Interview with BERLINER LISTE Director Jörgen Golz · Discovering Contemporary Young Art and Artists

This will be the fifth year in a row that Jörgen Golz is leading the largest art fair in Berlin – Berliner Liste. For the 13th edition of the fair, many innovations are planned, including a whole new section dedicated to Urban Art. Each year Jörgen Golz welcomes galleries, artists, and enthusiasts from all over the world, giving them an opportunity to explore, share and talk about art. His policy is based on openness and availability, so he established Berliner Liste not just as a commercial place for art, but also as a production place, where ideas are generated and the powerful drive of creative energy has been used for inspiration, artistic integration, and happiness.

As a CEO of the fair, Mr. Golz contributed in more than just a fruitful business model, he also gave the whole fair an optimistic and positive drive, where he, himself, participates in the interactive playground model of the fair, trying to find time for long conversations, presentations and stimulating guidance. When he became the managing director of the fair, in 2012, Mr. Golz made his mission to continue to maintain a unique nature of the fair, but also to contribute to the global importance of Berlin, giving that is commonly referred to as one of the greatest arts and culture capital in Europe. Jörgen Golz is a firm believer that art can play a significant role, although a small one, in making our ordinary lives better. Grounded, realistic and honest, the director keeps in mind that art has an educational function, among other features and in the same manner as the fight for free and available education was won, the society should strive to make art affordable as well, to support human creativity and imagination, which make our individual lives satisfying, enjoyable and prosperous.

This will be the 13th BERLINER LISTE art fair. What are your expectations for this year’s fair?

Jörgen Golz: We expect more than 120 exhibitors from at least 20 countries and around 15,000 visitors, all of which will contribute to a lively exchange of several thousand fresh, exciting, and controversial artworks. I am very much looking forward to a reunion with exhibitors I have become fond of, giving that some of them I have not seen for a year. I will again enjoy hundreds of conversations which offer new perspectives and prospects every year. Of course, all of us are most excited about the new artworks. I hope that we will find many wow factors and I look forward to the little poetic moments that usually follow the discovery of new artwork. I hope that we can contribute to the worldwide significance of Berlin, not only as a production place but also as a commercial place for art.

Can you tell us more about this year’s program? Are there any special events that visitors should know about?

JG: The basic structure of the fair is divided into four areas: Artist Section, Gallery Section, Photography Section and Urban Art Section. In addition, we will be showing the special exhibition “JYAG” with more than 130 young Japanese positions, curated by the artist and gallery owner Rin Terada. He will donate the prize money of 1,000,000 Japanese yen – about 8,500 euro – going to one artist from this group. We have also set a focus on art from Taiwan and China. This year‘s BERLINER LISTE will, therefore, provide a window into the Asian art world. It might be interesting for the visitor to learn about one characteristic feature of the fair: we offer individual artists and project spaces the opportunity to present themselves in an artistic and architecturally sophisticated framework. We see ourselves as a forum for emerging, international art at reasonable prices. Here you can still buy art without speculation about price, and sometimes you will have the opportunity to buy it directly from the producer. The colorful, diverse fair in the Kraftwerk location will be a great experience because we care about the wellbeing of our visitors and participants. The feel-good factor will be provided indoors and outdoors and there will be enough rest areas, for whenever someone needs a break.

Since you became the head of the fair in 2012, the reorientation of the BERLINER LISTE was not about making a whole new concept, it was about going back to old roots, to turn BERLINER LISTE into a discovery fair, not just a traditional display of notable art. How did the fair change over time?

JG: BERLINER LISTE was in its origin a discovery fair for contemporary, young art and artists, and it is still like that. But yes, it has a changeful history. It was initiated by the Berlin gallery owner Dr. Wolfram Völcker in 2004, born out of a desire to oppose the former dominance of the Art Forum and to provide an independent satellite fair. After the closing of Art Forum in 2011, BERLINER LISTE became the oldest and largest art fair in the capital. Thus, what we have in Berlin now is probably a somewhat absurd situation that the main art fair no longer exists, but its satellite fair continues to act very successfully. The fair has grown, in the constitution and in quantity. It all started with a group of about 40 exhibitors. Since 2012, the number of participating exhibitors has leveled off at about 120 to 130 exhibitors from 20 to 30 different countries. The fair now occupies a total area of over 5,000 square meters. The number of visitors continuously grows every year. Last year over 10,000 visitors found their way to the Kraftwerk and it would be great if we would reach the 15,000 mark this year. My aim is to provide a qualitative growth, also. In 2012 we had one curator, and now there are several independent curators guaranteeing more quality. However, a variety must not suffer, despite all the curatorial selections. I also governed the organization of the KÖLNER LISTE, a spin-off of the fair Berlin, which has been held annually parallel to the Art Cologne since 2014.

