Studiously Avoiding Hong Kong, the Berlin-Based König Galerie Is Opening a Tokyo Location

The gallery plans to present shows by artists born or based in Germany.

View of Tokyo. Photo: Hitoshi Yamada/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

König Galerie, the venerable Berlin gallery founded in 2002 by Johann König, is opening a new location in Tokyo.

The dealer tells artnet News that he has been looking for an opportunity to expand eastward for several years. After looking into Seoul and Hong Kong, everything fell into place following a chance encounter with representatives from the luxury fashion label MCM Worldwide. 

The leather goods brand, which opened a Tokyo flagship this spring, offered König a space, which he will open on November 9 with a solo exhibition of recent works by German photographer Juergen Teller. In a nod to the German roots he shares with the brand, König plans to present a program dedicated to German, Austrian, and Swiss artists.

A visitor with a photo of Kim Kardashian by Juergen Teller during the 2015 Paris Photo fair. A work from the series will be on view at the König Galerie's inaugural Tokyo exhibition. Photo: AFP/Miguel Medina/Getty Images.

A visitor with a photo of Kim Kardashian by Juergen Teller during the 2015 Paris Photo fair. A work from the series will be on view at the König Galerie’s inaugural Tokyo exhibition. Photo: AFP/Miguel Medina/Getty Images.

“In Tokyo, we will be relatively unique in having branch there,” König tells artnet News. “There is Blum & Poe and Perrotin, but there are no other Western galleries, whereas Hong Kong is full.” Indeed, König seems to be actively skipping over Hong Kong, where protests continue to rock the city, which is saturated with outposts from galleries such as David Zwirner and Gagosian.

With a 300 square meter (3,200 square foot) space, König will have one of the biggest commercial galleries in Tokyo. He plans to lease the space through at least 2020.

While his partnership with a fashion brand may sound surprising, König points out that the art and fashion industries are much less distinct from one another in Asia.

“We see possibilities for a new interesting partnership,” he says. “And all over Asia, the fashion and art industry are much more mixed,” he says, citing Chanel, Hermes, and Louis Vuitton, which have all held art exhibitions in Tokyo.

König Galerie's new space in Tokyo.

König Galerie’s new space in Tokyo.

König admits that Japan is not exactly known for its wide collector base, but he says he’s not concerned. There are at least six “very strong” collectors, König says, naming Yusaku Maezawa, who acquired the star Basquiat lot at Sotheby’s year for a cool $110.5 million. (It was the highest price ever paid for a work by the artist at auction.) Beyond that, König feels quite sure that Chinese collectors will pop over to visit.

The Teller show will include recent photos of subjects such as Kim Kardashian (posing pant-less in a field) and Kristin Scott Thomas donning a paint-splotched EU sweater (König produced the sweaters in collaboration with the Berlin fashion label Souvenir).

Next year, he will organize solo shows by Polish-born, Berlin-based sculptor Alicja Kwade, Swiss artist Claudia Comte, and painters Norbert Bisky and Katharina Grosse.


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