• Berlin
  • At Home With: Jim Avignon

Apartment viewing

At Home With: Jim Avignon

Berlin artist Jim Avignon take us on a tour of his Kreuzberg altbau apartment.

Photo: Makar Artemev

Jim Avignon is a mural artist, illustrator and musician who has lived in Berlin since 1988, with a stint in New York City from 2005 until 2012. Since 2016, he’s been living in his light-flooded Altbau flat in Kreuzberg with his wife, daughter and two cats. We visited Avignon’s artsy abode to see what he’s currently working on.

The living room is also my workspace, and I paint on the floor.

What do you like most about your flat?

My daughter goes to school just around the corner, and on Saturdays there’s a market here. Many acquaintances live nearby, there’s a cemetery that’s beautiful for walks, and Hasenheide and Tempelhofer Feld are close by, so the setting is just insanely beautiful. The Karneval and the Berlin Marathon pass through, and all sorts of demonstrations – it all feels very Berlin to me.

Photo: Makar Artemev

Is there anything unusual about it?

The doors don’t close. It’s a bit of an issue because the cats occasionally put on an unbelievable spectacle. But there’s no tradition of retreating to your room and shutting yourself in; everything is open. I also deliberately chose not to have a studio and to paint here – the living room is also my workplace, and I paint on the floor – so everyone takes a lot of interest in each other.

What’s your next project?

I’m working on a book for Büchergilde Gutenberg, who republish famous books and ask illustrators to do illustrations for them. I’m working on Der Schneemann [1981] by Jörg Fauser. It’s about a guy who gets hold of a suitcase full of cocaine and tries to sell it, but he totally fucks up. It’s quite laconic and narrated with this very ironic humour. I suggested I do the illustrations on big sheets, so we can also do an exhibition once the book is published, which will be at the upcoming book fair in Frankfurt.

Jim Avignon is currently working on illustrations for a new edition of the 1981 novel Die Schneemann, painting on large sheets of paper. Photo: Makar Artemev

Tell us a bit about your workspace. You have a lot of artworks – are they yours?

The painting above the couch is mine, a version of a Picasso. I had an exhibition last year called Cheap Cover Versions of the Most Expensive Paintings in the World. I’ve had Van Goghs and Kirchners hanging here too. Essentially, it’s meant to be a bit ironic, of course. The painting above the desk is called ‘Mir doch egal’ (“I don’t care”) by the artist Moritz R., who has been a great source of inspiration for me. I first saw his band, Der Plan, live in ‘87, and they perform wearing masks and with stage designs, taking a completely different approach to concerts. It blew my mind and opened a door for me in terms of how I could make music through art, or do art to begin with.

You don’t just have brushes and paint in here. There’s also a selection of keyboards and a cupboard full of singles.

Some of these keyboards are pretty rare! I only use the small white one for live performances, but for recording, each has a unique quality. It really gets interesting when you mix them together. The tiny black one is a Russian copy of the keyboard that Trio used in ‘Da Da Da’. Everything is in Cyrillic, so I have problems finding the beats (laughs).

Photo: Makar Artemev

At the beginning of the pandemic, a friend gave me a single of my all-time favourite song, ‘Egyptian Reggae’ by Jonathan Richman. I found it so charming to have that song on vinyl that I thought I’d like to buy seven-inch records. And then, with nothing to do and unlimited time, I started ordering all these singles from record stores in England that aren’t available here. That became the foundation of my collection. Now I DJ occasionally, maybe once a month. It’s not professional, just one song after another, but it’s something that I genuinely enjoy. To be honest, I always buy the worst quality. I love the idea that they’ve been in jukeboxes for years, with a bit of crackling and scratching.

And of course you’ve also got a collection of hats! How did they become part of your signature look?

In 2011 I painted a large wall in New York, and the sun there is much more intense than here. I was afraid of getting sunburned, so I bought a cheap straw hat and wore it while painting. But then I thought I looked quite good in photos with it. I started wearing a hat more and more often, and then suddenly, all the time, everywhere. You find them in the most unusual places. I bought one in Japan at a highway gas station for €3. You never know when and where you’ll come across the next good hat.

Photo: Makar Artemev

Have you got anything else coming up?

I have two museum exhibitions. One is at a museum in Seoul that’s interested in Western art; I’m doing a sort of retrospective there in June. The other one is here in Berlin at the Technikmuseum; they’re doing a special exhibition on bicycles in November. A couple of days before the opening, I’ll walk through the exhibition and paint bike-riding characters everywhere.

  • Follow Jim Avignon on Instagram at @seufz234 to keep up with his work, upcoming shows and gigs.