“I collect things that I can relate to and that inspire me—artworks that reveal beautiful and strange notions about the reality around us.”

Restaurateur, art lover, and project space owner Ludwig Cramer-Klett gives insights into the role that art plays in his ever-increasing food empire and life in a tipi.

FAM: Ludwig, with the opening of your restaurant Katz Orange in 2012 you planted a seed that has grown into a food business that now includes two restaurants, a contemporary food lab, and a gallery space. What role does art play in the process of building up all these enterprises?
Ludwig Cramer-Klett: The whole thing has been realized through what I would consider an artistic process. Rather than following a strict plan based on numbers, I follow an inspiration and try to channel a vision. I don’t see myself as the creator of the whole thing, but rather as a vehicle through which things come to existence. I believe that this is what art should be about.

Interior views of Katz Orange, Ludwig’s restaurant

Ludwig in the Katz Orange kitchen

On a more practical level, we pay tribute to this by integrating art and the artistic treatment of food into our work. We try to be multidisciplinary, from fine art to culinary art, from science to spirituality. But I guess we always stick to some kind of artistic playfulness, not taking things too seriously, while at the same time investing all our heart into them. I believe that is a very important key to art and to life in general.

Could you tell us a little bit about the artworks hanging in Katz Orange? Do you change them on a regular basis?
No we don’t change the art at Katz Orange regularly, only when we feel like it. We think of it more like a private residence. The pieces are largely by artist friends. They usually convey ideas that relate to our way of seeing the world or touch us on a poetic level.

Further views of Katz Orange, Ludwig’s restaurant

The bar at Katz Orange

What kind of art do you show in your gallery space NR Projects? 
NR Projects doesn’t relate to the space as such. NR Projects is the umbrella term we gave to all art-related projects we do, which have been quite diverse. We’ve done exhibitions with artists like Alicja Kwade and Thomas Rentmeister which relate to specific Contemporary Food Lab projects. We have also staged exhibitions with younger less well-known artists. Some of the highlights were the public space projects with artists like Kerim Seiler or the curator Carson Chan.

Ludwig’s home

Ai Weiwei, <i>So Sorry</i>, Haus der Kunst, Poster

Your own home feels like a great mix of hunter-gatherer treasures with a Native American touch, alongside some very interesting contemporary art pieces. Do you have a strategy when acquiring artworks or do the pieces come to you?
I collect things that I can relate to and that inspire me. Artworks that reveal beautiful notions about the reality that surrounds us.

On the right a Richard Avedon portrait

Wald Apparat Braun I by Julius von Bismarck

Such as the edition Wald Apparat Braun I by Julius von Bismarck?
In this photograph hanging in my living room, the artist shows a birch tree made of steel, painted and placed into a Berlin forest. It looks so real that it goes unnoticed by most people who come round. When they know it is there people will actually go searching for the fake tree, which they have trouble finding since it looks like a real one. I love Julius’ work, it’s so much fun and fascinating at the same time. He plays with our conceptions and ideas about nature and our role within it—a very central point in my work too.

Ludwig relaxing at home on the sofa

You mentioned before that growing up in the Bavarian mountains inspired your mission to bring people back in touch with nature and their origins.
It’s true, my initial calling to reconnect urban people with nature came through the experience of growing up in upper Bavaria on the edge of the Alps and that is reflected in the art I collect and the things I do.

Ben Harper

A print of a Native American hanging on the wall

Is this experience of connecting with nature part of where your interest in Native American and tribal art forms originates?
Yes, I had a native American great-grandmother who I knew quite well. She came from the North American tribe of the Pawnee people. As a child I was deeply immersed into Native American culture and I would sleep in a tipi in my garden. I wore nothing but native American clothing and if I wasn’t playing I spent hours going through exciting adventures in my head. That of course also played an important role in my love and fascination for tribal culture and forms of life that are closer to their origins.

Interior views of Panama restaurant

What’s next on your agenda? Any other cities apart from Berlin that you have your eye on for spreading fresh ideas?
We might create spaces in other cities at some point, of course ideas are being discussed, but for the time being we are based in Berlin. Essentially though, our work already relates to the whole world. Inspiration knows no borders, and that is what we are about. We have so many people from around the world passing through our spaces, and consciously or not they carry a little bit of our message back home with them. On a more practical note: On the food side, we’ve been investing quite a bit of time and resources into developing approaches for how to translate our vision into concepts for a broader audience and generally into finding approaches for how to evolve the Contemporary Food Lab onto the next level. We are excited to see what comes out of that.

An interior view of Panama, Ludwig’s recently opened restaurant

Apart from this I am also entrepreneurially involved in other fields such as real estate and tech, which I am working on integrating with the food business. I believe if you see the need for change in the world, then get on with it and start building the new world you believe in. So what we do is all pretty utopian and a lot of fun. However, that doesn’t only relate to business. Apart from the projects mentioned above, I have, after working very much over some years, started to focus on more balance between all aspects of life, leaving more space for family and friends, celebrating, physical activities or making art and music. All things we would like to see in the new world we are dreaming of.

To find out more about Ludwig Cramer Klett’s restaurant business please click here. 

Interview by Duncan Ballantyne-Way