In 2002, Javier Peres decided to found Peres Projects, an initiative that goes far beyond what we usually understand as a gallery. “Part of the reason why I chose the name Peres Projects and not Peres Gallery was to emphasise a sense of independence and mobility,” explains the creator of the platform that is now celebrating its 20th anniversary, who grew up in Cuba in the '70s and bet everything on the art world, after having studied and worked in law. It was precisely the Eva Hesse exhibition at SFMOMA that made him open his eyes and realise that his path should be oriented towards contemporary art. And since then he hasn't stopped connecting artists, giving a voice to underrepresented cultures and shedding light on the most promising young talent.
2022 promises to be a particularly important year for Peres Projects. Besides celebrating 20 years since its foundation – quite an achievement in a sector where stability is a major challenge and being updated and informed requires hard work –, they now open their first gallery in Asia. “We are also opening an office and exhibition space in Milan, I think it’s the perfect way to celebrate our 20th anniversary,” explains Peres. Founded in San Francisco, since 2005 Berlin has become the epicentre of the gallery. A city that has always caught his attention and he recognises as one of the cradles of contemporary art, where there is still room to create new formulas and discover new talents.

Their exhibition program for this year is exciting, and we find a wide range of artists, each of them with a unique personality that will not leave you indifferent. From George Rouy to Shuang Li, Shota Nakamura or Harm Gerdes, there are many creatives who will share their work at Peres Projects in the coming months. But what are their future plans? “The gallery’s mission and focus have always been, and remains, to identify the most compelling new artists and to bring their works to the attention of a broader audience,” he replies with determination. You can check all their upcoming exhibitions here
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Alex Israel, Self-Portraits, Installation View April 26 - June 15, 2013, Peres Projects, Berlin, Courtesy Peres Projects, Berlin.
Javier, nice to meet you. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, I guess you must be very busy organising the 20th anniversary of Peres Projects, right?
Thank you, it’s great to meet you, too! Yes, it’s an exciting time for us! We have an exciting 2022 programme lined up. We had the honour of beginning the year in Berlin with an exhibition by Hermann Nitsch, who is considered to be the founder of Viennese Actionism, and will showcase exhibitions by Bayrol Jiménez, George Rouy, Shuang Li, Stanislava Kovalcikova, amongst others. We are also thrilled to be opening our first gallery in Asia led by our Director for Asia Kacey Cho, in Seoul, Korea.
Our debut exhibition in the space will be a group show curated around themes of birth and spring that will feature works by some of our gallery artists including George Rouy, Donna Huanca, Rebecca Ackroyd, Rafa Silvares, Shota Nakamura, Paolo Salvador and Austin Lee. We are also opening an office and exhibition space in Milan, Italy, headed by Benoit Wolfrom, our Director of Sales. These additional spaces will give us new opportunities to present our artists and I think it’s the perfect way to celebrate our 20th anniversary.
You founded the now Berlin-based gallery promoting contemporary artists to an international audience in 2002. However, Peres Projects was born in San Francisco and not in Germany. When did you decide to change the venue and why?
Part of the reason why I chose the name Peres Projects and not Peres Gallery was to emphasise a sense of independence and mobility. From the very start of the gallery’s history, we have always organised exhibitions around the world in order to remain flexible and to be able to work with new projects. I wanted to create a platform that was able to change with me and that allowed us to champion artists that could impact the history of art while reflecting our times.
When we opened in Berlin in 2005, we didn’t anticipate that it would become the hub of our organisation that it has. Still, when I think of Peres Projects I think of the gallery beyond a specific city. In other words, the gallery can ideally exist in different and multiple locations and with time this will most likely continue to change.
The world has changed a lot in the last two decades. From the unstoppable phenomenon of globalisation to the rise of new technologies, how we relate, inform and communicate with each other has changed markedly. Has the same thing happened in art? What are the main changes you have noticed in this time?
Absolutely. Artists, collectors, museums, curators, writers, etc. have become more and more connected and the overall size of the art ecosystem has expanded to many areas that previously were on the periphery. New regions have become important and new institutions have emerged, corresponding with a rise of new and younger collectors that support and establish these institutions. These changes are impacting our business every day and it’s part of what makes what we do so exciting. We thrive on working with new institutions, new artists, new collectors, etc. especially those from parts of the mainstream that haven’t always been included in the conversation. It’s an exciting time for us.
When I started the gallery I was often asked about whether people would really buy artworks by young contemporary artists via email. Many people then believed it was weird to promote and sell art that way. Most galleries didn’t even have websites. I came to art from a different background, specifically law. At my firm, there was a large focus on technology so it was second nature for me to do so much outreach over email. It’s funny to think about this now and how so much has changed.
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Austin Lee, Aah, Installation View 11 September – 9 October, 2020, Peres Projects, Berlin, Courtesy of Peres Projects, Berlin, Photographed by: Matthias Kolb.
