Berlin Special Part 3: Interview with Dr. Wolfram Völcker
AfN: Very honoured Dr. Völcker, how did you come to the arts?
Dr. Völcker: I was born in Worpswede that is a aestheticise little village and my parents collected art for all time. We were especially interested in local painters. We have a family tradition what is distinct very economically. So I carried out my duty and then opened my own gallery.
AfN: And the duty was - a course of studies?
Dr. Völcker: Exactly, some economic studies. So I studied economics and philosophy.
AfN: Philosophy. But economics has something to do with a gallery as well?
Dr. Völcker: Of course a gallery is a commercial business operation.
AfN: The two things combined - passion and business.
Dr. Völcker: Right. I got the ideal occupation because I am able do what I prefer and what I know to do.
AfN: We did many interviews and talked to many people of the art scene and they all did their studies in history of arts. It is nice that someone from outside gets into this field.
Dr. Völcker: Yes, but I have of course great disadvantages. The art historians do outclass an economist like me on many fields. On the other hand this circumstance is an advantage as I interrogate different things. I am just working on a book what is going to be published in next spring. It is about the question what quality means in the contemporary art. It is composed of 16 articles from different curators and persons of museums who are specialists on their sector. For example Urs Stahel from the museum of photography in Winterthur writes the text: "What does quality in the photography look like?" and Mr. Harder from the Helmut Newton Foundation adds a second opinion, in form of an interview.
Dr. Völcker: Yes, I did the interview with him. We try to approach to the declaration of quality. We carried that out for different domains like painting, drawing, video etc. We asked the experts on this sector and a written contribution respectively so that there is a discourse about this question - you will never really answer it but you can approach. I am concentrated on the how a real good work of art is arranged? Why does some special things appear in every work? Why do many museums collect similar artists? And why are some very and some less interesting ones? These are very basic questions, maybe a person from the outside - an outsider - ask these questions even more.
AfN: The term of quality is whirring around everywhere. That is quasi the ultimate argument.
Dr. Völcker: I believe that will be the main topic in the next years. Right through the consolidation of the market what proceeds and what needs to proceed. We all know that the market has expanded and that is alright. Instead, and that happens in every branch in times of development, the people ask for what is sustainable and substantially lasting over years.
AfN: Are these questions answered by your book?
Dr. Völcker: Yes, it is exciting. I see a great gain of awareness in it.
AfN: Sounds so nice. When is it expected?
Dr. Völcker: I hope to finish it for the Art Cologne in April.
AfN: So we are excited. We now enter into the theme of Berlin fair scenery. You founded through the "Liste" the first gallery fair besides the Art Forum. The KunstSalon was launched at the same time as alternative space. Already in the second edition a separation happened, the Preview. What do you think about this development?
Dr. Völcker: I think that this development is typical for a heterogeneous landscape like Berlin and where the whole portfolio is expressed. I believe that it enforced the location. It is more attractive for collectors, curators and every person who is interested in art to travel to Berlin.
AfN: We just had the same discussion with Mr. Piper (KunstSalon) and mentioned the term 'entry points'. According to Mr. Piper there are now different points to enter into this world through the great number of fairs.
Dr. Völcker: Well, it necessary to act local oriented. It is like a perfect installation: it refers to its location, to its place - an art fair as well. It makes no sense to have a fair like in Basel or Miami here in Berlin. Berlin is a place where huge factory floors are vacant. Berlin is a place where curators like to go as there are so many tendencies and interesting things. But Berlin is no place where 150 Lear jets are landing for a fair.
Dr. Völcker: The Liste tries to place a specific offer for Berlin and to express, this is the city. Ulrich Clewing named the fair in an article in the Tagesspiegel 'small and wild'.
AfN: Small and wild?
Dr. Völcker: In my opinion that matching for us. It fits to the Berlin situation in which we are living. That may not be still conforming in five or ten years but white carpet floors, air-conditioned rooms, party atmosphere or jet set aren't matching to this location. It is different here and we have to present us accordingly.
AfN: You chose an industrial building with this erstwhile transformer station whose Wilhelminan style architecture is very present and differs to the common cold fair atmosphere. Has that been a conscious decision?
Dr. Völcker: Yes for sure. The best place for excellent works is the museum. So this is a special place and a fair is living on its accommodations. The Art Forum moved in different halls for having more daylight. The Cologne fair had difficulties to move out from the beautiful old halls in the new ones. The debut last year was a great debacle because the floors do not look like they could.
AfN: No daylight.
Dr. Völcker: No daylight and the whole atmosphere is gone. Arts do extremely benefit from the context, the room in which it is presented. And that's the reason I like these spaces.
