Interview with Alexander Levy, founder of the gallery Alexander Levy in Berlin
Alexander Levy left the music business for the art world. With his decision to turn his father’s Berlin outpost into a gallery for young art, he brought a breath of fresh air to the Rudi-Dutschke-Straße right in the middle of the newspaper district. Here the story of how everything happened.
When did you open your gallery?
I opened the gallery in January 2012 with the first solo gallery show of Julius von Bismarck. It was a great moment, as it was in a way a first step for both of us.
What motivated you to open a gallery?
I completed a Bachelors degree in media management in a program that allowed me to work at Warner Music in Hamburg at the same time. After three years there, I worked for another year in the department for new business models. I have always been very interested in music, and I wanted to work with musicians. My father has been running a gallery for more than 45 years, and he had this kind of connection with artists that inspired me. But after a while I realized that the opportunities for developing your own ideas in the music world are very limited, at least in a large company. Already while working at Warner Music, I was interested in art and somehow involved in the art world. Following my experience in the music world, I learned to appreciate the art world and the direct contact with artists. This made me decide to concentrate on the art world. At first I ran the Berlin branch of my father’s gallery. After a while, though, I got the idea to start my own gallery in which I could work with artists of my generation.
Your gallery program seems to stand for a young generation of mainly Berlin based artists. How do you find your artists?
I came to Berlin in 2009 and hung around the art world a lot. The first artist I met was Felix Kiessling, who had studied at Olafur Eliasson’s Institut für Raumexperimente and whom I had previously shown in an exhibition at my father’s gallery. From that moment, I met many interesting artists in Berlin and saw their work at exhibitions. Having my own gallery allowed me to collaborate with them. The concentration on Berlin was not my plan, it just happened. Berlin is the home to many great international artists.
Three of your artists studied at Olafur Eliasson’s Institut für Raumexperimente. Is there a special school of thought, or movement, these artists stand for?
I have always had the feeling that the artists who studied at this Institute had a different approach. Olafur Eliasson invited the most various people to lecture at the Institute, from architects to biologists to choreographers. I think that this multifaceted approach, unusual in regular universities, stimulated the students.
What are the biggest challenges a gallery must face in its first years?
In the early years of a gallery the challenge is to find an audience. Not only an audience that comes to see the exhibitions, but also to inspire collectors to buy works of young artists. First you have to make your name as a gallery, and this is not easy in Berlin, where there are so many galleries. You must put on good exhibitions and work closely with your artists in order to present their work well. When the gallery and the artists are still young, it can take time before the whole thing becomes successful. Also participating in art fairs is not easy at the beginning, as it needs a big financial investment. One needs a lot of patience.
How would you describe the relationship among Berlin art galleries?
I have had various experiences. There is certainly a tight group of Berlin galleries that often work together and it might be difficult for the new ones to be included, but this is also understandable. I think that the Gallery Weekend and the ABC are a good sign that gallerists are working together to make Berlin known as a major gallery city. I have many colleagues among the newer galleries with whom I have a very good relationship and collaborations.
What are your plans for the future?
We are currently increasing our participation at fairs, and we are looking forward to having more presence at the international level. We have just added a great new artist to the program, Nik Nowak, and there will be more news, but I cannot reveal it now.
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