One of Ours Review

Text by Weronika Trojańska & pictures by Laura Gianetti

The figure of Javier Perés doesn’t need to be introduced to those who know Berlin’s art scene. The founder of already almost legendary “Peres Projects”, which currently has two locations in Berlin (previously also in Los Angeles and Athens), and the contemporary art dealer whose critical taste led his artists to the top of the art world exhibitions, attached his name to the Grimmuseum’s latest show: “One of ours” (12.01 – 05.02.2012).

This time the all-round gallerist and art writer exhibited a successive prominent star of contemporary art – himself, showing the series of realistic paintings portraying teen icon and the popular actor who died after an overdose - River Phoenix.

However, one who expects to see a show about the star of “My Private Idaho” may be disappointed.  Although a film is included in the exhibition, “My own private River” (2011), by James Franco and Gus Van Sant, in fact Phoenix himself is not the center of attention. He functions as a kind of artistic tool which Javier found somewhere inside his memories and, as he repeatedly said, it could have been portraits of anyone who took him back to this particular period of his life.

Many people probably came to see the show mainly for the name “Perés” that has begun to be a brand in itself - to find out “what and how he paints”. Nevertheless, painting as a medium is not the most important thing here. When someone like Javier, a person who has been working in various fields of the art world and  has pushed a radical conceptual and visual agenda, makes an exhibition of his paintings it has to be something more than just pictures. Or even more than what the pictures can reveal. “I think people can get to easily distracted with the paintings because of their subject matter and not to look to see if they are of something else” – said Perés. “One of ours” has left a large range of possibilities. In the context of this exhibition, painted images seem to be used to arrange a peculiar curatorial installation, and every single canvas mark a digression to the whole. 

Going in spite of long-standing conviction that “being an art critic and artist at the same time is like being the patient who sleeps with his or her own psychoanalyst” Perés makes evident that one cannot distinguish between an “inside” and “outside” of art world.  He walks through decadent and delirious complicated plots and tortuous paths, which give him scope for some pretty interesting observations on the character of our current cultural dislocation. As an art dealer he seems to be bound to his artists more by personal relationships than just by business and professionalism. As a painter he seems to be more interested in collecting his own artworks than in process of painting itself.  “I collect a lot of art, why shouldn’t I collect also my own stuff - I do not care where something comes from if I like it!” - said Javier for the magazine “Monopol”*. 

The series of River’s likenesses became a commentary in reference to the condition of the contemporary art world. The world of names, stars and labels. The world where a work of art more and more loses its “purely artistic significance”.  Multiplied images of Phoenix bring to mind the commercial value of artworks, with regard to art auctions, reproductions, copies etc. Going a step further in another direction, the successes of artists represented by Peres Project (including such names as Dash Snow, Terence Koch, Dan Colen) can be compared to remarkable career of River Phoenix.  Both achieved tremendous success at astonishing speed. And among them is Javier Perés. One of ours…  

* “Sind wir im 19. Jahrhundert, oder was?“, von S. Frenzel, 11.01.2011

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