Berlin on Gallery Weekend from East to West
18 April, 2016
Berlin is synonymous with art. You don’t need to go much further to bump into someone who, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, has journeyed to the capital of Germany in search of an opportunity. With almost 450 galleries, 20,000 artists and over 3,000 exhibitions yearly, Berlin is experiencing an art boom. It heads the European art scene by a mile.
Gossip has it that over the last 20 years a new art gallery has been opened every week. Faced with that trend, no wonder that, over the last 12 years, Berlin’s galleries have joined forces to launch the Berlin Gallery Weekend (from 29 April to 1 May 2016) – the first of its kind – subsequently replicated in Paris, Vienna and Barcelona. We visited the city to see it for ourselves and spent three days packed with inaugurations, talks, parties and social events at special times to showcase the latest productions. This, just when spring is descending on the city and its streets start casting their gaze outwards.
Zero budget: admission to the galleries and other areas is free-of-charge.
Recommendation: hire a bicycle – distances become shorter when negotiated on two wheels. The city is big and the galleries string out from east to west, although centred mainly on Berlin Mitte, Kreuzberg and Potsdamer Straße. We began our tour – map in hand!
Berlin’s Epicentre – Auguststraße in Mitte
Auguststraße is lined with trendy restaurants and art galleries. This is the historic centre of Berlin; hence its name – Mitte, meaning middle. There we came across the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, a former margarine factory repurposed as an emerging art lab for mapping the latest trends. Right next door, the collector, Thomas Olbricht, presents his private collection, me Collectors Room, an area of 1,300m2 with exhibits ranging from works by Cindy Sherman to exotic objects worthy of a curio cabinet. Long-standing venues, including the widely acclaimed Eigen + Art, blend in with the newcomers, like Kicken Berlin and neugerriemschneider, and the elegant building of Sprüth Magers on Oranienburger Straße, bringing a breath of fresh air to the local scene.
One of the latest venues to burst in on the scene, which features the epitome of a fusion between art and gastronomy, is the Jüdische Mädchenschule (Jewish Girls’ School). Housed in this building – which reopened in 2012 after falling into disuse – is theMichael Fuchs Galerieand a number of restaurants which form a nexus between the past and present. Among these isThe Kosher Class Room,which offers traditional Sabbath dishes on the menu, andMogg Deli,the best place for indulging in a good pastrami sandwich.
Before leaving the centre and heading for Kreuzberg, we made a compulsory stop at Clärchens Ballhaus. Opened in 1913, this dance hall is a veritable Berlinese legend which survived two World Wars and numerous Nazi clampdowns. Young and old, tourists, locals, good and bad dancers – there is something infectious about Clärchens which makes you feel at home there!
Around Checkpoint Charlie
Near the Berlin Wall’s most famous checkpoint and also the Jüdisches Museum (Jewish Museum) and halfway between Kreuzberg and Mitte, lies the Galerienhaus. This former Lufthansa headquarters which became a centre for political asylum-seekers in the nineties, houses 11 contemporary art galleries on its various levels. If you chance to go there, be sure to see the Gallerie Nordenhake, the Gallerie ŻAK | BRANICKA and the historic Konrad Fischer Gallery. Although initially founded in Düsseldorf, like so many other galleries in the Rhinelands, it ended up moving to the capital.
A few minutes away in the Mitte direction lies one of the trendiest venues in the area, the VeneKlasen/Werner Gallery, founded by the New Yorker, Michael Werner, who brought a piece of the Chelsea scene to Berlin, making it more spacious, more professional and… more expensive.
Before leaving Kreuzberg, we visited the Church of St Agnes which now houses the König Galerie. Built in the Brutalist style, it was acquired by Johann König and opened to the public as an art gallery in 2015. Here, in what appears to be the end of the white cube, a good itinerary is guaranteed.
Potsdamer Straße – A Trendy Art Boom
We came to Schöneberg, on the old west side, where for many years galleries and creative projects have been mushrooming, taking up every available square metre. The fact is it seems to be a surefire win-win formula – the venues are mutually beneficial in that their accretion and synched opening and inauguration times draw ever more visitors. Among the galleries you simply cannot pass up are the Supportico Lopez and Esther Schipper. However, if time is at a premium and you need to make a choice, head straight for the Isabella Bortolozzi Galerie. The Italian artist opened her gallery in 2008 in the former apartment where the actor and singer Hans Albers lived from 1946 to 1948. The premises have been preserved virtually intact. The walls are lined with wood panelling and secret recesses, which act as a backdrop.
Art galleries housed on a fifth floor without a lift in reclaimed buildings; exhibitions which can only be reached by crossing two patios and three doors… the list goes on and on. If you’re planning to visit the city within the prescribed timeframe, check out the full programme and our daily flights to Berlin. Happy Gallery Weekend!
Text by Núria Gurina for Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS
18 April, 2016