Feature

Curate your very own Berlin Art Week

01 Oct 2018

by ArtRabbit

With a dizzying array of events and spaces to see, we’ve filtered it down to the ones that are absolutely unmissable (as well as some you can probably skip), so that you’ll be able to navigate Berlin with ease and curate the perfect Art Week itinerary for yourself, even after it’s over.

Berlin Art Week, a highlight on our contemporary art calendar, was in its lucky number 7th iteration last week, and this year, the ArtRabbit team was lucky enough to be partnering with them once again. With a dizzying array of events and spaces to see, we’ve filtered it down to the ones that are absolutely unmissable (and reveal the ones you can probably skip), so that you’ll be able to navigate the German capital with ease and curate the perfect itinerary for yourself.

This year’s edition boasted two art fairs, 15 museums and exhibition halls, two arts organisations, 11 private collections, 20 project spaces, and one theatre, as well as a night of Art Berlin gallery openings and extended hours, all in the span of five days promising an unprecedented platform for the international art world. Berlin often spoils us for choice, but this daunting amount of possibilities only comes around once every 12 months. If you’re fortunate enough to be around for this, you know what we mean. If you’re not in Berlin until later this year, don’t worry - we’ve got your back! Several of the works on show will be exhibited in their venues until further ado. So, to get the most out of this fantastic programme of all associated works and events, read on for our specially selected highlights of Berlin Art Week.

c/o Kunstpunkt

Starting out in Mitte, c/o Kunstpunkt’s “Survive!” reveals the takeover of the space by two artist groups, NON Berlin and Stay Hungry Collective. These are the winning selection of this year’s Project Space Award, and rightly so. NON Berlin, three artists originating from East Asia, explore the often unheard narratives of migrants whose tricky past political and social positions permeate through to the present. Their work consists of a film installation with focus on Oriental silk, a reclamation of a cliché to open up a dialogue between past generational traumas and present moments. Stay Hungry Collective’s artist duo presents a playful reimagination of space with a kinetic sculpture with blinds and mirrors. A meditation on energy and light, the sculpture moves between the two gallery areas as a physical mode of connection between the two and a further emphasis on the way in which we operate in and across space.

Berlinische Galerie

Julian Charrière’s “As we used to float” is among the many exhibitions currently displayed at Berlinische Galerie, and undoubtedly one of the highlights (both of the gallery and Art Week in general). The city-owned gallery is open to the public year round, and it’s not the first time that it boasts an array of amazing shows simultaneous to BAW. The popular theme in contemporary art of addressing urgent matters of the Anthropocene and the environmental transformations caused is explored from a different depth in this immersive installation. Charrière gives audiences a unique view of the impact of thermonuclear weapons testing on the Pacific Ocean. Focusing on Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands 70 years after the underwater atomic explosions were carried out by the U.S. military, the exhibition features two video installations highlighting underwater recordings of the aftermath as well as coconut sculptures covered in metal to mimic round missile shells. A single photo features a beach in which the radiation that remains in the air translates into an oneiric glitter effect caused by radiation-damaged overexposure to unprotected film, further emphasising the mix of horror and beauty in catastrophic human activity.

HKW

A large archival show centred on French philosopher Guy Debord with works from more than 25 artists, this highly academic show at Haus der Kulturen der Welt is a rewarding retrospective for history buffs, but perhaps a little too sober for the rest of us. The Most Dangerous Game focuses in on the Situationist International (S.I.), a movement co-founded by Debord that spans from 1957 to 1972, seeking to offer a critique of the rise of consumerist society. Re-envisioning history in the way that only art spaces can, the exhibition traces back to the moment in which the S.I. broke off from members who focused more on artistic praxis than political critique to reconstruct the movement and its historical role. But perhaps HKW’s curatorial emphasis wasn’t placed enough on the art side of its portrayal. More academic than accessible, its tone is more fitting for the storage room of a history museum than it is for BAW. To top it off, no photos were allowed to be taken.

Art fairs

Situated in the abandoned hangars of the now-defunct Tempelhof airport, two art fairs were featured simultaneous to BAW. POSITIONS Art Fair showcased a selection of 73 international galleries, (although the demographic leans heavily towards German). Without beating around the bush, it’s a big art fair that’s a little stuffy and a little pricey, where the price of a lemonade could buy you 5 bottles of beer from the local späti. Although often designated as the more alternative choice between the two art fairs on show, POSITIONS features more traditional art forms such as painting and sculpture. For more contemporary takes on art, one would be better off going to the Art Berlin Fair instead, located in the next hangar over.

