Transatlantic Galleries: The Königs

Across the Atlantic two brothers have opened up competing galleries, both with a diverse lineup of up-and-coming artists. Leo and Johann König may share a last name but they definitely don’t share the same vision for how to achieve success in the art game. With their father Kasper serving as the director of the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, their mother Ilka being a purveyor of art books and their uncle Walter working as one of Europe’s most well-known publishers of art books for the company named for him, the two were born into art aristocracy. Indeed, it almost seems that they were destined to succeed in the art world. We at BAPs are here to help you learn the differences between the two spaces to help you determine which side of the Atlantic to hit up. So pull up a seat and put on your safety goggles, you’re about see an epic battle between brothers, gallerists and art!

leokonigAnother art star, Nicole Eisenmann, exhibited at Leo’s space in NYC. Photo Courtesy the Gallery

First up let’s go to New York City where the older of the two brothers, Leo, directs his eponymously named gallery. Opened in 1999 following the drunken encouragement from artist Aidas Bareikes, Leo instigated his space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It quickly became a success, and in 2001 he moved his space to a location in Manhattan. His programming generally sticks to very established artists including Tony Matelli and Sigmar Polke. Having made his name on his own, presumably without the help of his family, he’s gotten a reputation as hard hitting, challenging art dealer.

421456_10152623668600217_1822138972_nJohann König director Erika Weiss stands in front of the gallery’s Berlin location. Photo: Chris Phillips

Johann, the younger of the two, started his gallery Johann König in 2002 in Berlin. Promising to stick to up-and-coming artists, he has our vote as the director with the better programming. Noted for his coke bottle glasses that he’s worn since an accident as a child, he may even come off as more approachable than his giant 6’4” (1,95m) older brother. Boasting an impressive roster of art fairs including FIAC and Frieze, it’s not surprising that he’s usually at the top of the list of The ArtReview Power 100. Keep a look out on his new space, St. Agnes, opening soon in the shell of a former church.


So how do the two spacse match up? Well for me personally, an art competition boils down to the quality of the work, and Johann’s space in Berlin takes the prize on that. Consistently showcasing solid work by some really innovative young artists and having less market-friendly exhibitions than his brother, I feel comfortably handing the winning medal over to Johann.

Article by James Shaeffer