In Plane Sight


Left: Tempelhof gala. Right: Gallery Weekend Berlin director Maike Cruse and dealer Alexander Schroeder. (All photos: Allese Thomson)

THE CLOSING GALA for the tenth anniversary of Gallery Weekend Berlin was held last Saturday at the Flughafen Tempelhof, an airport designed in 1923 that was later renovated by Albert Speer as part of his reconstruction of Berlin as a symbol of Hitler’s “Germania.” Sir Norman Foster called it “the mother of all airports,” and during the Cold War, it acted as a lifeline to West Berlin and a hub for American military aircraft. When it finally closed to air traffic in 2008, Ronald Lauder proposed having Richard Meier turn it into a luxury clinic and plastic surgery compound, where patients could park their jets and spend the week receiving treatment. Berliners fought the plan, and the space now remains empty most of the time, except on nights like this, when it lights up for large and lavish events.

The cocktail reception was held on the tarmac next to a plane. Halfway through, GWB director Maike Cruse and two well-suited men stepped out its door and onto an airstair, beaming and waving at the sea of guests below.

“Did you see Maike’s red dress? Amazing, shoulder pads—she looked just like Hillary Clinton,” exclaimed Galerie Buchholz’s Filippo Weck to Art Basel director Marc Spiegler. We were sitting with Portikus curator Sophie von Olfers and dealers Alexander Schroeder, Alex Zachary, Gigiotto Del Vecchio, Peter Currie, and Stefania Palumbo at a table on a balcony overlooking the airport’s Brobdingnagian hall filled with severe Neoclassical columns and tables dressed in starch white linen.

“It’s all quite literal,” someone added.

Left: Dealer Tanya Leighton. Right: Portikus curator Sophie von Olfers and Art Basel director Marc Spiegler.

For those who travel the international art circuit, dining in velvet gowns and satin jackets next to a baggage claim and tarmac is an irony-rich experience, airports being a haven of tax shelters and, increasingly, art storage. They are also, like fairs, seemingly liminal, nationless nonplaces. Larry Gagosian thematized this two years ago during a dinner at FIAC, though his event, which took place at a private airport surrounded by four jets, seemed less self-conscious, an unapologetic expression of global empire.

Earlier that day, I met Liam Gillick for a cappuccino outside a weathered bar in Mitte. The problem with quasi-public/quasi-private nonplaces, he said, like airports or lobbies, is that they make discussion itself a commodity. “It’s the site where romance and surveillance intersect, which makes it dangerous. This is where the term lobbyist came from.” Taking Richard Hamilton’s 1968 film The Critic Laughs as a starting point, Gillick’s exhibition included an installation of streamlined, functionless Plexiglas sculptures that sometimes framed or occluded tender but pernicious dialogue written on the walls.

“It breaks my heart a bit,” Peter Currie said of “Homo,” a series of found photographs featured in Lutz Bacher’s debut at Daniel Buchholz; they spoke to surveillance of a different kind. The images depicted three Greek soldiers during World War II sharing a cigarette on a wharf, smiling softly at one another on benches, wandering in early morning light through narrow streets. Nearby, the first few pages of Bacher’s forthcoming book Shit for Brains seemed to point at something greater than itself:


Left: Artist Pae White. Right: Dealers Darragh Hogan and Esther Schipper, artist Liam Gillick, curator Piper Marshall, and e-flux’s Julieta Aranda.

On Friday night, Esther Schipper and Neugerriemschneider held a joint dinner at Pauly Saul for Gillick and Pae White. The event brimmed with artists, curators, and collectors—mostly European, a few South American. I sat next to the granddaughter of collector Marianne Langen of the Langen Foundation in Düsseldorf and two collectors from Spain. The conversation quickly turned to favorite exhibitions—Julian Beck at Supportico Lopez, Friedrich Kuhn and Robert and Trix Haussmann at Tanya Leighton, Katinka Bock at Meyer Riegger, Björn Dahlem at Galerie Guido W. Baudach, and Richard Wright at BQ. On top of a few lists was Katja Novitskova at Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, whose exhibition “Spirit, Curiosity, and Opportunity” was named after NASA’s robotic Martian rovers. “Conspiracy theories are a way of finding information,” Novitskova told me as we stood in front of a film set located in a photography studio in the same building as the gallery. “But it’s also a basic human instinct.”

