Szuper Gallery TeleVision

Commentary on a statement by Szuper Gallery for a publication for
Tele[visions], Kunsthalle Vienna.
by Justin Hoffmann

In the 60’s and 70’s everything was black and white, not only on television. Back then we had East and West, Young and Old, Reactionary and Progressive. In the arts this duality expressed itself in incompatibility of self-organised socially critical projects on one side, and the art market and galleries on the other. Culture and Anti-Culture, Public and Anti-Public opposed each other. These clearly defined proportions started to disappear with the advent of postmodern theory and the Punk/ New Wave movement. Things began to get very complex and multi-layered.

When an artist group calls itself „gallery" that can only have
occurred after 1980, in an epoch during which subversive strategies and communication-guerillas have become part of everyday life. Szuper Gallery works with carefully planned misunderstandings and tricks of labelling. Some in the viewing public have been taken in by their antics. But what is that for a group that always writes in the „we" form even when only one of the members has done a thing or experienced something. Their public image does not require authenticity. In the above-mentioned statement by Szuper Gallery a story is told of a Red October chocolate-eating unit, as if the members had known each other since childhood. But as far as I know their paths did not cross until the middle 90’s. Some of them first came to my attention hanging around with the mysterious English artist group Art in Ruins, while they where teaching at the Munich Art Academy. This group left quite an impression on some of the local artists. Some of the sharpness of their critical positions seems to have rubbed off on Szuper Gallery. Art in Ruins attacked with equal vehemence the art system and its ruinous drive. Of course, in the end, even Art in Ruins had to put up being aimed at by Szuper with wit and cunning, but they knew how to counter that.

The earlier works took place in the Galerie Szuper, named after the gallery owner, who dealt in East European Art. How these young artists managed to get the opportunity to run a gallery in Bogenhausen, where at that time such galleries as Six Friedrich and Sabine Knust also resided, remains quite mysterious. In this connection the rumour began to circulate that Mr. Szuper was less allegedly interested in the presentation of art than in the money laundry from dubious sources. Unimpressed by this, the Galerie Szuper as run by Szuper Gallery became a leading attraction in Munich art scene, even though many artists exhibiting there had not even finished their studies at the Munich Academy of the Pictorial Arts. Nevertheless the gallery became a center of Institutional Critique in Munich. Here you could see paintings of advertisements for exhibition houses, photos of photos out of art catalogues, or view in awe a video of Szuper Gallery reenacting a performance by Gilbert & George. I was told recently that I first set foot in the gallery accompanied by Rüdiger Schöttle. That could very well be, because first of all Schöttle numbers among the most open-minded of gallerists today in this city, and second-of-all, in those days he and I met regularly. My first sight of the gallery was a sort of bird’s-eye-view. As you approached the gallery you could see into the basement exhibition rooms through huge knee-level windows, having a chance to form an opinion on the show before you’d even entered the gallery.

The name of the group, which they simlpy took from the gallery and made their own, was a good choice. „Szuper Gallery" sounds like “money" and "ambition", which certainly helped them in their efforts to attract sponsors. Also the wordplay with the word „super" has its advantages. One immediately starts thinking over the implications of this unusual concept, wondering if it has something to do with the
Slavic form of the word „super", or if it is someone’s name, or simply a fantasy name. On the other hand it lays itself open to attack: Are these people really as super as they say they are?
Other inexplicable questions regarding Szuper Gallery have to do with some aspects of their art events. Even official announcements from the group are to be enjoyed with caution. What is their true relationship with Michael Bloomberg and his like-named television station?
Astoundlingly enough Szuper Gallery enjoys cultivating contacts with persons whose businesses carry their names. It is relatively certain that they actually were allowed into various rooms of the television station to carry out their absurd plots, underscored with dramatic background music. But whether they have really talked with Bloomberg personally or have true established connections with him or have made some sort of deal with him or not is unknown. At any rate, the person who appears in the video „Good Morning, Mr. Bloomberg" - as a photo published in the March 7th 2001 edition of the Sueddeutsche Zeitung proves - is definitely not Mr. Bloomberg himself. The celebratory closing of a deal with champagne-and-everything, there depicted, has nothing to do with reality. But couldn’t it be that it really did happen that way and Szuper Gallery re-enacted it at another time and location with other actors for cinematic-dramaturgical reasons? Or is it totally invented from top to bottom? Admittedly a cute little story and one that fits right into the media-critical art context in which Szuper Gallery likes to see itself. It seems to be true that the group has spent a long time in London. But there again we don’t know exactly which one or ones of them nor for how long. In any case, they wanted
to drive the greedy British shareholder-artists crazy by playing the market just as they do but with one difference; they took the £ 5.000 at their disposal and played it all right down the drain. They would have done a lot better with the likes of Saatchi & Saatchi as advisors, these fellows know how to turn art and even artists into supreme profit-making capital investments. Luckily, they did not allow themselves to be infected by the virulent trivialisation tendencies of Art Light found over there. For when Szuper Gallery throws a party in London, regardless if the party guests realize it or not, what’s actually going on is a piece of conceptual art.

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