Commercial galleries Exhibitions Market Germany

Painting, performance and plenty more at Berlin Art Week

The city showed off its diverse art scene with a slew of openings

Franz Ackermann's Market Target II (give me two cent), 2013, on view at Berlinische Galerie in the show “Painting Forever!”. Photo: © Franz Ackermann, Courtesy Meyer Riegger, Karlsruhe

Berlin Art Week (17-22 September) kicked off last week with the cornerstone exhibition “Painting Forever!”, a collaboration between four institutions that focuses on painters with ties to the German capital. The show is a benchmark for the myriad other displays in the city.

More than 100 painters are on show in four venues—the Berlinische Galerie (until 31 March 2014), Neue Nationalgalerie (until 21 November), Deutsche Bank KunstHalle (formerly the Deutsch Guggenheim, until 10 November) and the KW Institute for Contemporary Art (until 10 November)—ranging from big names such as Martin Eder and Anselm Ryle to the emerging artists Daniela Trixl and Despina Stokou. The Deutsche Bank exhibition has an all-female cast, centred on the Berlin-born Jeanne Mammen, a Weimar-era artist who died in 1976 and was largely overlooked in her lifetime, alongside three female contemporary artists. “There are so many different approaches to this ‘old-fashioned’ medium,” says Thomas Köhler, the director of the Berlinische Galerie, which is showing a site-specific painted installation by Franz Ackermann. “Painting is very much alive in Berlin today.”

This liveliness could be seen in the commercial galleries. Sprüth Magers is showing a series of new paintings, described as “storyboards”, by the US veteran John Baldessari (until 2 November). At Galerie Barbara Weiss, the Los Angeles-based Rebecca Morris celebrates her 18th solo show with new abstract paintings (until 5 October), while at Galerie Martin Mertens the Berlin artist Pius Fox is showing his muted, minimal compositions (until 26 October). Meanwhile, a pop-up show of painters, some fresh out of college, presents a snapshot of young talent in Berlin today (“Edge and Surface”, until 12 October, 61-65 Leipziger Strasse).

As might be expected of an art scene as diverse as Berlin’s, there is plenty of other work on offer too. Sarah Lucas is presenting her first exhibition entirely dedicated to furniture at Contemporary Fine Arts (until 28 September). Made of MDF and breezeblocks, her minimal tables and seats can be ordered by catalogue for between £8,500 and £12,000.

Performance and video are prevalent in a number of spaces. Sharon Hayes has an installation of political sound and video works at Tanya Leighton Gallery (until 26 October), while the Vienna collective Gelatin held performances every evening last week at the Schinkel Pavillon, where they moulded sculptures live in front of the audience; the end products are on show until 10 November.

Art Berlin Contemporary (19-22 September) also focused on installation and performance art, bucking the trend for two-dimensional works at art fairs. The Paris-based non-profit gallery Shanaynay hosted performances every two hours on a stage positioned at the entrance to the fair.

The emphasis on performance was part of the vision of the new fair director, Maike Cruse, who formerly headed up communications for Art Basel. But several dealers expressed concerns that, over the past few years, the fair has become too much like a biennial. For example, none of the 121 works of art installed in the three exhibition halls were hemmed in by the white cube booths usually seen at art fairs. “It’s a beautiful show,” says Morten Korsgaard, the director of the Danish gallery Bo Bjerggaard, which presented an installation by Brigitte Waldach priced at €50,000. “But it needs to be commercially viable too.”


Jeanne Mammen's Unheimlicher Besuch (eerie visit), around 1967-69) is on view at the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle. Photo: Mathias Schormann; © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013; Courtesy Jeanne-Mammen-Stiftung, Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin–Landesmuseum für Kultur und Geschichte Berlins
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