Why editions matter: Printmaking stalwart Niels Borch Jensen discusses 40 years in the business
– by Clément Dirié. Originally published in the the Art Basel | Year 48 book
Active since the 1970s, the Copenhagen-based gallerist talks about his early interest in printmaking, the way he envisions this discipline, and how he works with the artists.
Clément Dirié: Before opening your gallery in 1999, you had been active as a printer and publisher for 20 years. Could you tell us about your beginnings in the graphic art world?
Niels Borch Jensen: I went directly from high school to printmaking. I was supposed to go to university, but somehow I fell in love with this activity. The fact that it perfectly combines the intellectual world and a very physical practice appealed to me a lot. When I was in high school, I borrowed all the art books. But the ones that really fascinated me were the books about prints, about collections of famous prints, the books about Goya’s and Rembrandt’s etchings. I decided very early on to work in that field. I gained experience in Denmark first, then in America and Spain. It was a kind of informal and international apprenticeship. In 1979, I opened my own print studio in Copenhagen. I immediately started publishing artists like Per Kirkeby, as well as renowned Danish, Scandinavian, and German artists. The first print I did was actually with Per. I had just opened the print shop and he showed up one morning with some tiny plates he wanted me to print. We did that, and developed a relationship that lasted for 40 years. Later we worked with Martin Kippenberger and Albert Oehlen. It developed organically from one artist talking to another artist or seeing what other artists had done. In 1999, we opened the gallery in Berlin and decided to focus on printing only our own works. For a long time I also collaborated with galleries and other publishers who commissioned me.
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