AfN: Is the Liste a growing event?
Dr. Völcker: The number of the galleries remained almost constant. We extended the exhibition area about a third. But we are actually thinking about having another Berliner Liste in a different place.
Dr. Völcker: Another named for example Frankfurter Liste or Cologne Liste, in another place. It is evident that the fair with sense generate a kind of cluster situation. For example Basel, there are now three or four fairs. In Miami there are eleven and in Berlin are now four fairs. There will be this generation of cluster because the people rather travel to one, two, three places a year but not at ten. The Basel fair in Miami is functioning just because of the tradition of the situation in Basel.
Think of the Armory Show where further fairs are performed, a cluster as well. I believe that is a development of the market.
AfN: I see. In London at the 'Frieze' are also four or five fairs concurrent.
Dr. Völcker: That does make sense.
AfN: Do you think that the perception of the fair with this multiplicity corresponds to the quality of the 'Liste'?
Dr. Völcker: I cannot answer that. We will know whether this or that artist was representative for pre-millennial age in ten or twenty years. These works will be presented in this context.
Dr. Völcker: Someone recently put all the ancient Art Cologne Catalogues to compare the lists with the today exhibited artists. So you will see that about the half of the artists didn't reappear especially not in the Foerderkoje. Sustainable and still actual are those which are still fresh looking and exiting.
AfN: We are also into this topic. However you are working more contently and we are working more quantitatively because of our amplitude.
Dr. Völcker: That is in the nature of the technology you utilize.
AfN: You know we have a ranking system for contemporary art and we bothered intern to compare the four Berlin fairs according our points. The Liste scored best behind the Art Forum. How do you explain that?
Dr. Völcker: That's a bit up to the galleries with fair experiences. We asked if they want to show one or two special artists in Berlin. We tried to influence a bit what is to be shown.
AfN: We score the galleries better who is established as we measure inherent to the system. Would you dare to say you got the established ones?
Dr. Völcker: We got Christopher Cutts from Toronto or Tedden, who would certainly be approved on any other fair. They enjoyed the entourage as well; an essential factor. The whole atmosphere is important. It is fun to see the people painting their walls and sweeping by themselves - here is no full service concept. That moves together and the work is more amusing, a great development I think.
AfN: In the end work has to be fun, it takes the most of our lifetime…
Dr. Völcker: We always had the idea of community, of exchange. Galleries from abroad should build a companionship to empathise and to be introduced into the scene.
AfN: Network character.
Dr. Völcker: Today as a gallery it is almost impossible to survive without a network of colleagues to interchange artists, information and work at regular intervals; you can read about that…
AfN: The Art Basel got a Liste and a Volta show. These fairs also have a function as kind of boiler for the future participation at the Art Basel. Does such a development also exist in Berlin? What is your attitude to the Art Forum?
Dr. Völcker: We got an amicable relationship with the Art Forum but we do not tender. I could visualise to intensify the cooperation next year. The landscape of art is very political and we have to act in concert very carefully. We all have the same target we would like to present a big, great and high quality offer to the audience for this town in this weak in autumn.
AfN: Back to the market. The exchange for contemporary art is booming for years. At the same time Medias fear the explosion of the bubble like in the eighties. How do you perceive the market for present art? Is it stable or do you think it is still sensitive.
Dr. Völcker: I don't mind about such things. The things I present in my gallery are especially for a special small audience. Some few crazy people do so they don't care about the economic situation.
AfN: So, stable.
Dr. Völcker: Yes I would agree it is stable. New ones will accrue with long time occupation on that and they will be really interested on the long term. That means work in galleries over years. When I started my gallery work the people told me to stay the course for five years and after these five years I became clear that there are ten to keep up. And I am sure that in the tenth year there will be twenty to hang on.
Dr. Völcker: That's really true.
AfN: In business economics we learned to keep up ten years.
Dr. Völcker: It is a long term matter.
AfN: Yes. Do get to the ending Dr. Völcker do you have a personal motto or slogan for you life?
Dr. Völcker: Well, I got many slogans.
AfN: The pleasure of being alive?
Dr. Völcker: I enjoy doing what I have to and that is the way it has to be - but I could do something else because I have learned something decent. I like to work with paper it is very haptic medium. You can touch it and it feels good, drawings are especially spontaneous. They are direct; you cannot erase or paint over something. It is fun to have an immediate contact to what an artist produces. That is much better work than selling vacuum cleaners.
AfN: Dr. Völcker, many thanks for this interview.
Dr. Völcker: It was a pleasure.
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