LEIF MAGNE TANGEN, ANTONIA BECHMANN &
the old factory area, Baumwollspinnerei – the epicentre of the art scene in
Leipzig – you can’t miss a large dark flag with the letters ASPN. It can be
seen from a distance and makes a strong impression in contrast to the normal
signing. ‘The first year I had only adhesive tape on the window next to the
entrance door spelling the name, as I didn’t want a large boring sign
stating our existence,’ says Arne Linde, director and owner of the gallery.
There were several reasons to open a gallery. A few years ago the most
prevalent art form in Leipzig was painting; but for Linde it was different.
She evolved from bar owner (the infamous Cortex bar) to student journalist
to art critic, but since working as a freelance writer (or curator) in a
small town in the former East Germany is next to impossible, she began
seeking escape routes – either moving to a larger city or going commercial.
With support from Jochen Hempel, owner of Dogenhaus Galerie, she opened her
own space in April 2005 among the other galleries that had relocated to the
so-called ‘Spinnerei’. ‘I still work with the artists I like, and even write
about them – but now I mention the price of their works,’ she says. With a
group show of emerging, mostly Leipzig-based artists working in different
media, the opening established the agenda of ASPN.
The gallery is an unusual one in the Leipzig landscape. Like most, ASPN
represents a number of painters as well as one or two artists working in
intermedia. ‘Even in today’s heated art market the traditional painting is
only possible if one sees it in relation to more conceptual work.’ But Linde
has a more playful approach to programming than most dealers: after
attending her first art fair in 2006 (Preview Berlin – sold out on the first
day) she opened the much-talked-about ‘Pferdeausstellung’ (The Horse Show),
presenting work by 30 artists on the theme of horses. In a space of 50
square metres this was a substantial exhibition.
Like most gallery directors, Linde needs space to develop. Similarly, she
tries to provide her artists with time to grow at their own pace. ‘Artists
should not be pushed by dealers or critics out of their own working rhythm.
Although the gallery is only two years old and most of the artists were
unknown when we started, I can support them financially. It is also
important to introduce them to other players in the art world who might be
helpful in their development.’
ASPN clearly belongs to the future of contemporary art in Leipzig. Promoting
artists commercially without putting unnecessary pressure on them, thinking
local but acting international, is a formula that is having a powerful
effect on the city’s art scene.
LEIF MAGNE TANGEN, ANTONIA BECHMANN & VERONICA DIESEN ARE CURATORS AND
WRITERS BASED IN LONDON, LEIPZIG AND THE LOFOTEN ISLANDS