Berlin Art Week will begin for the fourth time on September 15. The leading role will be played by the ABC (Art Berlin Contemporary) fair, while Statements, Berlin’s second art fair as well as a host of other events with offer different projects in collaboration with four of Berlin’s leading art institutions, that will celebrate the openings of STADT/BILD (Image of a City) – a cooperation of between the Berlinische Galerie, Deutsche Bank KunstHalle, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, and Nationalgalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.
Berlin Art Week provides us with an opportunity to map the city’s huge gallery scene during the openings of the 2015-16 art season. As part of the dispersive logic of its decentralized scene, the galleries of the city are distributed between several islands. Unlike Chelsea in New York City, or the 13th quarter in Paris, the visitors of galleries in Berlin need to move around if they’re to find the best the city has to offer and there’s no obvious Viertel that stakes its claim to the home of contemporary art in Berlin.
Lately many galleries left the overdone comfort zone of Mitte and moved to the always-decadent area of Schönberg. The two most significant examples of this are Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, and Esther Schipper Gallery who have both move out west. This move brought also a shift from clean, neutral, and impersonal white cubes, to more domestic spaces of rooms inside Altbau apartments.
In addition to Schönberg it is worth mentioning the area around Checkpoint Charlie, the famous border-crossing between West and East Berlin. This area spans from Lindenstraße, through to Rudi-Dutschke-Straße, all the way to Zimmerstraße. The adjacent area is Mitte, which still hosts some of Berlin’s finest galleries (Sprüth Magers, neugerriemschneider, and Galerie Eigen + Art all call Mitte home). In the middle of the middle of Mitte is Rosa Luxemburg Platz, where very interesting galleries, such as Croy Nielsen and Galerie Nagel-Draxler, are located.
For visitors, one possible walk during the art week can begin in Hamburger Bahnhof. The unidentified yellow body that lies in the museum’s garden is Franz West’s. It looks like a light, hollow shell, but in fact it is a heavy, almost unmovable bronze sculpture. The display at Hamburger Bahnhof relies on the famous Flick Collection, whose owner’s Nazi background adds a dark odor to the already dark choices that comprise the collection. The museum’s permanent presentation of works by Joseph Beuys is not to be missed, and the program of temporary exhibition is often intriguing.
From Hamburger Bahnhof the way to Mehdi Chouakri Gallery, founded in 1996 on Gippsstraße, is pretty short. During the art week the gallery will open an exhibition by Hans-Peter Feldmann. Then we are only few minutes away from Johnen Gallery. Originally from Cologne, Johnen Gallery moved to Berlin in 2008. Jörg Johnen, the owner, bought a four-story building placing his gallery between the first two, and his private apartment at the top floor. Before last summer, Johnen Gallery and Esther Schipper Gallery began a merging process that should be concluded before the end of 2016.
Within a block of Johnen Gallery we find the Christian Boros bunker collection, and afterwards a quick walk to would bring us to neugerriemschneider. In 1994, Burkhard Riemschneider and Tim Neuger, two friends from Cologne, founded neuegerriemschneider, whose exhibition spaces are gradually revealed, and are not immediately apparent upon entering. Today the gallery is considered semi-imperialist, since its list of artists include gigantic figures such as Rirkrit Tiravanija, Simon Starling, Olafur Eliasson, Ai Weiwei. Lately, neugerriemschneider opened a branch in Mexico City, and during the art week they will open a show by Mexican artist Mario Garcia Torres.
Close by is Eigen + Art Gallery, a two headed beast, one of which is in Leipzig and other in Berlin. Established in 1983 in Leipzig, the gallery is responsible for the Leipziger trend in German painting, or the Leipzig School, whose most celebrated representative is artist Neo Rauch.
Still in the middle of Mitte is Galerie Neu. The gallery is located in the inner-yard of a compound in Linienstraße. During art week the gallery will open with a show by Gedi Sibony, and will present works by Karl Holmqvist and Yngve Holen in the ABC fair.
In Oranienburgerstraße, parallel to Linienstraße, is Sprüth Magers. Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers are two gallerists that started separately in Cologne, founded Sprüth Magers in 2008, moved to Berlin, and one more space in London. The gallery represents artists such as Fischli & Weiss, Andreas Gursky, Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Rosemarie Trockel, Cyprien Gaillard, Joseph Kosuth, and many more with international reputations. The gallery will open a group show Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Louise Lawler, Cindy Sherman, Rosemarie Trockel.
Near to Sprüth Magers are Neu Galerie, and neuegerriemschneider, plus KOW, located in Brunnenstrasse. In 2004, the unique Neo Brutalist space of the gallery designed by the architecture office BRANDLHUBER, was launched. Another special feature of the gallery is its catalog format, produced for each one of the gallery’s artists, among them Franz Erhard Walther, Santiago Sierra, Cady Noland. During art week artist Hito Steyerl, who was one of the Germany’s representatives in the last Venice Biennale, will open a solo exhibition.
