Saturday, July 19, 2014

Hans Ulrich Obrist talks to Walther König

Wolfgang Tillmans, Walther König, 2009

A recent post on the edgy 032c website has the influential curator Hans Ulrich Obrist talking with bookseller and publisher extraordinaire Walther König. It is no exaggeration that the König flagship bookstore in Cologne is probably the worlds best bookshop for art and artist's books. I always head there when in Cologne and in fact, König's shop alone is worth the trip to Cologne.

The legendary business was founded in Cologne in 1969 by WALTHER KÖNIG (b.1939), soon to become one of the world’s pre-eminent addresses for art-related literature and a hotbed of intellectual exchange (apart from the parent location, the bookstore now maintains branches across Germany, in Vienna, and in London). Around the same time, with his brother Kasper, König also started a publishing house. Today, the Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König is home to many artists, including Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke and Hans Peter Feldmann. Obrist, who has known the bookseller and publisher since he was a young student and has collaborated with him on a series of books, speaks of König with wonder-filled enthusiasm. He points out the publisher’s “incredible generosity,” and is fascinated by the “Borgesian infinity” of the original bookshop’s physical space. “Whenever you think you’ve seen it, there is another hidden room. Little by little, one discovers, floor by floor, more and more secret spaces – and I am sure I still have not seen all of them, filled with books upon books. It’s almost paradise. I’ve always thought of the König bookshop as a sort of paradise.” It is amid this inner architectural complexity, in König’s office, that the two men sat down to talk about what Obrist sees as a one unified entity: “It’s him – his bookshop, his building, all the books, his publishing – it’s a beautiful, holistic thing.” 

You can read the complete interview on 032c HERE. And visit the Walther König bookstore website HERE.

In 2006 I made a photograph of Walther König outside his shop in Cologne and he made a photograph of me, this was for my book project I LOOK AT YOU, YOU LOOK AT ME.

Harvey Benge, Walther König, 2006

Walther König, Harvey Benge, 2006

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