Each September the city of Berlin becomes effervescent during Berlin Art Week, with an energy and excitement that characterises this important art event. A large number of exhibition openings take place in galleries and art institutions, and in parallel the two main art fairs, Art Berlin and Positions, open their doors to the public.
abc art berlin contemporary paired up with Art Cologne, the oldest Art Fair of its kind worldwide, in a new partnership that gave birth to Art Berlin. The fair was under a new name this edition, though at the same time, 14th – 17th of September, and under the same roof as Station-Berlin, having a familiar feeling, yet with a wind of change. With 112 international galleries from 16 countries, Art Berlin Art is more a classical art fair, the opposite of anti-booth concept that characterized its former editions. Art Berlin reflects the commercial reality of the art market, with more flexible rules that open up to dealers offering Modern Art.
It offered space for everyone, from galleries with curated booths like neugerriemschneider’s (Ai Weiwei, Andreas Eriksson, Wolfgang Tillmans, Simon Starling, Pawel Althamer, Pae White, Mario García Torres, Rirkrit Tiravanija), solo show booths such as Klemms’s (Ulrich Gebert), installations like John Bock’s at Sprüth Magers – probably the only gallery that gave up totally to walls, to Daniel Marzona’s “one wall booth”, showing just one work by Axel Hütte.
I spoke with some of the gallerists, always open to inform you about the art, and they appeared content with the art fair’s new new face and designated walls, but were also hopeful that all this change would translate into sales.
I started with the artist John Bock, who created an installation that consists of green screens which form a basic architectural structure, with a film projection, and numerous sculptural objects – with an ”associative plot or web of links, contradictions, irritations, furniture, and manipulated building materials”. The installation reference the story of Hans Scharoun, and his architectural thinking.
With a map in hand, I found my way further through the packed booths at the Art Berlin fair and made my selection of galleries and works which I saw in this year’s edition, in no particular order:
Berlin-based artist Martin Eder shows small-format, elegantly executed oil paintings . The artist is investigating the reality of the mystical object in relation to the metaphysical significance of mystical experience. The Materialization is under a note of mystery, with connotations to spiritualism, or to the paranormal. Eder creates a coherent system of non-verbal symbols, from the enigmatic colours in Die Tat/ The fact, to the rosary. Certainly the rosary can be seen as a symbol of ritual and social practice, but also as an object of religious art, represented in paintings from the Middle Ages.
The Stockholm – based, Sara-Vide Ericson reflects on an intimate theme through her paintings – relationships, especially those that go wrong. The artist gives up on the traditional starched canvas, using the folds of the material as a base for depicting shadows .
In Tomas Saraceno’s work, time and space play an important role, including the poetic idea of the ephemeral nature of clouds. The artist is also an architect by training, which is perhaps one reason why a comprehensive part of his practice involves experimental installations.
The conceptual artist Daniel Buren is best known for his in situ installations. Buren’s work is defined by a key element, vertical contrasting colored stripes of 8.7cm, alternating between white and one other color. The artist considers the stripe a form of language in space, and the most neutral form of visual expression. The architectural wall work incorporates mirrored surfaces that reflect the surrounding space. The mirror element is not used symbolically, but as a material with unique properties, engaging the viewer in an interaction between the work and the space.
Gregor Hildebrandt uses cassette tape as an artistic medium, as material in his pictures and installations. Hildebrandt’s work makes reference to minimal art, he links aspects of conceptual art and minimal art, combined with references to music, film, literature, and to art history. The work ’Cadere’ is a sculpture made from vinyl records shaped into alternated colored bowls mounted on a marble plinth. The artist is combining elements inspired by Constantin Brâncuși’s Endless Column and Andrei Cădere’s round wooden bar.
The work and the marble plinth relate to each other, giving importance to the aesthetic of the installation as a whole in relation to the viewer and the space.
Tiravanija‘s work is part of a large-scale, multipart installation, untitled 2017 (no water, no fire) consisting of five white polymer sculptures – 3-D prints of a bonsai tree in various stages of losing its leaves. In the installation, each of these sculptures are positioned on a structural steel pedestal inspired by one of Constantin Brâncuși’s wooden column pedestals. This particular sculpture refers to Brâncuși’s work La Timidité (1917) and the column on which it was originally displayed.
Nasan Tur’s Clouds is a series of photographs made from isolated and enlarged picturesque views of candy-coloured clouds taken from newspapers. Tur makes the pixelated grain of the newsprint visible, the images of skies extracted from violent scenes of rioting and civil unrest. The colours of the clouds are actually hazy puffs of smoke billowing into the air. Through this series of works the artist is addressing his view on the possibility of manipulating the truth to convey a propagandist frame of reality. Tur reflects on the boundaries of communication, on the fragile nature of perception and is at the same time exploring political ideologies and subliminal messages.
Dragonfly is created by Andreas Greiner in collaboration with Jan Philipp Balthasar Müller. A hovering drone films an indoor palm tree. The resulting images are transformed by a neural algorithm that was trained on a vast database, including many animal images (google deep dream). In this framework, two separate entities, one recent and technological, and one ancient and natural, are put into a contextual dialogue.
In the last hall of Art Berlin there’s The Greenhouse, an acoustic installation with yellow-green electric cables hanging like plants in a greenhouse, but these are not not just visual elements. Each circuit contains a sonic environment that can only be heard using sensitive wireless headphones. Christina Kubisch is emulating a natural soundscape using recordings of virgin forests, jungles or exotic birds. There are natural sounds manipulated electronically which take you into a mysterious atmosphere.
Art Berlin was big enough so that you could meander around the booths without counting the hours. I found a great variety of works in terms of artistic practice, use of medium, quality and subjects.
The art fair ended on Sundaday, the 17th of September, the final night of Berlin Art Week, when the participating galleries opened the upcoming shows in their local exhibition spaces.