Founded in 2002 by Regina Anzenberger, the space is a platform for photography-based art. Visitors are introduced to a concept-based body of work in the form of exhibitions and books
«The book is a medium of democracy. It’s the first step towards getting to know about an artist’s work. It allows you to understand the concept and vision of the artist – which does not happen when you visit a museum. When I create, I start by thinking about the book». Regina Anzenberger approached art when she was thirteen years old, a time when she was practicing drawing and painting. At sixteen she started to buy books, and met with people in her school years who were from the production department of magazines. Her journey followed through image editing, graphic design, illustration and writing: she moved from being captivated in drawings by Rembrandt to working as picture editor. The job involved browsing through review copies of photo books which led her to open an agency. It was in 2002 that AnzenbergerGallery came to life. «After the advent of the digital age, picture agencies entered a crisis and I began to dedicate my time to the project of the gallery. I had an interest in art – opening a gallery was my ambition».
«Apart from being a book collector, books interest me as a medium»
AnzenbergerGallery has had a bookshop with a selection of photography books, including rare, signed, and self-published books since 2011. Anzenberger Editions is the publishing house that the founder employed to represent the output of her masterclasses, which guided students along the production of books starting from scratch. It is dedicated to publishing her works as of today. The gallery’s program changed direction following the evolution of the founder’s practice and the depth of her interest in mixed-techniques. For the book selection, the owner looks for handmade pieces and small-run editions. One of her publishing houses of choice is Origini edizioni, an Italian book maker operating between the realm of photography and poetry.
Anzenberger: how she incorporates her passions in her business
The gallery is an acquirer of Mack Books, whose business started around the bookshop’s launch date and centers its production on respecting standards across the board. In line with the bookstore’s direction, handmade, vintage, and photographic works characterize the gallery’s collection. Due to her background as a painter, Anzenberger is drawn to abstraction in the material she selects and curates. She remarks that it is a tribulation to sell images of this nature – that is the reason she chose to invest in storytelling throughout her collection. «Stories were told in magazines, but not anymore. Books took over that role, and collectors want to see and buy stories. A book has to tell a story and speak of lives». Anzenberger’s experience in editing, sequencing and visual-culture led her to become an advisor a year ago, as the lockdown interfered with the agency’s operations.
Anzenberger’s passion for editing and curation stems from her experience as a portfolio reviewer at Houston’s FotoFest in 2012. That is where she first came across a volume of artists who used mixed media and alternative-processes and techniques; among them are those she appreciates and works with today. Doing portfolio reviews in Houston enabled Anzenberger to mold as a curator. She reviewed the work of sixty artists in four days to get a sense of what was going on in the art world – the «status quo», as she calls it. That is where she first saw the potential of exhibiting works that experimented with media from a perspective of curation.
Stories through mixed media
Anzenberger has visited Eastern Europe, Lithuania, India and South Korea as a reviewer, and acquired familiarity with a diversity of practices through her role as juror for Critical Mass, an online photography program organized by Portland’s Photo Lucida, a nonprofit organization that supports professional development for photographers. Anzenberger’s interest in bodies of work that tell a story through mixed media culminated in the development of ‘Handmade’, an exhibition series that challenges the boundaries of photography by showcasing artists that work at the intersection between two and three-dimensions. Based on the encounter between analog photography, craft, drawing and painting, the exhibition aims to fathom and redefine what defines a photographic work, and recurs every two years. «Handmade is built on pieces and not editions, which are not understood as a format». Artists from a multitude of backgrounds feature in the gallery’s exhibitions, which occur in six to eight cycles per year. The artists that Anzenberger finds worth mentioning are Gabriela Morawetz, whose production she laid eyes on at Paris Photo; Jessa Fairbrother, an English artist from Bristol who integrates embroidery, stitching and piercing in her photographic works; and Yelena Zhavoronkova, a Russian artist based in San Francisco.
A circle of twenty to twenty-five photo book collectors would meet each month in AnzenbergerGallery to discuss books, photography, the market and the practice of collecting in a circle called Bring Your Photobook, before 2020 struck. The meetings have been taking place for the last ten years. «Among the participants there are collectors who own the oeuvre of Robert Frank. Amongst them are individuals specialized in classics, or Japanese, Eastern European and Russian books. They lend books to Vienna’s museums like Albertina, or to museums in Paris». Vienna is bursting with events, concerts and openings, and Anzenberger has been the co-founder of Vienna’s Photobook Festival, with OstLicht Gallery’s director Peter Coeln and Michael Kollmann, the gallery’s photo book curator.
The festival grew to accommodate over forty tables
Upholding that passion required time, care, and finances. «Five years in, financing the festival had become an issue. It became a full-time job, and I had to decide whether I wanted to dedicate myself to it. In the end OstLicht Gallery decided not to go through with it». In 2012, the gallery relocated from the city center to the Ankerbrotfabrik, an ex-bread factory situated in Vienna’s Absberggasse. The building hosts businesses and programs that work in synergy – artist residencies, social projects, a restaurant, a brewery and furniture stores. Brotfabrik houses art galleries, among them OstLicht Gallery, which has established itself in Austria as it deals with photography and photobooks: at the time of Anzenberger’s move to the factory, OstLicht owned a library of twenty-five-thousand items. On the occasion of Martin Parr’s exhibition, the founder launched the gallery’s bookshop through a book launch in collaboration with OstLicht.
The gallery’s first three years of activity in the Brotfabrik were a chance for Anzenberger to recognize books as sellable goods versus artwork. Meeting book collector and programmer Josef Chladek led to the creation of AnzenbergerGallery’s online bookshop, and to the expansion of its digital archive. The start of this side of the project coincided with the digitization of archives. Anzenberger has been painting for two decades and owned her studio for seventeen years, where she worked on large-format canvases. When the presence of digital media started to increase, she began to go out and photograph, hybridizing the tools she was working with, and developing her practice between them. It was 2012, after the gallery’s relocation, when Anzenberger started to mix photography with painting and found her way in mixed media. «Life inspires me. I work with themes that are dear to me, with objects that surround me».
There is a piece of land beyond the Brotfabrik, standing next to a highway, at the edge of Vienna’s city center. It is the source of the vision for Gstettn, the project Anzenberger worked on from 2017 to 2020. The area, which used to be a freight terminal, is devoid of buildings, and is going to turn into a construction site for apartment complexes made to accommodate three-thousand people. «When you have an area where buildings are yet to be constructed, nature takes over, it becomes a playground». The artist used to walk there with her dog. During a stroll in the summer of 2017, in July, she noticed the flowers: their shades of rose and white struck a chord. From that year on, she paid attention to the way nature transformed – its colors, its botanical species – depending on the amount of sunlight and rain, or temperature and humidity occurring in the year. The book will come in a slipcase and will contain eight hand-bound volumes, each exploring a concept, and will combine images and text.
The gallery’s will feature the work of Jindřich Štreit, a Czech photographer and pedagogue known for his documentary photography. Curated and imagined by Denis Brudna, publisher of Hamburg’s Photo News, the exhibition will be associated to Village People, a book produced by Ana Druga’s and Thomas Gust’s Buchkunst Berlin, which will cover twenty-five years of the artist’s production – a dive into Štreit’s work on the Czechoslovak countryside.