How did you meet?
We met at a dinner in London in 1999 and bonded over a performance by Rita Ackermann and Lizzi Bougatsos at Peter Kilchmann Gallery in Zurich a couple of years later.
What motivated you to open a gallery together?
Timing – we both wanted to leave London, we both wanted to change our work situation and just as we had the idea of starting a gallery together we were offered a space.
When did you open your gallery?
Our first opening took place 31st January 2008.
Let’s talk about the location. Why did you choose this neighborhood? What was the
purpose of the building before?
We didn’t choose the neighbourhood – the space almost chose us. Before we moved in it was a workshop. The foundation running it wanted to move out, so the grandson of the owner, a friend of ours, asked us if we had an idea for something creative or cultural to move in. We took one look at the space and immediately realised that we had to go for it. The space has beautiful large windows out onto the street and a very welcoming atmosphere. It is also ideally located with many contemporary galleries, the Kunsthalle Zurich and the Migros Museum is nearby.
How would you describe the program of your gallery?
Our program is very personal – our artists work with almost all media from sculpture and installation (e.g Claudia Comte, Vanessa Billy, Alexandra Navratil), to painting, drawing and collage (e.g. Benjamin Senior, Henning Strassburger) to photography and film (Daniel Gustav Cramer, Bianca Brunner, Talisa Lallai), and most of them work with more than one media. All were chosen after much consideration and with both of us in agreement.
What do your artists have in common or how are they connected?
Our artists all maintain a studio practice – something that is not that common anymore – and they have a strong focus on a material or a specific theme that they are exploring. It is always the exploration of an idea or a material that is most important. By pure coincidence, but a priority, almost everyone involved with the gallery loves food.
Where and how do you find your artists?
When we started the gallery we focused on bringing artists we knew from London to Zurich. Over the years most of these artists have moved away from London and are now in Zurich or Berlin. For a while we regularly went to the degree shows of the London art schools, the “Rundgänge” of art schools in Germany and so on. However mostly we work with recommendations – either by our artists or by curator friends. And we like to work with other galleries that follow similar ideas in their program.
What are the pros and cons of running a gallery for young, emerging and international art in Zurich?
Zurich is a good place to be as a gallery. There are a lot of local collectors so we don’t depend on art fairs only. The gallery scene is vibrant, there is always something happening, new galleries opening, sometimes galleries closing. And Zurich is central, it is easy to travel around Switzerland to see exhibitions in other cities and have a strong network with the curators of the many Kunsthalle and museums, and to travel internationally.
Zurich is very expensive, which is clearly a big disadvantage. Rents are very high, and labour is very costly. Shipping to and from Switzerland is very expensive, also due to custom regulations. All this means that there aren’t so many young international artists in Zurich.
Who has influenced you as a gallerist?
Anna: probably mostly my father – he has a lot of patience, is very persistent, never gives up and always has a positive attitude – all very necessary when you are a gallerist.
Chaja: Anna, no joke, really. I have never really worked in a gallery before and was very dependent on Anna’s expertise in the field.
How does digitalisation affect your work as a gallerist?
It means that it is easier for us to have a more international outreach, collectors no longer want to see exhibitions so much. It has become normal to buy works from digital images. It also means that we need to be more on top of things when it comes to developments in the digital world. In Europe social media might not yet be so important but in the USA it is vital to be online and active all the time. We feel that we need to be very thorough and innovative when it comes to our online presence, which is something we are working on.
What are your plans for the future?
At Bolte Lang the future is now: we are finally implementing an idea we’ve had for ages. We just tore down all the walls in the gallery, we increased the space by renting a garage behind it and we are now building new walls with a new layout for the exhibition space and moving into a new office. We are opening the refurbished space on 8th April with a solo show by the Rumanian/Italian artist Marion Baruch.