Berlin’s gallery scene is volatile and tremendously dynamic; the much-bemoaned lack of a decent collector base seems to be little impediment to the ongoing boom in exhibition spaces.
From former squats on the scrappy side-streets of Neukölln to majestic old warhorses in the West, the crop of monied, mid-sized, internationally-minded spaces mushrooming around the Potsdamerstraße district and then the offbeat establishments proliferating around Mitte: trying to round up this sprawling mass is a near-impossible task. The pointers below are representative of the sheer wealth of artistic activity across the spectrum.
A Kreuzberg institution since its opening in 2008, Chert’s multi-national aspect means that there’s always something of interest on show, from points right across the globe. With a current roster of around ten artists, including Mexico’s Alejandro Almanza Pereda, the British sculptor Carla Scott Fullerton and Swiss experimental installationist Jérémie Gindre, Chert is a small, perfectly formed and consistently rewarding experience.
Chert, Skalitzer Straße 68, 10997 Berlin (030 7544 2118,
www.chert-berlin.com). U1 Schlesisches Tor. Open 12noon-6pm Tue-Sat
Galerie Max Hetzler
A great example of a German success story – Galerie Max Hetzler’s current position as one of the city’s most respected and popular art spaces is the result of decades of careful operation and ambitious, long-running and perfectly balanced exhibitions, drawing on some of the biggest names in European and US contemporary art of the past few decades, as well as foregrounding lesser-known, yet equally deserving names. Based in the under-rated Wedding district since 2007, Max Hetzler’s line-up includes Andre Butzer, Jeff Koons, Mona Hatoum and Glenn Brown. Tending towards longer shows than usual for Berlin, it’s worth a trip up the U6 for a few hours of absorbing browsing.
Galerie Max Hetzler, Oudenarder Straße 16-20, D-13347 Berlin (030 2292 437, www.maxhetzler.com). U9 Nauener Platz. Open 11am-6pm Tue-Sat.
Linienstraße’s Neugerriemschneider – the mouthful of a moniker is inspired by the wedging together of the owners’ surnames – is one to be seen rather than heard. It seems to luck out repeatedly with zeitgeist-snaffling shows. Their Ai Weiwei exhibition in April 2011 coincided with the global outpouring of attention on the bearded genius’ mysterious incarceration in China. Previous highlights have included stunning installations by Olafur Eliasson and in late 2011, stand back and be amazed by Pawel Althamer’s solo show.
Neugerriemschneider, Linienstraße 155, 10115 Berlin (030 2887 7277, www.neugerriemschneider.com). S-bahn Oranienburger Straße
. Open 11am-6pm Tue-Sat.
Contemporary Fine Arts
Bruno Brunnet, Nicole Hackert and Philipp Haverkampf’s Contemporary Fine Arts burst into life back in 1992, in the then achingly hip environs of Charlottenburg. Migrating east in 1996, the gallery currently occupies an impressive site on the Kupfergraben canal, near Museum Island. Tending towards the more down and dirty, punkier end of things, CFA nevertheless features some of the most exciting, younger artists in Berlin at the moment. Recent notable shows include Zhivago Duncan’s ‘Dick Flash’s Souvenirs of Thought’, in which the Berlin-based American artist presented a riot of installation, sculptural anarchy and densely textured graffiti-based pieces. The gallery also represents Romanian-born enfants terrible Gert and Uwe Tobias, whose multifarious practice extends across media and forms from woodcuts to mutant typewriters.
Contemporary Fine Arts, Am Kupfergraben 10, 10117 Berlin (030 288 7870, www.cfa-berlin.de). Open 11am-6pm Tue-Fri; 11am-4pm Sat.
Nestled in between a supermarket and a vast stretch of emptiness off in one corner of Friedrichshain is Autocenter, one of the city’s more idiosyncratic and experimental spaces. Founded in 2001 by Maik Schierloh and Joep van Liefland, Autocenter shows international and local work that stretches boundaries and busts open parameters of possibility in an avowedly non-commercial context. That they are now planning a fund-raising auction of artworks this September – a tempting prospect for any collectors serious about getting their hands on some of the best art shown in the city in recent years – demonstrates their laudable efforts to keep afloat in an increasingly tough, competitive climate.
AUTOCENTER, Eldenaer Straße 34a, 10247 Berlin (www.autocenterart.de). S Bahn Storkower Straße. Open 4-6pm Thur-Sat.