Across town, Ned Vena premiered black-and-white target paintings at Société. He covered the floors with industrial rubber, and the smell was so pungent that it was difficult to think about anything but the senses. We shared a cigarette before jumping in a car with director Daniel Wichelhaus to attend Dances for the Electric Piano, a sold-out performance by Cory Arcangel at the Berliner Philharmonie. There, Hampus Lindwall hammered out octaves in a tuxedo, until the hour-long performance became a meditative drone. Curator Julie Boukobza said that it was like watching a life take shape in music.

Left: Dealer Stefania Palumbo. Right: Dealers Daniel Buchholz and Peter Currie.

“They’re building a castle across from the Schinkel,” artist and Schinkel Pavilion director Nina Pohl informed me matter-of-factly as we zipped in and out of traffic, heading toward the space to catch Camille Henrot’s latest exhibition the next day.

“For what?”

“Precisely—there is no purpose. Decoration.”

Inside the Schinkel, Henrot presented an iteration of her ongoing ikebana series, “Is it Possible to Be a Revolutionary and Like Flowers?” Facing onto the historic Kronprinzenpalais garden, texts engage the burgeoning development beyond—castles with no function, luxury apartment towers with oversize foyers: TO RETURN TO THE SOURCE, ONE SHOULD GO IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION.

This all came to mind later on Saturday night after the big gala dinner, en route to a Boychild performance hosted by Isabella Bortolazzi at Chesters, a former sex club in Kreuzberg where couches used to hang from the ceilings and people were once instructed to strip before entering. The line outside was absurdly long.

Left: Artist Cory Arcangel and musician Hampus Lindwall. Right: Dealer Nadine Zeidler and artist Katja Novitskova.

“But the art people are still at the airport?” asked a friend. We had left the vast space just before dessert.

“The art people aren’t getting in,” someone said, and it was a relief when a friend from the gallery came to retrieve us.

Just past midnight, Wu Tsang and the performer of the moment pushed through the crowd. Boychild, her eyes blacked-out with contacts, climbed onto the stage and stripped off her shirt. Tsang took to the DJ booth and began to play hard and slow electric beats; the dark room flooded with fog and blue light and the crowd went silent. Boychild emerged from the mist, covered in iridescent powder that accentuated where her breasts curved over her muscular stomach and fell out toward sculpted shoulders. She moved slowly, quivering, shuddering, as if to convulse was to dance.

“Did you see the Jana Euler painting at Galerie Neu’s new space?” Nicolas Trembley asked in the cab ride home.

“Incredible,” said collector Josef Dalle Nogare. The work—which features a disorienting, impossible spatial composition—depicts a nude figure squished into one half of a sparse room, painting breasts and a penis on a “wall” that bisects the canvas. It stared curiously at the parts—perhaps its own? If those bodily parts acted as a symbol of some other, more sensuous realm, it was one that in the delirium of all these “nonspaces” seemed banished to the imagination, to be painted and not built.

“That one image sums up this entire week.”

Allese Thomson

Left: Jana Euler, Untitled 2, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 43 3/4 x 57". Right: Dealer Isabella Bortolazzi.

Left: Curator Nicholas Trembly (left). Right: Artists Jeanette Mundt and Ned Vena with dealer Daniel Wichelhaus.

Left: Artist Tom Burr and Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien director Karola Kraus. Right: Artists Boychild and Wu Tsang.

Left: Peephole director Vincenzo de Bellis (left), curator Abaseh Mirvali, and Mousse magazine editor in chief Edoardo Bonaspetti. Right: Artist Marco Brambilla.

Left: Chef Rose Singh with collectors Peter Handschin and Martin Hatebur. Right: Artist and Schinkel Pavilion director Nina Pohl.

Left: Udolpho’s Margherita zu Hohenlohe. Right: Galerie Neu’s Marta Fontolan.

Left: Artist Hugh Scott-Douglas and dealer Anastasia Lenglet. Right: Curator Julie Boukobza.