Photo by Victor Boullet
Fourteen Berlin galleries select Paris counterparts and clear their rooms to make way for shows from Paris (January 14-15), and the favor is returned two weeks later (January 28-29). Taking in establishment figures and emerging artists alike, the third edition of Berlin-Paris sets out to have it all ways.
There are some highlights. Isabella Bortolozzi trades for Jean Arp, an early Dadaist, whose French mother and German father make him a fitting choice for this program. PSM swaps with Dohyang Lee, bringing, among others, Marie-Jeanne Hoffner and her fragile sculptured installations to Berlin.
These inter-city exhibitions are less about cultural exchange than staking claim. Two cities, banding together, each eager to stroke the other’s ego: Paris as standard-bearer, Berlin as boundary-pusher. Like an uncomfortable photo-op or a ceremonial stroll across a Strasbourg bridge, the exhibition seems frozen in the past, a ritualistic exercise whose moment has passed. There is nothing more discomfiting for a progressive movement than being embraced by the past.
The Institute of Social Hypocrisy, showing at Sommer & Kohl on Kurfürstenstraße, offers potential intrigue, until the poorlyscribed “I am a social slut” installation comes into view, a dryheaved attempt at esoteric satire that screams cynical desperation. Do we really need to be told that Paris art galleries are whores to commercial supply-demand curves? That’s what makes them so successful.
Being knighted by the old guard diminishes the ‘avant’ appeal of the avant-garde, making it another tool for the next generation of aristocrats. The Berlin-Paris exchange might be an opportunity for Berliners to see something new, but these exhibitions are marketed for those who can afford occasional escapes to Paris’ gallery districts. Let Berlin decide the path of its art scene. Let the market determine a gallery’s success. It must be good. It worked for Paris.