When it comes to Berlin’s art calendar, there are several events one shouldn’t miss. The year is roughly divided in half, with the bigger events taking place in spring and fall. The art world tends to hibernate well into April but then, just when you think it can’t get more boring, everyone suddenly wakes up and gets busy for Gallery Weekend. You guessed right, that time has come. The joint event of about fifty high-class gallery exhibitions is around the corner.
Once again, many people will flock to the gallery hotspots in Mitte and Schöneberg, busily trudging round all the shows in what looks like a big session of musical chairs, especially since it’s the tenth anniversary of the popular Gallery Weekend. If you don’t want to miss out but don’t have a clue where to go, take this advice and make sure to see at least some of these shows that, quite frankly, I think will be the most promising.
The opening hours are from 18:00 to 21:00 on Friday, May 2 and 11:00 to 19:00 on Saturday and Sunday. Don’t panic if you miss anything, the exhibitions will still be open for a few more weeks.
Gallery: Peres Projects
Artist: David Ostrowski
It was a good year for Javier Peres. Actually, it was a great year. Representing Dorothy Iannone, who currently has a popular retrospective at Berlinische Galerie, Peres gets a good deal of the attention and, I assume, a nice little revenue off of the increased attention of the artist. But it got even better for him. Wherever Peres took his latest discovery, Cologne-based artist David Ostrowski, to a fair or auction, the charismatic rockstar of a painter sold off his plain but bolshie canvases in mere minutes. With prices further skyrocketing at virtually every sale, Ostrowski was the shooting star of last year’s Art Basel Miami Beach and ever since has proven to be a rather lucky find for Peres just as the gallerist was probably the best person to team up with.
The hype for Ostrowski seems a bit over the top at times, but admittedly, his fresh and unburdened pursuit of painting and the many notorious legends revolving around his persona are quite appealing. With Gallery Weekend just around the corner, it’s not a big surprise to see Peres Projects boasting new Ostrowski paintings only to be sold out in a few minutes. To be fair, everybody knows what to expect, Ostrowski will deliver and everybody will be happy – the guests, the collectors, that witty kid from Cologne and, of course, Javier Peres.
Gallery: Johann König at St. Agnes
Artist: Michael Sailstorfer
König’s showroom in Kreuzberg’s former St. Agnes church has proven to be an inspiring, but nevertheless challenging setting for any artist since the location’s conversion into a gallery. The brutalist architecture is breathtaking but demanding. However, König announced an artist for this year’s Gallery Weekend who is able to master this challenge. Michael Sailstorfer will install a huge screen where once the altar stood and project his older piece Antiherbst, which translates as anti-fall.
Over several weeks, Sailstorfer and his team prepared a solitary tree in a rather meticulous attempt to restore the summery splendor. They collected every leaf it shed in fall, conserved it, painted it green and reattached it to the branches using a myriad of cable ties. The video documents the performance but leaves out the sequences where one could see the actual work, thus depicting a time-lapse of a tree that becomes more and more artificial and surreal.
Johann König (St. Agnes)
Artist: David Claerbout
When I heard about “Datascape,” the latest media art exhibition at LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial in Gijón and its incredibly thorough engagement with data becoming images, I checked again and realized I wouldn’t have a chance to be in Spain soon. Imagine how excited I was to learn that one of the show’s participating artists, David Claerbout, would not only have a solo exhibition at Johnen Galerie, but also show one of the central pieces of LABoral’s “Datascape.” His Oil Workers draws from a .jpeg found online, depicting Nigerian Shell employees seeking shelter under a bridge to escape the torrents of rain. Claerbout applied an image algorithm to the file in order to slowly animate the water in the picture. Alas, there are only two other works in his exhibition at Johnen and the text of announcement couldn’t be more cryptic, but I’m sure this show will bring some of the beloved .gif aesthetics into a more sinister art environment.
Gallery: Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler
Artist: Katja Novitskova
Katja Novitskova’s name is frequently mentioned when newspapers and magazines try to grasp the contemporary phenomenon of Post-Internet Art and Speculative Realism, the aesthetics of CGI, stock images, mass-fabricated kitsch, gaudily colored plastics, and further things digital turned material and vice versa. Novitskova has gained some celebrity in the small but rather vibrant scene after she published the Post-Internet Survival Guide, a picture book to accumulate the novel and often familiar, but strangely purified aesthetics of today. Her gallery Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler specializes in this genre and shows her latest exhibition, titled “Spirit, Curiosity and Opportunity,” focusing on found images taken during the eponymous Mars missions. Novitskova examined these pictures, looking for underlying patterns and shapes, in order to reveal UFO and other space-related theories as wild fantasies of human perception – things like a face on Mars, the moon landing conspiracy, etc.
Gallery: Sprüth Magers
Artists: Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Reinhard Mucha, Peter Fischli and David Weiss
As usual, Sprüth Magers divide their spacious two-story gallery into several smaller rooms to show a number of exhibitions at one time. Popular artist duo Peter Fischli and David Weiss exhibit a myriad of plastic casts they produced during the last three decades in what feels like a storage room of forgotten objects and ideas, while Reinhard Mucha shows some of his strict but witty and cunning rearrangements of both public, artistic, historic and very personal matters.
If neither awaken your interest, you should at least pay a visit in order to see Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s coinciding photo exhibition. In Hustlers, diCorcia hired several male prostitutes during the AIDS crisis and portrayed them in staged situations for their normal rate: in hotel rooms and cafés, at bus stops or simply on the streets in the vicinity of Los Angeles’ Santa Monica Boulevard. He produced cinematic sceneries and engaged these call boys as actors, thus documenting the harsh reality of homosexual life colliding with the American Dream.
Oranienburger Straße 18
Gallery: Michael Haas
Artists: Arnulf Rainer and Dennis Scholl
Michael Haas also took the opportunity to show two single exhibitions at one time. Dennis Scholl’s fastidious and hyperrealistic pencil drawings of rather detailed sceneries create a world unto themselves, but if it’s not for him, you should visit the Charlottenburg-based gallery anyway for Arnulf Rainer’s famous paintings from the late ’50s and early ’60s.
Mostly black, Rainer’s multilayered paintings hide what is beneath his own and other artists’ works on canvas, paper and photos. The often vividly gesticulated, iconoclastic paintings are the result of sometimes a year’s involvement with the initial motive, a reference to the struggle to destroy an image and who or what is depicted in it. At times, the suffocated images fight against their fate and shine through the thick layers of black paint. But for the most part, they can at least survive in a small corner or slip of canvas against Rainer’s plaguing brush strokes. His paintings are nowadays considered a landmark in younger art history, so take the chance to see some of Rainer’s lesser-known works before traveling to one of the many international museums where his paintings are shown.
Artist: Huma Bhabha
Pakistan-born, New York-transplant artist Huma Bhabha’s work shown in her solo exhibition at Veneklasen/Werner doesn’t look Pakistani or American at all. Her residency in Berlin left a visible influence, as raw, dark and sometimes even spooky totems, wood and metal sculptures indicate an artistical proximity to some of Germany’s most popular artists from the Post-War era, such as Anselm Kiefer’s leaden gravity or Georg Baselitz’s wooden sculptures of disfigured and cut up heads. But Bhabha’s work is one of its own, since she combines a wide range of materials, tribal cult aesthetics, modernism and matters of post-industrial decay.