Let's go back to the early 2000s. You founded the gallery in a small studio in San Francisco, as we have just mentioned. Why? Had it always been clear to you that you would end up starting your own artist promotion platform?
Not at all. I studied law and diplomacy and at that time my interest in art was more focused on collecting and art history. I never planned to start a gallery but once I decided that was what I wanted to do, I never looked back.
And to understand the personality and way of understanding the world of each one of us, it is essential to look back at our origins. You grew up in Cuba in the 70s, on the social realist art imposed by the colonising force of the Soviet Union, as you have commented on previous occasions. How did this affect your way of seeing life and art?
That’s a great question. The colonizing effect of the USSR government on Cuba and its subsequent effects on my early childhood had a great impact. Not all of it was negative, of course, and in some ways, there have been many positive long-term effects; one of the main ones is that it taught me the importance of surviving, even thriving, in the face of adversity. This is a lesson that can be very useful in any business but particularly in the art world which can be very challenging.
It also afforded me a connection to art from regions of the world that were less known to most Western audiences, in particular from Eastern Europe, China and most of Latin America. I continue to have a strong affinity and interest in artists from these regions.
For example, we represent Stanislava Kovalcikova who’s Slovakian, the Chinese artist Shuang Li (and soon we will also show works by two other Chinese artists Tanmu and Mak2) as well as several Latin American artists including Ad Minoliti (Argentina), Paolo Salvador (Peru), Manuel Solano and Bayrol Jimenez (Mexico) and Donna Huanca (Bolivia).
You have said that already at that time you felt an interest in the ancient arts of Africa, the Middle East, America, Europe and Asia. But, were there any that particularly caught your attention?
For as long as I can remember, I have always been interested in history and ancient cultures. I think that having an understanding of ancient cultures is imperative to understanding the culture of our times. African art, in particular, has had an important influence on me. I’ve always been drawn to the vast diversity and originality of the arts from this continent. I continue to enjoy researching in this area and I visit museum exhibitions and galleries of classic African art as much as possible.
In 2019, my husband and I made a donation of six important works of classic African art to the permanent collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and we also support the Art Institute of Chicago. I hope to be able to continue sharing my passion for the ancient arts of Africa with a larger audience in the years to come.
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Courtesy Peres Projects, Berlin, Photography: Matthias Kolb.
Let's keep moving forward in time. What were the first steps to take when you decided to found Peres Projects? And how was the first feedback from the public?
It all happened very fast, actually. I was practising law but was reaching my limits working in the field when I saw the Eva Hesse exhibition at SFMOMA. This show in particular ignited a fire in me to get more involved with art in a new and different way. Hesse died at a very young age but left a huge mark on art history, and it gave me the idea to make a big change in my life and focus on contemporary art with the aim to leave my own mark. So I decided to stop practising law and focus on contemporary art.
I came up with a plan and connected with the artists that I found interesting, which included Bruce LaBruce, Asianpunkboy (Terence Koh), assume vivid astro focus/AVAF (Eli Sudbrack), Dan Colen, Amie Dicke, Anna Sew Hoy, Dean Sameshima, Kirstine Roepstorff, amongst others. The San Francisco contemporary art scene was tough, particularly in terms of sales and general interest in contemporary art, but we immediately received a lot of attention from critics and the press even beyond San Francisco.
For example, by the time the Whitney Biennial happened in 2004, two participating artists had had their debut solo exhibitions with us and Terence Koh received an invitation to present a solo exhibition at Secession in Vienna. It didn’t take long for me to realise that it was time to move Peres Projects to Los Angeles and soon after that we opened the Berlin location too. It was important for me to conceptualise Peres Projects as a gallery that could exist in different locations, tap into different audiences and always retain a high degree of flexibility that could benefit the artists we champion.
Is there any anecdote you remember and would like to share from your early years?
Our first exhibition in LA (on May 10, 2003) with Terence Koh felt very important. His friend Ryan McGinley DJed at the afterparty, and the whole thing was a really special moment that showed me how fast things could happen in the art world and made me hopeful about the impact we could make. It gave me a great deal of confidence and made me realise that I was doing what I was meant to be doing.
One of the premises when planning your project has been, from the very beginning, championing artists who have been from historically underrepresented backgrounds in Western art circles. Are we moving on the right path in terms of representation and diversity in the art scene?
Yes, that has always been my focus because of my personal history and because it's always what I have found most interesting and knew best. Certainly, the art world is increasingly open to more voices and it’s exciting to think of how much further it can and will go. I’m very happy we’re a part of that change in our own way.
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Bayrol Jiménez, February 18 – March 18, 2022, Installation View, Courtesy Peres Projects, Photographed by: Timo Ohler.
If we immerse ourselves in the Peres Projects website, we come across figures as interesting as Mike Bouchet, Dorothy Iannone or Rafa Silvares, with whom we had the opportunity to speak on the occasion of his latest exhibition. What do the artists that are part of your community have in common?
