VeneKlasen Werner’s gallery invitations double as exhibition booklets. They are perfectly sized—like folded-up press releases—saddle-stitched, and average 50 pages of images that range from historical record to the historically forgotten, from Imgur to the Deep Web. Compiled by the exhibiting artist, organizing curator, or artist’s estate, they are orgiastic scrapbooks of full-bleed pictures of anything from any time. Collaged, underpixelated, screen-grabbed, illustrated, wide-angled, faded, or dissolved, the chapbook images function like B-rolls of the art you’re invited to see IRL, yet presented with enough visual intelligence to transform marginalia into its own distinctive aesthetic experience.
Unlike the typical invitation—not to mention the typical press release—the booklets are full of parody and humor. Inside the invite to the exhibition “The Joy of Pleasure” we’re instructed to “Colle ici la photo de ta queue” [paste the photo of your ass here], over an anonymous penis shape, and reminded that “our collective task (artists, curators, all who venture into V/W [VeneKlasen Werner]) is to set forth a much-needed education on pleasure.” In the invitation for Meredyth Sparks’s exhibition, “Striped Bare,” we’re told, “Since those portraits stopped at the shoulders, there is no reason to believe that Duchamp didn’t keep his pants on.” Hitlon Als and Peter Doig curated a show called “Self-Consciousness” and in the invitation we learn that “‘Cunt’ is a compliment. In fact, it’s the highest compliment you can pay anyone, as in: Oh, my God, look at that cunt. She’s so cunty and nice!” For his exhibition in 2011, Enrico David published a selection of his brut figures and still life illustrations, encapsulating a vulnerability of art “on the brink of not being ready to be born”—an unabashed embrace of an immaturity that’s become cherishable in the art world.
VeneKlasen Werner is the Berlin experimental laboratory of the Michael Werner empire and is run by Werner’s partner Gordon VeneKlasen and curator Gyonata Bonvicini. Larger than any of the namesake galleries in New York, London, Cologne, and Märkisch Wilmersdorf, V/W also has a cinema and lecture hall. “V/W embraces a collage of personalities surrounding Michael Werner Gallery,” Bonvicini explains. “We invite artists and curators who aren’t exclusively tied to the gallery to participate in a larger conversation about artistic production today.”