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Interview with Alexandra Rockelman (Gallery OPEN)

Alexandra Rockelman

The first feeling you have when you step into the Galerie OPEN is that of being in an evolving space which is open to new ideas. On this occasion, it is open to nature, since the floor is completely covered with tree branches. Kathleen Vance was working there on her next exhibition, Out of the Woods, from the series “Boundsticks”, which can be seen from the 10th September until the 30th October. Artfacts.Net has the pleasure to invite you to the opening, which will take place on Thursday, 9th September from 7-10 pm.

Alexandra Rockelmann, the owner of the gallery, welcomed me and introduced me to Kathleen. She asked me if I didn’t mind doing the interview in such an organised though chaotic atmosphere. The Galerie OPEN, like its name suggests, offers an open space for artists to express their ideas, but it also offers a specific concept: an open space where one can improvise and create a new gallery over and over again. Alex, who is a very open-minded person, has been able to see through his enormous Ray Ban sunglasses what new generations can offer. This year, Alex decided to pass on her gallery’s legacy to her interns for one month in order to show them more closely how a gallery is directed. This way, they could also contribute to new ideas to such an open space that gives the opportunity of expressing an infinite number of concepts.

Alex inaugurated the gallery in 2007 and, as she states in her web page, it offers a total space of 157 metres with the prevailing philosophy of Cathy A. Malchiodis, who said to create art is “the basic human urge, a trait of our species as natural as language, sex, social interaction and aggression”.

How did this idea come to your mind?

This idea started in the beginning of March, which is when I decided to look for interns. I was doing several shows outside the gallery and I realized I needed interns. I had had some interns before, but for a while I didn’t have any.

Kate and Linea were my interns and both of them are also artists. We were always talking about their work and I was looking at it because Linea wanted to apply for UDK (Berlin University of the Arts) and then Kate said she was collaborating with an artist group called Una Tittel. They were looking for spaces, but it was quite difficult, so I asked her to explain the concept to me and I promised I would look at it. I must say I really enjoyed it, since it was a group of young artists focusing more on their art than wanting to have a party or a big happening. That’s what really impressed me, because they were really serious about their artwork. So I told them they could have my gallery because I was going to close it for a while anyway. I told them they could pretty much do whatever they wanted, but taking into account that I would be their host, but I wouldn’t participate in anything.

What new things do you think interns could contribute to in your gallery?

I believe that if you help them, in a way you are also open minded to see what is going on. We sometimes get stuck in our generation, and I remember how much help I received when I was starting my gallery. Without that I help I wouldn’t be here where I am now. So it is also a moral issue. I felt I wanted to give them something to help them. I believed in their program and, of course, when they did that show they realized how much work it is, because I didn’t help them at all. I only gave them my mailing list and contacted some journalists.

How was this year?

Well, one major experience was a show I had with a French artist, YAZE. First it was supposed to be during the middle of May, then in the beginning of June, like on the11th. But he said he could only do it on the 3rd June, because he was going to be in Shanghai. However, the problem was that I was coming back from the USA on the 3rd of June. I went for 2 weeks, to a wedding, and then I went to Chicago to do other things. So I asked the interns if they thought they would be capable of building up the show, doing the entire program, the mailing and taking care of everything. They said: “Yes, no problem”, and that is what we did. I had never done that before; I had always been in my gallery for a show, built it up and curated it. So, they took care of that and, of course it was a little bit chaotic, but I was aware of that because they aren’t professionals. But they managed to do it and they did it as good as possible. I really appreciate that they were so ambitious and willing to take so much responsibility. After seeing that, I realized they would also be responsible enough and capable of taking the gallery for their own purpose. That is pretty much the reason for which I gave them the gallery. At that point they took care that there was always somebody here and I could therefore go, for example, to the USA without being worried.

Do you remember any anecdotes? Did they call you with bad news?

No, not really. It was amazing, because we also communicated very openly. Of course, a couple of things happened. We had a huge transport of eleven images that were going to Switzerland; it was a sale we made. I told them: “here are all the paintings”, and we wrote everything down. And then they wrote me an email saying they couldn’t find the paintings. I was stunned! So, of course, little things like that happened, but it’s normal because it’s not their business; it is a little bit different. But what I think I realized throughout this entire process is that it made me trust and not just try to do everything by myself I think I also realized that, by giving somebody the space, it also brings a completely different crowd, it might not be the crowd you think but you are interested. And I think it is very helpful for a gallery not to just have one crowd, but to have different levels. I really enjoyed this because it was the first time I was the guest in my own gallery, and I didn’t have to greet people, I didn’t have to make sure there was enough alcohol. It was fun to see how they managed their show. They actually made back all the money they spent. I was really impressed. It was a really exciting time.

Do you have a special process of selecting interns?

Well, I do interviews. I did 15 interviews and then I picked 3 of them. I expect them to have art knowledge, interest in computer knowledge, and for them to be willing to sometimes work on their own and think of new ideas. Then when a sale does happen, I always give the interns a certain percentage.

What do the artists think about that? Were they aware?

They knew, and they really liked it. They thought it was quite endearing because it is not very common that somebody gives their space without wanting any money or something else in exchange. It is also the policy of the gallery. I am open minded, of course I’m not a charity person, but I felt I wanted to give it a chance. I tried it, because I wanted to see if it worked and it worked so well, that we’re going to do it every year. In summer we will bring a new program where young curators or artists can apply. Linea is going to take care of it. She knows what I expect and she can tell them exactly what they have to expect because she has done it already.

Do you think a big gallery can do this?

Well, I think a bigger gallery of course has a certain reputation and needs a certain income. Big galleries are expected to be innovative, they have a certain reputation and they need a certain income. But I think it would be great if they did it because it would also bring it to a different level again. It is not that I’ve represented artists, I just gave them a space while I wasn’t using it.

And you, what if your gallery gets bigger?

I will do it too. Because I think it’s a give and a take situation, it makes me not stagnant. I consistently grow because I let younger generations show me what is going on. It’s a lot of experience for me too, because I can’t be everywhere and, by bringing them in, I can see what it is going on outside, out of my program and my artists.

Interview: Isabel Valencia


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