Isabel Deimel is a creator and curator in one person, being both the Fair Manager for Affordable Art Fair Hamburg and curator of the Emerging Artists exhibition, within the fair. As a Fair Manager she works directly with 80 national and international galleries to construct an event that is a highlight on the Hamburg cultural calendar. While as a curator she expresses her passion for the arts, flexing the knowledge that she gained during her Art History degree, plus her experience working in German institutions such as Dresden State Art Collection and the Hamburger Kunsthalle. Read on to hear her thoughts on the upcoming Emerging Artists exhibition, entitled “Zeichensysteme”/ “System of signs”:
MEET THE CURATOR OF THE EMERGING ARTISTS EXHIBITION, AFFORDABLE ART FAIR HAMBURG
1. What do you love about curating? How does this fit into your role as Fair Manager of the Hamburg fair?
Usually I work with galleries, so I am not in direct contact with each of the 500 artists we show at the Hamburg fair. The Emerging Artists exhibition gives me the opportunity to work with artists directly, which is a completely different process – the communication, the creative thinking, everything. What I love is the balance between the intense discussions with the artists about the works of art, versus the operations aspects – the combination of the deeper creative discussions while still managing the project.
2. How do you look for and discover up and coming artists?
In Hamburg, we have the University of Fine Arts (HFBK) which has 2 key exhibitions per year. During these shows, the University is turned into a big exhibition space divided into different subject specialisms, which gives me the opportunity to see and meet a lot of up-and-coming artists. Additionally, there are lots of smaller exhibitions in Hamburg, all focussing on emerging artists, which are the perfect place to spot creative talent. The arts community in Hamburg is close knit and I get lots of recommendations for artists and their projects this way.
3. How does your interaction with the artist evolve from your initial encounter with their work to an exhibition?
Usually, after I have introduced myself, I visit the artists studios to see how they work and learn more about the subjects and themes they are exploring, which helps me to narrow the selection. After I have selected three artists, I set up a meeting to talk about the exhibition, the space, what could be created; and through working with them directly a theme quite naturally emerges. I’ll stay in touch with each artist throughout the process, and manage everything from designing the exhibition layout, supporting during the build process, right down to the lighting. An important part of my role is also to create the exhibition catalogue, to do this I approach and select young art historians, who conduct independent interviews with the artists which will be included in the catalogue – we produce 200 copies including contributions from Ifee Tack, Kim Sulinski and Friederike Quander. The catalogue is often kept by visitors as a reference for up-and-coming artists!
4. The theme of the upcoming Emerging Artists exhibition at Affordable Art Fair Hamburg is “System of Signs”. What inspired you to focus on this topic?
Yes, this year the name of the exhibition is “Zeichensysteme”/ “System of signs”. It’s quite a philosophical theme, because signs are everywhere: a word, a tree, a wink, and of course art has many signs. We encounter signs and symbols every day, some of which are familiar with and others that we have to learn to decrypt first. These signs are innumerable, they appear throughout our city on traffic lights, billboards and street signs. They are part of our communication system and help us to make sense of the city. Over the course of our lives we each create individual sign system, which we use to orient ourselves. Countless philosophers such as Aristotles and linguists such as Ferdinand Saussure or Umberto Eco have considered whether there is a universal law for them. But what about within art? The ambiguity of a work of art is a part of what makes it appealing. Artwork as a symbol can convey possibilities, but it has no fixed meanings, it always invites and challenges us to make individual interpretations.
5. Why do you feel that Anneke, Lars and Astrid were the perfect fit?
The three artists of this year's Emerging Artists Exhibition, who, like the Affordable Art Fair Hamburg itself, are in their seventh year of professional practice, have created a collaborative exhibition which presents their very own sign system. The final artworks are really varied, they use different mediums, and they invite us to debate, decode and decipher their works.
6. How do you envision visitors to the Emerging Artists will interact with the work and what is the experience you would like people to take away from the exhibition?
The artwork has to speak to our visitors and make them curious – this is what art does for me. But it’s never just the artwork in itself, when we show contemporary artists we have the opportunity to discuss the artwork directly with those that have created it. Artists often talk in an intimate language through their art, which of course we have to decode for ourselves, and this fits to the theme of the exhibition. We also have an art historian on the stand who is there to help and discuss the work. I also hope that visitors recognise the quality of the artwork produced by Hamburg’s creative Universities and art schools, and the varied themes that the artists are exploring. You can’t always see the debate that has taken place to produce the artworks themselves, so having a profound discussion with yourself or someone else is needed to understand. It’s a dialogue, not someone speaking to you and not answering.
7. What role do you feel the Emerging Artist exhibition plays in the career of artists? Have any past artists featured become household names?
We can help connect artists with a completely new crowd of first time and established collectors, who will not have seen their artworks previously. Their exhibitions to date have generally been smaller, and our emerging artists can be overwhelmed, in a good way, when they see the amount of interest they inspire from visitors to the fair. This communication and dialogue with new audiences is key to developing their career further.
It was really nice to be a part of Robert Vellekoop’s career, I met him in 2015 before he went onto become a master student of Anselm Reyle, when he was still studying for his degree. His exhibition at Affordable Art Fair Hamburg nearly sold out, and during the fair he met Evelyn Drewes gallery – a well-known German gallery that focusses on emerging artists. Now he exhibits with them and Haverkampf Gallery throughout Germany - it has been a real success story and so satisfying to connect a gallery with an artist who wasn’t previously represented. Other Emerging Artists have gone on to apply for the Hamburger Arbeitsstipendium (a government prize for up-and-coming talent from Hamburg) – and in 2018 four of our Emerging Artists (Jenny Schäfer, Franziska Opel, Angela Anzi and Stella Rossié) applied and were all awarded the funding. I’m really proud that we have played a role in the progression of their careers.
Join Isabel at the upcoming Affordable Art Fair Hamburg (15 – 18 November) to see the Emerging Artists exhibition, meet the artists and join in the debate!
Isabel Deimel, Fair Manager and Curator of the Emerging Artists Exhibition at Affordable Art Fair Hamburg. Image courtesy of Nicolas Doering.
Featured images from first to last:
Anneke Kleimann, Kartografie der Zeit, 2015-2017, acrylic with digital print, 24 parts, each 125 x 150 x 0.5 cm, installation dimensions variable, photography credit to Eric Tschernow.
An image of Lars Hinrichs, exhibition view, 2013, Kunsthaus Hamburg.
Astrid Ehlers, A needle scratches the surface-pole, 2017, drypoint, 78 x 56 cm.
Isabel Deimel leads a tour of the Emerging Artists Exhibition at Affordable Art Fair Hamburg 2018. Image courtesy of Nicolas Doering.