The artists in our program explore such a wide range of themes using many techniques and forms. I think the main thing that they have in common is that they are authentic and seek to share their point of view with the world. They each have something that’s special about them and our goal is to work with them to amplify their talents.
I guess you spend a large part of your time researching new profiles. How is this process? Through what formats, tools and agents do you get the information?
Our main source of research and connections has always been artists. Artists introduce us to other artists and that continues to expand our network. In addition, we see a lot of exhibitions, visit studios and of course, part of that preliminary research now takes place on social media. We do a great deal of research and several of us in the gallery are involved in this process, we discuss every artist we potentially work with as a team.
Peres Projects not only puts the spotlight on artists but also generates a dialogue with institutions and collectors, in search of an international projection of their talents. What is the relationship with the different agents involved in this process? Are there any internal tensions?
Promoting artists requires a great deal of collaboration and many different constellations to make things happen. It’s not something any of us can do alone so for us it’s always been imperative to work with a broad group of players in the art world. There can sometimes be tensions but part of our job is to focus on our shared interests and work to expand opportunities for the artists we represent.
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Dan Colen, NO ME 30 September – 4 November, Courtesy Peres Projects.
And what is Berlin like when it comes to creativity and contemporary art?
Berlin is one of the great centres of contemporary art today. It’s a city that’s full of artists where there’s still room for them to create their own worlds. I’ve loved this city since I was a child in Cuba and it’s still a place that captures my imagination.
Since the gallery's inception, it has operated project spaces and presented major exhibitions of contemporary art in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Athens and Berlin. Is there any experience that you remember with special affection? Why?
We have done incredible things in each of the cities that we have operated in and I have many fond memories from each of them. Our time in Athens was particularly special for me because I love Greece so much. We presented incredibly ambitious group exhibitions there and published an issue of our magazine Daddy for the occasion. In San Francisco, our first solo show with AVAF was very special and a number of the works in the exhibition went to important collections including the Dakis Joannou Collection in Athens which lead to many collaborations with this incredible collector and collection. In LA, we did a number of really remarkable exhibitions including with Joe Bradley, Dan Colen and Liz Craft.
These exhibitions led to many long-lasting relationships with clients that we still work with today. In Berlin, some of the more recent exhibitions we have done have been particularly awesome – notably, Rafa Silvares’ debut solo show, Paolo Salvador, Rebecca Ackroyd and Richard Kennedy’s recent solo shows and Donna Huanca’s incredible second exhibition which changed the landscape of the space with nine tons of pure white sand. I could mention many more.
The 20th anniversary of the gallery includes interesting exhibitions led by artists ranging from Bayrol Jiménez to George Rouy, Stanislava Kovalcikova or Shuang Li. What can the audience expect from Peres Projects in 2022?
Our plans for this year are to continue to present exhibitions of important contemporary art in Berlin and at our new spaces in Seoul and Milan while supporting our artist’s projects in institutions, biennials, etc. around the world. Stay tuned
Where would you like to direct Peres Projects in the coming years? Any dream to fulfil?
The gallery’s mission and focus have always been, and remains, to identify the most compelling new artists and to bring their works to the attention of a broader audience. This has been our core mission from the start and it continues to be both what satisfies us the most and also where we can contribute most to the art community.
Over the last couple of years, we have been planning the gallery’s next chapters, including changes to my role as the founder of the gallery to allow me more time to focus on supporting artists, collectors and others interested in contemporary art in new ways beyond working at the gallery. At the same time, our partner, Nick Koenigsknecht, is expanding his focus on working directly with artists and supporting their activities.
Our new structure is actually my dream because everyone on the team is focusing on their strengths in order to best support our artists and develop the business.
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Donna Huanca, Obsidian Mirror, September 1 – October 3, 2021, Peres Projects, Berlin, Courtesy Peres Projects, Berlin, Photographed by: Matthias Kolb.
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Peres Projects, David Ostrowski – Emotional Paintings, May 2 – June 21, 2014, Opening: May 2, 2014 at 6 p.m.
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George Rouy, Maelstrom, Installation View, January 17 – February 14, 2020, Peres Projects, Berlin, Photographed by: Matthias Kolb.
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Hermann Nitsch, Jan 14 – Feb 11, 2022, Peres Projects, Berlin, Photographer: Timo Ohler, Courtesy Peres Projects.
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Joe Bradley, Freeks, Berlin 2010, Peres Projects, Berlin, Courtesy Peres Projects.
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Rafa Silvares, Smoked ham, October 8 – November 19, 2021, Peres Projects, Berlin, Courtesy Peres Projects, Berlin.
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Rebecca Ackroyd, 100mph, Installation View, January 22 – February 26, 2021, Peres Projects, Berlin, Courtesy of Peres Projects, Photographed by: Matthias Kolb.
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Rebecca Ackroyd, The Mulch, Opening: April 27, 2018 - Through: June 15, 2018, Peres Projects, Berlin.
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Terence Koh, Untitled 12, 2003, LA ,Courtesy of Peres Projects.