While reading Magda Grüner’s text to introduce “Grimpo”, Edie Monetti’s 13 octopus-objects, for leikela’s latest exclusive art edition, I not only instantly fell for the “brightly colored, shiny little bodies with black beady eyes“, as she describes them, but also found myself in a swirl of emotions. I felt a deep longing for the sea and an appreciation of the beauty both of Grüner’s writing and the precious artwork objects she describes. Let’s face it, this is not something a press text usually achieves.
In other words, Grüner effortlessly expressed what it is that makes leikela editions stand out: authenticity. Authenticitiy that is achieved in a process involving a mix of attitude, patience, curiosity and most importantly an unconditional love of art. It is a process that can be compared to diamond cutting. If done carefully, with the right tools and ideas and executed by the right experts, the result will always stand for itself and will shine. In this special feature we talk to the three persons involved in creation of “Grimpo”, leikela´s latest ‘diamond’, artist Edie Monetti, the curator Alexander Warhus and leikela founder Rahel Gorten.
What does all this have to do with Caniabals, one Night in Paris and “Mixed Pickles”? Read on!
When I first encountered your Malekula paintings, they triggered a certain memory and feeling that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It took me a while to realize that they reminded me of an exhibition I saw last autumn at Sammlung Goetz – Generations Part 2. Female Artists in Dialogue. The whole feel of that hallway in the semi-darkness with all these rooms filled with video works by iconic female artists, such as Pipilotti Rist, Yahoi Kusama …
When I look at Malekula, I feel like I am back down there, particularly regarding Nathalie Djurberg’s video work that uses self-made clay figures to depict the deconstruction of the female body. Are you familiar with her work and that particular exhibition?
Yes. I’ve seen the show and your instinctive impression is right.
Even if Generations Part 2. Female Artists in Dialogue was focused on moving images, I guess my work is just influenced by similar subjects, darkness, destruction of femininity, isolation and questions of (female) identity in our society.
Firstly, I am curious about how you managed to incorporate the influence of having a professor like Oehlen during your studying years. Can you describe the essence of those years and how it shows in your work as a curator?
Alexander: My studies with Albert Oehlen had a strong impact on me. His attitude, his ideals and his expectations regarding his own works fascinated me from the beginning. He is just very precise. We travelled a lot with him, visited exhibitions, artist colleagues, gallerists and curators.
We were able to have an insight into his life and his work and he even involved us.
We are still in close contact and discuss many different things, of course also our work. Over the period of 10 years now, I have been representing three of my former fellow students: Andreas Breunig, Simon Hemmer and Yuji Nagai. In a sense, one could say that we worked out a certain style, a certain taste, a ‚special knowledge’, which has also been influenced by Albert.
Rahel, you are the founder of leikela. Please let us know what led to the decision to take the risk and jump into the cold water of this difficult area/market.
Rahel: Discussing the possibilities but also challenges of presenting and offering art with artists in my personal background made me think of creating my own platform. The idea fascinated me and the urge to do it got stronger when thinking about possible concepts and speaking to artists, curators and gallerists. Questions like
How can you offer art besides the usual gallery representation without commercializing the art works? How can you reach an audience interested in the art just with an online platform?
Since I didn’t want to start a classical gallery, I worked out a concept involving some different ideas to offer art – in our case art editions – where especially the online market brings some high potential and new options. Still, at the heart of leikela is the artwork and the artist’s work process. I like working out concepts together with the artists, showing the nature of art production in a very direct and approachable way and combine it to offering art to people already collecting works of certain artists but also reaching out to people who might start their art collection with one of our editions.
Of course, the mechanisms of the art market are complex, but I think new ideas and concepts have to evolve and it’s definitely worth to take the risk…
All the destinations you’ve travelled to over the past few years – I keep imagining a human sponge-like mechanism absorbing images, smells, encounters to then use them up bit by bit – like the artist inside you muscling up in preparation for your works to come.
Or do you just love to travel?
Edie: No, you’re absolutely right. Mostly I don’t travel just for joy – I travel for my work. It’s often very uncomfortable, tough, and sometimes cruel.
