Katharina Maria Raab posesses a rare, almost romantic devotion to art. This passionate art lover, who runs her own gallery since 2015, has launched herself among the most prominent gallerists in Berlin in the last two years of working on her exhibition program. Her "all-in" approach to building a bridge between the artists represented in her gallery and the audience that identifies with her curatorial vision has been recently recognised in the form of a nomination for the first-ever VBKI-Preis Berliner Galerien. We spoke with Katharina to find out more about her work, as well as her upcoming shows at the Berlin Art Week and Art Berlin.
Tell us about the beginnings of this gallery. When did it all start and how? Why did you decide to open a gallery in Berlin, and why in this particular area?
After having worked with various museums, private collectors, and different European galleries, I gathered the experience. In 2014, I felt that was time to work independently in my space where I could exercise my vision. I was excited to work closely with artists I admired.
Since I came to Berlin, I have always lived in Charlottenburg. I always liked the former West of the city, where things resonated differently than in the flooded hipster neighborhoods. When I started my search for a potential gallery, I was offered this space on this small street. Coincidentally, it was one of the first streets that I have seen in Berlin during my first days here as a student. Our hotel has been just around the corner. So every night we had walked by these old antique shops. A lot of them have moved out in the meantime. The street has a good vibe, and the neighbors were happy, that something is stirring in their midst.
Andrea Salvino — "La stupidità degli altri mi affascina,
ma preferisco la mia. Zeichnungen, Skulpturen, Gemälde,
Fotografien mit Musik von Ennio Morricone", 28.04 — 24.06.2017 @ Katharina Maria Raab
How would you describe your curatorial strategy? How do you develop the program and choose the artists to work with?
Almost all of the artists I am are working with traverse different medias. I can’t understand how another galerist can stay limited to certain formats.
For me, there must be a certain kind of love at first sight with the artwork: something intriguing, something that makes you want to see more, to learn more about it and be with the work. I look for a brilliant spark of intrigue in their practice. I expect the artists to be pushing and engage with political and social developments. I want to help produce, so the artists are free to realize the work and their shows. One of my roles as a galerist is to help make it happen as from the first discussion to the installation. I love to communicate with the artist and feel what they are doing and thinking; together we bring them out to the art world and market. I’m a mediator, producer, and translator of works.
Al Fadhil — "Deep Excavation", 18.03 — 22.04.2017 @ Katharina Maria Raab
Were there any obstacles or challenges you encountered over the time of running this space? What were the most important lessons you've learned along the way?
There were so many obstacles you go through, but you learn. Not until one jumps into the gallery world for yourself do you know how big the scene is. Some lessons would be obvious, and with each show, you get tighter on the process – but you are always on a learning curve because it’s a passion built on relationships in two main directions – towards the artists and towards those who come to the work. You are a bridge in many respects, and I like it that way. The most important lesson is to trust in the art and then trust in the process.
Elisabeth Masé — "America. Give me a reason to love you", 25.01 — 11.02.2017 @ Katharina Maria Raab
How do you see your gallery developing in the long run? What would you like to accomplish in the coming years?
After Berlin Art Week, I’m going straight into preproduction for the Untitled Fair in Miami. Artist Manaf Halbouni and I are working on his first massive presentation in the USA. I’m negotiating right now the installation which lands directly into the current American political scene.
I’m focused on the region that was once the “Mare Nostrum”. In the new year, I’m planning a series of concise and challenging shows in which the artists can work with freedom and can experiment in the gallery and where their audience will be in close contact. I’m designing a curatorial path that moves fluidly between these traditions and religions. The work of these artists is crucial to counterpoint the news media, and it’s narrations.
I hunt for commonalities, search for the seperations in these lands and find the pieces of narrative that are vital and beautiful. This dialogue is something to which I like to contribute.
Manaf Halbouni — "Heilbouni. Mein Reich komme, mein Wille geschehe", 12.03 — 01.05.2016 @ Katharina Maria Rab
What are you going to show during the Berlin Art Week?
I’m bringing out the first solo show of Sonya Schönberger in my gallery. Sonya often works with languages, mixes theater, and performances. Her work is quite challenging for a gallery space, and I’m proud that we’re shortlisted for the VBKI-Preis Berliner Galerien.
I’ve followed her work these years and was always interested in her poetic way which works with history. Through careful research and collection of stories from eyewitnesses, she finds very intriguing narratives. She finds different ways to show political systems in images and how it bridges to that person’s life – thus us. These are often stories that mirror history, German and international.
What are you looking forward to the most at this year's Berlin Art Week – besides your own program?
I’m looking forward to seeing the presentation at the art laboratory berlin. They are showing documentation the results of the first workshops of their “Nonhuman Agents” series. I have to admit; I often don’t understand all the details of their shows, which are at the intersection of art, science, and technology. But there are always intriguing themes and new things to discover. Their shows are always a window into unfamiliar worlds for me. I highly admire all the effort the team of art laboratory is putting in organizing workshops, discussions, and lectures.
What can we expect after this upcoming exhibition?
The next show will be a group show of Moroccan artists.
I’ve given “Carte Blanche” to Mahi Binebine. I will show his works at the Art Berlin fair (September 14 – 17, 2017).
For the show in November and December, he has choosen several Moroccan artists, that will show for the first time in Berlin. We’re about to organize a series of lectures that run parallel and I’m pleased to be working with Mahi in this direction.
Sonya Schönberger – „Den Trümmern zum Trotze“
September 9 – October 28, 2017
Opening: September 8, 18h
Good to Talk @ Kantine am Berghain
"Das poetische Bild" - Katharina Maria Raab in talk with Elisabeth Masé about her artist books „Der Hibiskus blutet“ and „Amerika. Give me a reason to love you“
September 9, 13.30h
Mahi Binebine, Manaf Halbouni & Andrea Salvino @ Art Berlin
September 14 – 17, 2017