What is art? An interview with Lena König
Together with her husband Johann, Lena König runs an internationally celebrated gallery in Berlin. As with her choice of works of art, she relies on her unerring sense of aesthetics when it comes to questions of style.
The König Gallery in Berlin has managed to bring art into the field of interest of a broad public. The minds behind it: Johann and Lena König. While Johann is the face of the gallery and is present at trade fairs and events, his wife Lena pulls the strings in the background. Four years after moving to the former St. Agnes Church, the gallery is now a Mecca for the art community from all over the world.
Madame: With the König Gallery you seem to hit the nerve of time. It is currently in constant conversation and also attracts many young people to your exhibitions. How did you accomplish this?
Lena König: The search for orientation in an increasingly complex world or simply wanting to understand why Beyoncé is shooting a video in a museum - there are many reasons why more and more people are interested in dealing with art. In various ways, we try to draw attention to the fact that this is also possible here. Many people are unfamiliar with our methods of reducing their fear of the threshold, but they seem to be particularly popular with young audiences. For us, it is not important whether a visitor is able to afford the exhibited works - on the contrary, we see the communication of art to an audience beyond our collectors as an essential part of our profession. In our guestbook there are some entries of visitors who write that they are in a gallery for the first time ever. We are also currently developing an educational program for children, which will take place in cooperation with artists we represent.
Madame: How do your own children deal with art?
Lena König: The children grow up with it. For them, the works on the walls of the apartment, the exhibitions in the gallery, the sculptures in the garden next to their sandbox are part of their home and everyday life. They meet the artists, collectors and curators with a corresponding self-image. My husband and I don't expect them to do anything with art later. But I hope that what surrounds them makes them curious about the diversity that awaits them out there.
Madame: Not only do you work in the brutalistic building of the former St. Agnes church, you also live there with your family. If everything takes place under one roof, what about the work-life balance?
Lena König: The boundaries between professional and private are blurred, which I consider a privilege. My greatest interest is in art, so the question of purpose does not arise when I read a catalogue text. The proximity of home and work makes us very flexible, which enables us to spend a lot of time together with the children.
Madame: Which artists do you rely on in your private rooms?
Lena König: What's hanging on the walls of our apartment often changes. Right now it's an L from the work "GLORIA" by Shannon Ebner, a cat by Elad Lassry and a still life by Nicolas Party. Apart from that, we mainly have heirlooms and gifts from artists we are friends with.
Madame: The renovation of St. Agnes Church was under your direction at the time - a real challenge. What insights did you gain personally from this?
Lena König: That it is necessary to leave the essential decisions to the professionals, in this case to the architect Arno Brandlhuber - no matter how much you think you know. And that everything you hear about building is true: you need strong nerves and get free training in diplomacy and serving coffee. In retrospect, the lengthy discussions with the monument protection authority were a stroke of luck, because you could try out or rethink many things while waiting for the decisions.
Madame: A gallery lives from the constant change of temporary exhibitions. How do you find peace in a constantly changing environment?
Lena König: I'm not on Facebook or Instagram, I don't know any series. Instead, I spend free minutes in the garden, look at the plants and then switch off my phone, which annoys my husband insanely.
Madame: With the gallery you can rely on a strong social media presence. So how come you are not personally represented on any of the platforms?
Lena König: Professionally it makes sense for me to also use the social media. Privately I prefer to share pictures and thoughts in other ways.
Madame: Are you interested in fashion?
Lena König: Fashion as such doesn't play a big role in my life. However, I find the connections between fashion and art interesting. For example, I have just visited an exhibition in Madrid about Balenciaga and Spanish painting.
Madame: What young artists are you watching at the moment?
Lena König: Currently I follow the work of Ella Kruglyanskaya, Diedrick Brackens, Grace Weaver and Katja Novitskova.
Madame: What exactly fascinates you about a work of art?
Lena König: I am particularly interested in art when it is not immediately accessible to me. When I stand in front of something that touches me without me understanding why. That's the way it works for me, also in my encounters with people or places.
Madame: And what is art for you in general?
Lena König: For me, art is an opportunity to look through different perspectives at and reflect on what surrounds us.
Capital city child
Lena König was born in Berlin in 1980. She studied art history and journalism in Vienna, where she lived for over ten years. She worked in the Albertina and as a press officer in the Belvedere.
Today she lives and works with her husband Johann König in the converted former St. Agnes Church in Berlin-Kreuzberg. The couple has been married since 2011 and runs the König Galerie together.
In addition to her work as a gallery owner, Lena König manages everyday life as a mother of two. Together with Johann König she has a six-year-old son and a four-year-old daughter.