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  • Inside the art whirlwind: Art Week Berlin


Inside the art whirlwind: Art Week Berlin

The fairs, the films, the festivals... this year’s Art Week (Sep 13-17) is the most expansive yet. Here are our highlights.

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Photo by Oana Popa

The fairs, the films, the festivals… this year’s Art Week is the most expansive yet. Here are our highlights. TMI? Check out our handy Art Week checklist for the whole thing at a glance.

There was Venice, Kassel, now Berlin: there’s no better way to wrap up this summer’s European grand art tour than with a jam-packed long weekend of exhibition openings, fairs, festivals and more. Coordinated since 2012 by the state-owned non-profit Kulturprojekte Berlin, Art Week offers a programme that is internationally unparalleled in breadth and depth: fewer commercial events, more of the good stuff . Two major art fairs (three including the off-programme Berliner Liste), 200 galleries, 15 institutions and theatres, 14 private collections and 20 independent and temporary art spaces prove to the world that the strength of Berlin’s art scene lies not in a base of rich collectors, but in the wealth of artists who live and work here, the cutting-edge institutions and the public partners who support them.

Fair play

This year, the big shake-up everyone’s talking about is the transformation of top-hitter ABC (Art Berlin Contemporary) to Art Berlin, now in collaboration with Art Cologne – an attempt, some say, to spur ailing sales and reel in more moneyed collectors. Under the leadership of longtime ABC director Maike Cruse and Art Cologne’s Daniel Hug, Art Berlin presents an increased number of international and national galleries (110, up from 63 last year) a broadening of its focus to “contemporary and modern art” and higher entrance prices (€16/day, from €14). Local artists get the spotlight in an events programme that includes talks, studio visits and walks around the exhibition grounds and beyond. Let’s just see if the transition can live up to the hype.

You won’t see as many big names at the fourth edition of Positions, but you might find some pleasant surprises. Berlin’s youngest art fair gives centre stage to fresh perspectives – this year, the main event at Arena will be complemented by a special exhibition featuring 30 young German art students at Bikini Berlin (Sep 12-23). Entrance is €12, but cheapskates can still take a walk along the Spree on Thursday (Sep 14, 7pm) to catch Berlin-based artist Stephan Brenn’s large-scale projections on the Arena façade.

For a more democratic and uncurated take on art, Berliner Liste will return to Postbahnhof. Entrance is €13 but free during the Sep 14 opening (6-10pm), and with relatively affordable booth fees (€195/sqm), you’re bound to see an amazing range of creative output.

Bonvicini takes up space

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Monica Bonvicini: Hard Sting. Photo by Tobias Hübel

On Friday, September 15, the Berlinische Galerie will open a major solo exhibition of Berlin-based Italian artist Monica Bonvicini, rightfully acknowledging her importance as a local talent with international acclaim. Working in a variety of media, Bonvicini explores the relationships between architecture, power, gender and surveillance. Her works combine Bruce Nauman-style performative minimalism, a feminist perspective and a dash of dry humour – like in 2004’s Don’t Miss a Sec, a two-way mirrored public lavatory she installed across the street from the Tate Britain.

Her newest installation is titled 3612,54 m³ vs 0,05 m³, a reference to the dimensions of the Berlinische Galerie’s large exhibition hall. The work will “investigate the term ‘façade’ and its function” as it is presented in parallel to the 15th Istanbul Biennale (in which Bonvicini is also participating) and features architectural elements from both cities. Don’t miss the first viewing of what may be one of the most important exhibitions of the season. You can also see Bonvicini’s work in König Galerie’s newish outpost at the former St. Agnes Church, alongside Katharina Grosse in the chapel and Norbert Bisky in the nave.

Monica Bonvicini: 3612,54 m³ vs 0,05 m³ Sep 16-Feb 26 (opens Sep 15, 19:00) Berlinische Galerie, Kreuzberg

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Harun Farocki: About Narration

Farocki far and wide

By the time of his death in 2014 at age 70, Harun Farocki had established himself as one of the most influential experimental filmmakers, authors and lecturers of our times. Born in the aftermath of the war to a German mother and an Indian father, Farocki studied at West Berlin’s Film Academy before moving on to an international career that would bring him to lecture at Berkeley and Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts and produce some 100 experimental shorts.