In Vanuatu, Malekula, I saw the original cannibal sights where people got killed and cooked and I got infected with dengue fever in the jungle.
When back in Germany I worked on the Malekula paintings, with high fever, headache and massive joint pain.
I’m convinced you can see my condition in the paintings. So, my travels have a very immediate influence sometimes…
In your experience as an art advisor and art dealer, how important or relevant are ventures like leikela?
Alexander: From my perspective, it is great what Rahel is doing. She is enthusiastic about her ideas and concepts and that is why I’m really looking forward to cooperating with leikela.
Her approach is similar to my work in many ways.
She curates, mediates and supervises „her” artists beyond the edition and her action goes far beyond a simple ´sale`. Also, leikela provides another option for artists to show their work, exhibit and make it public. leikela is a great gain and an additional platform to a gallery representation and art advisory, in any way.
Your husband/partner is an artist himself. You thus experienced the reality of an artist in a very direct way. Did this play a role in your decision?
Rahel: Yes, absolutely. Living with an artist for many years, actually going through the different phases of ups and downs on a very personal basis, actually feeling the pressure before a show, feeling the joy but sometimes also self-destructive side of art creation, made me love but also question the way the art world works. Seeing the untamed motivation of my husband and many other artists, has always been fascinating to me and I love working with them.
Visiting an artist in the studio always has a little magic to it.
Please tell us about your usual work process in comparison to developing these precious Grimpos for Leikela. Did you already have that idea, or did it come about in a joint thought process with Rahel?
Edie: It was a process with Rahel and Alexander, we talked a lot about my work and then „Grimpo “showed up almost naturally… My usual work process is embossed by stopping when I get tired of the painting or object.
So, there’s a kind of a strange powerlessness and indifference in my work.
With “Grimpo” I had to stay focused longer. Especially when building the mold.
In your experience and estimation as a young, aspiring artist, can projects like leikela affect the future of the art market, especially in terms of making art more approachable for a bigger but also highly individual audience compared to the usual mainstream art market fields like gallery shows and fairs?
Edie: I think the higher individual audience is exactly the point. The price structure is moderate and leikela is working mainly with young artists and up and coming but very experienced curators like Alexander.
leikela´s way to the artist ‘s editions are a very close-to-the-artist one. Apart from the regular studio visit, working with Rahel was a very intense and energetic time.
She’s curious and full of love for art. That’s her engine.
I don’t know if it can finally affect the art market, but I think it’s an important backlash to it.
What was the first piece of art or artist that really struck you and why?
Edie: Hard to say, Guston and Penck had a strong influence but the first work that really struck me was probably the carousel of Bruce Nauman.
The mobile of hanging, mutated animals spinning around in such a brutal, dark, inescapable way touched me deep inside.
A strange beauty in destruction.
Finally, please tell us about Micronesia. What did you see, do, experience there?
Edie: Micronesia is really amazing. On Yap „stone money “has still an influence and every property are tradionally owned by an islander.
If you walk through the island it’s a good advice to have „something green “in your hand -as a sign of your peaceful intentions.
So, we walked all day with a green shrub in our hand…
I still don’t know if they just kidded us… 😉
Can you describe the first work by Edie that made an impact on you? What makes her work stand out for you from a curator’s view?
Alexander: Looking back, the first work by Edie that caught my eye was one of her snake-paintings. What I liked about it was that I wasn’t able to classify her work. What did it mean? Why was someone doing that? Mhhh? That’s when I got to look at her man-eater series, which captivated/fascinated me right away.
Imagine someone sculpting and painting a man-eater lion, panther and crocodile – that’s simply awesome!
At the same time Edie contacted me because she liked the works by Andreas Breunig, which she saw on my Instagram account and on my website. It turned out she was part of the crew of “Prinz of Wales”, a former off-space in Munich where Andreas had a solo show in 2013 called ´P.o.W. presents Breunigga – The Windowing System`. We then texted back and forth, had a similar content taste and then the double show ´Sexe, Religion, Politique` by Albert in Paris at Gallery Max Hetzler and Gagosian was about to open. I went to Paris with Andreas Breunig and also Josef Zekoff, who I represent and Sarah Bogner from Harpune Verlag and invited Edie to join us.
