Chert, Berlin

Hidden in a Kreuzberg courtyard on Skalitzer Straße is Chert, founded in 2008 by the Italian gallerist Jennifer Chert. Located in a former automobile repair shop and garage, the gallery is neighbor to Motto, a bookstore and publisher of artists’ books.

Chert, Berlin

When did you open your gallery and what compelled you to do it?

The gallery opened in September 2008. I had been working for galleries before, like Zero in Milano and Johann König in Berlin, so it was sort of natural continuation of my previous experience.

Why Berlin? Was it difficult to integrate?

I was living in Berlin since 2006, working with Johann König gallery. It was not easy to integrate in the city, especially because of the language barrier. I never thought of leaving though.

What did you bring from your gallery experience?

Gallery wise, I worked as mentioned with Zero in Milano and Johann König in Berlin, which have two very different identities, and I had the luck to be able to see the different sides and approaches of two important international art galleries.

Installation view of Erik Steibrecher and Jérémie Gindre for ” Ceramics & Graphite”, Chert, Berlin, summer 2015, Courtesy Chert

What are the pros and cons of being a young gallery in Berlin?

Pros: a  young attentive public, more affordable rents, many artists living in the city, a young international population…

Cons: in Berlin, as everyone knows, there is not really a  large community of collectors, so our income  mainly depends on   participation in art fairs .

What does the name “Chert” mean?

Chert is a rock, a primitive rock that was mainly used to fabricate the first arms – a natural element, modified by man to produce something very useful for their lives, and an art piece at the same time, as most of them are now conserved in museums. The name represents in short what I feel is important about our business, transforming ideas into necessities, into something utilitarian… But it is also my surname. I did not call the gallery Jennifer Chert, though, but only Chert because I thought it is nicer, shorter, and more abstract.

Zora Mann, “Who Are The Dolphins?”, 2015, Acrylic colors on wall, plaster, Site-specific installation, circa 320 x 550 cm, Installation view at Chert, Berlin, April 2015, Courtesy Chert

What is the program of your gallery?

We have 13 international artists in the program, varying from very different range of works, from installation to photography, to drawings, paintings, videos… There is not a restriction of media. We also present quite a lot of group shows and outdoor exhibitions in the courtyard vitrines. The program is quite articulated and complex to describe in a few lines. In general I think there is always something linking one artist to the other, one project to the next one, but I would not know how to describe it rationally.

How did you choose your space and the neighborhood of Kreuzberg?

I had lived in Kreuzberg for a couple of years already before opening the gallery. I was simply walking around looking for interesting spaces to figure out where something would happen.

Let’s talk about your interest in artists’ books, editions and catalogs…

This interest developed along with the gallery and thanks to the proximity of Motto Books, which is at the same address and with whom we do various projects together. I just started to think that the artists’ books and ephemera are a very important extension of an artist’s practice, and sometimes they carry a delicacy and irony that is rarer to find in more complex works.

Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt, “Signs Fiction”, Solo exhibition at Chert, Berlin, January 2015, Courtesy Chert

What are the difficulties a young female gallery owner must face?

I am not sure it is a gender question. Of course we all know it is a male dominated word, but young male gallery owners have quite some hard time too, and harder time admitting it!

What are your plans for the future?

We are working on a lot of projects. The most intense one at the moment is the complete archiving of Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt’s work, a German artist born in 1934 and active in the 1970s-80s in the former GDR. Her work represents a big challenge for us. Once she asked me what was the focus of the gallery program, I told her we specialize in young international artists, and then she laughed and said: “I really don’t fit in there!”