Dark Art Interview. Carmen Aigner about Kunst Hof 5 re-opening

A few weeks back, after ‘Dark Star: HR Giger’s World‘ screening, I started to text with Carmen Aigner, curator for ‘Gigerotica’, the exhibition held at Berlin’s Cross Art last summer. Focusing on sub-culture, bizarre and dark art, mixed-up with live performances and visuals, Cross Art has been a real hub for Berlin’ alternative art scene. Actually Carmen moved to Zurich, where she takes on another challenge with Kunst Hof 5, renowned gallery space related to Giger’ group, in order to reopening with a big show in March 2016.

Gigerotica' opening @Cross Art Berlin, ph. by Jens Schommer
Gigerotica’ opening @Cross Art Berlin, ph. by Jens Schommer

How did you come to work in the art world?

My partner and myself are ourselves very interested in art and are collecting art. We are both also very creative and active in the art world (photography and music). This led quite automatically in also organizing art events and art shows. This was the basis for the creation of my Atelier Cross Art, a small and specialized gallery in Berlin.

La Cave #3, @Cross Art Berlin, ph. by Jens Schommer
La Cave #3, @Cross Art Berlin, ph. by Jens Schommer

How did you become interested in dark art?

I am since many years connected to the “dark scene” and have also since many years collected art with dark-features. This led to knowing much more about the very many artists who are in one way or another creating their works within this broad scope of art section. Berlin is certainly a very interesting place to discover such dark and sub-cultural art, which is created there in a very authentic community environment. However, my contacts today extend too many other places, such as Paris, Vienna, Zurich and NY.

You also re-opening Kunst Hof 5 in Zurich, what led you to make that move?

As I have moved my personal life to Zurich since many years now, but have still many roots in my home region in the vicinity of Berlin it makes much sense to translate this double rooting in a presence in Zurich. This led also in 2014 in a Group Show with HR Giger in my gallery in Berlin. In summer 2015 I have showed at the same time with Kunst Hof 5 a HR Giger exhibition; during this cooperation it became apparent that unfortunately due to the owner’s health problems Kunst Hof 5 would soon have to be closed.

Kunst Hof 5 Gallery, @Zurich
Kunst Hof 5 Gallery, @Zurich

For me this would have been a substantial loss to the Zurich art scene and therefore I had applied to continue the gallery in the same spirit but now fueled with my contacts and portfolio from Berlin, Paris, Vienna and NY. Now have received the confirmation of taking over the gallery here in Zurich I have decided at least for now to move the physical presence of the gallery from Berlin to Zurich, while keeping of course my presence in Berlin. I will continue to show and promote all artists represented so far in Berlin, but now through my Zurich gallery.

Who and what will your focus be in terms of artists and artworks?

My concept will again be to focus on dark and sub-cultural art. There will mostly photographs, but also some art with other media, such as paintings and sculptures. As already in Berlin I will combine the shows with topical performances and video, theatre or music contributions.

Who Killed Smiley? (2015) by Julia Hanzl
Who Killed Smiley? (2015) by Julia Hanzl

In the last few years I have included an interesting number if great artists in my program / portfolio but I will of course continue to scout for many more interesting young and as of today undiscovered artists. In the group of artists in my portfolio I could mention:

Jaya Suberg Digital Mixed Media/Photography Berlin
Karin Schranz Photography Vienna
Elena Helfrecht Photography Berlin
Claudia Köhn Photography Vienna
Stefanie Anastase Photography Vienna
Gerhard Aba Photography Vienna
Laurent Benaïm Photography Paris
HRGiger (estate) Paintings, Sculptures Zurich
Julia Hanzl Sculptures Vienna
J. Jackie Baier Photography/Film Berlin
VeKane Digital Mixed Media/ Photography Berlin
Holger Knote Berlin Photography

Artworx by Karin Schranz
Artworx by Karin Schranz

How do you promote & market Kunst Hof 5 gallery?

I can build on the Kunst Hof 5 client base but will use first my direct contacts in the Zurich art scene to build a renewed basis for interest and clientele. The first challenge will be to increase the acceptance and interest in dark art as an accepted art form of high creativity and artistic value. Zurich is in my view a perfect place for this as it is a vibrant city in which many different scenes, including all forms of dark and subcultural movements, can develop. Also, Zurich is an open-minded art scene with highest cultural offerings through museums and art galleries. My focus will be to make this art form known and to create interest both in those dark and subcultural movements as well of their art forms.

Petra Flurr @Cross Art Berlin, ph. by Günther Schaefer
Petra Flurr @Cross Art Berlin, ph. by Günther Schaefer

I will continue to attempt to show the art not detached from its origin but to include related and topical context with performances and video shows and music or theater contributions. My Berlin experience in my Cross Art gallery has proven that this is the most authentic way to show this art forms but at the same time offer an environment of a high standard gallery in which this art can be seen and discovered also by eyes and minds which have not yet had the contact to those scenes.

