Did Dimitri Hegemann just save Berlin’s art scene? After the fall of Temporäre Kunsthalle and the coming closings of Haunch of Venison and MMX, the city’s art infrastructure lacked inspiration. Enter Hegemann, founder of iconic techno club and record label Tresor. Twenty years on, Hegemann is transforming his image and redirecting his energies… to art.
Inspired by a 2004 Olafur Eliasson exhibit at the Tate Modern, Hegemann saw the potential of Berlin’s industrial relics for showcasing contemporary art. When his club moved to the basement of a DDR power plant in 2007, he set off to make it happen. Three years of renovation and €2,000,000 later, Kraftwerk Mitte opens its doors with Realstadt, an architectural exhibition of 250 design models of German cities over the past 50 years.
Kraftwerk Mitte is its own architectural exhibit. The 30m-high, 22,000 square meter structure is outfitted with a fire-truck red bottle-crate bar, perforated sheet-metal stairways and concrete slab walls. But Realstadt ultimately fails to make use of the space. Housing miniatures in an industrial monolith leave a tipsy, dizzy Gulliver-among-the-Lilliputians effect.
So why is Kraftwerk showing architectural models rather than avant-garde light installations and sound performances, as Hegemann originally envisioned? Money. Realstadt found funding through Berlin’s finance ministry and a major real estate development co-op. Not that this will relegate the space to pandering to corporate-sponsored bourgeois tastes. Hegemann’s got a 30 year lease and is determined to keep it independent.
Hegemann’s shift from underground club owner to art space developer has been fluid. Between opening Tresor and Kraftwerk Mitte, he opened an Italian joint, a private club and a pricy design restaurant in Mitte. As the last coal-heated Altbauten are being polished up and modernized, the crowd who built Berlin’s culture scene in the 1990s is growing up and changing tastes, but they still party with their friends.
REALSTADT | Mon-Sun 10-20, Through November 28
*Not everyone at EXBERLINER was so down on the exhibition. Check out Dan Borden’s review at the link on the left.