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Gallery Weekend: a Berlin tale
It is the unofficial Berlin Biennial and Art Fair in one.  There's no better occasion to fully grasp what is going on in the Berlin art scene, economically and culturally.  For those who missed it, here are some highlights from the Friday openings of a veritable art marathon…
Berlin

Published on Tuesday, May, 3rd, 2011
Potsdamer Straße was a rather inhospitable strip of gambling halls and takeaways before many galleries like Klosterfelde and Isabella Bortolozzi started moving there a couple of years ago, turning the area into Berlin’s new hip art district.  For the Gallery Weekend Arndt opened with new works by Gilbert & George and the artists were present in the flesh.  They were signing catalogues, imperturbable as always in their tweed suits, but the apparition of collector Julia Stoschek, all dressed in white, briefly interrupted their performance. The scene was somehow reminiscent of the Royal Wedding that had just taken place that day in London.

Esther Schipper, the Gallery Weekend’s grande dame and one of Berlin’s most influential gallerists, has just moved to the area and opened her new space with a show by Mexican artist Gabriel Kuri.  Kuri stuck some Euro notes between the stone blocks of his sculptures and the gallery’s assistant assures me that the money was glued to them for security reasons.  Gentrification hasn’t yet entirely hit Berlin’s new art district.

Now Kreuzberg.  The gallery Arratia, Beer had a lot to offer: a barbeque party in the courtyard, a tattoo parlor where visitors could have works by Wim Delvoye, Francesco Vezzoli, Lawrence Weiner and others inked into their skin and an exhibition by artist Matthew Metzger.  The artist’s wall pieces look like monochromes, but turn out to be ingenious trompe l'oeils at closer inspection.

Berlin

Barbara Weiss opened her new gallery around the corner of the Künstlerhaus Bethanien with Boris Mikhailov.  Inside: documentation of the post-communist era tristesse of the artist’s Ukrainian hometown Charkow.  Outside: Kreuzberg’s welfare recipient milieu.  Near the improvised gallery bar on the sidewalk a waitress is handing a second beer to a presumably homeless person while an impeccable Kasper König, director of the Museum Ludwig in Cologne and husband of Ms. Weiss, is chatting with an acquaintance.

In Mitte, Sprüth Magers shows some serious testosterone.  In the impressive main hall, Los Angeles based artist Sterling Ruby has installed massive graffitied minimal sculptures, while in the back rooms of the gallery, several masturbating male porn stars struggle to deliver their “money shots” in front of the camera, in the multi-channel video installation “The Masturbators”.

The mayor of Berlin Klaus Wowereit and the German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle both came to show their support for Ai Weiwei at Neugerriemschneider.  The famous artist is still missing after being held by the Chinese police, while his new large scale Berlin atelier and guest professorship at the Berlin Art School UdK, are waiting for his return.

Berlin

The gallery KOW, in architect Arno Brandlhuber’s rough and grandiose building on Brunnenstraße 9, shows an extremely stylish combination of works by Santiago Sierra and Cady Noland.  The cool and aggressive pieces harmonize a bit too well with the concrete walls of the exhibition space, but the dialogue between the two artists is extremely successful.  One is left to wonder though, if this visual punch in the face can be read as a reaction to the touristy and sanitized exterior or if this overly aesthetical form of social critique in art hasn’t already become part of the urban marketing strategy of Berlin.

curated by Niels Betori Diehl


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