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"I live for art. I would go down with art."

Susanne König is a gallery owner by conviction. She gives everything for art, loves to take risks and to follow fate. Even when she opened her gallery and the lockdown got declared.

The König Büro (King Office) is located close to the streetcar stop “Talwiesenstrasse” in Wiedikon, district 3. In the former laundry I meet Susanne König the day after the opening of “Marcel Freymond: Staring at the Sea / Staring at the Sand”. Together we look at his works. Abstract and yet very sensual works. With a brushstroke that gives them something rhythmically playful and reminds one of Willem de Kooning’s late work.

Freymond fully corresponds to her programmatic guidelines of independence, zeitgeist and formal aesthetics. “Feminism of course not!”, says König gleefully – another of her main focuses. She wants to offer a platform for feminist positions, which is not without risk for a gallery, because equality and diversity are not yet normal in the art world either. “It often happened that unknown people came in and either expected a man as owner or asked if I was the intern”.

Susanne König (right) with Marcel Freymond (left) with a work from the opening of “Marcel Freymond: Staring at the Sea / Staring at the Sand” in the background. Photographed by David Jäggi.

“I never told myself: ‘I want to be a gallery owner!'”. This has rather developed organically. When she was still an employee at the Kunsthalle Zürich, she started to realize projects on her own. And noticed: “I’m not boss-suitable. Independence is my thing”. But this also had its price: “Art is a really hard industry. There were times when I was in very bad shape”. But “then there was a moment when I realized I must change something. For art to be a profession and not just a passion that leads nowhere, I have to make something that, to put it bluntly, can be sold”.

Her office was in an interim use for five years. Surrounded by studios, but also invisible to others. She applied for the room at Birmensdorferstrasse. “When they called and said, ‘You can rent the room,’ I knew, ‘Okay, now I’m opening a gallery!’ “. It was a great opportunity. “One must also go with chance/fate”. And love risk-taking: “I live for art, I go down with art”.

Front view of the König Büro with works from the exhibition “Milva Stutz: Good Boys” in the background. Photographed by David Jäggi.

So it turned out that the opening coincided with the lockdown. “It hit us hard. And when I asked for support, I was told on the phone that the federal government had not banned art trade and art mediation”. Fortunately, she had other projects and mandates that continued in a reduced form. “If I had put 100% on the gallery, it might have broken my neck the very first year”. She was extremely affected by the manifest attitude of politics and business toward art and culture. “It is brutal to realize that for a large part of society art is negligible and in no way systemically relevant”. But it is precisely in times of crisis that her passion shines through. “I am not someone who freezes in panic, but who has to move”. Instead of waiting for society to come to art, she makes sure that art goes to society.

“Now I sound like those who told me years ago, but: It’s really damn hard. One must be prepared to give everything”. What advice would she want to give her former self? “Find investors or have the economic requirements yourself. I did not have all this and imagined that I did not need it. But in the end, two or three good customers make the difference between making it or not.

The professional life as a gallery owner also brings beautiful moments with it. Happy and sometimes even absurd ones. For example, when she transported a work with a value of several tens of thousands of francs by bicycle… But that is another story.