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London Special 2: Spielhaus Morrison at Zoo art fair

M. Claassen, Hamish Morrison, Georg Spielhaus in front of a Sophia Schama shark.

AfN: Mr. Spielhaus you are one of the two founders of Spielhaus Morrison Galerie in Berlin. Can you tell me, when did you found the gallery and what is your main approach concerning your gallery programme?

Georg Spielhaus: I founded the gallery together with Hamish Morrison in 2002. In the beginning we started with a core of mainly Dresden-trained German painters but now we've very quickly expanded the programme to a huge variety of international young and mid-career artists working in all kinds of media.

AfN: We are here at Zoo Art in London. This is the third edition of a small fair within the lovely London Zoo and co-event to the Frieze art fair which is in its fourth edition. Tell us, is this the first time at a London art fair for you? And are you happy with this location?

Georg Spielhaus: Yes, we are for the first time on a London art fair. We were fortunate to be invited to Zoo Art Fair as one of only four young galleries from Berlin the other international galleries being four from Los Angeles and four from Mexico City. The fair is absolutely fantastic. I've heard several times from visitors who have also been to FRIEZE, that this year they found FRIEZE a bit frozen actually. Nothing unexpected. Whereas here they have a fresh and very dynamic and young programme. So, I think we are quite happy here.

AfN: We've seen you a fortnight ago in Berlin at the Preview art fair, shortly before that you moved to a new fabulous space in Heidestrasse near the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin? What's so special about that space?

Georg Spielhaus: First of all it is a new gallery location for Berlin because Fruehsorge, Galerie für Zeichnung has moved there and also Haunch of Venison will also move to this location. It is a new and a big space. Our space is around 700 square meters. Which opens to us new dimensions of art presentation.

AfN: So you will show bigger works, ... installations?

Georg Spielhaus: We will broaden our programme even further. And - off course - the possibilities of this space are enormous. But that does not mean that we only show big works. Small-format works can also be very successfully exhibited within the space.

AfN: So, you've moved, went to a fair and now you said you just come directly from Beijing. What did you do there?

Georg Spielhaus: We were also at a fair in Beijing, Art Beijing, which took place for the first time and that was also a very good experience because we felt that the Chinese collectors are beginning to be interested in contemporary foreign art. That is, European art, which is the big news from that front.

AfN: In our discussion preceding this interview you said, that you've sold very well and that you think that this is because you've been prepared to the art Chinese market. Can you tell us how you did that?

Georg Spielhaus: Well, tried to figure out - which is off course a difficult undertaking - what the Chinese art market is like because the taste is quite different and the conception of art is different. So, we tried sort of analyze what could be appealing to the market there. And fortunately we were fairly successful.

AfN: And how did you analyze? I mean, what did you do?

Georg Spielhaus: We asked people who know the market there better than we did at that point.

AfN: Who did you ask?

Georg Spielhaus: Mr. Alexander Ochs, who you know as well.

AfN: He said oil painting or what did he say?

Georg Spielhaus: No, no. It is not that simple. There are cultural differences. Alexander Ochs has been working with that market since 10 years and so he knows a bit more about the Chinese cultural sensibilities. We just had a good consultancy.

AfN: So, it was not about the technique basically. It was about content as well.

Georg Spielhaus: No, I would put it more generally it is the feeling for the swing.

AfN: For the swing?

Georg Spielhaus: What is in the wind there. It's more about a feeling.

AfN: You can't bring it to the point? I can intrinsically feel what the Chinese might like? Just subjectively choosing something subjectively out of the programme and go there?

Georg Spielhaus: Yes, also. It is not a thing to be defined in clear words. It is more an instinct.

AfN: It is good to have a consultant and try to figure out a subjective feeling and the rest is gambling or what? Because you said others weren't so successful.

Georg Spielhaus: Yes, that is right. I've seen earlier some Chinese art, of course, and from that I tried to deduce instinctively what might appeal.

AfN: Did you make the same precautions for the London art market?

Georg Spielhaus: No because I am familiar with the European market and European taste. So, I did not really have to focus on the programme. We just brought our best works here. Because we know the market here has a very high quality standard. So, we just choose our best art works.

AfN: And this worked out fine?

Georg Spielhaus: Yes, I am quite happy here because it is an amazingly good impact of people, very very good reactions and also business like it is not too bad.

AfN: Will you come back to London?

Georg Spielhaus: Well, hopefully yes.

AfN: What is your next destination?

Georg Spielhaus: Home, my bed. And then next year our first art fair is going be ARCO.

AfN: ARCO in Madrid.

Georg Spielhaus: In February, yes.

AfN: Mr. Spielhaus, thank you for that interview.

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