Last week a staggering 2,135 works were submitted to Deutsche Bank KunstHalle’s open call for artists. The exhibition, entitled MACHT KUNST (Make Art), was perhaps one of the most democratic and exciting exhibitions to occur in Berlin this year. We were there early Friday morning when thousands of the city’s artists stood patiently in line in the bitter cold waiting for a chance to exhibit their work. As reported earlier, the artists whose works managed to fit inside KunstHalle’s walls would have the chance to win one of two prizes. The jury prize, chosen by curators Remé Block and Sophie von Olfers, would award three artists a two week solo exhibition. The other award of a monthly stipend of €500 for a year was chosen appropriately by the people, who voted amongst the 345 works that hung on the walls. After 24 hours of madness it was revealed that artists Rebecca Michaelis, Nicolas Balcazar, and Sonja Rentsch had won the jury’s praise. As for the coveted people’s choice award, that went to Croatian painter Lovro Artukovi?. Earlier this week we sat down with Artukovi? to pick his brain and find out more about his art, his thoughts on KunstHalle’s exhibition, and life as an artist in Berlin.
The Man Behind The Art
Born in 1959 in Zagreb, Croatia, Artukovi? has become known for his large figurative paintings that are reminiscent of Lucian Freud or Chuck Close. After working as a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts at the University of Zagreb, he relocated to Berlin in the summer of 2003. He tells me that this was totally by accident, and that the story would require a much longer time and perhaps a book to explain. Since calling Berlin home he has worked heavily on a series of works known as Votive Paintings. Similar to the work that won him the people’s choice at MACHT KUNST, in these paintings he portrays people from the everday in dramatic and emblematic scenes. The specific work he exhibited at the KunstHalle is partially based off of a previous painting he had made. Working from a piece where he projected the constallation of Gemini on the model he would paint, Artukovi? decided to to use this subject twice on the same panel as if they were twins. “Then I decided to paint the motif as a night version, as if the projector was turned off,” he tells me.
The KunstHalle Experience
I then asked him about his experience waiting in line at the DB KunstHalle. Out of the numerous artists whom I managed to talk to that day, many of them were excited and thought that MACHT KUNST was a great thing for the city. Although it received its share of criticism on our comment boards for what some people saw as the bank exploiting artists, Artukovi? disagrees and believes this was a superb opportunity for Berlin.
“It was a little bit strange in the beginning standing out there in the street with my painting,” he says. “I like this kind of group exhibition, where the energy of my paintings has to struggle with the energy of other works. And in the end, I’m a painter––it is my job and I want to show people what I’m doing. I think most of the people out there had the same feeling.”
He believes that this type of exhibition should happen more often in Berlin, where artists who rarely have an opportunity to exhibit are given a chance of a lifetime. I have to agree; while I understand the critique of this exhibition as a potential ploy by the bank to make money, in the end MACHT KUNST did more good than evil.
Although he claims that he isn’t a regular visitor to galleries in Berlin, he hopes that his recognition at the DB Kunsthalle will lead to a show in the city he calls home. He recommends that instead of going to one of Berlin’s many galleries, I should visit Gemäldegalerie before they relocate. He also recommends that I visit Donath, a restaurant in the Schwedter Straße, if I want to grab a good bite to eat. “It belongs to Giuliano – an old friend of mine.”
My impression of Lovro is that he is a kind, humble artist who enjoys seeing others exceed just as much as he appreciates getting recognition for himself. I firmly believe that the award couldn’t have gone to a better artist or person. While he doesn’t have an exhibition planned for his work in Berlin soon, I’m sure you can probably stop by Donath or Gemäldegalerie to catch this artist in his natural habitat. As a quick last question I ask him if he has any advice for the artists of the city, and here is his answer:
“I don’t like to give advice, but I could give you one advice that I received. I had the opportunity to show my portfolio to one of those VIP persons from the art scene from New York visiting Berlin. She looked at my portfolio very quick, and then she gave it back to me, saying: ‘Keep on painting.’ So I did.”
Article by James Shaeffer