Checkpoint Ilgen is an Art Salon happens one times a year in the wonderful salon-studio of the artist Fré Ilgen. The Checkpoint Ilgen Series he organizes in collaboration with his wife Jacqueline Ilgen, who also runs his office.
This year, at “Checkpoint Ilgen#13” I was there, one of the artists invited for the exhibition. Fré Ilgen is artist class 1956, based in Berlin, he makes wonderful paintings abstract style combined with figurative forms and sculptures. He is also a curator of events and exhibitions, theorist and editor of several art books. The Checkpoint Ilgen is more than a traditional exhibition, this is an event where people, from each part of the world, have a possibility by invitation to be part of discussion about art and main contents about what happens in our contemporary world.
The topic of this year was “The new silk roads – including art”? An amazing happening, very informal and very unique, the relators were: Dr. Parag Khanna, Leading global strategist from Singapore, Mr. Tianling Wang, Counselor of Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Berlin and Ambassador H.E. Bolat Nussupov, the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Berlin and Fré like a moderator.
When did you start to organize Checkpoint Ilgen and why?
My wife Jacqueline and I initiated the Checkpoint Ilgen in 2007, upon moving to Berlin. I belong to the category of artists who is not only interested in his own work and career. Art as part of human society is much more important. Together we have organized many discussions, symposia, even some congresses through the years, always with subjects we thought to be important to art in general, and its role in society. Our main objective has always been to consider art to contribute to other person’s lives, through offering visually attractive artworks (which is not the same as beautiful) helping other persons to cope with all bad and good things in their own lives. But, obviously, this also involves the pragmatics for the artists to acquire an income through their own art. At some point, around 2006, we noticed a growing group of passionate art-lovers-collectors to loose their interest in art caused by the art auction’s games. We soon discovered that everywhere in the art-scene the audience is talked to, is “educated”, but nowhere the audience is asked for their own opinions. Thus, while as theorist I do like substantial depth in discussing and lecturing about art, we understood right now it is more important to attempt creating platforms where the audiences are motivated to become involved through their own opinions. To try to re-create excitement for art. This means, on one side, to challenge the audience during a podium-talk to gladly intervene with questions, and to offer subjects and an informal atmosphere that naturally inspire the audience to voice their views afterwards over drinks and catering, while being positively provoked by a high-quality group exhibition with artworks that reflect the subject of such an evening. Having many years of experience with many formats of meeting, we are surprised ourselves by the unprecedented success of our “CPI” series. The setting in a private apartment helps a lot to establish the informal perimeters.
What are your feeling about the last Checkpoint Ilgen?
In principle our “CPI#13” was likely the best so far, because the subject and our proposed concept how to re-link art to business strategies in response to the continuing toughness of the actual shrunken art-market really has hit some nerves. Especially as we aim to persuade businesses for their own strategic actions in other countries (like along The New Silk Roads) to include funding of art within their existing marketing-budgets. The purpose is to aim for art-presentations in such other countries that visually contribute by themselves to the lives and well-being of peoples in such other countries. We always have an unusual mixture of audience of people from all generations, very different cultural backgrounds and many different professions, always flying in for the evening from various countries in Europe, the USA and Asia, even from the Middle East. But this time we had more than 75% persons from businesses, finances, policy-makers (including from the ministries of finance and economics), leading politicians (at EC level) and a leading TV journalist, besides people from the art world (a museum director, dealers, artists, collectors). The requests prior to our event and immediately afterwards from mainly businesspersons around the world has encouraged me to make a report, on paper including many pictures, and with video-clips, which will become available through my web-site. I just wish many artists who wish to become active and see the potential options provided by our “Checkpoint Ilgen” format and the subject relating to business. If we like to change the art-scene and art-market to the benefit of the larger audiences we have to start taking the audiences as individual persons much more seriously. This also matches what businesses like to accomplish when they decide they wish to do business in another country, thinking about that market. In art all of us art professionals have too long been trained to talk about ourselves, not noticing the growing gap to our audiences. Like in business we need to start thinking about our audience as “target-audiences”, acknowledging our artworks only find actual reasons for existence by acknowledging we in part work at the service of other persons. After all, as I mentioned at the “CPI#13”: the experience of art is not about money, but there cannot be art without money. When we acknowledge the money comes from other persons we see the logic we work with considerations for the individuals that are our audience. The Renaissance and Baroque demonstrate this is not a bad thing for art.
Do you think Checkpoint Ilgen could be an occasion to connect more people and artists?
