In a street located a stone's throw from the bustling Rosenthaler Platz, close to everything but isolated from the noisy tourist traps typical for the area, the young entrepreneur and art enthusiast André Kanya found the perfect space to live, work, and share his passion for art and creative exchange. Since its debut in 2015 at the Project Space Festival, and the official inauguration during the last year's Berlin Art Week, this versatile project space has been hosting exhibitions, talks, dinners, and various other event formats.
Ready to share his behind-the-scene story, André welcomed us at the freshly renovated space prepped to shine for its second Berlin Art Week, with works by the artist Linda Bäckström on display.
When, why and how did you initiate this project space?
We opened the space with a big space installaton by Simon Schubert for the Berlin Art Week 2015. It was a very successful opening with many guests from the art world, as well as friends of mine who didn’t have a connection to the art world in the past. For me this is what this space is all about. It’s about connecting people. I like creating an environment where people, who are not connected to art in their day to day life, start exploring the beauty and the possibilities of art. People from different professions, interests, education and ages shall meet and connect.
Simon Schubert – "Die Summe der Elemente". September 17 – November 8 2015. Photo © Kanya Berlin
What is the main focus?
The focus is contemporary art but it is not limited to visual arts. Besides photography and sculptural exhibitions we had musical performances, and readings as well.
What is your curatorial strategy here? How do you develop the program and choose the artists to work with?
I'm personally interested in aesthetic and conceptual work. However this is not a limitation. All forms of art are possible.
I see the space as a platform. A platform on which we can build something together. In the best case it’s not me who does the curation. I'm not an art historian and there are so many talented curators, who do a much better job than I would.
How did you end up running a project space? What else do you do apart from this?
I don’t have an art background and I’m not planning to become a gallerist. Originally I’m coming from information technology, and today I’m involved in different entrepreneurial projects, such as a machine building firm, investments, and real estate projects.
What interests and inspires you the most, and how does it reflect in your curatorial role?
Some of my business has to do with architecture, real estate, as well as design. I strongly believe that a deep interest in aesthetics is the connection between my profession and the art engagement.
What have you discovered about running a space like this in the past year? Has this experience changed your view in any way on anything in the art world?
I believe that the artists I’m working with are great talents and hard workers at the same time. They continously work on their careers and they are selling their art works at a reasonable price. But when you are at Art Basel, you also see some absolutely overpriced artists, creating some stuff that could also be regarded as garbage, or as a nice piece of design at best. And then you have a 24-year-old gallery assistant, who tells a group of collectors that the piece is priced at 100.000$ and you see everyone nodding in agreement. This is when I think that the art world is all bullshit.
What distinguishes this space from other project spaces in Berlin?
Coming not from a humanities, but from a business background, I might be more „mainstream“ and less afraid of being market-oriented when it comes to artist selection, presentation, and „marketing“.
How do you see it developing in the coming years?
As said before, I see the space as a platform, and I would be happy to involve more people from different backgrounds to create new formats. I’m totally open to have e.g. political discussions in the space or different forms of exhibitions and events that don’t need to be directly regarded as art.
Linda Bäckström – "The Altar of Speed". September 15 – October 31 2016. Photo © Linda Bäckström
Tell us about the upcoming show.
I’m very happy that we will have a sculptural show by Linda Bäckström from Sweden, opening during the Berlin Art Week on September 14th. With her interest for cars and engines as a starting point, she tells the story of freedom and speed, the dream of winning, and the romantic tale of the independent individual man.
I’m very proud to show her work for the first time in Germany. This show is organized in cooperation with her gallery, Wetterling Gallery from Stockholm/Gothenburg. I met Linda thanks to a tip by my gallerist friend Tore Süssbier who saw her in Art Basel Miami two years ago.
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Linda Bäckström, "The Altar of Speed"
Opening: September 14, 18h