I will continue to rely on Facebook, mailings and postings in art platforms, but I will increasingly show at national and international art fairs, mostly in art fairs specializing either in photography or more generally in areas in which dark art and subcultural art are shown.

Kemikez @Cross Art Berlin, ph. by Jens Schommer
Kemikez @Cross Art Berlin, ph. by Jens Schommer

What was your experience in Berlin?

Berlin is a very inspiring and creative place with a huge resource of highly talented, creative and interesting artists of all walks of life and geographical origins. This makes Berlin absolutely unique in terms of art. However, this high level of productivity and creativity is hardly mirrored by the level of collector’s interest in Berlin. This is not due to the lack of interest in itself but unfortunately mainly a matter of financial recourses for most of the inhabitants of Berlin. Also, this art form is in itself and by definition not always a “pleasant” work and defensively not main stream. The solution is to place this art and the artist on an international level, a challenge which is better achieved through the Zurich operation, as this will be done in the “gallery district” of Zurich, a center for international art collecting.

La Cave #3 @Cross Art Berlin, ph. by Sebastien Angel Roy
La Cave #3 @Cross Art Berlin, ph. by Sebastien Angel Roy

The three years in Berlin have provided a great pool of contacts and artists of all kinds and art forms, far from limited to photographers and painters. I owe Berlin very much and I will continue to make Berlin a part of my operation, even if it is now conducted out of Zurich. For the many artists in my portfolio this also means a much better platform for distribution of their works and so far I have received only compliments in deciding this move, even if of course many will miss the regular shows at Tempelherrenstrasse in Kreuzberg, Berlin. The spirit and the many friendships will live on, and who knows, I may well come back one day to do shows in Berlin.

Do you have a favorite exhibition, event, intervention that happened at your gallery?

It is somehow like with your own children: you can hardly say who is favorite. But of course in terms of level of recognition, the HR Giger exhibition was one of the major highlights as it has attracted more than 1’000 visitors. But, from the form, a very special form was to exhibit J. Jackie Baier and other artists at the Zurich Pride in the event location in summer 2015. In the context of this event to show art works made by a very talented transsexual photo-artist drew a huge level of interest and proved once again that Zurich is an open-minded place where a great amount of interest can be generated. The visitors were amazed to find such an exhibition in this format.

All of this must not distract from the many very special shows and openings at Cross Art which had included wonderful crazy and inspiring performances creating a “total work of art” melting all shown artists into one energetic art form.

'Julia' (2013) directed by Jackie Baier
‘Julia’ (2013) directed by Jackie Baier

How did the ‘Gigerotica’ exhibition come about? What was the most rewarding part of the process?

HR Giger was an artist shown (during his lifetime) at the Cross Art gallery. It was already at that time that I have planned with HR Giger and his agents to do later in the year a solo-show which concentrated on the (somehow unknown) wonderful erotic pieces of HR Giger, while more general shows and exhibitions were planned at that time in Germany and elsewhere. After the passing away of HR Giger the parameter of course changed. His death created an increased interest, and 1’000 visitors came to see his less known works at my gallery. It was very rewarding and impressive to see those visitors paying him a tribute by visiting his art. At the same time I hope that I have contributed in elevating HR Giger back to a recognition level as an artist in the collector’s eyes, a level that he deserved for long but for reasons unknown had lost mainly after his great Oscar-rewarded success in the filmmaking of Aliens.

Gigerotica @Cross Art Berlin, Ph. by Jens Schommer
Gigerotica @Cross Art Berlin, Ph. by Jens Schommer

What was the most difficult?

First the fact that HR Giger had died before the show was very sad. It became a tribute show in honor of HR Giger. The most difficult part then became to cope with the mass of visitors in my gallery, especially at the opening. This triggered special security measures and a high level of organization allowing the visitors to move through the show all while enjoying the exhibits. All went through without any problems, as all were very disciplined and grateful for us showing his works to an open public.

What are your upcoming exhibition plans?

I will re-open the Kunst Hof 5 in March 2016 with a group show called “Cross the Line”, which I had shown in Paris in October this year. At the moment I plan the refining my concept. I will continue having as one part of the exhibition a permanent show of my artists from my portfolio while organizing in a second section of the gallery on a monthly basis shows of particular artists in the same format as done in Berlin, i.e. with simultaneous shows and performances, video shows, music and theater performances. I am therefore constantly scouting for artists who will be able to be part of those shows. My renewed website (under construction) will announce those shows on a regular basis.

For the future I of course hope to find my way and broaden my path into the Zurich and international art scene and build a place to distribute this art form and thereby promote young and yet undiscovered artists. I am excited, and look forward to all the challenges and opportunities ahead.