“It’s all about empowering artists and fostering a dialogue on eye-level”

Interview with gallery owner Lars Kristian Bode from LKB/G

Despite our digital era with constant ongoing intermedial exchange and communication, artists from the Global South still have difficulties finding a niche in the international, ‘Western’ market. Gallerist Lars Kristian Bode is working towards closing this gap by building cross-cultural bridges. However, being a frontrunner is not always easy; it takes time to create visibility and awareness. Nevertheless, Lars Kristian Bode never doubts his vision: To empower artists from the Global South and foster a dialogue at eye-level. We met him for a talk about running a Hamburg-based gallery with artists from the Global South, challenging the Eurocentric paradigms in an art world that he experiences as an important driver in society.

Name: LKB/G
Location: Hamburg, Germany
Founded in year: 2016
Number of artists represented: 7
Fairs attending: Affordable Art Fair Hamburg

What is your earliest memory of art and what led you into the business of being a gallerist?
The earliest memory of art I remember is visiting the apartment of my great-aunt. Her late husband Werner Suchatzky was a well-known local painter and crossing entering the house was always a step into an unknown and thrilling world. I do not have a classic gallery background. Through many business co-operations and exchanges with people from the Global South, I got connected to the art scene in these regions very well. As a result, I decided to set up a gallery concept that is dedicated to artists from the Global South.

With a focus on artists from the Global South, you challenge the Eurocentric paradigms in the art world. What motivated you to choose this path?
It is all about empowering artists and fostering a dialogue on eye-level. Despite our digital era with constant ongoing intermedial exchange and communication, artists from around these regions still have difficulties finding a niche in the international, ‘Western’ market. I am trying to close this gap by building cross-cultural bridges.

The concept of your gallery is split into a commercial and a non-profit part. Can you elaborate on this?
There is still a lack of opportunities for artists from the Global South to travel and work abroad. We intend to set up an own residency programme allowing artists to network with our local art scene. Additionally, we plan to support art projects that focus on art education or local initiatives that provide studio space, workshops, and exchanges between artists and the society. For many key movers in these regions, it is still difficult to get access to sufficient funding allowing them to perform activities and transport messages from their perspective. On the other hand, LKB/G is set-up as a classic commercial gallery space, which provides our artists access to art collectors.

How has the Hamburg art scene received your gallery and its unconventional concept?
So far, the response from the local gallery scene is very positive and supportive. The focus of the gallery is still unique. This also applies on a national level. Artists from the Global South are still underrepresented. Nevertheless, transporting the messages from the artists is still a huge challenge. It is very helpful to provide background, explanation, and education about the intentions and stories behind the artworks.

Being based in Hamburg, collaborating with artists from the Global South, and traveling the world attending art fairs, you have the whole world as your workspace. What are the up- and downsides of this?
Communication and personal exchange is an ongoing challenge and sometimes quite different. Especially if you compare it with the interaction one would have with Hamburg or German based artists. However, this helps to open the mind up to unconventional business communication and flexible and solution-orientated approaches. Personally, I enjoy the work and exchange with all sorts of people who are driven by very different backgrounds and history. It is great to find mutual approaches, and I really appreciate having the opportunity to learn more about completely different perspectives.

Besides all having roots in the Global South, do the artists you represent relate to each other in their artistic practices?
That is very difficult to answer. I would not say in their artistic practice, but most of them connect through my personal approach and preference to the art they create. I always try to stay open in terms of artistic practices, which is also owed to the young age of the gallery.

In your opinion, what is the key to a good relationship between a gallerist and the artists he or she represents?
Trust, fairness, and face-to-face communication are all very important to me. It is not always about who gives and who takes. I think that if both parties agree on the direction they want to move in, you can work together very successfully. It is necessary to allow your counterpart to address questions, concerns or problems. Sometimes you are not aware of small challenges the other has. Especially keeping in mind local situations in the Global South.

Your gallery stands out compared to other galleries in the same region. What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of having such a unique profile?
If you are the frontrunner, it is always tough to create visibility and awareness. It takes time to explain and tell people what your vision is all about.

Siwani, Buhlebezwe, iKhobokha 2, 2016, inkjet print on epson hot press natural, 100 x 100cm.
Siwani, Buhlebezwe iKhobokha 1, 2016, Inkjet print on epson hot press natural, 100 x 100 cm.

Do you experience a fear or doubt among art professionals of breaking the patterns of how you navigate in the art world and run a gallery?
No, I do not think so. Over the last years there have been and are still some game changers, like additional communication channels with social media or the constant changing ways of how art is accessible. Giving access to fantastic and thrilling artists will help me push art from Global South forward. Even if we face any barriers.

Based on your experience, do you think there has been a change of focus from the collectors, in terms of their interest for art from other regions of the world than their own?
Yes, I think this is definitely the case. There is an ongoing change over the last years. For example, art from Africa is getting more and more visible and is gaining its place even in the big auction houses like Christie’s and Sotheby’s. I believe that collectors are much more open to art from Global South and other perspectives than in the past. This also comes along with increased mobility and global interlinking. Last but not least, I believe experimenting with new ways of accessibility to art will also bring further opportunities for collectors.

How do you manage to combine your fraternal vision with the reality of the art market being a very financially driven machinery?
It is sometimes quite challenging to make a compromise between the one and the other. However, I believe that quality will win in the end. So, if you pursue what you like and believe in what you do, it will pay off in the end.

Machado, Miguel, Breaking Bad, 2017, Acrylic on canvas, 50 x 50 cm.
Machado, Miguel, Beyond Toys Storys 4, 2017, Acrylic and oil on canvas, 200 x 200 cm.

Which role do you think art plays in today’s society? Do you believe that art has the potential to change the world? And if so, how?
I believe that art is an important force. Even though you might not always recognize the roots, initial impulses very often start in the art world, only to find a place in media and other segments afterwards. Art creates new ideas that can shape our future. It questions and inspires us, and thus enables us to come up with unusual and innovative solutions. Last but not least, art creates emotions and we enjoy it.

Where do you see the art world and more specifically your gallery heading in the future?
I think there will be an ongoing shift the coming years. An increasing number of art fairs, access to art via online channels, and creative approaches by galleries will provide many more opportunities for collectors than ever before. The gallery is passionate about creating an environment that deepens the relationship between artists and collectors. We view ourselves as bridge builders and try to be smart and creative in identifying new ways to support collectors creating unique fine art collections.

Lars Kristian Bode

About LKB/G
Wexstraße 28
20355 Hamburg

[email protected]

Opening hours
Mon – Fri: 1 – 6 PM or by appointment

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