This metal Gorilla sculpture is outside M.Batman Elekronik in Neukölln, Berlin. In his electronics store, Muharrem Batman, the son of a watchmaker from Istanbul, creates sculptures and clothing out of old electrical and computer components.
It’s Gallery Weekend in Berlin – a time when the city’s many galleries showcase art from a broad range of local and international talent – so when better to share this film from Monocle magazine on Art in Berlin.
Berlin is a hotbed of creative talent.
In the 1920s, artists were attracted by the city’s hedonistic nightlife and attitude of acceptance. During the cold war more still took advantage of the opportunity to avoid conscription by moving to West Berlin. And after the fall of the wall, cheap rents and the availability of empty buildings for squatting meant artists could survive more easily here.
In this report for Monocle, Kimberly Bradley looks at how the art scene in Berlin is developing and maturing and how the city has a growing reputation as a destination for international gallerists and collectors.
Monocle – Art in Berlin
An interactive exhibition is ideally suited to Berlin, a city overflowing with creative people, and that is what Olympus has created with the Olympus OM-D Photography Playground, which opened at the Opernwerkstätten last night.
The Opernwerkstätten, built between 1939 and 1941 with some involvement from Albert Speer, used to house the workshops of Berlin’s many opera companies. It was here that the sets were built and costumes made. Visiting during the installation of the new exhibition gave me the opportunity to appreciate the space.
Olympus turned over 7,000 m² of the building to a group of artists to create site-specific installations on the theme ‘Space and Art’. Between them, Jeongmoon Choi, Martin Butler, Shan Blume, Starstyling, Numen / For Use, Julian Charrière, UnitedVisualArtists, Tim John and Sven Meyer & Kim Pörksen, Speech and Zimoun have created a stimulating playground for the senses.
Visitors are invited to explore the space and document their experiences with the Olympus OM-D camera which can be rented free of charge. The memory card is removed from the camera when it is returned and can be taken home.
Warning: You will need ‘proper’ identification (for those without a National Identity Card, a passport) to borrow one of the cameras.
Unfortunately, my UK Drivers Licence wasn’t acceptable so I can’t tell you any more about the Olympus OM-D, except that it looks good.
It was clear that those people who did get their hands on the camera were enjoying the experience though – everywhere you went people were snapping away.
And why wouldn’t they? The installations have been cleverly conceived and constructed to play with light, sound and perception and make ideal subjects or backgrounds for photographs.
Amongst my favourite installations was Drawing Space by Korean artist Jeongmoon Choi. The simple but effective use of UV light and string created a myriad of geometric patterns that were visually striking and different from every angle.
Another outstanding contribution was Tim John’s ‘Was war gestern’ (What was yesterday). I spoke to the artist while he was creating the artwork and it was important for him to create an experience with his installation. Echoing the building’s past he has created a stage and set, complete with audience in their boxes. A number of ‘pointing fingers’ direct visitors to the interactive elements. The crank of an old gramophone, for instance, must be turned to start the show.
A fun, interactive, sensory experience this is what all exhibitions should be. The Olympus OM-D Photography Playground is open daily 11:00 to 19:00 at the Opernwerkstätten, Zinnowitzer Strasse 9, Berlin until 24 May 2013 – entry is free.
The Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart (Museum of Contemporary Art) in Berlin was the first venue I visited with my first Museum Pass in 2010 so it seemed appropriate that it should be the first stop on my Berlin Museum Marathon.
At the beginning of February I used the Museum Pass my work colleagues bought for me when I left my job in London in 2011 and was determined to see as many of Berlin’s wonderful museums and galleries as I possibly could in three days.
As well as that first visit in 2010, I also went to Hamburger Bahnhof during my second Berlin holiday in 2011 and I enjoyed both visits so much that I was determined to go back.
The Hamburger Bahnhof was originally built in the mid 19th century as the terminus of the Berlin to Hamburg railway but was too small for its purpose by 1906 when it first became a museum of traffic and technology.
Since 1996 the The Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart has housed the Contemporary Art collection of the Nationalgalerie.
As it is necessary to leave all bags and rucksacks in the cloakroom in the East Wing of the museum, it was here that I started my tour of the collections.
