By Simone Kussatz
Situated in a historical district in Berlin known as Bayerisches Viertel, a former predominately Jewish area close to Rathaus Schöneberg (the city hall in Berlin where John F. Kennedy held his famous speech proclaiming “Ich bin ein Berliner”), Galerie am Rathaus is a contemporary gallery featuring figurative and abstract paintings, landscapes, photography and sculptures.
The gallery is run by Regina Schnorr, a retired pulmonologist born in Dresden, in former East Germany. “During my childhood and youth it was natural for me to be interested in art. My father, whom I lost during the war, had many art books,” she explains. “Also, the Dresdner Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister [Dresdner Old Masters Picture Gallery] turned into my second home, where I would meet up with friends when it was raining. I always had the need to own a picture. Sometimes I would cut a print out of a book, frame it and hang it up in my room.”
As a young doctor, Schnorr started buying paintings from a Russian artist, as well as from her students, and exhibited the works in the clinic where she worked. But instead of making a name for herself, she clashed with the ideological foundation of the Social regime. In the eyes of her colleagues and authorities, she acted too independently.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Schnorr went into business for herself and led a large pulmonology office in Berlin Mitte [a district in Berlin that used to belong to East Berlin]. “This enabled me to showcase artists in my office,” she says. Soon after “The Turn”, an old schoolmate of Schnorr, with whom she used to play music, told her about painter and musician Karl-Heinz Koch-Stöber, whose paintings were forbidden in the former German Democratic Republic (DDR) after he was continuously seen socializing with French artists and university lecturers during his stay in Cambodia. “I liked his paintings and bought many of his works so that he could finally exhibit them. This became a friendship that lasted until 2000, when he died.“
During the 1990s, Schnorr and her husband went on a trip to San Francisco. One afternoon while they were walking through the streets, they came across Vorpal Gallery, whose windows were covered by blinds. Curiosity and intuition brought them into the building where they met the curator, Jerry Emanuel, who gave them a long tour through the gallery. When Schnorr saw a painting with colorful figures in a golden shimmer, she fell in love with it and learned from Emanuel that it was created by Israeli painter and poet Peter Zvi Malkin, who captured Adolf Eichmann [ Eichmann was a German Nazi, responsible for facilitating and managing the logistics of mass deportation of Jews to ghettos and extermination camps ] in Argentina in 1960.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about Malkin’s painting,” Schnorr reveals. “I got to know him later on and we developed a very deep friendship. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2005, but I have exhibited him several times in Berlin - in my office as well as in my gallery. Through his story and paintings I will always stay connected to him and will continue to exhibit him in the coming years.”
More than a decade later Schnorr followed her creative passion - writing. In 2004-2005 she published her first novel, “Die Mahagoni Schatulle” [The Mahogany Casket], published by Goldbeck-Löwe. The novel is about an attractive and intelligent Jewish woman who makes it through the Nazi era in Germany due to her will to survive and ruthless adaptability. The first reading of the novel was held by an actress at a gallery in Schöneberg.
Due to her wish to keep her autonomy and independence, as well as to show her collected artwork to the public, Schnorr decided to give up her medical office in 2007 and opened the Galerie am Rathaus in order to start “a second life.” She also wanted to create literary salons and provide music performances for the public, yet the gallery, which shows exhibits between 5-6 times a year, has not sold as many art pieces as she had expected. Schnorr hopes to change this soon by attracting more contemporary artists to her gallery. “I have plenty of offers, both from Berlin and other countries - Italy, France, Austria. I’ve already exhibited the works of Russian and American artists. What’s important to me is to have a good connection to the artists and they need to be good and reliable.”
For more information, please visit the gallery’s website: http://www.kunstgalerie-berlin.eu
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(Edited by Marta Kos)