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In with the new

Spring may still feel far away, but Berlin’s art spaces have already come out of hibernation with three high-profile reopenings. Our art editor gives runs down the changes and new exhibitions at Daadgalerie, KW and Haus der Kulturen der Welt.

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Pinar Yoldas – Artificial Intelligence for Governance, the Kitty AI, 2016

Whether by chance or because they knew something we didn’t, three of Berlin’s contemporary art institutions wisely bowed out of 2016 a good six months early by closing their doors for renovations. Now, within a couple weeks of each other, they’ve opened back up with some enticing new exhibitions. Here’s a rundown of what’s changed…

In the case of Daadgalerie, it’s the entire space itself. After 11 years on Zimmerstraße near Checkpoint Charlie, the 39-year-old showroom for the Ford Foundation’s artist-in-residence programme closed up shop on June 18 and moved to slick new quarters off Moritzplatz. Berlin architects Kuehn Malvezzi spent six months reconstructing the art nouveau building next to Max und Moritz, and on January 12, the new 500sqm Daadgalerie opened its doors. With a street-facing ground-floor exhibition space and an extensive studio/concert room upstairs that can fit up to 100 people, the gallery has a far larger capacity than its previous home, and programme director Katharina Narbutovic hopes that the Oranienstraße footfall will make for more drop-in visitors among the general public.

The exhibition that opened the new Daadgalerie space, Topophilia/Topophobia, aptly explored how places influence our identity, whether as safe spaces or as sources of anxiety. In February, that show will give way to As For The Future, a new exhibition by Dutch video artist Wendelien van Oldenborgh. Her video and slide installations attempt to question how history is written and how we understand it as part of our own identities, often confronting her own country’s colonial past and its present-day repercussions in the process.

Another mainstay of the scene, KW (the Kunst Werke Institute for Contemporary Art) shut down after the Biennale in September and reopened on January 19. Funded by the Berlin Lottery Foundation, the renovations to the Augustraße space were mainly cosmetic – a new entrance area, space for a bookstore and cloakroom. The real news is a doubled budget courtesy of the city government, and a changing of the guard. The 36-year-old Dutchman Krist Gruijthuijsen (read our interview here) has taken over as artistic director, replacing two women: Gabriele Horn, who succeeded KW founder Klaus Biesenbach in 2004, and chief curator Ellen Blumenstein. Under his directorship, there will now be monthly openings and frequent collaborations with other Berlin institutions. He’s even reopening KW’s legendary underground Pogo Bar, famous for its illegal techno parties in the 1990s – albeit as a less-fun-sounding Thursday night event series hosted by American artist Robert Wilhite. Another series of renovations is scheduled to happen before the 2018 Biennale. 

KW’s reopening programme places the work of three contemporary artists in dialogue with that of South African artist Ian Wilson – tricky, considering most of his works have taken the form of unrecorded, undocumented oral communication. The first response is by Hanne Lippard, a Norwegian artist who herself works with language and its relation to the human voice. Taking up KW’s entire ground floor, her installation Flesh leads viewers into strange new physical and sonic spaces. A changing exhibition of Wilson’s work will run alongside it.

Meanwhile, the Haus der Kulturen der Welt never really left us – its crew simply moved “out and about”, hosting their usual interdisciplinary trans-cultural investigations around the city as the 60-year-old building known as the “Pregnant Oyster” underwent some much-needed maintenance work. It reopens again this month with modernised acoustics and more flexibility in terms of event setup. Both the stage and seating in the auditorium will now be adjustable to different sizes and purposes, and the studio gallery has been renovated to make it more suitable for modern exhibitions.

Check it out yourself as the 30th edition of art and technology festival Transmediale kicks the newly-renovated HKW back into gear. The talks, screenings and performances run February 2-5 only, but the exhibition Alien Matter continues through the month. As curated by Inke Arns, it deals with the creeping influence of machine learning, AI and “the internet of things” via the works of 25 Berlin-based and international artists. In other words: art robots. More than one.

Take some time this month to check out HKW and the other two spruced-up spaces, but don’t forget to give some love to the others that stuck with us the whole time, too!

Wendelien van Oldenborgh: As For The Future | Feb 4-Mar 12 | Daadgalerie, Oranienstr. 161, Kreuzberg, Mon-Sat 11-18

Ian Wilson, Hanne Lippard | Through Apr 9 | KW, Auguststr. 69, Mitte, Wed-Mon 11-19

Transmediale: Alien matter | Feb 2-Mar 5 | Haus der Kulturen der Welt, John-Foster-Dulles-Alle 10, Mitte, Wed-Mon 11-19