Rosa Luxemburg Platz is only one street away from Brunnenstraße, and in its center is the Volksbühne Theater, is surrounded by galleries such as Croy Nielsen and Galerie Nagel Draxler. Croy Nielsen is known for being one of the most interesting galleries in Berlin for emerging art, and it represents artists such as Ben Schumacher and Hugh Scott-Douglas. During the art week Maria Lund will open a show in the gallery and works by Mandla Reuter will inhabit its booth in the ABC fair.
Closer to Alexanderplatz, in the Berliner Zeitung building, is Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler gallery. The gallery marks the art week with an opening by the artist duo Slavs and Tatars. Closer to the other side of Alexanderplatz, on Karl-Marx-Allee, is Capitain Petzel Gallery. The gallery, founded in 2008 as the Berlin base for the artists from Galerie Gisela Capitain, is one of the most established galleries in Cologne, and for the artist of the New York Petzel Gallery. The space of the gallery is a glass pavilion, and it is recommended to follow its program, which includes special, mainly site-specific, exhibitions by artists such as Robert Longo, Seth Price, Wade Guyton, Troy Brauntuch, and Monika Sosnowska. During the art week the gallery will open a solo exhibition with new works by Peter Piller.
Karl-Marx-Allee leads you easily to the Kreuzberg Galleries, to the western side of the border between East and West Berlin. The Kreuzberg part of the gallery scene of Berlin starts with the Gallerienhaus building in Lindenstraße, where 11 galleries are located, among them is the Berlin branch of the significant Düsseldorf-based gallery Konrad Fischer, which represents important artists as Bruce Nauman and Gregor Schneider. During the art week Konrad Fischer Galerie will open a show with works by Sol LeWitt, and in the fair will focus on works by the fascinating artist Peter Buggenhout, known for his dust monuments. Another interesting gallery in the Gallerienhaus is Galerie Berinson, which specializes in historical, early Modernist photography, and is well worth a visit.
A few steps from there is a building on Rudi-Dutschke-Straße where six more galleries are located. One of which is Galerie Isabella Czarnowska. Czarnowska is known for introducing many important artists for the German scene, and was the first gallery in the country to show exhibitions by artists like Richard Prince, Louise Lawler, Luc Tuymans, and Miroslaw Balka. During art week the gallery will open a show with paintings by Markus Döbeli.
Step over to Charlottenburg and find the most influential gallery of the district – Galerie Buchholz. The gallery, which was founded in Cologne where it still operates a unique space, represents artists such as Isa Gensken, Wolfgang Tillmans, Cosima Van Bonin, and Henrik Oelesen. This year the gallery opened an additional space in New York City. Another influential gallery within a walking distance is Galerie Max Hetzler, which holds two spaces in the district. Neumeister Bar-Am is a rather new gallery, adjacent to one of Hetzler’s spaces.
On the border of Kreuzberg and Schöneberg, in the building of St. Agnes Church, Johann König, a descendant to the Konig dynasty, relocated his gallery, and turned it into gallery on a small museum scale. During gallery week Camille Henrot will open her first solo exhibition at the gallery.
Back to Schöneberg. In the same building of Esther Schipper gallery, two floors above, we find Galerie Wien Lukatsch, which will open a solo exhibition by Mariana Castello Deball, and will present in its booth at ABC works by Luca Frei. In Potsdamerstraße, located perpendicular to Wien Lukatsch, Esther Schipper, and Isabella Bortolozzi (during art week Schipper will open a show by Gabriel Kuri, and Bortolozzi by Richard Rezac), there are a glut of interesting galleries. One of them is Galerie Guido W. Baudach, possibly the coolest gallery in Berlin, recognizing artists such as Thomas Zipp, Andy Hope 1930, and Erik van Lieshout, among others. During the art week the gallery will open with a show by Tamina Amadyar. Next to Baudach, there’s a compound with several galleries. The most established one in this compound is Blain/Southern, a strong secondary market gallery whose base is in London and the most promising one is Galerie Thomas Fischer, which is worth following.
Another population of galleries in the district of Schöneberg is found in Keithstraße, near the prestigious KaDeWe shopping mall, where galleries such as Silberkuppe, Future Gallery, Between Bridges and Galerie Lars Friedrich, prove that artistic activity can change the urban landscape, and at the same time, like most of the Berlin galleries, can also serve as an example of how contemporary art galleries are not just a stock of closed units, of hermetic white cubes disconnected from their surroundings, but are part of the city in which they flourish.