“You have to be imaginative”
Spaces are not an elitist way of bringing art to the public but a populist one, claims artist Ken Wiatrek who runs Keith in Berlin.
Keith, a bar that combines art and whisky, has been going for two and a half years now and seeks to start a conversation about the art shown – from paintings to performance works.
Ken, 42, says the artist relationship to space is at the beginning of whatever they create – from the blank canvas to how to display the work in gallery spaces – space is one of the most important concepts in the work.
“I make space, I think about space a lot. I think about the artist relationship to how to use space, what it means to an artist even if it’s just a canvas or a wall. I think about how that space is being used, that’s kind of always been a driving force in how I did art.
“I used to tag walls, make stickers and other things outside because I always thought it was interesting to give art to everybody and not just confine it to a space.
“I started learning about how space works and why we put art in spaces and why we put people in those spaces to view that stuff, it’s not an elitist concept, it’s actually a populist concept than when I was younger I believed it was.”
Ken, who has run several spaces in the US and Germany, tries to create an inclusive experience for everyone at Keith with art as the starting point for the conversation.
In the art he shows he looks for the marriage of something beautiful and something the viewer can think about. Currently in the process of opening a new space outside Keith, Ken says the key to making an artist run space a reality in Berlin these days is imagination especially as rents are increasing and the number of appropriate sites decreasing.
“All the best opportunities are gone, of course there are opportunities you just have to be imaginative. You can still find some cheap spot you can open up and fix, but they are a lot rarer these days.”
But he is positive about the development of Berlin, believing the changes that have occurred in the city in particular in the last years are naturally what happens.
And what has not changed and what’s special about being an artist in Berlin is the extent to which people value art.
“Art is very valued in this city. People who are here care, most of them pay attention to what’s going on, value what they’re looking at and go to places specifically for that.”
To find out more about Keith visit https://www.keithbarberlin.de/.
Words by Beth Cherryman