In Profile: Johann König

The Berlin dealer discusses plans for his new London space, König Archive & Souvenir

johann-by-lukas-gansterer.jpg

Johann König. Photograph: Lukas Gansterer

Johann König. Photograph: Lukas Gansterer

Founded by Johann König in 2002, König Galerie has established itself as a formidable force in Berlin. The gallery has two outposts, one near the historical city centre of Potsdamer Platz and the other in St. Agnes, formerly a brutalist church in Kreuzberg. As well as a roster including internationally recognized artists varying in age and nationality – such as Katharina Grosse, Elmgreen & Dragset, Helen Marten, Julian Rosenfeldt and Camille Henrot – König also hosts events such as ‘Yoga in St. Agnes’, a free, monthly yoga class that takes place amongst the mounted artworks, and has a small fashion label, König Souvenir, that released a ‘Eunify’ sweatshirt and a Norbert Bisky-designed beach towel.

The latest endeavour from the Berlin dealer is the launch of a London space, König Archive & Souvenir, which will be located in a former 3,750 square-foot car park in Marylebone. Straying from the traditional format, König Archive & Souvenir is intended to function as a showroom as well as a cultural hub, offering books, clothing, performances, readings and other events. In addition to the new permanent space, König has also teamed up with The Vinyl Factory to present Jeremy Shaw’s video Liminals (2017, commissioned for this year’s Venice Biennale) and will launch a biannual magazine, König Magazine, during Frieze Week. I met the gallerist in Berlin to discuss his multi-layered expansion.

Emily McDermott  How long have you been planning König Archive & Souvenir?

Johann König  Not long at all, maybe four months. It was very quick. We wanted to be in London’s West end and looked at several [location] options. The car park came up as the best opportunity. It’s between Regent’s Park and Mayfair, but it’s still unclear exactly how it will work and function.

EM  Can you tell me about the collaboration with The Vinyl Factory?

JK  The Vinyl Factory is run by a friend of mine. We were talking once and he said, ‘Why don’t you have a show here?’ and that became the project with Jeremy Shaw. The Archive and Souvenir space will be more of a viewing room, like our downstairs room [in St. Agnes]. We realized that for curators, artists, writers, collectors and museum people, it’s interesting to just pop-in even if they don’t particularly like the artist exhibiting [upstairs in the main space]. It’s great to see an overview; there’s so much to discover. This is what we want to mirror in London, but in a more democratic way, with books, souvenirs, limited-editions, and the like. It will also be entirely public.

ks_003_bisky.jpg

KÖNIG SOUVENIR Beach Towel by Norbert Bisky

KÖNIG SOUVENIR Beach Towel by Norbert Bisky

EM  I’m curious as to why you chose the word ‘souvenir,’ particularly because of the kitschy association it has …

JK  I didn’t want to do cheap art. I didn’t want to do prints with low prices and high numbers. So all of the products are unlimited because so many young people come here. On a Sunday, we have up to 1,000 visitors and they all want to participate somehow in this world, but they can’t afford a low-priced artwork. We wanted to include them and that’s why we came up with this brand idea. Our label is König Souvenir – we did the Brexit ‘EUnify’ hoodie, we made a towel. It was hard to find a name for it.

EM  The way that you’re setting up this space feels very ‘Berlin’ to me, not very ‘London’.

JK  Totally. We are a Berlin gallery. We don’t want to be a London gallery. We want to have a permanent presence in London, but my goal is not to compete with the London dealers. My family is in Berlin, my kids live here; I choose Berlin as a place to be, but I thought, ‘We profit a lot from outside visits and Berlin is still on the periphery.’ Even though we have our major shows here, it will be good to have a London shop where we can receive clients and artists, and have an active business card, mixed with all the fairs we do. It’s like a permanent art fair booth, in a way. We have a lot of Russian, Asian, Arabic clients and they don’t necessarily come to Berlin, but they come to London because it’s a business hub.

a6608320.jpg

Julian Rosefeldt, Deep Gold, 2013/2017, black and white photograph, LightJet print. Courtesy: the artist and König Galerie, Berlin / London 

Julian Rosefeldt, Deep Gold, 2013/2017, black and white photograph, LightJet print. Courtesy: the artist and König Galerie, Berlin / London 



EM  So why London opposed to New York, which is also a business centre?

JK  In New York the political climate is even worse than Brexit. It’s also a different time zone and far away. To go from London to Berlin is easy. It’s practical.

EM  What kind of programming do you plan to have?

JK  A wide range. We’re going to do book launches, small presentations, anything that works in the space. We planned a show of Kiki Kogelnik prints and something with Claudia Comte – we also want to do some relevant furniture elements – but it’s not clear yet. It won’t be a traditional gallery programme; the art will rotate constantly. Once you announce that you want to do something like this, people often approach you with ideas, too.

417893908c1e44cc.jpg

König Archive & Souvenir, Marylebone, London

König Archive & Souvenir, Marylebone, London

When I grew up, a gallery was a meeting point for artists, musicians, writers, critics, everyone. Since then, that’s gotten a little lost, so we’re trying to reactive it. The space in Berlin is not limited to art either. We do fashion, music, everything. We had the cultural meeting of the Green Party here two years ago, and I was also contacted by AfD [Germany’s far-right party] this year. A neighbour called and said, ‘I heard you do events at your building. Is the 15th of May free?’ I looked and said, ‘In theory, yes, what is it about?’ It took him a while and eventually he said, ‘We’d like to do our annual [AfD] convention there. We have a lot of money.’ I said, ‘No way.’ laughs I was surprised they reached out to me. Then he said, ‘Mr. König I’m very disappointed. I thought you were a democrat and you accept free speech.’ I said, ‘I’m totally up for free speech but not in my gallery.’

