With almost 450 galleries and some 3,000 exhibitions, Berlin has by far and away the number one art scene in Europe. The galleries in Berlin now present over 6,000 artists from all corners of the world, their works spread over a total exhibition space of more than 57,000 square metres (610,000 sq. ft). In addition, there are also some 200 non-commercial showrooms and off spaces that regularly display new exhibitions.
Whether Olafur Eliasson, Daniel Richter, Jonathan Meese or Jeppe Hein – they all live and work in Berlin. Headlines were made recently by the tug of war over the Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, who still hopes to take up his professorship at the University of the Arts (udk) in Berlin later this year.
The most recent cultural studies report counted some 20,000 creative artists in Berlin, of whom 6,000 are also represented in Berlin galleries. Art in Berlin enjoys an outstanding reputation worldwide – at this year’s international Documenta 13 in Kassel, about a fifth of all artists taking part gave Berlin as their address, including Jimmy Durham, who works together with major institutions such as the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of World Cultures). There were also many Berlin artists represented at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011.
History of Art in Berlin
The history of art in Berlin can look back on a long tradition. As far back as the end of the 19th century, the pioneering Berlin Secession Movement set new standards in art and produced one of Germany’s greatest artists - Max Liebermann. In addition, Edvard Munch joined the movement after being rejected by the Berlin Kunstverein (Berlin Art Association) and lived in the city between 1892 and 1896. In the 1920s, artists of the calibre of Dodo, Otto Dix and Georg Grosz developed the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) Movement. The antifascist sculptor Käthe Kollwitz spent the greater part of her life in the former workers’ district of Prenzlauer Berg. In the late 1980s, the artistic style of the Neue Wilde (New Wild Ones) dominated in the western part of the then divided city. This life-affirming art form stands for intensely coloured, expressive paintings. Rainer Fetting and Salomé – to mention just two of this movement’s pioneers – remain popular and are still exhibited in the city’s galleries, including the Berlinische Galerie (Berlin Gallery).
Artist-in-Residence programmes are intended to serve the cultural and regional exchange, financially supporting artists of many different fields in their periods of stay abroad. The Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) is one of the most prestigious scholarship programmes, with a list of artists that now reads like the Who’s Who of the contemporary artists’ scene: Damien Hirst, Janet Cardiff, Cyprien Gaillard and Artur Zmijewski are among previous beneficiaries of DAAD scholarships. The German Academic Exchange Service regularly shows in its daadgalerie (DAAD Gallery) the works of its art scholarship holders.
Berlin Galleries around Checkpoint Charlie
Just behind the Axel-Springer building is located the Galeriehaus (Gallery House) in Lindenstraße in close proximity to the Jewish Museum. The building can look back on an eventful history – this was once the site of the Merkur department store, the headquarters of Lufthansa and – in the 1990s – a centre for asylum seekers. Claes Nordenhake was the first foreign art dealer to come to Berlin in 2000 with his Nordenhake Gallery (founded in 1973 in Malmö, Sweden).
On the ground floor, the long-established Düsseldorf Konrad Fischer Blue-Chip Gallery has its Berlin branch. The ZAK | BRANICKA focuses on Central and Eastern European contemporary art for several years now.
Opposite the taz (daily newspaper) building, the Crone Gallery has established itself as one of the first galleries in Rudi-Dutschke Straße (formerly Kochstraße) at number 26. Works from Diane Arbus, Andy Warhol, Richard Prince or David LaChapelle – to mention only a few of the artists – are on display in the exhibition rooms of the gallery. Further in the direction of Kochstraße in Besselstraße 14 is the home of the Alexander Ochs Galleries, where the focus is on German and Chinese art. The Luis Campaña Gallery in Axel-Springer-Straße has since 2009 been displaying in a loft art by Qui Shiua, whose works are also on view in the Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum of Contemporary Art .
The Bethanien Künstlerhaus
Under the direction of Christoph Tannert, the Bethanien Künstlerhaus (Artists’ House), founded in 1975, is housed in the former Bethanien Diakonissenhaus (Deaconess House) on Mariannenplatz, which used to be home to the Kreuzberg Kunstamt (Art Office), the BBK Print Studio and the Kunstraum (Art Room) Kreuzberg/Bethanien. Since the summer of 2010 their paths have separated. In the so-called "Lichtfabrik" (Light Factory) at Kottbusser Tor, an exhibition space of over 800 m² (8,610 ft²) spread over three floors as well as 25 studios is used for international studio programmes. Group and theme exhibitions on social and cultural topics in contemporary art will continue to be organised in the Kunstraum (Art Room) Kreuzberg/Bethanien.
