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Art critic’s year in review: The highs and lows of 2019

It's your last chance to see one of our art critic's highlights of 2019, "Original Bauhaus" at the Berlinische Galerie is on through Jan 27. See what other shows made her best (and worst) picks of 2019.

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Photo by Sol Calero. A high was Archivos Olvidados at Chert Lüdde, an exercise in Tropicalia tinged painting in a three-room installation by Sol Calero.


Events galore – and a climax

This year was most definitely the year of Bauhaus with exhibitions and performances galore celebrating the century-old design movement. By autumn, Bauhaus fatigue was starting to set in, however the Bauhaus Archiv provided some new blood with the city’s best offering Original Bauhaus at the Berlinische Galerie: with more than 1000 original Bauhaus objects from the official collection, ranging from teapots, carpets and coffee containers to collage, film and sculpture, this show dutifully and creatively tells the story of the school, its teachers, students and all they produced. So if you haven’t had your Bauhaus fill yet, it’s on until January 27.

Best group exhibition

Expats steal the show at the Bau

Martin-Gropius-Bau is continuing its renais­sance under the helm of Stephanie Rosenthal with the year’s best group show And Berlin Will Always Need You. Gathering 19 of the city’s non-native talents under themes of craft, the Bau’s own history and even a bit of Bauhaus (Martin Gropius was, after all, founder Walther Gropius’ uncle) it showcased some brilliant artists under a gentle but firm curatorial theme.

Best sculpture show

Brits on display

Another group show, Palais Populaire’s Objects of Wonder, British Sculpture 1950s – Present, takes the title for this year’s best sculpture exhibition. Only the second show at Deutsche Bank’s new arts space on Unter den Linden, it presented a specifically British trajectory in the medium of sculpture as told in seventy works. Starting out with the giants Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, it wound through exemplary pieces from Gilbert and George, Richard Long, Anthony Gormley, Rachel Whiteread, Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas and many more.

Flop of the year

White men disaster

Space is the Place at Künstlerhaus Bethanien was a group show that missed the mark entirely and is 2019’s biggest flop. Named after the 1970s Afrofuturist film, 90 percent of the work it presented was by white men seemingly on a trekkie nostalgia trip through their favourite sci-fi films. It came in for a blasting by activist group Soap du Jour in an open letter that garnered so much support, the curators replaced the press release and hurriedly organised a symposium to discuss the original. Oh dear.

Small and smart

Two highlights

From the smaller commercial galleries two shows stood out this year: Archivos Olvidados at Chert Lüdde and Virtual Relief at Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler. The first was an exercise in Tropicalia tinged painting in a three-room installation by 2017 Preis der Nationalgal­erie finalist Sol Calero that evoked a tender grandmother-granddaughter relationship among pineapple fountains and houseplants. Virtual Relief by Pieter Schoolwerth was an undefinable mixture of painting, sculpture, collage and relief works. The pieces, minimalist if viewed from the side, were multifaceted 3D compositions of colourful human figures in silhouette created through bent dimensions and perspectives.

Curator of the year

KW’s Anna Gritz

Following her fabulous Lyn Hershman Leeson exhibition last year, Anna Gritz presented Ber­lin with the five-star The Making of Husbands: Christina Ramberg in Dialogue. An unusual but ultimately successful and poetic curatorial approach combining a mini-retrospective of Ramberg’s painting with a group show of thematically linked contemporaries, as well as work by later artists continuing her trajectory. Here’s hoping Gritz has some more pleasant surprises for us in 2020!