Clockwise from top left: Kirsa Geiser (photo by Sigrid Malmgren), Susanne Pfeffer (photo by Alexander McBride), Philomene Magers, Monika Sprüth
When it comes to the art world, women seem to deploy influence rather than simple power: they are taste-shapers at home and key players for Team Berlin on the international field. Take Index Berlin, the online and printed resource that decides which shows get noticed. Its editor, Kirsa Geiser, also co-partner at Johann König Gallery, sifts hundreds of contemporary art spaces down to the Index 68, of which about a third are run by women.
At the top of the A-list is Oranienburger Straße giant Sprüth Magers. Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers list some of today’s most important female artists, such as Cindy Sherman and Jenny Holzer, on their roster. Esther Schipper opened her Auguststraße gallery in 1994 and co-founded the Gallery Weekend in 2004, driving international foot traffic through the city’s emerging gallery district. Throughout the last decade, she sat on the board of Art Basel, and next month she opens an expanded gallery on Schöneberger Ufer.
Women famously excel in PR. Proof is Ute Weingarten, another Cologne transplant who made it big in Berlin, with ARTPRESS, one of the city’s leading press agencies.
One large institution that bucks the trend is the world-renowned KW Institute for Contemporary Art, home to the Berlin Biennale. In 2007, founding director Klaus Biesenbach left for the MoMA PS1 project and passed the reins to director Gabriele Horn and curator Susanne Pfeffer (also a PS1 adviser), the woman who helped Udo Kittelmann curate Venice Biennale’s German Pavilion in 2001.
Still, Berlin’s largest museums and institutions remain in the hands of (a few) powerful men. “I believe female networks are not as strong and developed as male networks,” deplores Kira Geiser. Time for a little gender solidarity, ladies?