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In an interview with Berlin Art Guide’s founder, Rufina Valsky, we learnt a lot about the nature of contemporary art and its relationship with Berlin, revealing, in turn, much about Berlin’s relationship with the world at large through art.
Rufina Valsky studied art history at Tel Aviv University and worked as director of an art gallery in Tel Aviv. From there, she was the PR manager of the Museums of Ramat Gan City. When she first came to Berlin almost three years ago, she already knew a lot of artists, galleries, and collectors in Berlin, a testament to the integral role this city plays in the global art world. From years of exploration in Berlin’s contemporary art scene, her knowledge and understanding continues to grow. Today, she is an art consultant who works to match interested collectors with relevant artwork. From this mindset and expertise came Berlin Art Guide.
Drawing from what she knows about what contemporary art is, Rufina was interested in highlighting it through her own lens of expertise. She defines Berlin art guide as,
‘…a selective guide to the contemporary art scene in Berlin, a web platform where I follow my preferences in regard to what’s going on in a given moment in Berlin.’
This operation is currently maintained with the integral help of Sarah Williams.
What started as a platform for showcasing what she likes and what catches her eye, Berlin Art Guide also offers unique, private art tours. The tours are part of an important process of facilitating relationships between patrons and artists, something that plays an important role in the art world. This goes beyond merely orchestrating shrewd business transactions; the role of the collector in an artist’s career is depicted throughout history. The collector helps to maintain the artist’s livelihood, preserve their art, and offer a depiction of the ways that an artists’ style develops and matures throughout his or her career. Rufina explains,
‘Art is not just a business; it [collecting art] contributes to the cultural progress and provides us with tremendous aesthetic pleasure.’
Essentially, when it comes to what is considered good contemporary art, Rufina is primarily interested in ‘beauty and experimentation.’ She also notes that it’s important not to separate contemporary art by medium. She remarks,
‘It doesn’t matter whether it’s video art or photography…the obsession of the artist is what makes it all interesting.’
In the context of Berlin Art Guide, a major element of the tours is in creating a longstanding, comfortable relationship with people who are new to collecting as well as existing collectors. She wants to keep the tours intimate and small (4 people max. per tour) so that people feel comfortable asking questions. This is because contemporary art can be intimidating to its audiences. When prompted about whether Rufina thought this to be so, she had this to say,
‘Absolutely! But that’s the first sign of… art being good. I remember, it’s not happening a lot, but sometimes I see a show that’s good, and I feel I’m afraid. I’m afraid if that door opens, of what’s going on, I’m afraid of my feelings. And it’s amazing! That’s what you want to live for. You shouldn’t be afraid of your feelings but then you detect [it] and you say okay, I’m here! That something moves you.’
Rufina offered this analogy about what makes Berlin’s art scene special, ‘If New York is the front, Berlin is where everything is happening. It’s the backstage.’ One reason for this is that,
‘Many artists live here…the living costs are still relatively low, but more importantly, Berlin is one of the cultural centers of the Western world, and every significant art professional is passing through the gigantic intersection Berlin is.’
Because many young artists gravitate towards this hub,
‘In Berlin you can see artists before their breakthrough, when their works are still affordable, and if you buy smart the value increases shortly after buying.’
This makes the Berlin art scene a very exciting place to experience contemporary art. Returning to the idea of the importance of the relationship between collector and artist and if a person is interested in following the career of the artist, Berlin is an important junction to catch many artists’ work in order to fully capture the development of the their career.
In terms of understanding the workings of the art world and the way they are changing, Rufina explained that many artists have ‘2 mother ships.’ For some, it’s Berlin and New York, while for others it might be New York and LA. The point here is that the art world is globalized. Rufina ponders,
‘The relationship between the local aspects of the galleries is all the time changing, galleries go out or galleries come in. A lot of young galleries are arising and some galleries are closing… it’s always boiling.’
To understand Berlin’s art scene, Rufina recommends following galleries and their progress, which help to characterize the Berlin art scene through the collections of contemporary artwork they choose to exhibit. It’s worth taking note of her preferences. From her learned eye come examples of Berlin Art Guide’s take on what we ought to pay attention to in Berlin’s upcoming art week.
No matter how established Rufina becomes in this business, the point for her still remains the same: ‘in seeing great art and interacting with great artists,’ Rufina emphasizes, ‘it’s everything; it’s the beginning and the end.’