Art Berlin Fair rewards visitors with a concentrated dose of BAW in one sitting. Better curated than its counterpart, this year’s fair boasted a selection of both object-oriented works as well as installation and kinetic works. Having been rebranded from Art Berlin Contemporary (ABC), its undeniable turn towards the commercial might be attributed to Koelnmesse acquisition of the fair two years prior. Among the freaky-uncanny moving sculptures and dazzling celebrity portraits are some photos from Julian Charrière’s body of work, one of our BAW highlights, currently showcased at Berlinische Galerie. Also showing at Art Berlin Fair is Tacita Dean’s work, which we had the pleasure of viewing earlier this summer at the Royal Academy in London.

Ashley Berlin

If you walked into Ashley Berlin during BAW, and if you’re anything like us, you might’ve thought you were back in South London. This small independent space is run by two women donned in the Peckham/Camberwell uniform of hoop earrings and chunky sneakers, who during our tour introduced the artist sitting quietly in the corner by name. Adam Shiu-Yang Shaw sits there likely between performances, without acknowledging the introduction. The material work around the space, while visually appealing, becomes stagnant without the performance aspect to augment it. Worth contacting the Ashley team to check the performance schedule before you pop in. 

Mobile Dome at Mariannenplatz

This collaboration between Berlin Festspiele and Planetarium Hamburg is a glimpse into the digitisation of analogue infrastructure, and the busiest of venues that we encountered in this year’s Berlin Art Week. While we can’t speak on others’ behalf, we’d like to think that the queues of people waiting to experience the work were not at all disappointed upon entering. “The New Infinity” is a programme series that presents fulldome productions, a type of image projection that is technically the largest possible of our era. What looks like a planetarium on the inside is filled with bean bags and sofas for art seekers to lounge on. The immersive installation, paying ode to its planetarium parent, resembles a cosmic skyscape but with objects that better mimic falling fish than stars.

Martin-Gropius-Bau

After a hugely successful exhibition in London’s Hayward Gallery, Lee Bul makes an impression on the Berlin art scene at Martin-Gropius-Bau. As her first solo show in Germany, the exhibition features some of her most iconic works, paying tribute to her work with science fiction and her own personal history of growing up in conflicting political rules. A collection of lights, mirrors, text, balloons and the zeppelin that is one of the most recognisable of her works take up the space of the main hall. The work is undoubtedly visually stunning and moving, but the placement of the zeppelin in the hall unfortunately dilutes its impact as it competes with the hall’s own prominent characteristics. Its position of overlooking an archaeology show doesn't help the case either. (One might speculate that this was done on purpose as a meditation between history and future, but this doesn’t deter its awkwardness.) Regardless of these oversights, the exhibition is worth visiting in order to see the work of this artist who continues to make waves.

Julia Stoschek Collection

Easily one of the most powerful exhibitions that took part in BAW, “A Series of Utterly Improbable, Yet Extraordinary Renditions” is artist and filmmaker Arthur Jafa’s first German exhibition, developed in partnership with the Serpentine Galleries in London. The concept of sequence and black bodies intertwine to create new narratives through which the artist is able to construct new possibilities of making visible the stories of radical alienation. The remix of different media and times informs a complicated yet necessary retelling of Black identity and visual aesthetic.

While the work in itself is deeply rewarding, we highly recommend booking a tour to get the full experience of the myriad layers of the concepts at play. We were blown away by our tour guide Renen, who was at once knowledgeable and humble in taking us through the exhibition. Be sure to check out the film on the top floor, a work that wasn’t previously shown in its Serpentine edition, whose title alone (Love is the message, the message is death) made our hearts ache and eyes wet.

Boros Bunker

The Boros Bunker in Mitte is a private collection belonging to Christian Boros, founder of an advertising agency, who could be described as an art junkie/groupie as much as a patron of the arts. A relic from the earlier parts of the last century, it was previously used as everything from housing prisoners of war to tropical fruit warehouse to a hub of techno and fetish culture. When the building was purchased by Boros, major transformations were administered by architects Jens Casper, Petra Petersson and Andrew Strickland on the inside to make it gallery-ready while complying with a by-law that disallowed any change to the exterior.

Today, it stands as an unassuming block that houses some of the most famous names in contemporary art, some commissioned for the space itself and others already a part of Boros’ vast personal collection. While you usually have to book in advance in order to visit the collection (sometimes at least weeks ahead of time), no appointment was necessary on the Saturday during BAW. If you weren’t able to make it to their open-to-all, be sure to book yourself a tour to see the architectural marvel as well as the works contained within. Now in its third iteration, this cycle includes works by Martin Boyce, Pamela Rosenkranz, Guan Xiao and more, including a DIY printmaking station where you can take home your own masterpiece.

Art21 Berlin

The docuseries Art21 has released an episode on this ever-artsy city, which was screened during Art Berlin Fair. From its complicated recent history with the Cold War and migration to its rebirth as an art capital, the film explores the diverse practices that has come to define Berlin, and its path towards a hopeful tomorrow. You can watch the full episode here:

 

View the entire Berlin Art Week programme here >>> 

 

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