Have You Met... Invaliden1

The artist-run space Invaliden1 is now almost ten years old. The collaborative product of 6 artists which started in 2005 in an atelier in Invaliden Strasse, found its final location in a bright gallery space in Schönleinstrasse, in the blossoming area of Kreuzkölln. Currently it is under the direction of Beatriz Coloma Castaño, who spoke with us about the gallery and all of the changes it went through. 

How did the six artists that collaborate through Galerie Invaliden1 meet, connect, and decide to start an artist-run gallery?

The 6 artists met in Berlin ten years ago. Three of them were part of the Kunstlerhaus Bethanien program, Sergio Belichón, Rui Calçada Bastos and Frank Kalero. In 2005 Paul Ekaitz, one of the artists, had a studio in Invaliden Strasse, and he invited the others to open an artist run space in it. Antonio Mesones, Santiago Ydañez, and later on Noé Sendas are the other members of Invaliden1 who also live in Berlin.

Can you explain what the name “invaliden1” means to the team? Were there any other names in the running?

Invaliden1 is the exact address of the first space . It was located in Invaliden Strasse number 1.

How did the gallerists’ previous experience as practicing artists, gallerists, curators, or community organizaors help lead Galerie Invaliden1 to becoming a strong institution in Berlin’s competitive art scene?

In the beginning, as an non-profit space, we invited artists and curators to develop their own projects in our space with complete freedom, as we did not want to compromise their shows with any rules. Artists and curators were attracted to this kind of proposal and its principles, which allowed them to test, experiment,and give visibility to shows that other galleries/ instiutions etc would be skeptical to produce. Having said that, this does not mean that we are careless on selection process, on the contrary. The choice of artist or curator was always weighted, as we always made a great effort to present high standard quality exhibitions to the Berlin public. This is part of our charm, to be able to have a good quality program made with a very modest structure. At the end of the day, a lot of interesting international artists and curators have been collaborating with us since 2005 because of this freedom, which usually is hard to get in any other gallery context. In this sense we manage to have a complete international program over the years, mirroring in some way what is going on in the Berlin art scene.

How has invaliden1 changed over time since being founded in 2005?

Invaliden1 changed quite a lot since the first years. In the beginning we were just inviting artist friends to exhibit in our first space. It was a very spontaneous process. After one year, the space next door became empty and we took over. Each of us would propose artists, and then we would decide together. After two years we had to leave the space, so we moved to Brunnenstrasse, to a quite bigger space, and we stayed there for 4 years, showing artists like Pedro Cabrita Reis, John Isaacs, Ming Wong, and Annika von Hausswolff. In this new space we started to position ourselves in the Berlin art scene enlarging our audience.

These were the days of Brunnenstrasse, where the simultaneous openings  would transform that street into an art hub. In the same street one could visit galeries like Amerika (which later became Klemm’s), Martin Mertens, Jan Winkelmann or Birgite Ostermeyer. A few years later, the street lost its initial energy with the actual gentrification process, so we decided to move once more, settling in what is our current location - Schönleinstrasse 25.  The gallery has also changed its format, as we wanted to represent different artists than the original founders did, and show them on a regular basis, in order to build up an identity for the gallery. We are also participating regularly in art fairs. Meanwhile, the gallery became financially self-sustained. The original invaliden1 members still keep the artistic direction, but now we have a gallery director running it.

What unique challenges do the artists, curators, and artist-gallerists involved with Galerie Invaliden1 face? What unique opportunities does the six-member gallery team offer as an artist-run gallery?

Considering the fact that we are all active artists with career ourselves, the kind of dialogue between us and an invited artist is made on another level. Rather than artist – gallerist, what happens is an artist – artist confrontation.  We function as a gallery with five artistic directors, where the most important factor in an exhibition is the work itself. Of course, we are aware that the artists need to be able to sell their work in order to keep on working, and this was the main reason to introduce a gallery director that can work full time over the collectors list we built over the years, represent the galley at art fairs, etc. Nevertheless, the experience of the invited artists is quite unique, so they say...

Even on small teams, it is often hard to wrangle all team-members in the same physical space for a meeting? How often do you meet?

As the director, I filter all of the questions which should be debated on our meetings and keep everyone informed about the major issues, as each one of the original founders is busy with their own artistic work, and travelling on a regular basis. After almost 9 years of working together, decisions are not so hard to make anymore. If we can not meet physically, we are always in touch by email or Skype, and that is how we keep things running.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Very soon Invaliden1 will go trough some financial changes, allowing a better integration in the gallery scene on an international level. Without revealing the whole change, we can say that more artists will be represented by invaliden1, and a stronger international presence of the gallery is on the horizon.

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