground art world and their current show SELF-PORTRAITS (covered) is not to be missed.
Check out all the questions and answers after the jump.
Arrested Motion (AM): How did you get into the business side of contemporary art?
Johann: In 2001 my business partner Dirk Staudinger and I started to show friends from all over the world at our space in Berlin Mitte where we are still based. For the first 6 years it was a noncommercial project space for all kinds of creatives and artists from the urban subcultures. We showed artists like JR, Shepard Fairey, Espo, Geoff Mc Fetridge, The Beautiful Losers and Sister Corita with Aaron Rose, to name a few international players. From Berlin we showed Jaybo (aka Monk), Anton Unai, xoooox, Marok from Lodown and many more. We were never a commercial gallery until we realized that the work was selling. I was working with my own agency as creative director for Nike, MTV, Art Museums, Uniqlo and other clients, but over the years as the art market developed, I decided to make my living as an art dealer. I love being an art dealer and curator.
AM: Lots of people think it’s really easy to open an art gallery, many try, but very few can actually make it work, what’s your secret?
Johann: Perseverance, very hard work, strong belief in the artists you work with, engaged and creative communication and promotion activities, but the 1st place secret: lots of love and passion.
AM: How do you feel being based in Berlin is different from being based in the UK or the USA?
Johann: The Berlin scene is like a teenager in regards to urban art and street art.Â We’re an outsider and our artists live and act like they are in a bubble, without too much influence from the “established” scene in the UK and US. Berlin artists develop their very own approaches and artistic identity. Berlin as a space of low pressure and freedom creates that anarchic atmosphere where anything can happen. Actually most artists here don’t give so much about the hype. But I’m happy that it feels a bit like we are in a global underground scene when artists and galleries from all over the world exchange with us. It’s a bit like the skateboard and punk rock scene back in the 80â€™s. Back then, when you met somebody on the other side of the world with a skateboard or a Black Flag shirt, you knew: he is your friend. I’m happy to find this again. I hope the money won’t kill this too much.
AM: Where do you generally discover new artists? What influences your taste and curatorial direction?
Johann: From the beginning in 2001, we often gave the first European art shows to great talents like Charlie Isoe, Jaybo, JR, Espo, Daniel Tagno, Obey, XOOOOX, to name a few. Many of them have succeeded today to international careers on a serious level. I was always specially watching the Berlin scene and continually had the luck to work with all the guys I liked there. Today,Â the Berlin artists are alsoÂ starting to make their way outÂ to galleries and museums of the world, which I’m really happy about. To work closely with curators like Adrian Nabi, Aaron Rose and Christian Strike was also a great inspiration for me.
AM: How do you feel technology, especially digital cameras, the internet, web forums and blogs have influenced the art market?
Johann: For business it’s fantastic, with the right software you can handle your business with just a small team. Also, forÂ curating international art shows and to discover artists at first glance, it’s a great tool. But real life, relationships, real time meetings and atelier views will never ever be replaced by the digital world. Trust and quality can only rely on the eyes of a person.
AM: How do you feel about the secondary market? How has it changed and how has your relationship with it changed since you first started selling?
Johann: I think it’s a regular part of the market. I hope the artists will have more influence on it in the future. I know new laws are being prepared that should help that. It just should happen in respect to the work of galleries and artists, that’s what we try to do when we deal secondary by giving courtesy props and not pushing the prices too high.
AM: What artists do you personally collect?
Johann: Dash Snow, Ed Templeton, Faile, JR, Swoon, Jaybo, Anton Unai, XOOOOX, Geoff McFetridge, Charlie Isoe, Daniel Tagno, Oskar, Raymond Pettibon, Chris Johanson.
AM: What advice would you give collectors who are just getting started collecting?
Johann: Love art.
AM: If someone gave you money to spend on art, how would you and why?
Johann: Money has always been a tool to create culture projects. It has never been a motivation for us. Art shows would be the main purpose. The more budget I get to create shows, the more I would try to make them mind and eye blowing.
AM: What’s one thing very few people know about you that you don’t mind sharing with everyone?
Johann: I’ m a nerdy kid from the black forest in south of Germany, and I always will be.
AM: What’s one question you always want to be asked but no one ever does?
Johann: Would you like to come hang out in my castle in the South of France together with my buddies Francis Bacon, Caravaggio, Klaus Kinski, Ingres and PenelopÃ© Cruz?