A while back I received a Facebook invitation for yet another of the hundreds of gallery openings unleashing their havoc on the Berlin art scene. While I usually don’t read all of the anecdotes that the “event-page” details beyond the name of the artist and times for the opening, this time I was surprised to see that not only had I never heard of the space before, but it was actually hosted by two friends of mine. Lorenzo Sandoval and Gabriela Acha are two artists/curators from Spain who have both been living in Berlin for a number of years. I knew them to be smart, but why the heck would they start a gallery in a city that is already home for over five hundred? How could they afford such a venture? To be honest I thought they were nuts. I had to find out why these two friends of mine would do such a thing, so I dragged our BAPS photographer with me to their space, Altes Finanzamt, to find out.
A Needle in a Haystack
Altes Finanzamt took its name from the building that houses the space’s original purpose: an old Berlin financial office. Founded by an international group of friends a few years ago, Lorenzo included, it originally served as a place for creatives to practice their art and hold events with like-minded individuals. As the years went on, Altes slowly developed into a platform for artists to experiment with some of their latest ideas before presenting them to public audiences. Sometime last year, Gabriela came on board.
“The work people were doing was really multi-faceted,” Gabriela says while she begins to charge her laptop. “It wasn’t even just about art; it could be about politics, theater, whatever you wanted to work with.”
Works by Berlin-based artist Antoine Renard, fresh out his studio and ready for the blue chip galleries of the world. Photo: C. Phillips
This type of programming is still intact in Altes – as the two explain to me, it is not uncommon to have concerts or film screenings running in consecutive nights. Yet this doesn’t surprise me as the last exhibition I visited here was only hung on the walls for a measly five days before being taken down in preparation for the next show. As most galleries have exhibitions run on average from one to two months, this seems insane. It’s all part of their plan, however, not only to expand their network with artists but also give several opportunities to as many people as possible.
The Bottom Line
I still hadn't reached the answer to my initial question: why on earth would these two start a gallery in a city now overrun by exhibition spaces? They had no represented artists, no future plans to participate in fairs, and no intern tapping away on their computer to collectors half a world away. They seemed earnest, however, but I wasn’t sure what their angle was. I asked them then: what was their mission? What was their goal? What was the point of all this? Why are they bringing artists to this space if it just drains money and time?
“The people we invite, they are just trying things here,” Lorenzo tells me. “We can help an artist start to develop a project, like some of the things that happened here were later remade at larger, more well-known institutions. That’s what’s really exciting for us, not really running this as a classic gallery, but something more in line with an experimental institution.”
This comforts me, as I was concerned about their business plan in a market filled with cutthroat gallerists each trying to make a quick million off of the world’s next big art star. They also told me it wasn’t draining their funds because lots of the projects by artists that happen in Altes are already funded by outside institutions. Again, I was relieved and a little bit inspired. This is what made Berlin an artistic capital: like-minded individuals finding help wherever they can, only to lend a helping hand to artists from around the world. Lorenzo and Gabbi may not be on the path to become the next Jeffrey Deitch, but they are opening up their exhibition doors to the next big thing.
Article by James Shaeffer