Berlin Art Week – A Reflection

Art & Culture

Berlin Art Week is one of the biggest contemporary collections of galleries, project spaces and art fairs to simultaneously explode open the autumnal artistic scene. With a plethora of spaces that stretches into the hundreds, this week really is everything you need to know about contemporary and commercial art in the heart of Germany.

The diversity of not only the scale, but establishments and working style of each residence made for an all-inclusive cultural week with more performances and private views than you can shake a stick at. There is something about being guided round the city streets by just a map that I found truly exhilarating. Whether this nautical theme was felt by me alone however, I’m not sure, but bobbing from treasure trove to treasure trove to try and fit in as much arty spectaculars as possible sure was a fun way to go about it.

The opening of ‘Vertigo of Reality’ at the Akademie der Künste was truly an event unlike any private view I have had the pleasure of visiting before. Deservedly kicking off art week with a bang, without exaggeration the phenomenal queues for entry stretched at least 20 people thick and trailed out the door of the gallery. Luckilyy however, for those stuck outside the building, there was live musical acts to entertain all night long, from bands in the entrance to DJ sets in the courtyard, the Akademie der Künste had everything the culturally aware, hipster masses could ask for. Nonetheless I would definitly say the exhibition deserved the queue. Accommodating a truly spectacular multi-sensory experience this show hosted works by artists such as Bruce Nauman, and was a weird and wonderful exploration into the changing perceptions of contemporary technology and its impact on our lives, encompassing film, performance, music, sounds, light, photography and installation but to name a few of its aspects.  

Beginning the week at one of the largest establishments included, the New National Gallery presented one of my favourite exhibitions for the entire week, ‘Expansion of the Combat Zone’. If I do say so myself, this show contained one of the best collections of contemporary art I have seen since coming to Berlin. With more phenomenally talented names than I have ever seen simultaneously presented together in a single show, the exhibition displayed an array of large scale works that examined the varied and controversial definitions of combat zones not only across Germany but also looking both culturally, technologically and globally at the issue.

The ME Collections, KW Institute and the Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle, to mention just a couple more big names in the art week game, are simply a few of the remarkable collections of modern art that were on display over this bargain priced week of arty extravaganzas. Each taking specific aspects of the self and identity as subjects, the institutions then used Art Week as a catalyst for an individual way to experiment with audience interactivity and the altering of contemporary socio-political ideas, when relayed in an artistic setting.

The ‘ABC Fair’ (Art Berlin Contemporary) is something I feel I can no longer carry on writing about without mentioning… Where Art Week all began, it has to be mentioned as a highlight to the week. With three monumental rooms that encompassed every kind of current artistic style I can think of, it really was a chance to see the best that Berlin has to offer. The colossal exhibiting spaces paved the way for florescent, effervescent, works of every shape, size and discipline, sparking not only conversation but controversy – including a goldfish being removed from one artist's piece because, according to German regulations, it was in the wrong shaped container.

However, regardless of the fully established galleries, I tip my hat to some of the smaller, independent, artist lead spaces on display this week. ‘Ozean’ was one of, if not the most, individual use of presentation, perception and composition I saw across the entire week. It is said ‘good art never stops revealing itself’ of which I believe is something that is fundamental to any inspirational artistic practice, however arguably the only way one could improve on this would be by adding new aspects into this concept of revelation. Upon arriving at Ozean you were invited to view a series of works that was only possible by peering through man made peep holes which ran down the side of an abandoned animal stable. The rustic and alfresco manor of this venue would have made curation of this show seemingly impossible. Taking this in their stride, Ozean proved that when you get creative with your space and audience new elements of place and participation can interject the work with anticipation, before a single piece has even been viewed.

Ultimately, I would describe Berlin Art Week as a curious expedition into contemporary practice. The diversity of all included and the tenacity of individual galleries and curators to steal the show, even over some of the most glorified and established institutions, for me shows a new playful element that I think is somewhat unique to the German art scene. Fun, fascinating and fundamental to contemporary culture, Berlin Art Week is an occasion showered in free beer for all and that allows every fellow fan of the art world to join together for a week of treasure hunting, embodied as artistic interventions and incorporating the entire city. With both small and large, emerging and established artists, Art Week provides a wonderful excuse to take a short sabbatical and cram that week absolutely jam pack full with every kind of arty spectacular going.  

Words by Lizy Bending

Photos by Jake Davis