Karma International was founded in Zurich by Karolina Dankow and Marina Olsen.
Last February they opened a temporary project space in Mid-City, Los Angeles. Flash Art associate editor Eli Diner talked to Karolina Dankow about Karma International’s new permanent location in a historic Art Deco-style building from the 1920s in Beverly Hills, which is scheduled to open January 16, 2016, with the group show “Après Ski.”
It’s been almost a year since Karma International first opened a Los Angeles outpost. How’s it going? What observations do you have about the local art scene? Or life in Los Angeles?
I’ve really come to love Los Angeles. When I first came here, all we wanted to do was a pop-up gallery and then leave again, but now it’s all become very real, and I can’t see myself leaving anytime soon. I am excited to open the new space in Beverly Hills because it will be a new chapter. When I first got here, I did not know too much about the scene in Los Angeles, but now I feel at home.
Since I first visited Los Angeles ten years ago, the art scene has changed immensely. There are different areas that have become important for art, more international galleries have opened and lots of interesting not-for-profit projects are going on. In terms of Los Angeles’s international vibrancy, it feels like this has grown, too. People casually come to Los Angeles from Europe for events like Paramount Ranch or openings of new spaces. It seems like the world has gotten smaller, and Los Angeles has definitely become an important destination for art that can’t be missed.
You were one of the first in what they’re calling a wave from Europe and New York. Do you think it’s just the weather?
I am sure the weather is a big component in why people are drawn to Los Angeles. But it’s more than that. I really believe that something bigger is happening here right now. It is interesting to see how many artists have moved to Los Angeles from New York. That is definitely a sign of a change on a larger scale. I am attracted to Los Angeles not only for its palm trees and blue sky but also for its dark side, as described by Mike Davis in City of Quartz. Los Angeles has dystopian aspects, and it is easy to immerse oneself in these. It’s a great place for inspiration.
So, Beverly Hills? Tell me about the new space. How’d you end up choosing this location?
I went around and saw many, many locations. I looked downtown a lot and almost signed on a space but then left for Europe and gave it more thought. When I came back I knew downtown was not for me. I love what is going on there; it’s a new and vibrant scene, but for Karma it felt better to take another direction and actually provide an alternative to the trend for an even bigger and more spacious gallery.
I was interested in the idea of showing art on a more intimate scale. Almost as if visiting someone and seeing their collection. The space in Beverly Hills is divided into three rooms, and all in all it’s no more than a thousand square feet, but it feels very inspiring and allows the visitor to really interact with the art. It allows more intimacy. Since we already have a big space in Zurich, the idea was more to create a hub where people can come, see art and have a relaxed conversation with me. I felt that the best place to do that would be a place where people can feel relaxed. A lot of our collectors either live in Beverly Hills or have an office, a lawyer or a doctor here — or at least their favorite restaurant is here — and it’s maybe the only walkable area in LA. Of course, I was also very intrigued by the idea that William N. Copley had his surrealist gallery in this area. This is a really great legacy!
The inaugural show is called “Après Ski.” Tell me about it.
Après-ski is a French term often used in Switzerland. It describes an (alcoholic) drink one takes with friends after a day of skiing. It’s a very social thing and it’s part of the skiing routine. Since this is the first show in our own space here in Los Angeles, we understand the show as a friendly gesture and want to invite everybody to come and celebrate with us and learn about our program. The show comprises works by artists from the program, such as Sergei Tcherepnin, Urban Zellweger, Judith Bernstein and K8 Hardy. But there are lots of connecting factors with Los Angeles: there will be a wall painting and a neon sign by Swiss artist Sylvie Fleury. The neon sign says Moisturizing is the Answer, which is a very LA thing.