Alex Duve, Founder of DUVE Berlin


Alex Duve

This week we are thrilled to share a Frank Talk with Alex Duve! Alex Duve runs DUVE Berlin, which is an independent gallery with a focus on emerging artists, based in Berlin, Germany. The primary focus of the program is to provide a critical platform for conceptually driven and contextually aware painting, sculpture, video, mixed media and print. As the relative size of the world decreases and access increases, effective art must be nuanced and meaningful: DUVE Berlin provides a platform for a younger generation of artists who develop work with this understanding in mind. DUVE Berlin is specifically interested in showcasing artists whose artistic positions centralize around urbanism, late capitalism, identity politics, and contemporary political flux while simultaneously meditating on historically conscious techniques and associations. The gallery aims to create a bridge between innovation and accessibility; valuing above all originality and aesthetically enduring artworks. Founded in 2007 by Alexander Duve and Birte Kleemann as ‘Duve Kleemann’, a year later, DUVE Berlin came into its current form when Alexander Duve became the sole proprietor. In 2012, the gallery relocated from its space on Invalidenstraße opposite the Hamburger Bahnhof, to a lofty industrial space on Gitschinerstraße in Kreuzberg where it remained until 2017. As of December 2018, DUVE Berlin finds itself in a new loft location on Michaelkirchstraße 15, Berlin-Mitte. Please enjoy reading this Frank Talk with Alex!

What was your first job in the Arts?

I did an internship in the Contemporary Department at Sotheby’s in London.

What was the most useful or important thing you learned at that job?

That I wanted to become a Gallerist!

Tell us a little more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?

I realized quite early. I grew up with art. My parents started collecting post war German art in the early 70’s. I think it was in 1971 when my father bought his first canvas by German painter Raimer Joachims, who was the dean of the Städelschule in Frankfurt at the time. But I became really sure that I would work in the arts during my studies in London and my internship at Sotheby’s. It was a great experience and I met some of the most amazing people during my internship, like Cheyenne Westphal, Francis Outred and Matthew Carey Williams, who are still good friends of mine.

What do you do now?

I closed my gallery space after 11 years in the end of 2017, and just opened a salon style gallery in February. Now I show art at home or in other words, live in my gallery. The space is open by appointment only and I am not representing artists any more. I only do one off shows. This direction will give me and the artists that I will show much more freedom.

Where are you from?

I am from Buer that is in the Ruhr-Area, West Germany.

What is the arts community like there?

It is one of the strongest and most important in Europe. We are just 30 minutes away from Düsseldorf and 45 minutes away from Cologne. Population wise, with 5.3 Mio people living in the Ruhr Area, on 4.4 square-kilometers, it is the area with the most dense population in all of Europe! It has an amazing number of world class museums like the Folkwang Museum in Essen and the Küppersmühle in Duisburg. And the Rhine-Area is right on the border of the Ruhr Area with Düsseldorf and Cologne. Again two of the leading art areas in Europe, with the Kunstsammlung NRW, the K21 and the Ludwig Museum in Cologne and it is also home to some of the finest galleries. Couldn’t get better.

Has where you come from shaped what you do in the arts today?

I am sure it has, but more than that it was my parents, who collected abstract painting and sculpture that shaped me most of all.

What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?

You can only succeed with passion!

What is one of your greatest accomplishments in your career so far?

That I always stayed independent.

What has been a challenge for you?

Seriously, keeping some of my artists that had their breakthrough and then left the gallery. They preferred to work with financially powerful galleries and thought to work with a small independent gallery would be bad for their career. Very disappointing. But that’s how it is today.

What is something you do every day at work?

Drinking lots of coffee…!

What defines a good employee? What defines a good boss?

As DUVE Berlin was always a small gallery I wanted to form a team with my employees, and was asking for input from whatever area of the gallery business. Strategic, creative … I like to be a team with my employees.

What do you think makes a person hirable?

Passion, loyalty, knowledge of the art market and contacts.

What is your advice to making yourself stand out in your workplace?

Give input and have the guts to say something when you think you should.

Are there any tips you can give people entering the workforce?

Yes, start with a smaller gallery, where you are involved in every area of the business … you will learn a lot. Then try to get into a major gallery … definitely before opening your own gallery.

What is the best exhibition you have seen in the last year?

The show at K11 Art Foundation during Art Basel Hong Kong and the current show by Ryan Gander at Esther Schipper in Berlin.

If you could own a work by 5 different artists, who would be in your collection?

Ah no come on! So many! Ok … A minimal work by Robert Motherwell, the master of minimalism, an Ellsworth Kelly master No 2 of minimalism, a work by Alexander Calder, a Sadamasa Motonaga and a Cy Twombly. Mmmmmhhhh nice thoughts!


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