OFFICE IMPART is focused on rethinking structures, dissolving boundaries, and shifting our perceptions of gallerists. With over 10 years experience working in galleries, the women behind OFFICE IMPART have founded a new kind of mobile, post-gallery guided by the question: How do I convey art today?
Where About Now had an exchange with Anne Schwanz and Johanna Neuschäffer…
Where About Now: We are doing this interview in writing because the Where About Now team is off doing research between Art Basel Miami and Tbilisi. Does travel play a role for you personally and/or for your practice? And if so, how do you travel and where to?
OFFICE IMPART: Travel is important to us. We like traveling from the Baltic Sea, where we both grew up, to all over the world, especially Africa or Asia, to seek new inspiration and different perspectives. Travel is also essential for our business. With our work as gallerists, we think globally from the beginning and also work on realizing projects outside of Berlin, our home base. In our first year we have already realized projects in Hamburg and Turin and checked out what is going on in the arts in cities such as London, Paris, Cologne and Basel.
WAN: Your name OFFICE IMPART comes with the claim of rethinking structures, and you call yourself a post-gallery. Where does the name come from and how do you understand this term, post-gallery?
OI: We developed the name OFFICE IMPART from the word “impart.” The original idea for our company lies in the question: How do I convey art today? OFFICE IMPART is a gallery format that asks this question and finds a contemporary and future-oriented answer to it. In the mediation of art, the many diverse levels of gallery work are particularly interesting and decisive for us. This complexity of curating and organizing exhibitions, promoting and advising artists, selling art, advising and supporting collectors in building up collections, etc., sums up our own understanding of contemporary gallerists and determines our gallery structure. For this purpose, we rethink the existing structures and adapt them for us to the current questions of the industry.
And since one likes terms for everything, we have chosen the prefix "post" – well known in the art world – "post" for something that comes after in time. OFFICE IMPART is thus a gallery format that is prepared for working with future questions.
WAN: How do you develop your ideas and exhibitions?
OI: Many ideas develop through discussions with the artists and engagement with their works. For us, the most interesting artistic positions are those that have a clear attitude towards their surroundings, their work, and the present. This leads to an interest in different themes, which we then implement in the various projects.
However, every project needs an audience. In the developing of a project we always seek for a way to distribute and promote it. We believe that art has to be seen and felt in order to be understood and valued. Another main focus in our work and step in our development of ideas is to locate the people that we want to reach and find innovative ways to approach them. There is a vast, younger audience that is hungry to experience the effect art has on us but needs to be approached differently. It excites us to create innovative ways to reach them.
WAN: What kinds of spaces do you use for your exhibitions and where are they located?
OI: We are open to various types of cooperation – often the idea to cooperate comes first and the space then comes second. For us every space has its temptation whether it is a white cube, an institution, or a used or unused space. The diversity of the space shapes our ideas; it has its own dynamic.
Just to mention a few projects that we have done and are doing so far: There was “The Art House” in Hamburg, which was a collaboration with Andrea von Goetz, who also works in the arts and with Kete Link who works in property development. It was a great format to show Berlin- and Hamburg-based artists to an audience beginning to collect art. The Haus am Lützowplatz in Berlin also invited us to curate an exhibition at their Studiogalerie, which has been perfect to bring interesting artists together and show them in a curated content. The show, entitled “set in scene,” runs through January 20, 2019. At KINDL - Zentrum für zeitgenössiche Kunst, also in Berlin, we will have the pleasure to curate a show on digital thinking of contemporary artists. It is a great place to present our interests in how the digitalization affects artistic work, a thought which personally drives us as well.
Each of these are very different exhibitions, but with all of them we intend to reach and trigger an audience to discover a generation of interesting artists. We believe that as gallerists you don't just have to play in your own space and that the flexibility and dynamics are greater today than ever before. Therefore, we don't necessarily have to define one space.
WAN: Location—geographically and metaphorically—orients the perspective of a gallery. Do you consider yourselves to be free of this notion completely; and if so, what potential do you recognize in this freedom?
OI: We see OFFICE IMPART more as a brand that is independent from one particular space and is thus able to act more flexibly. Our space for us is metaphorical, like a cloud, digitally speaking. There is a base that defines what we stand for, but there is access to it from everywhere.
WAN: On a related note, you both come from many years of work in established galleries. By contrast, how does your model affect both your work process and the kinds of content you show?
OI: We worked for more than 10 years at Galerie EIGEN + ART and until the end of 2017 we ran the EIGEN + ART Lab together. We had a lot of freedom in our working processes and we also conceived and organized the exhibitions independently.
By founding our own company, the independence felt like a natural continuation of our ideas and approaches. At the moment, we love and appreciate the independence to be able to develop things in our sense and believe that the autonomy on all levels enables us to really develop new ideas. This also means as a team – we love to work and create projects together. We know each other’s strengths on so many levels. That often helps to focus on the content we want to produce as OFFICE IMPART and makes us productive.
WAN: The Zurich based gallery Roehers & Boetsch offered a Gallery Delivery—an on-demand exhibition—during the last Art Week in Berlin. Can we also think of OFFICE IMPART as a traveling gallery?
OI: We know "Gallery Delivery" well and like Sebastian Schmieg's work and idea very much. We also ordered the exhibition in a private setting here in Berlin during Berlin Art Week. It was a very special performance with great artists. The idea that the show travels to the recipient is similar to our approach to rethink where to reach the beholder in today’s society.
Still, we see OFFICE IMPART as a contemporary gallery format that can consciously emerge in various situations. The base is in Berlin, but we will work with a global view and look for places and situations for exhibitions nationally and internationally. For us, this is what it means to be contemporary – to be flexible, to work in different places, and to develop projects for diverse places.
We would describe ourselves as a mobile gallery rather than a traveling gallery.
WAN: It seems that such conventional spatial and business boundaries are dissolving. Another Swiss gallery, Hauser & Wirth, is opening a hotel this month. How do imagine this notion of the post-gallery developing and what kinds of structures and formats do you want to experiment with in the future?
OI: We believe in individual gallery models in the future, which includes the term post-gallery for us. There is more room for diversity in the scene and you can feel on all levels the desire for new formats.
For us, cooperation is an important starting point for our work. We believe in connecting the most diverse networks and different areas and look forward to developing dynamic formats from it. Customer orientation is also immensely important in this approach. We ask what interests the other person and then we develop something that fits the respective target group. It is also important for us to deal with new technologies and to think about how this changes our working possibilities today and tomorrow.
WAN: Lastly, we have talked a lot about spatial flexibility and freedom of location, so we wanted to ask, if someone wants to meet you in person, what would be the best way to finding you?
OI: We will have an office in Berlin-Moabit opening in January 2019. We are really excited, it is going to be our representational space: A place to meet, to have a coffee, and to discuss art. For sure there will also be art on the walls.
Right now, we are most vivid on instagram where we let people participate in our discoveries in today’s art scene. Every Monday we release a newsletter, TheWeeker, where we recommend exhibitions and art events with artists and ideas that we support and like. Here you can meet us more virtually, but we also always mention the projects where we will go or that we have initiated and where we would love to meet in person.
In the end, with all the knowledge of how the work will be changing in the future, we truly believe in personal moments.
Header image: „The Art House Vol.1" - exhibition in Hamburg 2018, Pola Sieverding „Arena“ 2014
Interview by WAN