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Monday
Jun072010

What really happened. 

Jeremy Fish and me handing over all responsibility to Willi, the gnome. Click image to see all pics from the opening. Photo by Jon Dragonette.Now this has been featured over at No New Enemies this weekend. It's from the long email I sent to Harlan Levey when he asked how things went ... a personal recap of the weeks and days before the big reopening of our new gallery with Jeremy Fish's "The Road Less Travelled".

"Man, it has been busy these past months. And definitely not easy: 

The new space was supposed to be handed over to us in March. Then it got postponed til April 1st. Then may 1st. After the third delay, it seemed pretty obvious that now it is really going to happen. I mean, how long could this take? Forever? So we planned for building the interiors, like the kitchen, the artist residence, the signage and all the stuff we need for the weeks prior to Jeremy Fish's arrival.

The space in February ...I had every intention of surprising him with a gallery that is also his loft and studio and home for the 10 days he planned to prepare the show in Hamburg. (When Jon Burgerman arrives June 19 to set up his show (opening July 1st), he will be the first artist to live and work there. I am really sorry Jeremy, I wished it could have been you. But even if a cowboy's work is never done, there are things we cannot influence, no mater how dirty our hands get.)

We also planned a dinner reception for our collectors in the 2nd week of may in the new rooms, just showing highlights from our storage that had never been shown before in Hamburg. Miami, New York, Basel, yes. But not in our hometown. And I actually already figured what to cook in our new gallery kitchen ... 

But ... bad news kicked me in the groins when May finally broke: in the first week of the month we had to cancel everything, again, because the workers just didn't get the job done in time.

I still didn't loose faith. I mananged to get our very supportive landlord to guarantee us to being able to open on the 29th, cos I wouldn't cancel the show anymore. With Jeremy coming from the US, having planned the whole tour by now, and all the arrangements that had been made - no way. Of course, by now we had announced the opening already everywhere, including posters on the streets etc., and the feedback was massive. 

According to our last arrangement we were supposed to get the keys latest in the second last week before the opening night. This meant we would have to live with the status quo of the site and have no studio, no bar, no interiors, signage, or even decent furniture, but as long as the toilet worked, the lights were in, and we had a door and white walls, I was determined to not let anyone stop me from opening on the 29th. 

... and in the beginning of May.Two weeks before the big day though, unfortunately it didn't look like this space would be ready at all. Not in 2 weeks. Not in 5.

Understandably, Jeremy was a bit shocked when he saw the status quo of the space, arriving one and a half weeks before the opening. And because he didn't knew me at all, and wasn't aware what the small heliumcowboy-crew is capable of, I guess he was getting nervous. 

Well I wasn't.

With the storage/work area located in the next door building, that we've been using for 5 months now as an interims office as well, we had enough space (160 m2) to use as a studio for the work he wanted to do while in Hamburg. It is perfect for that. It just meant that I had to shovel more money and energy into this venture, cos now Jeremy couldn't live in the new gallery studio, so we booked an appartment (last minute), and all the other countless workarounds we had to come up with added to the bill. But I was still sure this was going to be good.

We have been without a show opening for 7 months, at least in Hamburg. We've spend the 9 months before that in a quickly put together, improvised gallery space in a difficult neighbourhood that was really just temporary (and only planned to accomodate 2 shows). And the Hamburg crowd was very excited to see our new space, so there were lots of expectations and hopes.

This city needs good locations to show fresh art. And I couldn't let Jeremy leave with a bad feeling. After all, he really wanted to show with us when he asked me months ago, he heard lots of praise about heliumcowboy and was introduced to me by Will Barras who apparently told him many good things (thanks, Will). So there was no way I would let anyone down.

Construction site of the former Lost&Found, the week of the opening.In the last week before the show, things progressed surprisingly fast on the construction site. Our landlord was very unhappy with the situation and pushed the workers hard. Still, we could set foot into the space only on Friday before the opening (which was on Saturday). And even after they finally put in the entrance door Friday afternoon around 5 p.m., the space was only 70% finished. The whole building itself - not even that. And it is a beautiful old, historical house, the former Lost & Found of the city, and needs to be treated carefully to preserve its history. 

But by now we had the confidence of the artist, proven in a 3 x 1.80 meter large painting he did in long nightshifts over at the storage facility, and which is the "most Hamburg inspired painting" any international guest of heliumcowboy ever came up with. Jeremy was introduced to this city a whole weekend long by his friend Flying Förtress (which shows in the work), and is really good at discovering himself, being a very experienced and curious traveller. (The legend goes that Jeremy didn't really paint it. Praise for that goes to Willi, the huge garden gnome Jeremy acquired while in Hamburg...)

Around midnight on the night before the show. Done hanging. Well, almost.We finished the set up and the final preparations for the show 15 minutes prior to the opening. Access to the new space was through the construction site only, underneath the scaffolding and a frightening freight elevator right in front of the entrance, which was moved upwards for the opening. The entrance and the building, all the way down to the gallery door, looked like open heart surgery in progress, but left in a hurry.

We had to hire a friendly security guard who made sure no one gets hurt, or goes crazy on the scaffolding. We booked a shuttle service last minute together with the guys from Vicious Gallery, cos they had Dave Decat in the house and both shows attract a similar crowd. And the heliumcowgirls looked as stunning as always, dropping hammers and changing out of their work clothes just a few minutes before the first guests arrived.

And then it all began, the night I was anticipating so much, was looking forward to celebrate for more than a year; not under those circumstances though, but seriously - I couldn't give a fuck: I just wanted to open the new heliumcowboy artspace. Now.

The crowd outside enjoying the beautiful summer night of the Vernissage.The rest is ... a night to remember: Everything about that opening was just beautiful. Around 400 people showed up, but it never got too crowded; there was a lot of coming and going, and massive backslapping for our efforts and congratulations for the space, and most importantly Jeremy Fish's art, which had never been shown in a solo in Hamburg before. 

It all worked out, even better than expected or hoped for, and when we closed at midnight to move the party over to the Vicious Gallery to celebrate with them, there were smiling faces only. Because this was also a night that could make Hamburg proud of itself, for a highly unique athmosphere to show and experience young art, without any bitching or complaints or lies or heartbreaking or drama. 

I have the feeling that the people are happy that we are back, and that they really missed us. But I may be mistaken here, it may as well just be owed to the fact that this long long winter, that prevented us from opening months ago, seemed to be finally over on this crystal clear, mild summernight, maybe the first we had this year. 

Well, I finally have my gallery back. And it is the best space I've ever had."

All images from the set up and the exhibition opening can be found here.

 

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