‘Anonyme Zeichner‘ has become something of a fixture on the Berlin art calendar – and indeed, the local art market. Every drawing, no matter what its size, medium, apparent artistic merit and irrespective of who the artist is, can be purchased by any visitor for a unit price of 200 Euros cash at the gallery counter (for those who haven’t brought that much to spare, postcards of about 50 selected drawings are available in the shop).
This novel strategy has a motive: by refusing to reveal an artist’s name until their drawing has been sold, and by further determining a uniform and absolute sales price applicable to every piece, curators Anke Becker and Veronike Hinsberg hope to undermine the ways in which the art market has traditionally sought to define the value of a work of art. In the absence of cues as to the supposed qualitative or quantitative worth of a drawing, the exhibition becomes a space in which individual subjective appreciation decides the merit and value of a piece.
Supposed ‘expert’ opinion, blurbs on plaques beside picture frames and that hushed and respectful museum silence are all conspicuously absent from this unique sample of the contemporary Berlin art scene. Thankfully, the variety of styles, formats and content matter on display should guarantee finding a drawing to suit every taste. Monochrome or neon colored, immaculately intricate or roughly sketched, figurative or abstract: the form and content of pictures on offer is a staggering testament to the artistic and perhaps even the human imagination.
While you will certainly encounter examples of ‘traditional’ subject matters like portrait or landscape, you might find your expectations of what constitutes a portrait or a landscape being challenged. If the image of Angela Merkel unfolds in the swirling fumes from an Aladdin oil can, is it a portrait or a cartoon? Do the oscillating lines made by – or imitated to look as if made by – a scientific instrument possess sufficient aesthetic merit to represent an artistic expression of a mountain landscape? What if indeed a machine had drawn the lines onto the piece of paper, and used a pencil to do so – wouldn’t that still be a drawing? You get to decide the answers to these and many more possible questions in an exhibition that truly engages the viewer’s preconceptions about the relationship between ‘image’, ‘technique’ and ‘art’.
From pencil, charcoal or pen and ink drawings over collage, printmaking and an incredible array of mixed media techniques, virtually every manner of image making is represented here. The gallery dimensions offer enough space for you to stand as far back as you like or else bend in as closely as you dare: no doubt you will want to try both, and marvel close range at a richly worked, labyrinthine arrangement of tiny dots as well as stand back and take in the visual impact of so much adjacent scope and variety.
Selected from over 2,000 submissions, the chosen images encourage dialogue about their genres. What, exactly, is a drawing? Can the artist use a brush or will that make it a painting? Does anything have to be represented or can the image ‘simply’ seem to be a sheet of lined paper? If indeed nothing is drawn on the surface at all but the paper is embossed or shows the imprint of a relief, doesn’t that make it almost a sculpture? If anything goes, what purpose does categorization into genres serve? Anke Becker describes the process of picking drawings for the exhibition as akin to writing a book that had to find its own story and structure. “You want it to be humorous but not silly,” she says, and adds about the final exhibition: “It ought to irritate a little, too.”
Kunstverein Tiergarten, Turmstr. 75, 10551 Berlin, Germany, +49 (0)30-901833453
By Larissa Reinboth