The East Wing of the Hamburger Bahnhof houses the Marx Collection, which formed the backbone of the museum when it opened in 1996. On display currently are the large-scale photographs of Thomas Struth and Andreas Gursky. I have been a fan of Gursky’s incredibly detailed photographs since a friend introduced me to his work when I first took up photography.
Also in the East Wing of the building, the Kleihueshalle (named after Josef Paul Kleihues – the architect responsible for the transformation of the building into an art museum) is home to more of the Marx Collection including works by Anselm Kiefer and Andy Warhol.
In 2010 I remember seeing Andy Warhol’s Double Elvis here but that was on display in the Neue Nationalgalerie this year.
The West Wing includes an impressive selection of work by Joseph Beuys and my favourite piece from this visit The Artwork Nobody Knows by Ryan Gander, which reminded me of the Street Art of Slinkachu due to its small scale.
It was also in the West Wing, upstairs that time, that I saw my favourite artwork in 2010. Schattenspiel (Shadow Play) by Hans-Peter Feldman was a captivating projection of shadows created by a moving array of toys.
It was great to see a large group of children engaging with Martin Honert’s Kinderkreuzung (Children’s Crusade) in the Historic Hall, a large vaulted space immediately forward of the entrance.
On my second visit to the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum für Gegenwart in 2011, it was here that I saw an exhibition of the works of Richard Long including his Berlin Circle and River Avon Mud Circle.
During my latest visit the Rieckhallen, a former warehouse that has been connected to the museum since 2004, was closed but in 2010, it was here that I saw Clown Torture (2010), a video installation by Bruce Nauman.
I have now been to the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart (Museum of Contemporary Art) in Berlin three times. Each time I have seen new artworks, beautifully presented and I’m already looking forward to my next visit.
On World Water Day, Stadtbad Prenzlauer Berg opened its doors to the public and hosted Pool Around Me, an exhibition by Johanna Keimeyer.
As I’ve always wanted to see inside the Stadtbad I made sure to go to this exhibition before the GLS Language school renovates the building.
The doors were open in the afternoon and visitors were encouraged to wander around the building (see my post about it here) and able to explore the photographic element of the exhibition. This consisted of a project in which the artist appears in photographs underwater in more than 50 hotel pools around the world. The photographs were displayed on the walls of the swimming pool and in a side room, including a selection laid in some of the old baths, gathered here for the purpose.
During the evening there were three performances of a video projection in which the artist, interacting live with the video, appeared to dive into the pool and swim around the walls.
It was still possible to wander around the building at will so I couldn’t resist going back to the upper walkways now lit beautifully for the night.
The exhibition was an inventive use of the space and enhanced the innate beauty of the building itself.
As I left Barcomi’s Deli, my lunch spot for the day I noticed what I thought was a bookshop across the courtyard and wandered in to have a look around.
Gestalten is a bookshop but it’s so much more too. The building I had entered is also a gallery and there was a Mark Jenkins exhibition on.
But Gestalten is also a publisher.
And as if that’s not enough there’s also Gestalten TV and the work they do in graphic design and other creative ventures.
The shop has an extensive range of books about art, architecture and there are a number of interesting products for sale: art works, ceramics, jewelry and lots more to boot.
I had read about the Mark Jenkins show and wanted to go. I’ve been aware of Mark Jenkins’s work for a while now, through Vandalog and Wooster Collective, but never had the good fortune to see any until today.
Jenkins’s work employs a number of ideas and techniques but it is his life-size and life-like figures that have always intrigued me. He creates these figures by taking live models and wrapping them in cling film and then strips of adhesive plastic (think industrial sellotape). Jenkins then cuts the resulting shell off the models using zig zag cuts so that the pieces can be re-assembled like a 3D jigsaw.
The resulting mannequins are then clothed and placed in situations that make them art. Mark Jenkins believes that it is often the interaction of the audience that makes the art works most interesting.
The exhibition at Gestalten features three of these figures, as well as photographs of street installations and an impressive ‘Afro’.
Street Art purists often take issue with Street Artists exhibiting in galleries – their argument is that this is ‘just art’. But how do you classify a photograph of an installation on the street?
I’d prefer to come across a Mark Jenkins installation on the street for the surprise factor but there is definitely a place for his work in galleries too.
The exhibition runs until 4 March 2012.
Gestalten Space, Sophie-Gips-Höfe, Sophienstraße 21 www.gestalten.com