31 December 2016

Peles Empire
Arielle Bier: The Berlin Artist-Run Galleries You Need to Know


Berlin continues to top the charts as a global cultural capital. The city is saturated with creatives, and the jestful adage “If you throw a stone in Berlin, you’ll hit an artist,” quite frankly, rings true. In recent years, artists, curators, and art connoisseurs alike, have flocked to the nation’s capital to set up shop, chasing after the next big thing.

Though public financing is scarce and the local art market is relatively weak (compared to New York or London), exhibiting in Berlin has become a necessity for international artists looking to build or establish their careers. Although the commercial gallery culture is more than plentiful, working artists and budding curators with an eye for the most progressive and relevant artwork keep experimentation with exhibition formats alive, pumping fresh energy into the community by contributing their voices and visions to the mix in spaces of their own.


The roving, collaborative project Peles Empire was conceived by artists Barbara Wolff and Katharina Stoever while studying at the Städelschule in Frankfurt. Their artwork and project spaces are set on the backdrop of the Neo-Renaissance Peleș Castle—a grand palace in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania—which the artists have copied, dislocated, and recreated. In their work, printed images of various rooms and elements from the castle are applied to walls, sculptures, and other surfaces, creating a context for what philosopher Jean Baudrillard called Simulacra and Simulation. Peles Empire’s project spaces in London, Cluj, and the latest in Berlin, are lined with reproduced elements of the castle, which other artists are invited to engage with and respond to.


Arielle Bier: Where was your first space? How did you choose the name?

Peles Empire: Initially, in 2005 we opened as an illegal bar in our home in Frankfurt’s red light district, with a printed backdrop of the Peleș Castle’s Princess Bedroom. It was open to the public every Thursday night. After moving to London, we explicitly looked for a flat that could also host exhibitions. It was in the basement of an old building near Brick Lane, underneath a photographer’s studio. We changed the name to Peles Empire as a humorous nod to the absurdity of the castle itself (a historicism, copying different iconic architectural styles). The first show featured icons painted by Kurt Günther Wolff. Over the years, the bar element was more or less taken out, and since 2009 we’ve focused principally on exhibitions.

AB: How do you balance your own art practice with running the gallery?

PE: Opening our permanent installation to other artists—the same backdrop of all our exhibition spaces, really taught us a lot about seeing other people’s and our own works. Whereas we initially tried to question methods of seeing art, opposed to the established “white cube,” we are now focusing on opening our collaboration up to others to see where the paradoxical freedom emerging in our exhibition space leads both us, and other artists as well. The exhibition space is the “static” element to our practice, while our other works are more “dynamic” in the sense that they deal with the castle’s method of reproduction, becoming in parts, very abstract.

AB: Are you drawing primarily from your own community?

PE: We are very interested in connecting different art communities, not only virtually but also in the form of real exhibitions. This was also the reason why we opened an exhibition space in Cluj, Romania, for a couple of years, the home country of the castle. We hope to maintain connections by exhibiting artists from cities where we have lived and/or worked before. 

AB: What’s next?

PE: We opened our new exhibition space on Karl-Marx-Straße in Neükolln last summer with a solo show by Oliver Osborne, followed by a group show with Simon Fujiwara, Maria Loboda, and Andrew Mealor. Our current exhibition opened on the 8th of December with Mark Barker, Mariechen Danz, and Benedicte Gyldenstierne Sehested. For next year, we have already planned several shows, starting in March with a duo exhibition by Alastair Mackinven and Benjamin Saurer.


Read the full article on www.artsy.com