To get you prepared for this year’s iteration of Berlin Gallery Weekend, we spotlight the six spaces you should be sure to hit. Everything from established galleries to non-commercial project spaces are included, with the artists featured coming from all over the world.
When Johann König found it necessary to hire a bouncer to marshall the hysterical stream of visitors who had arrived for the opening of the Alicja Kwade show at his gallery earlier this April, you could already taste the buzz around this year’s Gallery Weekend Berlin. Just a few weeks later and – bam! – here we are.
Almost 50 galleries participate in the official program, while countless other galleries, art institutes and non-commercial project spaces make use of the opportunity to invite the international art scene through their doors. Founded 11 years ago as a private initiative by gallery owners to increase Berlin’s relevance among collectors and curators, Gallery Weekend has since become one of the most important and glamorous events during the city’s art calendar. Black limousines roll through the streets, while exclusive dinners and parties complete the program each evening in truly lavish style.
Although the following “must-see” list of exhibits is entirely self-proclaimed, it should be noted that Gallery Weekend has a habit of emphasizing one’s frustrating inability to be in two different places at the same time, meaning a well-thought-out plan of action is absolutely essential. Most exhibition openings take place on Friday, May 1, between 18-21h, although that only gives three hours to cruise through the city (avoiding the annual anti-fascist May-Day demonstrations/street party in Kreuzberg) to squeeze them all in. For those looking for a more relaxed atmosphere, you can visit most exhibitions both Saturday and Sunday from 11-19h.
Artist: Gregor Hildebrandt
The Berlin studio of established German artist Gregor Hildebrand is filled with large amounts of videotapes, records and cassettes – items he has made his signature medium over time. Hildebrandt’s BGW show “Auf Wasser schlafend rauscht das Meer” [slumbering on water, the sea murmurs] at WENTRUP in Kreuzberg refers poetically to the cinematic images of the 1940 movie Orphée by Jean Cocteau, to whom he has already dedicated two previous shows.
His major source this time around is a scene from the film, showing the Greek hero Orpheus failing to rescue his lover Eurydice through a mirror that becomes a portal to a parallel world in which she is trapped. Tape and tape wheels, infinitely recorded with the Cocteau movie and accurately applied to both canvas and the gallery walls, form dark surfaces and abstract mosaic patterns around the space. They repeat the mirror moment, and suggest a threshold to another parallel world that became inaccessible.
Tempelhofer Ufer 22
Gallery: Meyer Riegger
Artist: Rosa Barba
Italian-born and Berlin-based Rosa Barba, like Gregor Hildebrandt, treats film as both a carrier of invisible (and visible!) information and a sculptural material. Her solo exhibition at the Meyer Riegger gallery appears just one week before her newest film, Bending to Earth, is previewed at the Venice Biennale. This show, “Inside a Magnified Picture,” comprises recent installations and films, while the entire gallery space itself is transformed into an empty engine room for added atmosphere.
Her meditative film Time as Perspective from 2012 corresponds to this industrial notion. Continuing her long-term research into how history inscribes itself onto geological landscapes, Barba traveled to Texas to film deserted areas filled with hundreds of rhythmically pumping oil derricks. For her, the machines’ repetitive choreography resembles “a sculptural act” – a characteristic feature she also attributes to the presentation of film as a physical object. Barba’s work is exciting – almost brutal, in fact – because it employs reduced cinematic techniques to test the sentimental debate surrounding the relation of time and space.
Artist: Tino Sehgal
Tino Sehgal is known for providing absolutely no information about his ephemeral performance work in any recordable medium. He also does not allow anyone else to document his practice. No photos, no videos, no archive. This is both brilliant and intensely annoying.
The British-German artist trusts only in the viewers’ memory and their ability to verbally communicate their experiences of his “constructed situations.” These are usually performed by “interpreters” – actors and trained amateurs – who follow a specific choreography designed by Sehgal. While he already had museum guards dance and yell “This is So Contemporary!” during the Venice Biennale in 2005, he placed a swarm of 70 storytellers in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall and staged encounters with the visitors. I guess it goes without saying that there is absolutely no information about his upcoming show at Johnen gallery.
Gallery: Peres Projects
Artist: Mark Flood
Mark Flood is an anarchist and an oppositional figure in the art world. A darling of the market for many years, the Houston-based artist used to ride on the margins, playing in the punk band Culturecide in the ’80s, living in squats, distorting celebrity images, and making stencil graffiti paintings bearing commands like “Fuck the Economy“, “Get Laid” and “Commit Suicide.”
The video trailer for his upcoming show “Astroturf Yelp Review Says Yes” – the sixth one held at his Berlin gallery Peres Projects – embeds the exhibition title in its lyrics, adding the line “and the body says No” in response. A chain of disturbing images is presented to the audience that combines acts of violence, digital intimacy and robot sex toys such as plastic vaginas and penises in one confusing mix. Working in a variety of media, Flood’s newest works target pop-cultural values and symbols, emphasising an ugly decay of corporate identity. The physical works at his Berlin show will comprise his Text Paintings, as well as a new series of Aged Paintings, which are new versions of his now well-known photorealist Corporate Logo Paintings. Best do as he says, and “Feel It!”
Project Space: Frankfurt am Main
Artist: Paul Branca
Evidently Mark Flood is not the only artist with an interest in penises. Last Sunday, during the opening of the exhibition “Piggish” by American artist Paul Branca, the press release came with a fresh slice of mortadella pork sausage placed on top of the text. Fatty and pink, it picked up on the colorful painterly gestures used by the New Jersey artist in his small paintings. At the risk of sounding naïve, I will mention that he literally explores the form of the sausage – a motif he uses to discuss entirely different subjects, all related to the phallic form.
However, not so much interested in the penis or the pencil as much as he is interested in the architecture of skyscrapers and the way luxury high-rise apartments affect our lives in big cities, Branca writes: “From far below, the architecture of a sausage proposes itself as a container stuffed with shit.” Free from semiotics, however, the interpretation of such shapes and images could also be simply seen as a series of very beautiful paintings.
Gallery Weekend Opening Hours: Friday Closed, Sat-Sun 13-18h
Project Space: AUTOCENTER
Artist: Michail Pirgelis
When Michail Pirgelis was a child he wanted to become an archeologist. But, instead of digging antique objects out of the earth, his artistic practice has primarily been centred on large, aeronautic bodies that he finds in American airplane graveyards and transforms into large sculptures and installations. For the Greek-German artist, the beautiful tragedy involved in these objects – the opposition between their apparent massiveness and their simultaneous suggestive weightlessness – demonstrates “the ceasing durability of the dream of flying in its purest form,” as he once told me.
For his current show at one of Berlin’s most established project spaces, AUTOCENTER, Pirgelis chose to present a no-less-tragic but formally oppositional work. His filigree collection of playing card Jokers from different, international flight companies are lined up in a long glass vitrine, standing up vertically as if by magic. Embodied in the dubious figure of the Joker, the exhibition “Daily Trap” then refers to yet another ambiguity: one of putting on a smile over one’s own daily mistakes and failures.
Leipziger Strasse 56
Gallery Weekend Opening Hours: Wed – Sun, 16-19h
Anna-Lena Werner for Highsnobiety.com