Berlin Special Part 2: Interview with Edmund Piper (Kunstsalon)
AfN: Mr. Piper, how did you come to art?
E. Piper: Like a virgin to a child. I would say - I was always very visually orientated. I had a collection fetish already in my youth. I was an ambitious comic-collector and pictures gazer. Anyway, the things became more and more superior until I landed at the French one day, who really made nothing but works on paper - large-sized watercolours. I felt more and more in love with the originals than in duplicated booklets. Parallel I had this past. Leftist, squatted houses, projects in public spaces and so on… Than we stumbled into a project room in which art should be presented, in the beginning many comic style stuff, and we got more and more into what we here today call contemporary art. So it was like a learning process brought by the artists.
AfN: ...and personal interest.
E. Piper: Yes sure. But you get in contact with people who have a certain claim and one is learning lots of things. One gets more and more interested and so you slip into it.
AfN: So, initiated at first.
E. Piper: Yes sure initiated that's right. Yet I was working together with Andreas Engler at that time - at the time of the first KunstSalon. In this team I had the content works and he had, let us say, the acquisition, organisation and financing part. Well, and after a time we really were at odds because of content things. The idea of the KunstSalon itself was certainly coming out because of beeing publisher of Kondensat, so its name, a kind of little art brochure. It was a bit like the start up for the actual booklet Berlin /art /info and the Art Magazine Berlin and there I held the supervision for the content of the Precipitate together with Spunk Seipel. There I really met lots of people, nationwide. So I discovered a scope for development in events like, say curated fairs, or fairs with a bit different functioning compared with for example the Art Forum.
AfN: Well, for me it is always a benefaction to visit the KunstSalon after the Art Forum. One gets the impression entering a real free space for art. Free of the conventional game Art=Money. Do you think that the KunstSalon is provoking the Mainstream of art business with this attitude?
E. Piper: I am not able to judge this because I don't see myself as a part of this mainstream and cannot follow who could be feeling provoked and who doesn't. So if it would be a provocation I would think that's a pity because it is meant to be something like an extension in content. It is sure that art, so we as well, does need the market. We all want to make a living. We do need the collectors. We do need Curators and Gallery owners. That's why we are here with the KunstSalon. It's very important to us. And it would be very unreflective to say we would stand beyond the market because we are certainly not standing beyond the market - we only got another position in this whole arrangement. So to say to give something like an adjustment for the visitors of the fair, where trade isn't in the foreground but the perception of art. Especially with the program we offer, in which we want to promote new blood, to find perhaps new people for the market, it is more important to let the art affect so that the professionals, living in this city, do have something even to look at. The sense differs a little but it is not meant as a provocation. And this we can see for example in the project room of the Kunstagenten, around the corner, and some others. Like Kunstpunkt Berlin. They have some special presentations of projects and artists on the KunstSalon. For example Artists Anonymous who are yet a bit more known. Now represented by Goff + Rosenthal, who just opened. Realising a project here. The idea of accepting this freedom slowly begins to work. It was a bit persuasiveness and stamina necessary but now it is going to be accepted. The chance, for example to invite a collector at your booth and having the offspring around the corner, which is presented with a bit more space, is an excellent occasion.
AfN: Could this also be called a grassroot movement? Is it something like this? Because there is also the discussion especially with the fairs operators, who always call themselves emerging an so on. There are these keywords. I always get the impression that the KunstSalon is standing outside that. Or is that also meant as a way of - we will come to that later on - a way of initial placing or something like that?
E. Piper: I cannot say that. I work on instinct. It is of cours a kind of a concept, so we search every year something to improve but the concepts allways follows afterwards.
AfN: Just by doing?!
E. Piper: Yes, a story happens and you have to find out how to get through it, how to modify and than you look up and modify it further more. So it is nearly more a creative work and a modifying work than placing something special in a free space for a target group under economic aspects. That isn't our way.
AfN: A la Tokio Hotel in the music scene?
E. Piper: Yes, that is also working but we do it in another way. I believe it fits well together because we are working with art. You can grow into it and so the people profit. We really got it, with René Wirths for example, he sold all his stuff and even found a gallery which wants to take him to the Art Cologne... Such stories happen and we see how the idea works although the concept isn't exactly written down.
AfN: Is the KunstSalon a growing institution? How many galleries and projects took part last year? How many are there this year?
