Weekend Warriors


Left: Museum Ludwig director Kasper König. Right: Artist Thomas Hirschhorn. (All photos: Hannah Dübgen)

It was a wingding of a weekend in Berlin, with collectors running around the city to endless events, openings, and parties in (at least until Saturday evening) Barcelona-like weather. Organized by a collective of twenty-nine Berlin galleries, Gallery Weekend Berlin is a clever alternative to the art fair: Instead of sellers flying their wares to some cavernous hall or beached container, buyers fly to Berlin and check out the art displayed in situ at the galleries—a commercial version of site specificity, if you will.

Celebrations started late last Thursday with Coco Kühn and Constanze Kleiner's presentation of their vision for a temporary kunsthalle in Berlin, a white cube designed by Krischanitz & Frank. For this virtual exhibition, held in the colonnade of the Altes Museum (Berlin’s first newly built museum, designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel and completed in 1828), guest curator Gerald Matt from Vienna Kunsthalle paired the otherwise-incompatible Candice Breitz and Franz Ackermann. Krischanitz and Frank’s kunsthalle plan rivals the cloud-shaped design proposed by the architecture firm Graft and backed by art magazine Monopol. Cube or cloud? It may not matter as much as whether Erich Marx makes good on his threat to pull his private collection out of Hamburger Bahnhof, so that the venerable institution might actually function as the public kunsthalle it was meant to be.

Left: Neugerriemschneider's Burkhard Riemschneider and dealer Martin Klosterfelde. Right: Artist Christian Jankowski.

On Friday, I started out at Yngve Holen and Kilian Rüthemann’s outdoor public-sculpture project, organized by Caroline Eggel at the corner of Torstrasse and Bergstrasse, before heading over to Café Moskau to catch Luca Cerizza’s super low-key group show “The Importance of Not Being Seen.” This soon became the name of my game, as I tried to honor three dinner invitations without being noticed leaving early (and arriving late). Armed with an empty stomach and good excuses, I decided to do appetizers at the party held by Max Hetzler for artists Darren Almond and Christopher Wool at Malatesta. The next stop: a main course of asparagus, at a dinner hosted by dealer Esther Schipper at the aging ballroom in Clarchen’s Ballhaus, where Tino Sehgal’s Kiss was performed for the Berlin Biennial. I was having a great conversation with Le Plateau director Caroline Bourgeois—a lady so charming that Sotheby's would make a tidy profit by auctioning the seats around her—when I remembered that dessert was being served at neugerriemschneider gallery’s party for Franz Ackermann. Fortunately, I just missed the Brazilian dancers, who reportedly wore pasties and shimmied to boom-boom beats among the dazed guests and the dripping candles. Ackermann’s show was called “From Eden to Lima,” but I guess Brazil is somewhere near both.

Saturday afternoon, I ran into Kasper König smoking cigarettes outside the Zimmerstrasse gallery compound. “So are you just an art critic, or do you have another job on the side?” asked König, posing a question I don’t even get from cab drivers. “And how about you? Does that Museum Ludwig gig pay you enough?“ I responded. ”Or are you schlumping on the side to make ends meet?” “Oh no,” he said. “I'm a civil servant,” as if that would explain everything. Much later, his son, gallerist Johann König, assured me that Kasper was doing fine, what with his work for the Skulptur Projekte Münster.

Left: Artists Danh Vo and Michael Elmgreen. Right: Dealers Annette and Rudolf Kicken.

For a complete change of pace, I tried to get into Thomas Hirschhorn’s talk for his show at Arndt & Partner, but the room was too crowded. After a quick tour of the Kochstrasse gallery shows (Francesco Clemente at Jablonka Gallery being one worth mentioning), I headed over to the Neue Nationalgalerie, where Klosterfelde was unveiling Christian Jankowski's bronze statues of Barcelona street mimes—a reversal of their attempts to present flesh as metal.

The weekend's Big Event was held that night at Grill Royal—a restaurant cofinanced by local picture framer Stefan Landwehr and Neu cogallerist Thilo Warnke—where more than 450 guests gathered in the sprawling lounge bar on the Spree River. We had to wait in line to get in—what a shock! While we debated the pros and cons of Gallery Weekend, Göran Christenson, the very busy director of the Malmö Museum, said, “It’s better than an art fair because of the presentation of the artists. Instead of a booth, you get a view of the artist and the gallery.” Matthias Arndt agreed, pointing out that visitors could “meet the work in its habitat.” Dr. Arend Oetker, the collector, begged to differ. “There’s no substitute for an art fair. In one day you can see everything,” he said, frustrated that the queue we stood in—and perhaps Gallery Weekend in general—was such a chronophage.

As I moved through the crowd, I started to think that time—simply spending time in one place, with a drink or without—might be the newest status symbol. Indeed, the value of time was on everyone’s minds: When gallerist Nicholas Logsdail pondered the possibility of a similar weekend in London, he noted, “The logistics of Berlin are different. It takes more time to get around London.” And Miami collector Robert Moss, on his first visit to Berlin, had only good words about the weather, the people, and the art: “We've not had ten bad minutes this entire time.” That must be a record—if not for the world, then certainly for Berlin.

Jennifer Allen

Left: Collectors Louis Negre and Harald Wolf. Right: Artist Heinz Peter Knes.

Left: Artist Joe Bradley with dealer Javier Peres. Right: Curator Alessandra Pace with dealer Paul Maenz.

Left: Dealer Max Hetzler with a friend. Right: Artist Stefan Hirsig.

Left: Artist Heribert C. Ottersbach with dealer Maren Elison. Right: Artist Jitka Hanzlová.