A dynamic, multi-faceted organism, breathing heavily on the Kreuzkölln art scene, Grimmuseum’s calendar of constant surprises makes it an essential stop on any Berlin gallery-crawl. A non-profit artist-run exhibition space, the gallery features an interdisciplinary programme of exhibitions, residencies, performances that run the gamut of contemporary art – including performance and sound art. Since Enrico Centonze opened Grimmuseum in November 2009, it has hosted a number of offbeat and curious events, including the recent ‘Battle of the Curators’ in which two Berlin-based legends, Carson Chan and Aaron Moulton, amicably faced off in a joint group show. (Chan ‘won’, incidentally). This space manages to encapsulate the wild, idealistic, eclectic and witty heart of the Berlin underground art scene with its pluralistic and inspiring attitude.
Grimmuseum, Fichtestraße 2, 10967 Berlin (0157 7519 3878, www.grimmuseum.com). U8 Schönleinstraße. Open 2-7pm Wed-Sun.
Certainly one of the hottest spots in town, Javier Peres’s double-barrelled operation has hit its stride in recent years and is currently bestriding the Berlin scene like a colossus. Recent shows have all been notable: February’s opening night party for actor/artist James Franco’s ‘The Dangerous Book Four Boys’ was one of the wildest nights of the year thus far and more recently, in ‘When I Roll, I Roll Deep’, New Zealander Pete Wheeler’s mighty, dark canvases made for a deeply-thrilling experience. With the likes of the late Dash Snow, Terence Koh, John Kleckner and Bruce LaBruce all showing at Peres’s Mitte and Kreuzberg locations, this gallery is one riotous, maverick worth keeping an eye on.
Peres Projects, Schlesisches Straße 26, Kruezberg 10997 Berlin (030 6162 6962, www.peresprojects.com). U1 Schlesische Tor. Peres Projects, Große Hamburger Straße 17, Mitte 10115 Berlin (030 275950770, www.peresprojects.com). S-bahn Oranienburger Straße. Open (both locations) 11am-6pm
A recent addition to the Berlin art landscape, this lavishly appointed 1,000-sq m space in Mitte occupies what was formerly the State Mint. The gallery has an agenda that seeks to examine points of interface between media and forms. Shows are rigorously curated and intriguingly conceptualised and promise to bridge the gaps between art, design, sculpture and installation as well as digital media. It’s an intellectual haven, where multiple lines of enquiry coalesce with fascinating results.
Direktorenhaus, Am Krögel 2, 10179 Berlin (030 2759 5586, www.direktorenhaus.com). U2 Klosterstraße. Open 12noon-6.30pm Wed-Fri.
This Mitte-based powerhouse celebrates a decade of activity this year, in which time it has become a key player on the contemporary art scene. While the gallery tends to favour new media, it draws on a worldwide cabal of artists. DNA’s summer 2011 show, perfectly articulates all that is weird, wonderful and downright wild about this gallery – Tatsumi Orimoto’s ‘LIFE + REALITY’ is an intriguing, possibly unsettling, ongoing documentation of the artist’s relationship with his elderly mother.
DNA, Auguststraße 20, 10117 Berlin (030 2859 9652, www.dna-galerie.de). Open 11am-6pm Tue-Sat.
Gordon VeneKlasen and Michael Werner’s splendid white cube, on Rudi-Dutschke-Straße on the Mitte/Kreuzberg border, is one of Berlin’s most fascinating spaces. Launched in 2009, it’s the brainchild of Michael Werner, a legend of the German art scene whose first Berlin gallery opened in 1963, and Gordon VeneKlasen, his former New York gallery director. An avowedly experimental institution, from the outset the gallery made it clear what it wanted to achieve – the high hit-rate of exhibiting artists from around the world, the tiny cinema, the in-house bar, talks, screenings and notorious parties brought a touch of Stateside ambition and panache to Berlin’s art scene. The exhibition in summer 2011, ‘MoDiMiDoFrSaSo’, presented work by one of Berlin’s most interesting artists, Klaus Jörres, alongside Belgian Harold Ancart and Italian Nico Vascellari – and was one of the highlights of the summer programmes around town.
VW (VeneKlasen/Werner) Rudi-Dutschke-Straße 26, 10969 Berlin (030 8161 60418, www.vwberlin.com). U2 Kochstraße. Open 11am-6pm Tue-Sat.
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