Interview with CroyNielsen – Oliver Croy & Henrikke Nielsen

Gallery Weekend Berlin

Installation view Benoît Maire, Croy Nielsen, Berlin 2013, Photograph: Joachim Schulz

This week, we are focusing around the upcoming Gallery Weekend and will be talking to artists, gallerists, collectors and present the exhibitions to see, places to be and art to experience. Following the interview of amazing artist duo Awst & Walther, Indechs had the chance to talk to Galerie Croy Nielsen. The gallery is known as one of the leading galleries of Berlins art scene and we are thus very pleased and excited to discuss Berlin, its art scene and of course their practice with Oliver Croy and Henrikke Nielsen!

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With the Gallery Weekend coming up, you are, like the name suggests, in the middle of things. Tell us a bit more and what will you be showing?

We are looking much forward to our 2nd solo show by Mandla Reuter. It is a continuation of his interest in the idea of plan development and land – both as real estate, property and literally speaking. Contrary to his recent solo show at Kunsthalle Basel that was centred on a specific piece of land owned by the artist in LA, this show approaches the subject in a more abstract manner. Apart from a new series of wall-based works, there will be a fountain in the middle of the gallery! The fountain is a recurrent motive in his works – representing the idea of the last decorative measurement undertaken once all the planning and constructing is done.

Berlin is still referred to as a centre of artistic and cultural production.  During the gallery weekend, the city is once more going to be very busy. Is Berlin still a creative hub, or does it in your opinion live through a myth that is being created around the city?

Creative hub, myth or not: Berlin remains a place where a lot of artists have settled and it is a great place for production – also on a practical level. The creative energy is rooted in the many artists around, and even though the city has changed a lot over the years (cities do!), the galleries, the artists etc have not become less or less important.

In your eyes, why do Art Fairs in Berlin tend to fail, yet the Gallery Weekend proves to be on top of things and very successful – even acts as a role model for other cities, like Zürich?

The Gallery Weekend was a great invention! It is a fantastic concept because you get to do what you do at art fairs but within your own gallery walls, which is a relief. And it is a much more pleasant experience for the collectors too. Furthermore the Gallery Weekend is solely for the local galleries (that are all very international, of course!) so the success of it is also based on the fact that the city has not only a high density of galleries, but even a lot of really good ones – on all levels, from the very well-established to the brand new ones and everything in-between. And this might be one of the myths that definitely has a certain degree of truth to it: in comparison to many other cities the galleries of Berlin still tend to do rather experimental and less obviously commercial shows –  a tradition born out of the fact that there were and still are less collectors around than in many other cities.

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Coming originally from Denmark and Austria, you founded your gallery Croy Nielsen in 2008. Why did you decide to set up your gallery in Germany or even more in Berlin?

We had both been based in Berlin (where we also met) for a long time when we opened the gallery, so we never considered to do it elsewhere. It is rather the other way around: we would probably never had come up with the idea of opening a gallery if it had not been for Berlin! In comparison to Vienna and Copenhagen where we moved from, the situation of Berlin – not only the low rents, but also the general spirit – at that time (2000-2008) let to the idea of a project space, which then brought us to start the gallery. It was an option that arose from being here, and being part of what was going on during that time.

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Can you define your gallery program and if so, what it is?

The program is obviously based on our own interests and preferences, but from where we stand it is difficult to point out common features – maybe easier for you, looking at it from the outside, actually?

You are currently representing 14 artists and Marlie Mul (featured on Indechs) joined the team recently. On what basis is the gallery program expanded?

It is a kind of organic and ongoing process. If something catches our interest, we tend to follow it for a while, in order to see if it is just a certain trend, or if there is more to it. We are not following any overall strategy, but we try to do studio visits regularly and we are attentive to our artist’s suggestions: it is really nice when our attention is brought in a slightly different direction, and sometimes we are even surprised by our own choices (in a positive sense).

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Starting a new collaboration is always exciting, and we are very happy about the inclusion of Marlie Mul, who is also based in Berlin.It is important for us to have a kind of balance between long-distance relationships and working with artists based in Berlin.

Oliver, you were an artist yourself and Henrikke you were a curator and critic. Taking both of your backgrounds into consideration, how do you complement each other? Are you covering most important aspects from wither side working in the field? 

Yes, we are definitely covering different fields of the gallery work but these are also merging more and more.

Coming back to the Gallery Weekend, many international collectors will be coming to Berlin, 49 galleries are opening at the same time and many events will take place. What significance does the GW has for a galerist? Do you set a special focus on the exhibition during this weekend, compared to other gallery shows?

Contrary to other shows, the Gallery Weekend one is visited by a very high density of people within the first couple of days. Furthermore, people who are not able to make it for the gallery weekend,  often schedule a trip to Berlin within the month after, knowing that a lot of great shows will be up. So it is a very important time of the year for us. The investment (in terms of energy) put into the show as such does not differ from the rest of the shows we do a year – but there is a lot of additional preparations to be done: other works need to be ready to be viewed, scheduling meetings etc.

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Are you operating during Gallery Weekend rather as during any other exhibition of the year or does it feel like at a „fair“; obviously besides the geographical disjoinement to other exhibitors?

I think this is answered above – the Gallery Weekend does feel like an art fair in terms of visitors – but you have your own exhibition space, your own desk, and you probably act differently because of that! It is great.

Lastly, what would you recommend to visit, when in Berlin? What are your tips and insights for the Gallery Weekend?

Get your hands on a bicycle (there are plenty to rent) and try to see as much as possible – there are so many great shows to see! And in any case spring and bicycling is a great Berlin combination.

Thank you very much!