König Galerie, the Berlin- and Seoul-based gallery owned by Johann König, has seen a number of artists depart in recent months, as its owner grapples with sexual assault allegations, which he denies. According to both Artnet News and The Art Newspaper, Scandinavian artists Elmgreen & Dragset and German painters Katharina Grosse and Corinne Wasmuht have all severed ties with the gallery in recent weeks. Berlin-based artist Monica Bonvicini departed earlier this month. The feminist artist had “paused” her relationship with the gallery after the abovementioned allegations were made public. Bonvicini was shortly thereafter targeted by the anonymous Soup du Jour collective, which published an open letter casting her failure to completely sever ties with the gallery as standing in stark contrast to the core tenets of her practice. König Galerie subsequently dropped her, saying it did so in order to “protect” her from further online attacks.
Johann König is the son of noted curator Kasper König, the founder of Frankfurt am Main’s Portikus contemporary art space and a longtime director of the Museum Ludwig in Cologne. The younger König launched his gallery in Berlin in 2002; until recently, he had enjoyed the status of a figure central to that city’s scene. This past August, he was publicly revealed by Die Zeit to have been accused by multiple women of having inappropriately touched or spoken to them. König through his legal representation has strongly denied the allegations against him limned in the German daily, which was ultimately forced by a Hamburg court to retract a number of statements made in its August article. The paper republished an altered version of the original article on October 15.
The gallery has seen several other big names leave in recent months, some before the accusations against König were made public. Among them are French multidisciplinary artist Camille Henrot, London-based Argentinian multidisciplinary artist Amalia Pica, Turner Prize–winning British sculptor Helen Marten, and Brooklyn-based painter Trey Abdella. None of the departing artists have tied their abdication to the allegations against König. The gallery through a spokesperson noted that it “does not comment on artists leaving and never [has] in its 20-year history.” König Galerie continues to represent a number of blue-chip artists, among them Jeppe Hein, Bosco Sodi, and Tatiana Trouvé.