König Archive & Souvenir is located at 259-269 Old Marylebone Road, London. A private view of the gallery opens Thursday 5 October at 6-9pm. Jeremy Shaw’s film Liminals (2017), presented by König Galerie and the Vinyl Factory, is on view at The Store Studios, 180 the Strand, 5 October – 10 December 2017.

Main image: Jeremy Shaw, Liminal (detail), 2017, film still. Courtesy: König Galerie, Berlin 

Emily McDermott is a Berlin-based freelance writer and editor. She is currently completing a Fulbright for Young Professional Journalists. 

Most Read

A year marked by new visualizations, both controversial and celebrated, of the black body
The Courtauld Gallery, London, UK
Openings at the new ICA, The Bass and PAMM played out against a backdrop of geographic uncanniness and atmospheric...
With the recent razing of suburban slums, tightening censorship and the sad passing of Geng Jianyi, a year of...
Nicholas Mangan, Ancient Lights (detail), 2015, two-screen installation, solar panels, batteries, projectors powered by solar energy, dimensions variable. Courtesy: the artist, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne, Hopkinson Mossman, Auckland and Labor, Mexico
At once stagnant and dynamic, politically tense and blissfully buoyant, the French capital was a strange place to be...
From victims of Hurricane Harvey to the music of Roger Waters, 2017 has been full of renewed debate around support for...
In further news: MOCA Detroit suspends Jens Hoffmann after harassment allegations; Met refuses to remove ‘suggestive’...
‘Conflicts of interest’ may have cost Beatrix Ruf her Stedelijk job but the problem doesn’t just lie with individuals...
Her work animates the consequences of our colonial history and the construction of identity politics: in a divided...
France's President Emmanuel Macron meets Burkina Faso's President Roch Marc Christian Kabore at the Presidential Palace in Burkina Faso on November 28, 2017. Courtesy: LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images
The French President’s recent comments hint at a dubious politics: using art restitution as a stopgap to France’s...
More from today’s Briefing: protesting Raghubir Singh; documenta artists defend exhibition (again); Enrico Castellani (...
Tiffany and Co., Sterling Silver Paper Cup, 2017, from the ‘Everyday Objects’ collection. Courtesy: Tiffany and Co., New York
Tiffany & Co.’s new range of gift objects and the shifting meaning of the ‘everyday’
From Hannah Black to Not Surprised, the changes demanded by today’s letter writers are still a long way from being...
Johan Grimonprez, Shadow World, 2016, film still. Courtesy: the artist, Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, Galerie Kamel Mennour, Paris, Flatland Gallery, Amsterdam, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Simi Valley, Louverture Films, Dillywood and Shadow World inc., New York
Johan Grimonprez’s recent films explore the mechanisms of the arms trade
A pivot to glass by the sculptor shows an attempt to see hope through political disillusionment
In further news: initiative for museum staff diversity; Gwangju Biennale's 2018 curators; Jens Hoffmann clarifies Front...
Ahead of Manifesta’s opening in Palermo next summer, the importance of remembering an alternative Mediterranean...
Inverting the gaze: real life biography, game play fantasy and Frantz Fanon combine in the British artist’s films
Old Food, 2017, production still. Courtesy: the artist, Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin, Cabinet Gallery, London, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York and Rome, and dépendance, Brussels
Helen Marten responds to Ed Atkins’s new work, Old Food, currently showing at Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin
Elsewhere: activists protest AfD with Holocaust Memorial replica; censorship at Kuala Lumpur Biennale; Venice Biennale'...
Twenty years after the First Cyberfeminist International at Documenta X, what does Cyberfeminism look like in...
Thinking about propaganda, palimpsests, and a presentation of Tino Sehgal works in Moscow
As London's Architectural Association celebrates 100 years of female students, rediscovering the city designed by women
Lin May Saeed, Lobster, 2017. Metal, 11 x 24 x 14.5 cm. Courtesy: the artist, Nicolas Krupp, Basel, Jacky Strenz, Frankfurt am Main and Lulu, Mexico City
Lulu, Mexico City, Mexico
For the 6th Amsterdam Art Weekend, our picks of the best shows and events across the Dutch capital
Highlights of the shows included in the third iteration of Dublin Gallery Weekend
An interview with Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory, on new ways for art institutions to work
With her current show at Studio_Leigh, London, the artist shares some important images
Recent instances of censorship show an emboldened far right attacking the arts, queer identity and more: artists,...
The staggering price reached by Salvator Mundi prompts the question: what are you really buying when you buy an artwork?
Wong Kar-wai, Happy Together, 1997, film still. Courtesy: the artist and Alamy 
From the new issue of frieze: Changes in urban cultures and queer aesthetics across the Sinosphere 
On the occasion of two UK solo exhibitions, the British artist reflects on the art and events that have shaped her...

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

October 2017

frieze magazine

November - December 2017

frieze magazine

January - February 2018