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Are You Familiar With This Concept?

We speak to Berlin-based gallerists Javier Peres (Peres Projects) and Benoît Wolfrom (Functional Art), joined by the art space manager of Peres Projects; Nick Koenigsknecht, about challenging and changing an outdated binary way of looking and relating to art, where artistic disciplines are separated by tradition. "We see it in the news every day, barriers are constantly being broken down", they say. Showing currently at CFHILL in Stockholm is Are You Familiar With Our Concept?, a group exhibtion jointly curated by Javier Peres and Benoît Wolfrom where contemporary art and functional art merge together between the walls. "In this exhibition you don’t feel surprised or shocked, you feel at home because you’re in a place which perceives the state of the world just how you perceive them; it’s gentle and intuitive."

Installation photo: Annika Berglund

C-P: What were some of the considerations going into and executing this joint project?

Javier Peres: The primary consideration for this exhibition at CFHILL which is titled “Are You Familiar With Our Concept?”, was to present a curated selection of works by the artists we represent while at the same time communicating some of the fundamental ideas of Peres Projects and Functional Art Gallery. We want to stay true to the approach the galleries have to contemporary art, introducing our specific aesthetic and eye for identifying new and interesting talents to Stockholm.

C-P: In Stockholm as far as the commercial gallery sphere and context is concerned, it seems like there’s hardly any overlap between visual art and art marked by form and utility. It feels very separated. How would you describe the situation in Berlin?

Installation photo: Annika Berglund

Benoît Wolfrom: When it comes to the art and design spheres in Berlin, you can feel that there is a new dynamic emerging right now that extends beyond the art world. It’s a global topic – everything is entangled and everything is converging. In Berlin specifically, you can see the ways in which boundaries are disintegrating, and there are traditions in art and design that are being challenged every day. The way we are living, the hierarchies are less and less relevant. Artists working across both design and art are looking to this Zeitgeist as a concern and an interest, and they’re going against traditions.

Nick Koenigsknecht: We see it in the news every day, barriers are constantly being broken down across all disciplines. As an example, take the entanglement of the fashion and music scenes – they have merged to a point where they can no longer exist without one another. Just this month, climate change activists meet with the top economic leaders in Davos – those groups are actually coming together, and that’s insane if you look at how historically these fields were kept completely isolated. So, how barriers are being broken or questioned in the art world in Berlin, for example, is not an isolated tendency unique to that city, it’s part of a global momentum.

C-P: Entering this new decade, what shifts are you seeing and predicting in terms of Berlin as an epicenter for art, when it comes to artists and gallerists. Commercial gentrification and changed economic realities as compared to the early and mid- 00’s must manifest noticeably?

Nick Koenigsknecht: Definitely big changes are happening. Art is a huge part of Berlin’s infrastructure. Of course that is true for many quickly developing cities but what sets Berlin apart is that there’s a strong acknowledgement that art is a part of the city's identity – as a space for artists to be able live and work. Therefore, there are efforts to keep spaces affordable and available for artists to work. This is a contested topic in Berlin and has been for a long time – how to facilitate affordable studios while the city is quite rapidly growing, and create infrastructure where artists are included. From my perspective, in comparison to today, the Berlin that we knew a decade ago was small, and as the city has grown the challenges have also become more complex.

Photo: Annika Berglund

C-P: From the conversations you’ve been having with people about this exhibition; what seems to be some of the show-stopping ”take-aways” for visitors? What do people seem most excited and 'surprised' by?

Nick Koenigsknecht: My impression is that many visitors were struck by the converging and the coming-together of different concepts and ideas. Things are overlapping and merging. It’s exciting, and I felt that people weren’t surprised at all walking into the exhibition. Rather they felt at home, because they can see and feel how someone is responding to what they’re already feeling – what the world is going through. The exhibition opens up a space to talk about this change, and it permits people to look at things in a way that feels very intuitive – it allows you to stop thinking in that binary way.

Javier Peres: I think still today, most of the exhibitions we encounter are based around that old model, where you enter the space and recognize ‘an exhibition’, but not your life. But presenting that binary way of thinking is actually more startling today because it is so at odds with our experiences. In this exhibition you don’t feel surprised or shocked, you feel at home because you’re in a place which perceives the state of the world just how you perceive them, it’s gentle and intuitive."

Photo: Annika Berglund

C-P: What are some personal takeaways from this exhibition and curatorial proccess?

Javier Peres: I think it’s amazing, how as a gallery, we have a specific role to create art history. And in this collaboration we've learnt so much from the CFHILL model of presenting art, as have such difference approaches. Our two models complement each other, which is one aspect of why this exhibition is so interesting. We could not bring this art here in this intimate way by ourselves, it’s the unique combination of our visions which creates a completely new audience and way of looking. What we do have in common with CFHILL though is the completely intuitive way of knowing what art we love and want to present."

Photo: Annika Berglund

C-P: Lastly, what’s next for you in 2020?

Nick Koenigsknecht: What we provide for our artists is a consistency in working together. So, in some ways, 2020 will look similar. Manuel Solano, and Ad Minoliti have very large institutional exhibitions coming up this year, and we’re having several exhibitions in the gallery.

Portrait of Javier Peres and Benoît Wolfrom: Felicia Kyrling

Are You Familiar With Our Concept? runs through Feb 8 at CFHILL, featuring Rebecca Ackroyd, Ajarb Bernard Ategwa, Dan Attoe, Théophile Blandet, Richard Kennedy, Donna Huanca, Anna Aagaard Jensen, Melike Kara, Beth Letain, Finn Meier, Ad Minoliti, Manuel Solano, Blair Thurman, Brent Wadden and OrtaMiklos (Leo Orta/Victor Miklos Andersen)


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