E. Piper: The number is the same. We have now 52. The architecture has changed a bit. We presented the special show of Asim Chughtai in big size over the room last year…
E. Piper: … now we have four different projects and had the occasion to build much more open.
AfN: I recognized that. It is very comfortable.
E. Piper: It became a little more open.
AfN: Especially while entering it is very free.
E. Piper: Exactly
AfN: Not these small, narrow…
E. Piper: When I was at the Art Cologne last year there was this free space in the cellar or something. They had a special show in the basement, no?
AfN: I wasn't there that year. Did you make that?
E. Piper: No, please. If I could do such things I would be really happy.
AfN: Really happy [laughs], I write that down…
E. Piper: I was deeply impressed from the courage of working with the space and said to myself: Yes, it was a mistake of the last year that it was so close.
E. Piper: Well, not only the quantity is important but how to place it in the room and how to work with the environment.
E. Piper: That's why the number of exhibitors last the same but everything a bit more spacious.
AfN: The Berlin Preview has already at its second edition the problem, that declined galleries tried to get in by legal action. Do you also have these selection problems? ...and how do you select?
E. Piper: It is a joke that they have it. We also had some people who tried to get in by legal action. I think this is ridiculous. You are planning a project and do everything for its best; it doesn't have something to do with the quality when we reject people which are not fitting into that concept. They don't fit and there is right to enforce. I think that is a kind of brazenness.
AfN: Yes, Kristian Jarmuschek said in an interview yesterday: The revolution eats its children. Does that also apply to you - the KunstSalon?
E. Piper: No, I don't think so, no. It is evident that a project needs to be modified and that it has to be adapted on the economic situation, that doesn't fail to appear but we are in way relaxed.
AfN: There was a panel discussion about the Berlin Fair scenery at the end of the Berlin KunstSalon last year. Now we have four art fairs at the same time. You were very laid-back at this discussion and held yourself back to this theme, does this attitude last?
E. Piper: Yes, in a way. I don't think public discussions are helpful. Last year we made the decission not to host such things anymore.
E. Piper: It's nonsense. We shouldn't present the organizer by placing him in public and we needn't expect that everything he considers as important will be named.
AfN: We shouldn't expatiate everything.
E. Piper: Yes, all this nonsense out of the scene - who likes who and how, doesn't belong on a panel but should be discussed on a private informal level.
AfN: But it was your own idea, no?
E. Piper: Yes, it was just an idea but not every idea is a great one. Sometimes you realise an idea and afterwards you have to admit, OK it wasn't that good and hopefully you do…
AfN: …it in a different way.
E. Piper: …in a better way or different.
AfN: The Art Basel got its Liste and Volta. These Fairs, people say, have their function as a kind of boiler (flow heater) for the future participance at the Art Basel. Do you see this development in Berlin, too? How is your attitude to the Art Forum, the Liste or the Preview? How do you take part? Is it a dream to be something like an explorers-pool for, as mentioned before, the other fairs or is it just another social environment for art?
E. Piper: I mentioned before that we cannot abstract ourselves from the market and it is illusory to try it. In the end it is something like an explorers-pool because unknown artists appear in galleries or are presented in an exhibition. They are suddenly able to pay their rent. That's positive. That is part of the KunstSalon's profile and it is intended for development. We search for a special potential and so I think we stand beside these whole fairs. Every exhibition has its own profile. In a provoking way I would say the people who expose here, hope to reach the Art Forum or the Frieze but not really want to go to the Liste. There are expectations on art, where people….
AfN: So there are grouping…
E. Piper: People were holding off from galleries as they have a special pretence and some are open for some galleries and for others not. We concentrate on art itself.
E. Piper: More concentrated on art than on trade.
AfN: We notice that. It is comfortable that all the exhibitions are more relaxed because there is a higher turnover. We do also rank and standing very close to the market with our publication. But here we notice that the artistic statement has the mayor importance and the rest- like positioning- is completely uninteresting at first.
E. Piper: That is secondary. That comes along.
E. Piper: If the artists are good it will appear inevitably, we needn't worry about that.
AfN: Mr. Piper do you have a personal motto or a slogan in life?
E. Piper: … Everything is going to be all right.
AfN: [laughs] Mr. Piper thank you very much for this interview.
E. Piper: Your welcome, it was nice.
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