Unlike its museum and commercial gallery siblings, the independent art institution doesn’t hold permanent collections or sell artworks. It may charge for entry, but might equally let you in for free with the help of state funding, private benefactors and corporate sponsorship. These spaces provide much needed platforms for independent thought and expression, often guided by the hand of determined curators or artists. Three new indie instis have found a perfect home in Berlin, where audiences are hungry for ever more outstanding art from unusual perspectives.
Set to open this September and located in a reignited former coal power station 30 minutes out of Südkreuz, E-WERK Luckenwalde is the latest to join the indie scene: following an inaugural performance art extravaganza in collaboration with London performance festival Block Universe this September 14. Founders Helen Turner and Pablo Wendel, a British curator and German artist who are also a real life couple, have certainly set E-WERK Luckenwalde apart from the crowd on a sustainability level: they’ve adapted the original furnaces and machinery to burn locally sourced waste wood so the building can generate its own power and even feed some back into the national grid. The complex also offers artist studios and as Turner told us she hopes “offers something out of the city, somewhere without distraction to work”. They promise a schedule packed with special events alongside three exhibitions a year. For their first exhibition ‘Thames Water’ (Sep 14 – Mar 28), Nicolas Deshayes’ cast iron wall sculptures will also be powered by the reanimated power station with heated water running through them like radiators. The first of their annual Flag commissions has been won by Lucy Joyce. Her ‘Electric Blue’ (Sep 14 – Mar 28) will be visible across Luckenwalde rooftops alongside an exhibition of new works in one of the three gallery spaces.
Since opening in November 2018 The Times Art Center Berlin (TACB), a branch of China’s Guangdong Times Museum led by Artistic Director Xi Bei has positioned itself as an experimental space for contemporary Chinese art, a platform for a scene generally underrepresented in the West. At a time when Paris’s Centre Pompidou and London’s Victoria and Albert museums are opening branches in China, it’s refreshing to see the cultural tide flowing in the opposite direction. This month TACB will move to bigger premises in Mitte’s Brunnenstraße. Spread over two floors, the new gallery has 300sqm of exhibition space and will open with the group show ‘Neither Black/Red/Yellow Nor Woman’ (Sep 28 – Jan 4). Nineteen artists will reflect on a conceptual reenactment of the works of three pioneer female East Asian artists: Theresa Hak Kyung Cha (1951-82), Pan Yuliang (1895-1977) and Trinh T. Minh-ha (b. 1952).
Funded by the benefaction of an art-collecting German-Swiss couple, KINDL Center for Contemporary Art took over the former Berliner Kindl brewery in Neukölln in 2016. Taking in the 1920s machine house, brew house, tower and boiler house, it has been sensitively converted into three floors of pristine galleries and an atmospheric café set among the enormous copper brewing pots. Steered by Artistic Director Andreas Fiedler who has curated shows by the likes of Shirana Shahbazi, Roman Signer and Haegue Yang, KINDL has made a name for itself with its site-specific works exhibited in the 20 metre high Boiler House, and has ushered in over 30,000 visitors in its first year. This September it will open three shows: Bettina Pousttchi’s ‘Panorama’ (Sep 1 – May 10) consists of eight oversized photos offering alternative views from the boiler house window front, artists Natalie Czech/Friederike Feldmann (Sep 1 – Feb 2) explore the graphic qualities of writing and Bjørn Melhus’ video installations in ‘Free Update’ (Sep 15 – Feb 16) deconstruct strategies of mass media. There is a dedicated education space where KINDL provides programmes for local school children. And very importantly, there is also a beer garden in the summer, the huge concrete yard turning into a skateboarders paradise, should you want something to look at while you drink your pint.
Only time will tell if these new spaces will stay the course, but experimental art, sustainable energy, and beer gardens sound very Berlin indeed.
E-WERK Luckenwalde | Rudolf-Breitscheid-Str. 73, Luckenwalde.
Times ArtCenter | Brunnenstr. 9, Mitte.
KINDL – Center for Contemporary Art | Am Sudhaus 3, Neukölln.