Established Art at Savignyplatz
The galleries around Savignyplatz are among the best established houses in Berlin’s art scene. The Michael Haas Gallery in Niebuhrstraße has been in Charlottenburg since 1976 and is named after its founder. It is dedicated to Classic Modern Art, German and international art from 1945 as well as contemporary art. Famous artists in the gallery’s repertoire include Georg Baselitz, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Otto Dix, Ernst-Ludwig Kirchne and Gerhard Richter. Since its founding in 1982, the Fahnemann Gallery has been showing not only young but also established artists’ positions in contemporary art. Here there is a particular focus on concrete painting and abstract sculpture. Names such as Imi Knoebel and Günther Förg represent a generation of internationally prestigious artists in the gallery’s programme. The 130 m² (1,400 ft²) exhibition space of the Rosendahl, Thöne and Westphal Gallery on Kurfürstendamm is dedicated to figurative and representational art . The sculptures are on display in a garden in front of the gallery.
Auguststraße in Berlin-Mitte
The area around Auguststraße is the heart of the gallery district Berlin-Mitte. Here is the home of (among many others) the Kunstwerke (Art Works), KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Auguststraße. The Kunstwerke was founded in 1990 on the premises of a former margarine factory and has since gained a worldwide reputation as a communication platform and laboratory for pioneering, often political tendencies in contemporary art. In 2012, the KW was both organiser and venue for the 7th Berlin Biennale, which generated fierce controversy as a result of its political discourse. For example, the action artist Martin Zet called upon the population to hand in copies of the published book “Deutschland schafft es ab” (Germany is abolishing it). The idea was to first collect 60,000 copies of the book and then recycle them in a public art action.
With the me Collectors Room right next door, there is an important collection of the heir to the Wella fortune and passionate art collector Thomas Olbricht. The generous 1,300 m² (14,000 ft²) space available contains in changing exhibitions works from Cindy Sherman or Gerhard Richter as well as the largest collection in the world of carved reverse-image heads or South American shrunken heads to admire.
The Johnen Gallery in Marienstraße features the 2011 Turner Prize winner, Martin Boyce. It exhibits works in a design and architectural context. Sprüth/Magers too have moved into a chic new headquarters in Oranienburger Straße. Near to Eigen + Art in Auguststraße, there has been in Linienstraße since the nineties the Kicken Gallery specialising in photography with works from Diane Arbus and Andy Warhol. Also in Linienstraße is the neugerriemschneider Gallery, which since 1994 has been presenting prestigious names in contemporary art, including the Danish artist Olafur Eliasson, for whom the gallery owners once even transported six tons of glacier ice from Iceland to their exhibition rooms!
Reopening of the Jewish School for Girls
In 2012 particular attention was paid to the reopening of the Jewish School for Girls in Auguststraße as a venue for artistic meetings and dining culture, after having stood empty for many years. An area comprising 3,300 m² (36,000 ft²) is now home to the Michael Fuchs Gallery, and a branch of the Camera Work Photo-Gallery. The Eigen + Art Lab belonging to the gallery of the same name has also moved into a building a few yards further on in the street. In September, The Kennedys Museum will move into its new home. In 2011, the gallery owner Michael Fuchs rented the former school from the Jewish Community, which then opened in February 2012 as a House of Culture and Dining Culture following a long period of restoration. This venue for contemporary art has been supplemented by several gastronomical enterprises. The Grill Royal team has opened the Pauly-Saal Restaurant in the twenties style as well as the Pauly Bar. Next door The Kosher Classroom includes traditional Sabbath dinners among its offerings, while Mogg & Melzer have brought a portion of New York dining culture to their new premises here.
The BMW Guggenheim Lab on the Pfefferberg
Pfefferberg is the name of a former brewery in the Berlin district of Prenzlauer Berg. Today, as an industrial monument, Pfefferberg is a location for art, culture and education. From 2012 as part of an international migration project, the BMW Guggenheim Lab, previously based in New York, is guesting on the premises. The idea is that the research laboratory should serve as a venue for discussing global issues concerning modern urban life in various metropoles.
