What is the point of art galleries

Galleries in Corona times : Look through the window

A side effect of the annoying corona pandemic is that - in addition to all the everyday difficulties - it opens up new perspectives. That it appears in a whole new light, if not let it shine, what used to be taken for granted. For example, the crush of the art jet set at Art Basel or in the galleries on the occasion of the Berlin Gallery Weekend. It was more the rule than the exception that other people blocked your view of the works of art. Oh, in the midst of this hustle and bustle, one had even asked oneself whether one might suffer from a - very mild - form of agoraphobia.

And now? Such gatherings of people are called "superspreading events" in new German and they no longer exist anywhere - except in the Austrian ski areas. And suddenly you wouldn't have anything against being impaired in your enjoyment of art by such a jostler, babbler or impostor. Because even an impaired pleasure is still a pleasure somewhere. Or at least an experience. Because that is also one of the lessons of the pandemic: The more touching desperate gallery owners try to make the miserably dusty exhibitions in their orphaned gallery rooms accessible online - the more it becomes clear that analogue works of art cannot be experienced digitally any more than one can Replace a concert visit with a stream. It's about the live moment on site, about physical closeness, so much ... about the absorption of stimuli by mechanoreceptors. Touching is of course forbidden - and of course you do, just a little more inconspicuously than the children, who intuitively know what is important. Even with art.

Long inconspicuous, now unmistakable

Back to the new perspectives: the gallery owner Max Hetzler can hardly be overlooked. He is someone you cannot avoid - he has five gallery locations in two global cities: Berlin and Paris. Of the five locations, however, there is one that has been regularly overlooked, even by oneself: the "Window Gallery" in Charlottenburger Goethestrasse - not to be confused with the other gallery location at the same address - you have to admit it here , always taken for a joke. Owing to the need to disguise what used to be an entrance. And why not with a work of art, as a gallery owner you always have enough of that. In short, you could see it out of the corner of your eye, mentally even at the large exhibition behind it, access via the inner courtyard.

Then Corona came, and you could still drive to the office in a fully occupied bus or to your favorite bookstore - but no longer enter a museum or gallery. And so, as an art lover, you suddenly had a lot of time to think, and all kinds of things came to mind. Soon Max Hetzler and his "Window Gallery" too. Should the opening - with a certain delay - now turn out to be an ingenious move, even visionary? Should Hetzler now possibly have Berlin's only gallery space completely untouched by the hard corona lockdown? What a coup! Lets go!

No more quotation marks

Okay, the sculpture cannot be touched without permission, the window pane that gives the gallery its name protects it from this. But that's not the point. The point is: You can experience this work of art exactly as it is intended. Just as you could experience it without Corona. The only difference is that you would then walk past the "Window Gallery" as carelessly as in the past. No, sorry: at the Window Gallery. No more quotation marks. Now that the Window Gallery - under the conditions of the pandemic and entirely without undermining the measures that are certainly necessary to contain it - is showing an art show that must be taken seriously. And for the reasons mentioned, it is almost, but only almost more important that and how it shows than what it shows.

What it shows: At first glance, a considerable, 139 centimeter large, misshapen lump of brass. But because of: misshapen. The lump is of course a sculpture, by Hans Josephsohn. The Swiss sculptor, who was born in 1920 and died nine years ago, had his own museum (La Congiunta, interesting note on the website: “please collect the key at Osteria Bar Giornico”) in the Ticino town of Giornico. The Josephsohn boiler house in St. Gallen was added later.

Even more shop window galleries

There are at least five Picasso museums worldwide, but so far not one for Gerhard Richter - just for classification. The artist Thomas Houseago thinks he is reminiscent of comets and asteroids in the exhibition text in the gallery of Josephsohn's sculptures. Yes, Josephsohn is for him conclusive proof that sculpture came to earth from space. Max Hetzler has recently been managing Josephsohn's estate and is planning an even bigger show by the artist this year. He certainly set the bar very high himself - with the current art show of a single sculpture, which is absolutely worth seeing, but which is said to cost 270,000 Swiss francs.

There are, however, other galleries with shop windows in Berlin. There are two kinds of galleries here. On the one hand, those on the first floor, which are not recognizable as such on the outside or only on the doorbell plate, react to the inexorable rise in prices for Berlin's commercial space. On the other hand, some of them may also express their exclusivity and that they do not value walk-in customers, let alone curious people who only look in the window but definitely don't want to buy anything. And there are the galleries whose almost entire exhibitions can be seen through the shop window. Only that entering is definitely intended as a possibility (unlike the Window Gallery). For example at Société in Wielandstrasse, where the American artist Bunny Rogers is showing her exhibition “MS Agony” until the end of January - in rooms that can be almost completely captured through the shop window. Or at Guido W. Baudach (Pohlstrasse 67), whose gallery, which can also be seen from the outside, can still be seen today by Thomas Helbig's painting. Finally with Thomas Schulte, who in the Tuteur House on Leipziger Strasse at the corner of Charlottenstrasse has the most splendid display of all Berlin galleries with the corner shop window planned by Hermann Muthesius to be two stories high.

Or at… Max Hetzler, who is showing new pictures of the Briton Glenn Brown at both of his locations on Bleibtreustraße. His paintings, drawings and sculptures, which are often transformed by old masters in a complex process, can only be admired through the shop window in the rooms that were opened last May, while the gallery opposite as a secluded bel étage gallery can only be visited by prior arrangement. Sure, with four locations in one city, you can practice the well-known gallery concepts - and even invent a new one.

So this is how it looks, the art trade in times of Corona: Window shopping in the Window Gallery.

Max Hetzler Gallery, Goethestr. 2/3; daily until mid-February; Bleibtreustr. 15/16; daily until January 23; Bleibtreustr. 45; until 23 January by arrangement

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