Just one night in Paris… that was literally the first time we met.
We got along really well and by getting to know her personally, I had an even better access to her work. I don’t want to anticipate too much now but her work is incredibly complex and personal. Watch out for her upcoming solo show at Galerie Sabine Kunst in Munich beginning 2020…
I imagine that dealing with the differing requirements of curating but also selling art can be quite a challenge at times. Is that the case?
Alexander: Actually, not too much. Just like in the nearly 10 years of gallery work with Luisa Rittershaus I have always been exhibiting what interests me personally. Of course, your preferences develop over the years and it’s natural for your own taste to change, but attitude and style are extremely important to me:
Loyalty to the artists, which I expect in return of course; not following trends but establishing and supporting the artists’ work with time and patience.
Regarding your Instagram profile, what’s your dream bicycle route and why?
Alexander: Ah, great! My dream route would be cycling part of the Giro d’Italia. It’s a fantastic route. But actually, the team is even more important to me than the route itself.
Many of my artists and friends also ride a road bike, so I’m lucky to combine my profession, friendships and passion even here.
But what I’m looking forward to the most would be the first tour with my daughter Annamaria as soon as she will be able to ride a bike on her own „without daddy’s help “…
How do you find and pick the artists you work for? Can we imagine this as a flow or is there a strategy you apply?
Rahel: When I started with the first six artists in November 2017, I knew most of them personally. I asked them if they wanted to contribute an edition for the launch of leikela. I needed people who wanted to support the project and who trusted me. Very quickly I realized that all artists I spoke to also after the opening, were really interested and open to create an edition, even if they usually didn´t work in series/multiples, or contrary just because of that. But yes, the first months were maybe more like an experiment because I decided very instinctively on the cooperation’s with the artists.
Still, the works and artistic positions were very strong, so I think it started off quite well…
This year, our second year, I was already able to respond to the experiences I made. I’ve worked out a program for the whole year of 2019. Since we release one edition per month and more and more people are involved with writing and translating the texts for the editions, photographers etc, it is quite necessary to have it planned out well. Since new networks keep growing in the different collaborations more and more options develop. So, let’s say there is a „guided” flow to the process.
Is there a certain – let’s call it ingredient or feel – that a work or artist has to have to be featured by leikela?
First of all, I have a very personal approach and select the artists I want to work with because their work fascinates me. The work has to be authentic and powerful in its own way. And since the collaboration is quite close it also has to fit on an interpersonal level. Of course, the material the artist’s work with also plays a role, as the variety of the editions is very important for me.
And then there is the very interesting process in defining the edition.
Some artists have a clear plan from the beginning and sometimes it is more like a joint thought process – sometimes completely new ideas pop up while thinking about artworks in terms of a multiple or an edition. This is a very interesting process; I love doing with the artists.
What makes Edie´s work stand out for you and where did you first encounter it?
Rahel: I discovered Edie’s work for the first time in the group show „Mixed Pickles “by Ruttkowski 68 in Cologne last year. She showed a huge painting that had wild tigers, some covered in blood, and skulls scattered on the ground in it. There were also bloody sneakers with tarantulas on them in front of the painting. I was fascinated right away. Her work is enigmatic.
There is a pureness about it, but also elements of destruction.
I was happy to learn from Alexander that he knew her. So, he asked her if she would be interested in producing an edition. She agreed and it was very clear from the beginning on, that we wanted to realize this as a trio, as we started talking about the edition all together.
Collaborating with them was really inspiring and fun!
Tell us a little about this year’s annual leikela show.
Rahel: After our opening event in Hamburg in 2017 and our premiere in Berlin last year, we are already working on our annual show in Cologne at the end of this year. It will be a special show and also a premiere in three ways – the first show in Cologne; the first time we will be showing not only the editions but also other works; and the first time I’m cooperating with Alexander to curate and organize the exhibition.
I’m really excited!
You can read Magda Grüners text and find out more about Edie Monetti, leikela & “Grimpo” here
Header: Malekula I, 2017, copyright Galerie Sabine Knust
Other photo credits: leikela or the artist
Author: Esther Harrison