My Latest Double Date With a Gallery Intern: Hamburg’s Artist of the Week

It was a quarter to midnight on New Year’s Eve, and my phone rang. It was Juliana Löhr, a Hamburg-based artist in her 40s, with a video question: Could I come to her studio…

My Latest Double Date With a Gallery Intern: Hamburg’s Artist of the Week

It was a quarter to midnight on New Year’s Eve, and my phone rang. It was Juliana Löhr, a Hamburg-based artist in her 40s, with a video question: Could I come to her studio to look at something? I always thought she looked like a smart, accomplished woman, who lived comfortably in an apartment on the second floor of a handsome, three-story building in an upscale neighborhood.

She told me the mystery was of a work she had titled “Untitled,” and intended to sell for $83,000. I had seen her three or four times before: She made pictures like this — moody, abstracted, slanted and dreamlike — by hand, and the pictures always seemed to feature a girl, her head in the clouds, her face gazing straight ahead, the last time a pregnant woman, who stood in one of her studios, in a room with the windows covered in tall, colorful canvases.

She had cast and recorded a couple of themselves, her partner, a fellow artist, as well as two white Doberman puppies and a brown Parrot, white and with light brown markings, and called them “Aunties.” But the strange, hypothetical video, unartistically portrayed in the middle of the living room, had been chosen for the sale at this year’s edition of Atthes Gallery, where I was an art adviser.

It took me a while to understand why the video felt, to me, unlike a usual Juliana Löhr picture, and she admitted that she had sometimes made work that felt unreal.

“Of course I don’t really know,” she said. I told her I thought she took a more coy approach to realism. “I don’t really know,” she repeated.

“You really don’t know?” I asked. It was 11 p.m.

“But that’s what they told me,” she said.

A few minutes later, I came back and found a tiny child, perhaps about six or seven years old, standing to one side. She was looking at the camera, her eyes rolling. She clutched one of the Doberman puppies in her hands. She was lying on the living room floor. The puppies and a decorative black-and-white painting and a ring she held on her left hand were put in a large, dark blue storage box marked “Getty Images.”

JULIANA LEHR WORKS EACH DAY AT BARR READY CAPITAL AGENCY: AS, S, E, & N. JULIANA LEHR WORKS EACH DAY AT BARR READY CAPITAL AGENCY: AS, S, E, & N.

She had said before that she liked animals, and said she was surrounded by cats. The painting, by Düsseldorf artist Petra Zeller, had been part of my studio tour the day before, and it looked like something from an unknown artist. It was a colored abstraction, part surrealist, and part 1950s abstract expressionist. It’s at a museum in Düsseldorf, near where Löhr lived and worked.

I walked outside to look at the room, which, apart from the painting, had no other art. Then I saw the puppy on the floor, the Doberman puppies, its white coat split and thinning, the girl in the middle staring at the camera. That’s it, I thought:

A young girl, completely unaware that all the pictures she had made were planned. Who knew she might have all the answers?

Leave a Comment