Johann König is a Cologne born, Berlin based visionary art dealer and founder of KÖNIG GALERIE. König is well regarded for representing radical and thought provoking artists of our time: Elmgreen & Dragset, Chiharu Shiota, Jeppe Hein and Alicja Kwade to name a few.
“Due to my impaired eyesight, I was always more interested in the idea behind the artwork and the vision of the artists.”
Please tell background of you and how did you start KÖNIG GALERIE ?
(Johann König) I started KÖNIG GALERIE when I was only 21, before I even finished school. I grew up surrounded by art and I knew that I wanted to work with art myself, but I didn’t dare to become an artist myself. Because of my bad eyesight – I lost most of my vision after an accident when I was 11 – opening a gallery seemed like the only option for me.
KÖNIG GALERIE space is phenomenal, how did get to know and purchase this former church building built in brutalism style?
(JK) The catholic church had no use for St. Agnes anymore, so they looked for a way to repurpose the building. I learned about it from the architect Arno Brandlhuber, who was a substantial part of the renovation of St. Agnes.
What are the most unique about art scene in Berlin?
(JK) For a long time, Berlin had a lot of space for emerging artists and independent art spaces because the rents where relatively low and there was a lot of unused room. That changed over the course of the last years but I think that Berlin is still a good place for trying out new things because it is not as business driven as London or New York. There are so many creatives living here which provides endless possibilities for cooperation.
“Good art has its own unique language and the aim to have an impact on society.”
What is the good art? and is it different from good public art?
(JK) I think that is a very subjective thing, but in my opinion good art has its own unique language and the aim to have an impact on society or maybe just on an individual viewer. I think the most important impact is to be original and not afraid to share your vision. There are many examples of exceptional public projects, e.g. Jeppe Hein’s “Eye of the North” in Norway, Elmgreen & Dragset’s work “The Hive” at Penn Station in New York or Alicja Kwade’s rootop commission at the Met in 2019 “ParaPivot”. These are accessible to a very broad audience that might not regularly visit a museum.
“We had an installation by Chiharu Shiota, which was very impressive and special because it resonated so much with the current situation. The installation featured thousands of messages of hope, many of them hoping for an end of the pandemic.”
KÖNIG GALERIE has been presenting many of radical artists of our time. What were some of your most memorable exhibitions?
(JK) We have done so many amazing exhibitions, that it is really hard to choose. Just last year, Elmgreen & Dragset built a tennis court into the exhibition space at St. Agnes.
Until recently we had an installation by Chiharu Shiota installed, which was also very impressive and special because it resonated so much with the current situation. The installation featured thousands of messages of hope, many of them hoping for an end of the pandemic.
“In Decentraland, a virtual world based on the blockchain. Manuel Rossner, an artist, created a 3D model of St. Agnes and built it up in Decentraland.”
(JK) Just recently we held an exhibition – “The Artist is Online. Digital Paintings and Sculptures in a Virtual World” – in Decentraland, a virtual world based on the blockchain. Manuel Rossner, an artist, created a 3D model of St. Agnes and built it up in Decentraland. We presented 29 digital artworks by 22 artists. It made St. Agnes the first virtual gallery in Decentraland. We created a virtual experience for the visitors, a curated exhibition of digital artworks.
“I think that buying art online will be more and more common, especially once collectors are already familiar with the artist and their work.”
Amid Covid-19, art world is also dramatically shifting to digital world, how do you see the future of art buying and collecting?
(JK) I think that COVID-19 showed us what is possible regarding selling art online. When everybody had to close their galleries and the art fairs where cancelled we were forced to quickly move everything online. And a lot of it worked really well. I think that buying art online will be more and more common, especially once collectors are already familiar with the artist and their work. We are offering art works and edition in our online shop, showing all the prices transparently.
“The success of NFT works is creating a whole new set of challenges for the art market. I am adapting to this and also to the habits of the new buyers, who are very keen on transparency and openness.”
(JK) That is also a way to make access for new buyers much easier. We will be launching our new website soon that will basically serve as an online marketplace for art. In March we auctioned off all the artworks from our Decentraland exhibition via the NFT marketplace OpenSea. It went really well. The success of NFT works is creating a whole new set of challenges for the art market. I am adapting to this and also to the habits of the new buyers, who are very keen on transparency and openness. NFTs are a chance for many artists to sell their work easier; artists that work in mediums like video or in the digital realm.
And how this will change the way we experience art?
(JK) I think the physical experience of an exhibition will always be important. But our digital exhibitions in Decentraland and via our KÖNIG GALERIE app were very well received. They give an even broader public the possibility to experience art, regardless of their location.
What is your thought on crypto art?
(JK) I have been involved with crypto art and blockchain since the summer of 2019. After our successful first exhibition with crypto art I want to launch my own NFT marketplace. In the summer we will be holding our third edition of Messe in St. Agnes, a marketplace for primary and secondary market, and this time we will dedicate a digital booth specifically to NFTs.
What element of art work intrigues you the most?
(JK) Due to my impaired eyesight, I was always more interested in the idea behind the artwork and the vision of the artists.
Where do you get inspired?
(JK) I am surrounded by art every day at the gallery, and I see a lot of inspiring people and their ventures online, like on social media.
To discover more about KÖNIG Decentraland visit the-artist-is-online.