He mostly worked with archival material or pre-existing footage, which he would juxtapose as a reflection on the power of image and as a way to expose his strong social and political commitments (from the Vietnam war to consumerism to US prisons). This month Berlin pays tribute to Farocki’s considerable cinematic and artistic achievements with a massive, multi-venue retrospective set to kick off with Art Week.

The gallery Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (NBK) has assembled Farocki’s video installations in the exhibition By Other Means (opening Sep 13). Meanwhile, Savvy Contemporary presents a complementary group exhibition called El Usman Faroqhi Here and a Yonder – On Finding Poise in Disorientation, where the likes of Candice Breitz and Ariani Darmawan respond to Farocki’s work. Berlin cinematheque Kino Arsenal will contribute with a complete retrospective of Farocki’s cinematic works (photos, above) between September 15 and November 30, including his 1979 interview with Peter Weiss as Weiss was finishing the third volume of The Aesthetics of Resistance (Sep 16, 19:00).

Other commemorations include the publication of a multi-volume edition of Farocki’s writings (including a previously unpublished autobiography) from Walther König and, in October, a programme of workshops, talks and interventions on “Farocki Now” at HKW and Silent Green.

Harun Farocki Retrospective Sep 13-Nov 30 Various venues, see Art Week programme for details

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Alvaro Albano at Festival of Future Nows 2014

The future returns

Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson is revered worldwide, but especially here in Berlin, his adopted hometown since the mid-1990s. He enjoys unwavering fame as much for his Prenzlauer Berg ‘factory-studio’, which employs nearly 100 craftsmen, architects, designers, artists, cooks and administrators, as for his largescale, interdisciplinary and highly experiential works.

Among his many, many projects, Eliasson founded an experimental education and research project called the Institute for Spatial Experiments while a professor at UdK in 2009. Under his guidance, some 70 UdK students spent five years conducting workshops with neuroscientists, geographers, composers and philosophers, travelling to Iceland and Ethiopia and infusing their experiences into their own artistic practice.

It all culminated with 2014’s Festival of Future Nows at the Neue Nationalgalerie, three days of artworks, performances and talks by over 100 programme participants and guests. Now, Eliasson seeks to repeat the experiment. The second edition of the festival will take place during Art Week at Hamburger Bahnhof, again bringing together a multitude of works by 100-plus international artists for one evening and three full days of spontaneous and unpredictable performances in a dizzying array of interdisciplinary formats from improvised installations to poetic sound performances. The motto? “The challenge is in the moment, the time is always now.” In other words, we have no idea what to expect, but miss out on this one at your own peril.

Festival of Future Nows 2017 Sep 14-17 Hamburger Bahnhof, Mitte

Not just for the birds

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Willem de Rooij: Bouquet VI, 2010

Dutch-born, Berlin-based artist Willem de Rooij hits Art Week with his first major Berlin exhibition since Intolerance, his massive installation of 18th-century Dutch bird paintings and feathered objects from Hawaii at Neue Nationalgalerie in 2010. KW’s partial retrospective surveys the last 20 years of the artist’s work including early photo and video collaborations with Jeroen de Rijke (presented as De Rijke/De Rooij) created from 1994 until de Rijke’s early death in 2006.

Since his career began in the 1990s, De Rooij has been obsessed with the societal conventions of representation in works such as meticulous floral bouquets and handmade woven tapestries that emphasise colour and material. Other installations include the work of fellow artists (such as Isa Genzken and designer Fong- Leng), questioning authorship as well as form. Constantly moving between crafts and fine art, colonial and contemporary, De Rooij relishes the productive space of intercultural confusion through December 17.

Willem de Rooij: Whiteout Sep 14-Dec 17 (opens Sep 13, 19:00) KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Mitte