These days we see Tim Neuger swarming about everywhere, busy as a bee. I met him briefly at the recent inauguration of Veneklasen / Werner’s new space and asked him if he would mind, if I faked an interview with him. In a great hurry, he said, “Oh that’s great. I like the idea. Just send it to me when it’s done.” I replied, “Sure thing. I will send you a copy once it’s printed.”
Tim Neuger / Anything else I can help you with?
David Ulrichs / Yes. Actually, I was wondering about the concept of this year’s abc, or should I say def – Drafts Establishing Future?
Neuger / I know the title is rather abstract, but it neatly reflects both continuity and development without compromising a certain degree of originality in the concept behind this year’s exhibition. Don’t you think?
Ulrichs / I suppose something else, like “Establishing Drafts for the Future” would, apart from being correct English, be too prescriptive.
Neuger / Well, titles, like newspaper headlines, don’t always have to be grammatically correct.
Ulrichs / Anyhow, ‘edf’ would be too close to the abbreviation of the French electricity supply board – Électricité de France. Since this year you have successfully managed to attract some big French galleries, I understand that you opted against ‘edf’.
Neuger / I hadn’t thought of that …
Ulrichs / Maybe next year, when you are looking for sponsors you could use it! But seriously, did you simply shuffle around the words and then in an epiphany discover that the first letters of those three words actually made up the next three letters of the alphabet?
Neuger / You make it sound as if we were playing Scrabble with three letters!
Ulrichs / I know you don’t want to put anyone in the spotlight, but who came up with the title, or will I have to say it was the Def’s directorial board?
Neuger / It’s always better to say ‘directorial board’!
Ulrichs / Last year there seemed to be a lot of confusion of whether Abc was an art fair or a curated exhibition.
Neuger / Technically speaking, last year’s Abc had an art director … It was quite funny how the press didn’t know what to do with the event …
Ulrichs / … but I’m sure no one thought the economical returns were funny. Some collectors didn’t come to the opening since they didn’t even know the works on display were for sale. It seemed as if you were desperately trying to create something new and different, without really defining a goal. Were you just being creative?
Neuger / What I liked about last year was that no one knew exactly whether it was commercial or not …
Ulrichs / What about this year? I imagine the remit had something to do with the subtitle “public art projects for urban spaces”, so I expected maquettes of unrealised architectural projects for Berlin. Instead, many works – perhaps even most of them – made direct reference to the Egon Eiermann table, which each work was forced to integrate into its design.
Neuger / Each gallery had the space of this table, but the works did not have to make use of it.
Ulrichs / You mean they could arrange the work on the table?
Neuger / We learned from the Abc that the size of each entry had to be limited.
Ulrichs / So there were complaints from certain gallerists last year?
Neuger / Well, you can’t always make everyone happy …
Ulrichs / Obviously, this had something to do with the dimensions of the works they entered, but some galleries – and this I think is quite normal – got better positions because they were the organisers. Fact of the matter is, this year, although you have uniformed the space, the Def looked like a cross between a kindergarten cake sale and an art fair – definitely not like a curated exhibition.
Neuger / The table was also a practical solution …
Ulrichs / For some, surely! In effect, the positioning of the works became more important, which sounds like an almost curatorial problematic, but strangely enough the work you, member of the directorial board, entered happened to find itself in a very prominent position at the entrance.
Neuger / I had nothing to do with the positioning …
Ulrichs / I can imagine you were not unhappy about the decision to oblige every gallery to use the Egon Eiermann table as a size-limitation. Didn’t you have that Pawel Althamer work in your storage? And didn’t you need to ‘free up’ space for Simon Starling’s unsold marble sculptural installation?
Neuger / No, I assure you the work is new! Didn’t you read the date?
Ulrichs / Well, maybe the half loaf of bread he used as an ashtray is fresh, but he probably used it to be able to label it ‘2009’. Honestly, the table looked old and the tabletop was definitely not an original Eiermann.
Neuger / Initially, Althamer wanted to send an Eiermann table to Africa for a group of his students to bash it up and then sent back to be exhibited, but for various reasons that didn’t happen.
Ulrichs / How did you persuade Pawel Althamer to do this work?
Neuger / I didn’t have to …
Ulrichs / Perhaps it’s possible to convince a few gallerists to use the Egon Eiermann table as a central element, as a table in an art fair booth or as a support for some random sculptures. I can even believe that some small museums could be persuaded to use the idea of this specific table as a theme for an exhibition. But I can’t understand how an artist like Pawel Althamer would be influenced by the remit of an aimless art event organised by a small group of Berlin galleries.
Neuger / Artistic freedom!
Ulrichs / Don’t you have three of them standing end-to-end in your gallery? For the Def, did you bulk buy the tables at wholesale price, only to sell them to the other galleries and still make a profit?
Neuger / Many galleries and architects use that table.
Preview Berlin (© Foto: Jens Liebchen, Courtesy Preview Berlin)