12 months ago

Artistic License: Berlin Opticians

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Curator MARYSIA WIEKIEWICZ-CARROLL tells us about the inspiration behind new contemporary art gallery in Dublin – Berlin Opticians – and how she is rethinking art exhibitions in general …

Neill Carroll

How long has Berlin Opticians been in the planning stage and what was the inspiration behind it?

The idea of setting up a gallery first came to me about three years ago. Working as an independent curator, I didn’t feel I was doing enough to meaningfully support artists and art production through a series of short-term projects and collaborations. I began thinking about how I could change it and establishing a gallery felt like the right thing to do. It gives me the opportunity to develop long-term conversations and focus on supporting the artists, whose work I particularly like.

What followed was a series of informal chats, exploring ways to make it happen. The main breakthrough was the realisation that in this day and age an art gallery no longer needs to operate in a fixed, permanent space. From that moment on, it has taken about ten months to get all the elements together, from contacting the artists to formalising the vision for the future of the gallery.

Berlin Opticians will hold exhibitions in numerous unique locations in Ireland and abroad and will also have a strong online presence. So in a way I am rethinking the idea of what a gallery might be by balancing the technology-mediated and real life engagement with artworks. It’s very exciting, feels timely, and I’m just happy to be able to support and promote this fantastic group of artists.

David Beattie

Why the name?

The name is a tribute to an old optician shop, called Berlin, on Capel Street. I used to pass by it and it always caught my attention. It was there for as long as anyone could remember. Then, suddenly, at the start of the year it closed. When I read the hand-typed letter in the window, it just stood out how much love the last owner, Mr Cashman, had for his profession. Also, the ability to survive in business for so many years speaks volumes about his work ethics and determination. By using a version of the name for a new gallery of emerging Irish and international artists, I hope to emulate that ethos and longevity.

Emma Hayes

How and why did you select the artists?

I have worked as a curator for a number of years and throughout that time certain artists always stood out to me for their originality and inquisitiveness. I couldn’t imagine Berlin Opticians without them. When it came to narrowing the group down to ten artists, I wanted to make sure that there was a cross-section of art forms, a balance of gender, and that the artists’ works complemented each other. But let’s be honest, it was also down to that “gut” feeling.

I’m delighted to be supporting artists at different career levels. For example, Emma Hayes (Ireland), Liliane Puthod (France), and Sven Sandberg (USA) are recent graduates, whereas Barbara Knezevic (Australia/Ireland) and David Beattie (Ireland) already have numerous solo shows under their belt and both have works recently purchased by the Irish Museum of Modern Art. The other artists I am working with are Neil Carroll (Ireland), Paul Hallahan (Ireland), Alicia Reyes McNamara (USA), Sarah O’Brien (Ireland), and Lee Welch (USA/Ireland). I think Berlin Opticians offers a great insight into what is happening in art at the moment.

Paul Hallahan

How do you see it fitting in with others on the Dublin art scene?

The aim of the gallery is to present and promote the work of its artists, to enable them to do what they do best, make art. I look forward to placing their work in great exhibitions and private and institutional collections both here in Ireland and abroad.

I think there is a great need for a new contemporary art gallery in Dublin. It’s also long overdue. The Dublin art scene is very vibrant, there are so many great artists living and working here but only a handful is represented by a gallery. A new gallery means that the support system is growing. This is a positive symptom and I hope it will catch on.

Sven Sandberg

Tell us about the exhibitions you have planned.

We started with a launch event on October 18, which is a group exhibition of all Berlin Optician’s artists in the Society House, at 63 Merrion Square. We will from that point present solo exhibitions made for Berlin Opticians by the gallery artists, starting with an exhibition of Barbara Knezevic’s work titled “Tools for well being, Scapes; Rose Quartz” on November 21. The regular exhibitions will be released once every six weeks on the gallery website. These will be punctuated by short term live events and exhibitions throughout the year.

Sarah O’Brien

Need to Know: Berlin Options first group exhibition is in Society House at 63 Merrion Square, Dublin 2. www.berlinopticiansdublin.com.

Penny McCormick

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