“Berlin Opticians represents this new type of a gallery, where you can operate online and hold temporary exhibitions in various locations, without a permanent and fixed space”. Founder and Curator Marysia Wieckiewicz tells us more.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you came to establish Berlin Opticians?
I’ve been working as a visual arts curator for over seven years now, both in public and private institutions, and independently. As the time went on, I realised two important things. Firstly, how difficult it is to properly support artists and art-making through various short-term projects and collaborations. Secondly, how hard it is to build the curatorial bridge between Ireland and Continental Europe to promote abroad the amazing artists we have in Ireland.
I felt that it was my responsibility as a curator to somehow address these issues, and setting up an art gallery feels like the right solution. When done right, it’s definitely a way to help artists sustain their art practice. It can lift the financial pressures and support the production of new work. For me, personally, it is also a great opportunity to develop long-term conversations and collaborations with a number of artists and, finally, to bring their work abroad and develop international presence.
This is a gallery without a permanent gallery space. Had you been looking for one or was this always a model you wanted to pursue?
The idea of setting up an art gallery has been in the making for a while now. And the dream of having a permanent space was the reason for the delay in making it happen. A couple of years ago, when some artists and I began the conversation, having a physical space felt like a must, it simply was the way it was done.
The truth is that, globally, more and more small and mid-tier galleries have been closing down in the recent years. Their owners have realised that they can either stay attached to the idea of ‘tyranny of the single space’ or abandon it. Once I let this idea of a single space go, it all fell into place.
Berlin Opticians represents this new type of a gallery, where you can operate online and hold temporary exhibitions in various locations, without a permanent and fixed space. It makes it more lively and exciting. It’s an opportunity to rethink what a gallery can be.
Did any existing models from elsewhere prove informative or inspirational?
I was hugely inspired by Condo – a large scale collaborative exhibition of international galleries, where London-based galleries share their space with visiting galleries through co-curation or co-exhibiting, or simply dividing their galleries and allocating spaces. That shows to me that the industry is changing and we all are trying to be more creative and open to new possibilities.
What changes has technology made to the art market in general?
I think the way many of us view and experience art has changed significantly within the last ten years. Many of those experiences are now mediated through the screen – it is not necessarily a physical encounter anymore. Now, with the development of smartphones, you can see exhibitions of artists’ work from New York to Paris and from Hong Kong to LA instantly. This has in part led to a slow down in foot traffic to galleries day-to-day, however, the numbers attending art events such Documenta, Venice Biennale and various art fairs have risen year on year.
Technology has made changes to all industries, art galleries included. So with this in mind, Berlin Opticians will utilise technology such as a website and social media to present exhibitions on a monthly schedule, reinforced by physical events and exhibitions every couple of months around Dublin and abroad. I think this balance of digital and real-world engagement with artworks will be the future model.
Can you tell us about the stable of artists you have connected to Berlin and how you came about them? What are you looking for in the mix?
For now, I represent ten artists, both Irish and international. I have worked with many of them professionally. I know they are very passionate about what they are doing, and it shows in their work. It was very important to represent artists working in all media: painting, video, print, photography and sculpture. It was very important to me that there was a balance of gender.
I’m delighted to be supporting artists at all levels within their careers, from artists who have just graduated, such as: Emma Hayes (IRL) and Sven Sandberg (USA) to more established artists, such as Barbara Knezevic (AUS/IRL) and David Beattie (IRL) who have numerous solo shows under their belt and both have works recently purchased by the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA). The other artists I am working with are Neil Carroll (IRL), Paul Hallahan (IRL), Alicia Reyes McNamara (USA), Sarah O’Brien (IRL), Liliane Puthod (FR) and Lee Welch (USA/IRL).
Is there a connection to Berlin Opticians on Capel Street?
Yes, very much so. I would often pass by the shop, and I loved how it survived so long throughout the changes on Capel Street. It was originally opened by Mr. Hans Bell in 1953. I was sad to see it close when I saw the last owner Mr. Cashman left a typed letter in the window giving notice of its closure and his retirement in January of this year, after forty-five years of running it. This got me thinking about its name and legacy and how Berlin Opticians could be used as a name for a gallery. I thought it could be a fitting tribute and it would be great to see the gallery to have the same longevity!
Where would you like to see the project a year from now?
By this time next year, you will have seen at least ten solo exhibitions online, and numerous physical exhibitions/events will have taken place in collaboration with art institutions. During this period I aim to place the works by each artist in private collections around Ireland and internationally and within our institutional and national collections. In a year from now, it might be interesting to see our artists work with other industries outside contemporary art.
Photo: Killian Broderick