Contemporary Fine Arts on Museum Island
The show gallery is situated in two floors of a building converted by star English architect David Chipperfield at Kupfergraben right next to the Pergamon Altar on Museum Island, thus joining the exclusive neighbourhood of the densest concentration of museums in Berlin. The artists to be exhibited here include Peter Doig, Daniel Richter and Jonathan Meese, Georg Baselitz, Tal R, Chris Ofili and Norbert Schwontkowski.
Potsdamer Straße in Tiergarten
Opposite the Wintergarten Varieté, on the premises of the former editing room of the Tagesspiegel newspaper in Potsdamer Straße, there is yet another conglomeration of galleries, including Rokkas, Blain Southern and the Florent Tosin Gallery. And more galleries have made their home in the area around Potsdamer Straße. In September 2009, the Klosterfelde Gallery moved its premises from Zimmerstraße to new rooms in Potsdamer Straße 93. Also in the neighbourhood are the Sassa Trülzsch, Sommer & Kohl, Tanya Leighton plus Gilla Lörcher Galleries. At the beginning of the 1990s, the big player Max Hetzler moved from Cologne to Berlin, where he exhibited his art market wares for many years in the gallery complex in Zimmerstraße 90/91. In addition, he also had individual exhibitions in the 1,800 m² (20,000 ft²) space available in the suite of rooms in the restored Osram courtyards in Oudenarder Straße in Wedding. In 2008, the Italian artist Isabella Bortolozzi set up shop in her new rooms on Schöneberger Ufer in an apartment, which the actor and singer Hans Albers lived in from 1946 to 1948. The charm of the apartment, which with its exquisite wood panelling and secret niches has mostly been preserved in its original condition, provides a welcome projection surface for many of the gallery’s artists.
With more than 50 galleries and some 1,000 national and international guests, the 2012 Gallery Weekend recorded the greatest success in its history and – following the demise of the Art Forum – has established itself as the biggest selling event in the art market. Many of the collectors there travelled from Russia, the USA and even China to attend the event. Alongside established galleries such as Sprüth Magers, Eigen + Art, Aurel Scheibler, especially young galleries, founded less than five years beforehand and concentrating on experimental works, were invited. The participation of international museum patronage societies with a contemporary context, including the Tate Gallery in London and the Centre Pompidou in Paris, is also significant.
The Umbrella Brand of Art: Berlin Art Week
The Berlin Art Week is being premièred from 11th to 16th September 2012. With this event, an umbrella brand has been created, designed to unify the wide range of art fairs and institutions based on the model of the Berlin Fashion Week or Berlin Music Week. Involved in this enterprise are multi-sector players such as the privately organised trade fair formats abc – art berlin contemporary and the Preview – Art Fair as well as various institutions concerned with contemporary art, including the Verein der Freunde der Nationalgalerie (Association of Friends of the National Gallery), KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlinische Galerie (Berlin Gallery) as well as the Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst NGBK e.V. (New Society for Visual Arts). The intention is the collaboration of hundreds of established and more recent galleries representing a wide range of artistic positions.
For the eighth time, the Preview Berlin art fair will again be taking place in Hangar 2 of the former Berlin Tempelhof Airport in large white cube exhibition stands, and – alongside the regular exhibition events – offer sufficient room for installations and performances. The abc – art berlin contemporary in 2007 has resulted in the creation of a art fair format centred on the artist, combining together publishing houses, cinemas, film distribution companies, architects, record labels and urban planners. The private abc initiative comprises a total of nine galleries in Berlin: Guido W. Baudach, Mehdi Chouakri, Galerie Kamm, Klosterfelde, Meyer Riegger, Galerie Neu, neugerriemschneider, Esther Schipper and Zak Branicka. Venue is the Station Berlin in Kreuzberg.
In the form of an institutionally overlapping exhibition, the Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst (NGBK) together with the Berlinische Galerie, the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) as well as the Artists’ Programme of the DAAD are showing the exhibition of the double documenta participant Alfredo Jaar: Alfredo Jaar – The way it is. An Aesthetic of Resistance. The “A Burnt-out Case” exhibition dealing with the phenomenon of burn-out is being held in the premises of the NGBK and offers side effects in our achievement-oriented society for discourse.
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