How König Galerie Encapsulates Major Art Market Trends Today

MISA #3, Cross Over, Installation view, St. Agnes, Berlin, 2021. Photo by Roman Maerz. Image courtesy of misa.art.
MISA #3, NFT, Installation view, St. Agnes, Berlin, 2021. Photo by Roman Maerz. Image courtesy of misa.art.
MISA #3, East German Art, Installation view, St. Agnes, Berlin, 2021. Photo by Roman Maerz. Image courtesy of misa.art.
MISA #3, Ultra Contemporary, Installation view, St. Agnes, Berlin, 2021. Photo by Roman Maerz. Image courtesy of misa.art.
MISA #3, Photography & Works on Paper, Installation view, St. Agnes, Berlin, 2021. Photo by Roman Maerz. Image courtesy of misa.art.
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CoBo Social Design and Architecture

Berlin-based König Galerie is highly indicative of contemporary art market trends such as traditional art businesses adapting each other’s sales strategies and the growing digital art market. But does it paint the true picture of an interdependent and struggling art ecosystem?

TEXT: Reena Devi
IMAGES: Courtesy of König Galerie

 

The technological awakening and “blobification” of the art market have become two noteworthy industry trends of late, seemingly accelerated by the ongoing pandemic. In fact, Berlin’s König Galerie makes a strong case for the increasingly blurred lines between art galleries, auction houses and art fairs, as well as the growing importance of the digital art market.

In the month of August this year, the gallery, founded in 2002, opened the third edition of its in-house art fair, MISA, at its usual exhibition space in St. Agnes, Berlin, a converted Brutalist church.

 

MISA #3, Cross Over, Installation view, St. Agnes, Berlin, 2021. Photo by Roman Maerz. Image courtesy of misa.art.

 

The physical fair, running from 10 to 22 August, presents 500 works of art by more than 300 artists from both the primary and secondary art market in thematic booths that provide art historical context over 70 years. The curated booths focus on Post War, Pop Art, African Art, East German Art, Cross-Over, Post Internet, Ultra Contemporary, NFT and more. This includes works by recognisable names like Robert Longo, Martin Kippenberger and contemporary artists such as Johanna Dumet, Denise Rudolf Frank, and Fabian Warnsing.

An event that started during the pandemic, the last two editions each attracted more than   visitors, according to the gallery. Most interestingly, the latest revamped edition is helmed by Lena Winter, former Head of Contemporary Art at German auction house Ketterer Kunst.

Responding to CoBo Social’s email queries, Winter said, “In contrast to traditional art fairs, we don’t have exhibitors but offer artists, collectors and gallery owners likewise a platform to sell art.”

In yet another sign of galleries adopting strategies of other types of art businesses, König Galerie tried its hand at an online auction earlier this year. The exhibition titled “THE ARTIST IS ONLINE” had a physical show and a complementary exhibition on Decentraland, a virtual reality platform powered by the Ethereum blockchain, and more than 30 digital artworks available for purchase as NFTs.

Increasingly aware of the art market’s digital awakening, this month, on 10 August, König Galerie also launched misa.art, an online marketplace presenting emerging and established artists across traditional and digital art, including NFTs.

 

MISA #3, NFT, Installation view, St. Agnes, Berlin, 2021. Photo by Roman Maerz. Image courtesy of misa.art.
MISA #3, East German Art, Installation view, St. Agnes, Berlin, 2021. Photo by Roman Maerz. Image courtesy of misa.art.

 

Responding to us via email, Johann König, founder of the eponymous gallery, shared that the idea of misa.art grew during the pandemic when all art fairs were cancelled, and everything moved online. “It became clear that the digital sphere is sort of an unexplored area with a huge untapped potential,” he said.

König, known as one of Germany’s major art dealers and hailing from “art world aristocracy”, also explained how the online platform was an organic offshoot of the in-house fair itself.

“Not only in the art industry, but dealers also usually ask themselves in a positive sense who is interested in which goods and how can you reach new audiences. It was from this reverse approach that I initiated the fair in St. Agnes, short MISA, and put the above question at the centre of all further developments in this format, which is now in its third edition. The online art marketplace misa.art was just the logical consequence,” he said.

Described as part of a growing cohort of art dealers “testing out secondary market endeavors of their own”, König is also not alone in his foray into the online marketplace amongst big name gallerists. During the month of May, blue-chip powerhouse David Zwirner launched Platform, a new click-to-buy e-commerce platform for discovering and buying art, showcasing work by artists from leading independent galleries around the world.

When asked about the difference between misa.art and other such digital platforms, König said, “One of the most distinctive features of misa.art is that artworks from the primary and secondary market are available. Moreover, we present traditional works beside digital works like NFTs.”

“An absolute novelty are the integrated artists rankings by Artfacts as well as complex AI-supported price validations. Works on offer are permanently live and won’t be changed every couple of weeks. Moreover, misa.art is complemented with various offline events about the art market,” he added.

 

MISA #3, Ultra Contemporary, Installation view, St. Agnes, Berlin, 2021. Photo by Roman Maerz. Image courtesy of misa.art.
MISA #3, Photography & Works on Paper, Installation view, St. Agnes, Berlin, 2021. Photo by Roman Maerz. Image courtesy of misa.art.

 

König Galerie is clearly representative of current market trends such as the expanding digital art market, “blobification” of traditional roles in the art industry, and even the growing international interest in the Asia art market, with its new Seoul outpost on the heels of a temporary space in Tokyo. But the gallery’s rise is also indicative that such diversification and expansion is mostly enjoyed by mega galleries.

In fact, König’s brother Leo, also an art dealer, closed a mid-size New York gallery he used to run with his ex-wife Margaret Liu Clinton shortly before the pandemic. They were not the only ones. Around the same time, there was a slew of mid-size galleries in the US shutting their doors or changing their business models.

In her exit interview last year, Clinton shared the reasons behind the gallery’s closure, citing the rise of the highly mobile collector living in various cities with less interest in supporting an individual local art scene, as well as the dominance of art fairs which hinders the understanding that galleries, museums, and artists exist in an interdependent ecosystem.

Even König himself admitted that “to make art accessible everywhere for everyone…much more transparency is needed.”

He envisions misa.art and further offerings as the “first step in that direction but I want to provide even more knowledge and information about art, artists and the art market in the future.”

 

 

 
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