If you’ve been anywhere near Berghain recently you’ll have noticed the huge banner hanging on its facade with the statement “Morgen ist die Frage” (Tomorrow is the Question). The banner by artist Rirkrit Tiravanija is part of the group exhibition Studio Berlin currently on display inside the 3500 square metre former power station. On show are works by 115 exclusively Berlin-based artists, including international heavyweights like Olafur Eliasson, Tacita Dean, Wolfgang Tilmanns and Elmgreen & Dragset alongside rising stars such as Oliver Laric, Shirin Sabahi, Raphaela Vogel and 2018 GASAG prize-winner Julian Charrière.
Featuring photography, sculpture, painting, drawing, video, sound, performance and installation work, the exhibition was organised by the Boros Foundation, the private art collection of advertising mogul Christian Boros and his wife Karen that opened in 2008 in a central Berllin WW2 bunker. As during normal business at Berghain, photos are strictly forbidden so for the inside tip on what to expect inside Berlin’s favourite club repurposed as a gallery, Karen, Christian and their collection Director Juliet Kothe sat down with us to talk about the unprecedented exhibition.
How did the idea for Studio Berlin come about, what prompted it?
CB: I think it was in March, Berghain was closed due to the pandemic. They called us and we of course said yes to organising an exhibition.
KB: The conversations with Berghain then led to visits with over 50 artists in their Berlin studios over less than two months.
CB: And Berlin is the city for artists. If you ask artists in New York or London where would they ideally like to be, they all say Berlin because here they can work, everything is secure and they can afford it. Berlin is a great workshop for ideas, it could become a model to follow.
And how did you select the 115 participating artists?
KB: We have strong ties to artists living in in the city and when we approached them, they had further suggestions on who to involve.
JK: We visited studios all over the city and were introduced to especially emerging artists, some without gallery representation. The selection is unrelated to the representation in the Boros Collection.
CB: When I spoke to Wolfgang Tillmans he said yes straight away, but also that we should have this and that young artist as well.
Did anything surprise you during the process of bringing the exhibition together?
CB: All the artists we worked with, especially those with successful international careers really approached it with no ego at all. For example, Olafur Eliasson doesn’t have a work in the show that’s typical for him; it’s only three mirrors. He said he just wanted to re ect the work of his colleagues!
Is there a common theme to the works in the exhibition?
CB: It’s really a celebration of Berlin as a studio.
JK: Artists’ studios are venues for discussion, reflection, translation, analysis, and conceptual thinking. Studio Berlin serves as a snapshot and exploration of the artists’ current situation, documenting their point of view on today’s global shifts in socio-political paradigms. Artists as seismographs of our time. Not only finished pieces are on show, there are also models and sketches mirroring the working process.
KB: The works are all very different because during the lockdown some artists may have worked more and some may have had less time to work because of their individual situations and commitments, such as needing to care for their families. So some pieces predate the lockdown. They reflect the different situations for each artist.
And are any of the works specifically about the pandemic?
KB: Some touch on it, for example Ketuta Alexi-Meskhishvili’s polaroids of cut flowers represent two hours in her evenings during lockdown, the only time she had to work after caring for her children.
CB: And He Xiangyu’s sculpture next to these photos I really think is about a celebration. It is a plaster sculpture of the artist as a small boy, just in his underpants with his hands empty but poised to open a can. This is a work the artist made from his own memory of the first time he had a can of cola and it’s installed next to his favourite spot at Berghain where he likes to sit and drink now as an adult, but today it’s gin and tonics…