A Guide to Berlin Art Week Assembled By 9 of the City’s Most Plugged-In Curators

This year’s annual Berlin Art Week is ready to open around the German capital. In a year marred by cancelations, the decentralized event is one of the few dates on the art calendar that has not been moved or erased completely.

With a truly wide-ranging schedule of shows that occur at small project spaces, private collections, and even a nightclub, it can sometimes be hard to know where to head first. That’s why we decided to ask those who probably know best.

Below, nine talented Berlin-based curators tell us which exhibition they are most looking forward to seeing next week and why it’s worth a look.

Övül Ö. Durmusoglu and Joanna Warsza, Autostrada Biennale co-curators

PICK: “Aby Warburg: Bilderatlas Mnemosyne” at Haus der Kulturen der Welt and “Studio Berlin” at Berghain

“Aby Warburg: Bilderatlas Mnemosyne – The Original.” at Haus der Kulturen der Welt. Installation view. © Silke Briel / HKW

“In the 1920s, the historian of art and culture Aby Warburg created his Bilderatlas Mnemosyne, tracing recurring visual themes and patterns across time, from antiquity to the Renaissance to contemporary culture, setting a new understanding of art history. His way of reading and connecting images over epochs, geographies, cultures, and civilizations is still one of the richest sources for visual and media studies.

This exhibition, realized in collaboration with the Warburg Institute in London, creates a very special occasion that brings together all panels of Warburg’s unfinished magnum opus for the first time after his death. It is a must-see for everyone who is intrigued with reimagining the world.

Equally, Berghain has been the place bringing many scenes together in Berlin and it has been deeply missed by many in the city since its closure in March due to COVID-19 measures. The club has been engaged with realizing different visual projects before, but so far “Studio Berlin” will be the most expanded project to take place at the large former power facility, with around 80 artists involved. We will see how site-specificity will acquire new meanings in this project devoted to Berlin artists.”

Fabian Schöneich, Curator

PICK: Lerato Shadi’s “Maru a Pula Is a Song of Happiness” at KINDL – Zentrum für zeitgenössische Kunst

Lerato Shadi’s Lefa Le (2019). Photo: dewil.ch (cc by-nc-nd), 2019. Courtesy Kindl zentrum für zeitgenössische kunst.

“I am excited to see the exhibition of Lerato Shadi at the KINDL – Zentrum für zeitgenössische Kunst. Shadi works primarily with performance and in her works negotiates established systems of suppression and exclusion.

So far, I only know the video work Mabogo Dinku (2019). In this piece you can see a hand gesturally moving back and forth. Shadi is singing a verse of a folk song in Setswana, her mother tongue. The song talks about the history of her people, who were excluded during apartheid and whose history is lost in the history of the colonizers.

This is one of the reasons why she does not use a translation or subtitles. She refuses to accept the western system of historiography and language. I look forward to seeing more works and learning more from her.”

Sam Bardaouil, 16th Lyon Biennale co-curator and affiliate curator, Gropius Bau

Shoufay Derz, not this, not that. Installation view, Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin. Photo: David Brandt

“To learn about some dynamic positions slightly far from the gallery crowds, I strongly recommend a visit to Künstlerhaus Bethanien, an artist-in-residence program with workspaces for professional artists and exhibition spaces. Their current exhibition provides insights into five diverse practices featuring installations by a selection of their 2020 resident artists: Yang Chi-Chuan, Rie Nagai, Shoufay Derz, Katsuhiko Matsubara, and Yurika Sunada.

Yang has produced ceramic works, which take their shapes and colors from climbing gyms and discarded items of trash. Nagai created a series of paintings that evoke her experience of Berlin’s night life. Derz presents over 24 photographic prints and a new video work, deriving from her Loving the Alien performance/project. Matubara is showing 15 large-scale canvases comprised of thick layers of vibrantly hued oil paint, provoking a visceral reaction in their audience. Sunada’s installation features a slowly moving spot-lit sphere made from curved lengths of shiny steel, reflective of her experience of time during lockdown in Berlin.”

