By now, Berlin’s autumn art season is firmly in full swing, having kicked off with Berlin Art Week (12-16 September 2017). To mark its launch, we visited the renowned Berlin art dealer and gallerist, Johann König, in his eponymous gallery. Every Art Week, König hosts an event to celebrate its opening — this year, the tradition took the form of a dinner, held in collaboration with Johnnie Walker.
König Galerie was founded in 2002, and is today housed in a formidable example of brutalist architecture: the former St Agnes church complex in Berlin-Kreuzberg, originally built in 1967 by Werner Düttmann. In 2013, two years after having acquired the building, König embarked on its painstaking renovation, enlisting esteemed Berlin architect Arno Brandlhuber to ensure its features remained as true to the original design as possible, whilst being fit for the purpose of housing a wide range of contemporary art — König currently represents over 30 international artists.
During our visit, we got a glimpse into a day in the life of the renowned galerist, following him around the formidable architecture of his gallery and its sculpture garden before accompanying him on his way to a couple of other Berlin Art Week openings. We visited Künstlerhaus Bethanien before viewing Monica Bonvincini’s site-specific installation “3612,54 M³ VS 0,05 M³” at Berlinische Galerie.
Approaching his profession with lightness, König offers a refreshing perspective on his industry. “We want to make people overcome their fear when saying, “But I don’t understand contemporary art. You have to know all about it,” he says. “But I believe that it’s not really necessary. I believe that you just have to let yourself get involved. And one thing does something to you, and the other does not.” His view is personal, honest and accessible — one which perfectly reflects the spirit of Berlin Art Week. Now in its sixth iteration, the event is a firm highlight of the city’s annual art calendar, dedicated to the spaces where contemporary art manifests — from established galleries and private collections to emerging project spaces and experimental events — celebrating the myriad forces that together make up Berlin’s dynamic art world, one of the powerhouses of which is undoubtedly König: always in motion, one step ahead.
And this is also the reason why Johnnie Walker is working with König during Berlin Art Week – him impersonating an essential part of a new generation of progressive minds, who change our perception of today’s cultural approaches in art and beyond.