The main thing is to involve artists for sure, as we do, but not to make it into the usual event were mostly artists meet. For us it is much more important, actually more crucial right now than most art professionals like to admit, to start at the very foundation of art again, the basis where one makes the art and offers it to the other persons. Providing courage again to the art audiences to trust their personal interest in art, regardless of all preaching on “innovative art” or “cutting edge” non-sense, hopefully refreshing the interest to take some artworks home into their own environments and not continue appreciating art only as distraction in a museum. Therefore, we prefer to involve more persons from even more professions and layers of society.
You are an artist, curator, theorist and editor how can you hold all of this work in a perfect way you usually do?
To me this is one coherent whole. Like I mentioned, I am not only interested in my own works or career. My main interest is to approach the simple but tough question why do humans need art in their lives? As I am driven by curiosity I benefit, my art benefits, and continue to learn by so many interactions with so many people across the globe. Off course as artist also I occasionally have to retreat in my studio, or in my writing. For that I can only honor Jacqueline, my wife and collaborator plus supporter in everything, as she takes so much of my shoulders and acts as most immediate and severe critic.
The situation in your special house remember me something happens in the past, when artists stayed more closed with intellectual people and art was also about discussion and thoughts about the contemporary history moments, how can you recreate this very authentic moment in your event?
Thanks for the compliment. This comes natural when you like to balance both sides that I appreciate in art to be of simultaneous value: promoting the substantial depth of the artworks themselves, including the thinking about this, with the ways for communication with the target-audiences. This is an ongoing challenge, causing us to continue experimenting in our “CPI” Series with subjects and speakers. As a host and moderator one is obviously challenged to allow the invited speakers to be in the main spotlight, and to move one’s own opinions to the background (not easy for any artist), but still to keep an eye on the main subject. In most talk-shows on tv the host’s ego is the main subject, this we like to avoid.
Like an artist, what is your background and why did you choose Berlin to live?
I come from a very regular Dutch family, no artists, maybe some amateurs in the past. At the end of the 1960’s as young kid I happened to be in Italy for summer holidays. My father never liked beaches, and had his own curiosity about culture, leading us to quite a few museums, churches, palaces of Byzantine period, the Renaissance, Baroque. This clearly set a firm seed and seems the start of wishing to become an artist. I first attempted studying some more “serious” subjects for “real jobs”, before I went to Fine Art Academy in Rotterdam. Because of my own earlier efforts in art I was allowed to skip the first two years. Living in the countryside in the beautiful most northern part of Holland for many years, in about 2005 we noticed our target-audience did not wish to drive the 2.5 hours up from Amsterdam anymore, preferring to visit big cities where they can enjoy many cultural things. Simultaneously we noticed because of economic and political changes Holland might soon become a small corner of Europe, making the life of an artist too challenging. Having experienced on many visits, including doing some exhibitions, both the large changes in Berlin and the start of our own network with some good collectors, we decided to move to this city and never regretted this. Because of our own world-wide network we frequently have visitors, including from the USA and East Asia. The city has progressively become more international, more multi-cultural and thus very interesting.
Your paintings are very energetic in sort of contrast from the white sculptures and the geometric form, what happens in you in the two different moment of creation?
If I would know myself, I would tell you, but if I knew I possibly would stop creating as well. Because of my interests as described earlier, and because of my interest in a better understanding of perception, I have more and more interest to clearly distinguish between the biological perceptual qualities (what does the artwork offer our eyes and brains and bodies, how does the artwork impact with our biology) and the psychological perceptual qualities (associations, with one’s own life, but also associations built on learning). At the level of biological perception there is a fascinating and timeless cohesion between so much art now and through history, not at any formal level, but at the level of sheer immediate impact on our retinas-brains-bodies. For instance, the movements simulated in the white sculptures, the geometry in others, the colors of most of my paintings, all are present in Renaissance and Baroque palaces and churches. Also at such places one can elaborate on the original specific meanings or just enjoy the visual power building on the subtile and very smart contrasts between colors, geometry (mostly the architecture), and non-colored sculptures. After all, through millennia our knowledge of the world may have changed, but our eyes, bodies and brains have not (that much).
Checkpoint Ilgen#13, Berlin, Fré Ilgen
Checkpoint Ilgen#13, Berlin Dr. Parag Khanna, Leading global strategist from Singapore, Mr. Tianling Wang, Counselor of Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Berlin and Ambassador H.E. Bolat Nussupov, the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Berlin and Fré like a moderator
Checkpoint Ilgen#13, Berlin,
Fré Ilgen – Duette, 2017
Fré Ilgen – I Wonder Who, 2017
Fré Ilgen – I’m In The Mood, 2015-2017
Fré Ilgen – Mindfields, 2017, oil on canvas, 175 x 250 cm