Lisa Long, Curator, Julia Stoschek Collection

Vivian Suter, studio view, Panajachel, Guatemala, 2018. Courtesy of the Artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York/Brussels; House of Gaga; Karma International; and Proyectos Ultravioleta. Photo: David Regen

“I am excited to see Vivian Suter’s exhibition at Brücke Museum. The building and interior, especially the carpets, are very particular and I’m keen to see how Suter positions her works amongst the collection, a selection made by her mother, artist Elisabeth Wild. Collages by Wild will also be in the show, and in my mind this proposes a matriarchal lineage counter to [and inserted] amongst Kirchner, Nolde, Schmidt-Rottluff, Heckel, Müller, Pechstein, and Kaus.”

Ellen Blumenstein, Curator, Artistic Director Imagine the City, Hamburg

Michael Müller’s studio, 2020. Photo: Marco Funke. © Courtesy the artist and Galerie Thomas Schulte, Berlin

“Michael Müller is clearly unstoppable: Having started his career in the medium of drawing, he spent the last decade or so creating ever more complex conceptual installations crisscrossing all artistic genres, from meticulous mega-drawings to seemingly casual scribblings, from ready-made sculptures to artisanal objects, from scripted audio plays to ambitious sci-fi animations.

This insatiable tour through artistic strategies, all of which he champions brilliantly, arrives at a new chapter: this is his first exhibition focusing on painting. One could quite rightly call this hunger for peeing on every tree presumptuous. But just as well one could follow this highly inquisitive, inventive, and clairvoyant mind expediting art way beyond what one usually gets to see.”

“I am very much looking forward to seeing the works of indigenous Canadian artist Walter Scott, presented at the project space Ashley Berlin [full disclosure: Artnet News’s EU Editor Kate Brown is a co-organizer of the show]. I’ve been following his constructed character ‘Wendy’ for some time now; it chronicles the adventurous and tiresome reality of a young woman artist placed into a sinister, satirical, funny, and true-to-life version of today’s contemporary art world. I thought about Wendy last week when someone said that sometimes the art world can be the worst mixture of exhausting and boring at the same time. I’m excited to see how his long-term investigation into the character of Wendy and her narrative translates into a spatial setting and how this is embedded in his larger practice that looks at questions of representation and narrative construction.”

Nadim Samman, Curator at KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin

Katrín Inga Jónsdóttir Hjördísardóttir, still from performance, LAND SELF LOVE – your self is land of love (2020) at Gallery Gudmundsdottir. Courtesy the artist and Gallery Gudmundsdottir, Berlin.

“I’m looking forward to seeing Katrín Inga Jónsdóttir’s solo at the newly established Gallery Gudmundsdottir in Mitte. The exact location of this dealer’s space is a secret—their address is given out only on request, but I can say that it is in an old air raid shelter. Gudmundsdottir’s all-female roster of mostly Icelandic artists is a breath of fresh air for this town, and I’m expecting something energetic and kinky from Katrin.”

Tomke Braun, Curator Kunstverein Göttingen

Benedikte Bjerre “My Dream Is Longer Than The Night.” Courtesy the artist and Goeben.

“What draws me to Benedikte Bjerre’s work is her bold approach to materials and everyday objects. The Copenhagen-based artist claims My Dream Is Longer Than The Night in an exhibition at Goeben that promises to emerge from a state of mind many involuntarily inhabit in our current situation. Having previously dealt with how overconsumption increasingly disconnects time and space, the recycled reality of dreams marks a new chapter in her practice. With tongue in cheek while questioning socioeconomic conditions, Bjerre expands her sculptures into an installation inviting visitors to encounter an animated and outraged air circulation system.”

Berlin Art Week is opening from September 9 through 13 around the city. For more information about the official program, see their website.

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