Galleries can be sticky places. We have written extensively about the problems with galleries as institutions, entities, organised bodies – whatever. I think at this point, it is better for me to just cut to the chase, deliver the information and leave it up to you to decide what you do with that info, decide what that information means (morally, ethically, politcally etc).

Gathering is a gallery in Soho, they opened towards the end of last year during Frieze week, and since then they’ve been working with a really cool roster of artists. Here’s the bit I saw, Wallpaper interviewed the 2 founders: Alex Flick & Trinidad Fombella ahead of their opening. I reviewed their first exhibition, a Tai Shani solo show.

Alex Flick, is Gathering’s founding director. Listed on their own website (as Founder/Director) and on Companies House.

On Companies House his full name is listed: Friedrich Alexander Rudolf Maria FLICK. Date of birth March 1986.

His name & DOB also appears on the Wikipedia page for the Flick family, as the son of Friedrich Christian Flick (a German art collector).

The Flick family have a Wikipedia page because of Friedrich Flick, Alex Flick’s great-grandfather. Born July 1883. Lots of repetition of the same family name, apologies if this gets confusing.

a bit of information from Wikipedia, about Friedrich Flick from ‘83:

  • He ‘was a German industrialist and convicted Nazi war criminal’.
  • ‘In 1932, he contributed 50,000 Reichsmarks to the up and coming Nazi Party.’
  • ‘After the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, Flick increased his financial support to them, and it is estimated that he contributed over 7.65 million RM by the fall of the regime in 1945.’
  • ‘He was a member of the Keppler Circle, ‘a group of German industrialists whose aim was to strengthen the ties between the Nazi Party and business and industry.’’
  • ‘During the Nazi regime, Flick’s businesses profited greatly from the process of Aryanization under which Jews were expropriated by being forced to sell their businesses, sometimes at a fraction of their market worth.’
  • ‘Flick formally joined the Nazi Party on 1 May 1937, and in 1938 he was named a Military Economic Leader’
  • ‘Flick’s enterprises were instrumental in Nazi Germany’s rearmament efforts.’ After the sart of WW2 ‘Flick’s companies employed an estimated 48,000 forced laborers in his coal mines, steel plants and munitions works.’ It is estimated that some 80 percent of these workers may have perished.’

Flick was arrested June 1945 and put on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity in 1947. Here’s the Wikipedia page for the Flick trial, it was ‘one of the twelve subsequent Nuremberg Trials of the military, political and economic leaders of Nazi Germany’.

‘The charges centered on slave labor and plundering’: the first count in the list of indictments was ‘War crimes and crimes against humanity by participating in the deportation and enslavement of the civilian populations of countries and territories under the belligerent occupation of or otherwise controlled by Germany, and of concentration camp inmates, for use in slave labor in Flick mines and factories.’

Flick was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity and was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment in 1947. He was released 3 years later, in 1950. ‘Despite his conviction, he quickly rebuilt his industrial empire and became one of West Germany’s richest people by the 1950s’.

Friedrich Flick died in 1972. ‘His heirs were his son Friedrich Karl Flick and his grandson Friedrich Christian Flick, who established the modern art gallery Friedrich Christian Flick Collection.’

Friedrich Christian Flick is, as we have already established, Alex Flick (founder of Gathering)’s Father.

For his part, Alex Flick has actually publicly acknowledged all the above information.

In an interview with the Art Newspaper:

' Flick’s own family history is, in his own words, “one that carries shame”. He comes from a family of wealthy German industrialists whose eponymous conglomerate used forced labour from Nazi concentration camps. His great-grandfather, Friedrich Flick was found guilty of war crimes during the Nuremburg Trials in 1947 and spent four years in prison. ‘Of his ancestry, Flick says he is “fully committed to open dialogue”, adding: “I am transparent about my family history and the origins of my personal capital, some of which comes from my great-grandfather’s wealth.” He notes that he and Fombella have discussed his great-grandfather’s involvement in the National Socialist Regime with colleagues and artists—“and we are grateful for their faith in our vision for Gathering”.'

Also mentioned in that article: ‘the pair [Alex Flick & Trinidad Fombella], who are funding the gallery themselves’. I want to mention that because, although Gathering is registered as a limited company, their funding/financial model wasn’t immediately apparent. There were no funding bodies or company number listed on their website or press materials, so – I just want to clarify that for those of you who might be wondering (like I was) where the money would’ve been coming from.

(that interview was behind a paywall for me, so the link above is the unpaywalled version via 12ft ladder. for the original link, click here.)

Like I said, I am just here to deliver information that is publicly available on Companies House and Wikipedia. I will leave it up to you to decide what this information means, and any moral or ethical judgements about Alex Flick’s art world activity are up to you.

But I will say that for me, it runs like this:

I think Gathering is a gallery that has worked with a lot of cool artists whose work I really enjoy, and who I really respect. That respect hasn’t changed because honestly, for a while I didn’t know how to morally dice this myself tbqh.

Even generally speaking – artists aren’t personally or professionally responsible for the family history of the directors whose galleries they exhibit at – that would be a ridiculous thing to pin on an already overburdened part of the creative workforce. Artists have to make a living somehow and almost all money in the art world comes with a moral catch.

I think it’s really actually quite a shame. Gathering, as a gallery that’s committed to supporting artists who are marginalised or under-represented’, with ‘less commercially viable practices’, practices that ‘address systemic issues and themes such as gender, race, queer culture, colonialism and the environment’, a gallery ‘that explores new ways of exhibiting work, of showing artists who perhaps don’t have representation or have not exhibited in London before’ – that’s a good sell that got my attention. It’s a real shame that the good sell is pulled into moral conflict with those progressive intentions because of the money and/or the founder.

Because of that, all above and at length, I will not be reviewing Athen Kardashian & Nina Mhach Durban’s show at Glasshouse – the project space run by Gathering. As passionate as I am about the artistic output of their collaborative practice, and actually as enthused as I was by their exhibition, that’s just my personal and professional line.

But that’s my personal internal ethical reasoning, not a moral law I am imposing on you or anyone else, and not an indictment of those who decide differently. Take this however you want. I am only posting this because it’s all information that’s on public record, publicly available, and yet for some reason I hadn’t heard it until someone brought it to my attention. Maybe I live under a rock, idk. I just think if there are moral or ethical concerns to weigh up, we all need to know what the actual information is and that needs to be publicly available (and not behind a fucking paywall).

If you want to read further about this, I found this article on Artnet News really helpful – couldn’t find anywhere else in this chunk of text to flag it so consider this a blogpost bibliography.