Capitol Infusion


Left: Cerith Wyn Evans, Bojan Sarcevic, and Tino Sehgal. Right: Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and Carsten Höller.

Why bother plying your wares at yet another art fair when you can simply fly your best customers in for a gallery visit? That was the novel idea behind BERLIN 2005. Twenty-one Berlin galleries—from Arndt & Partner to Galerie Barbara Weiss—invited their favorite collectors and curators for a long weekend of openings, dinners, and parties in “the city where today's most unique art is created.”

Since Sunday was the sixtieth anniversary of VE Day, World War II was on many minds, yet the weekend’s art extravaganza recalled the 1948-49 Luftbrücke (airlift), bringing collectors instead of bread. “Berlin is short on buyers, so we were happy to fly in and help out,“ said one altruistic American, who also used the weekend to acquire real estate. ”Apartments are nothing compared to London and New York. No wonder so many artists are living here."

Indeed, artists abounded at all the gallery stops during Friday's tour, although Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset were no-shows at their installation in Klosterfelde's original location in the Mitte district, the Chelsea of Berlin. The gallery—whose front and back walls were torn down for the occasion—had been transformed into a private courtyard passage, sealed with an iron fence.

When I later found the duo a few streets away at Pony, offering everyone drinks on the house, they likened their intervention to an American gated community: “That’s the new Mitte,” said Ingar. At least we can still smoke.

Off to Esther Schipper's dinner at Maxwell's: I ended up sitting with Karsten Höller, just a few seats away from guest of honor Carsten Höller (the first Höller’s doppelgänger, or was it the other way round?), who'd flown in from Stockholm to do the inaugural show in Schipper's revamped, expanded space. Thomas Demand was on hand to unravel the mysteries of my new digital camera.

“I can't believe I can do everything with one finger!”

“How many fingers do you want to use?” he asked.

“Ten—like on the keyboard.”

Left: Johann König with Franz. Middle: Thomas Demand. Right: Ingar Dragset and Michael Elmgreen.

As night turned into morning at Münz Club and Weekend, I kept thinking: Maybe critics use too many fingers. . . . The next evening’s gala dinner inside the Museum für Kommunication mixed visitors with locals like Thomas Scheibitz, Angela Bulloch, Jeppe Hein and Simon Starling. Janet Cardiff, Mona Hatoum and Arturo Herrara, like many former DAAD fellows, have turned into permanent Berlin residents. One or ten fingers, I must have been doing something right: Even Tino Sehgal posed for me.

I sat with arts benefactor Dr. Oetker, who bemoaned Berlin’s financial crisis, and Kasper König, who kept leaving to smoke with Isa Genzken. Cerith Wyn Evans wandered by wearing a diamond ring that did not quite fit on his pinky. (“An admirer,” he shrugged.) While John Bock shaped his napkin into body parts, mostly male, we discussed the tragic fate of Bunny, the rabbit star of one of his videos.

“I can't believe you ate him!” I winced. “I’m never working with you.”

“Well, I made a few paintings with his poo first.”

“But he had such presence on screen.”

“He was better on the plate.”

You think that was barbaric... The next day, neo-Nazis, who had unsuccessfully tried to ruin the May 8 celebrations with a march, managed to elude police guard and break into the gutted GDR parliament building, the Palast der Republik. That put an end to Lars Ramberg's tour of his site-specific installation, ZWEIFEL (Doubt, 2005).

After making my way through the police barricades, I met up with Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and headed over to Angela Bulloch's studio for Beelitzer asparagus. Die-hard music fans came to Bastard later for an invigorating concert by Red Krayola. I stood beside André Butzer, whose expression did not change once during the entire performance. What concentration!

Afterwards, Cerith wandered by, sans ring. “What happened?” “A temporary thing,” he smiled. Judging from the weekend’s many exchanges—of art, contacts, and even apartments—collectors and curators’ affairs with Berlin will have more longevity. Who knows? Maybe the art fair–with its UN-style internationalism—will soon seem as quaint as the phrase “multilateral action.”

Left: Cerith Wyn Evans and Dominique Gonzalez Foerster. Right: Carsten Höller's installation.

Left: Mona Hatoum and Arturo Herrera. Right: The Red Krayola.