BERLINER LISTE includes well-established galleries and successful artists, but it seems the accent is on promoting new art. What are your plans for young emerging artists?

JG: Yes, it’s true, we certainly show established galleries and artists, because we want to offer a manifold and balanced mix. Only cutting edge art with rusty nails and dead animals is not working. But the focus is on the new, young positions. For this reason, we do not only offer an effective sales platform with favorable conditions, we also support our exhibitors wherever help is needed. For example, in the hanging, with templates of a standard purchase, contracts or advice on the selection of exhibited works, we try our best to help. We also offer free coaching in stress management and give advice on how to master the five stressful days of the fair successfully. Next year we plan to offer a program where companies would take over the sponsorship of selected artists. This means not only collaboration between artists and companies, but also the opportunity for some talented artist to exhibit at BERLINER LISTE for free.

BERLINER LISTE is open to unusual artists and unconventional discoveries. How do you organize the process of selection?

JG: It starts with the open call. We announce the call internationally and select the answers from all over the world. We use a variety of media channels and the support of many multipliers. So we get an unfiltered “litmus test” of what is going on in the global art community. In order to ensure that we present a diverse mix of new and established positions, we additionally converse with potential exhibitors that would fit into our program.

Art is coming out of the galleries onto the streets. How does the fair respond to this change?

JG: The fair offers a lively presentation of art and reinvents itself every year anew. We open new target groups and use advanced communication for the art market. The curator of the Urban Art Section, Guillaume Trotin, in consultation with the exhibitors of that section will define a format which they consider to be the most appropriate. Whether that will be the classic white cube architecture, we will see in September. We also offer guided street art tours for visitors of the BERLINER LISTE, therefore creating a connection between the fair and the art visible in the streets of Berlin.

There are a lot of international exhibitors, some of the pieces are traveling half the world to be part of the BERLINER LISTE. Did the international interest for the fair increased in the past three years?

JG: My goal is to organize a fair that is even more international. With exhibitors from 24 countries last year, we are already on the right track. I am curious about how many countries will be represented this year. Berlin is an international melting pot and BERLINER LISTE as the capital art fair reflects that.

You are breaking away from the stereotypical beliefs that art belongs to the aristocracy. Art was part of the upper classes for centuries, and not many people could interact with it. Should art be part of the society?

JG: Absolutely. The monarchical and feudal social structures have proven to be unfair and not effective. The apportioning of education as a controlling tool of power is obvious, but unfortunately also effective. Even the Catholic Church has now desisted from this instrument of power. Education belongs to everybody, and art helps us to form our character. Art belongs in the heart of society. People visit our fairs because they offer a communicative and open atmosphere – not elitist because there are no barriers. A step in this direction is a step into the center of society, where the artists and art belong. Artists are innovators. They discover new ways of working and new living patterns, which are later adopted by the society. That scheme was established long ago, where a group of artists, in their free and spontaneous manner, creates a temporary association, which later grows globally, with the help of their specific way of networking. I am sure that this will be the blueprint for our future working environment.

How to you balance the ratio of professional exhibitors and art beginners, without compromising the reputable status of the fair?

JG: Who says that the so-called “professional exhibitors” offer better art? We should dismiss such outmoded concepts. So many good gallery programs fall through the cracks of the art market, because, for example, the owner does another job in order to finance the initial phase of his gallery. Even among autodidacts, there are exceptional talents that are worth of showing. It is no longer about the distinction between professional and unprofessional, it is about the visualization of excellence. Our aim is to present our visitors a great variety of good works because all that counts is the result. The artwork is what counts, not its origin process and background because these are just connotations.

How can affordable art, new, diverse and innovative art, help change the world?

JG: I am not convinced that art will cause a revolution, but it satisfies our thirst for something metaphysical in our lives. Who can offer orientation in our antagonistic lives? Neither the God of consumption, nor the Church, at any rate, not even the politics or philosophy can provide full guidance. Human creativity is a never ending resource which helps us to interact with each other on a particular level in order to answer the important questions about our existence and our future. Art is – unless it degenerates into pure speculation – a divine tool, which makes us and this world, piece by piece, a bit better.