AT THE START OF Gallery Weekend Berlin late last month, I found myself sprinting through the streets of Neukölln. This might come as no surprise—after all, we’re in the middle of 2017’s art marathon. But this was different, and having run three blocks to try to catch the man who had just stolen my wallet, kind strangers joining my chase along the way, we cornered him in the toilet of a kneipe (a German bar) and I was reunited with my booty. A good beginning.
There was no time to celebrate, though, as I headed to the other side of town for the launch of “Robert Motherwell Masterprints” at Kunsthalle Koidl in Charlottenburg: With his own etching and lithography press, Motherwell produced more than five hundred prints in his lifetime. The official Gallery Weekend Berlin opening gala was held in Mitte at Barenboim-Said Akademie, Berlin’s new concert hall, where we listened to a Stravinsky rendition with clarinet and piano, guests sitting in the round. Outside, I spoke to the KW Institute’s director Krist Gruijthuijsen, whose four-day Anthony McCall installation had been mounted specially for the weekend, and Art Basel global director Marc Spiegler, in town for his tenth consecutive Gallery Weekend Berlin: “Fairs are all about encouraging people to visit the galleries,” he said, “so this is the perfect synergy.”
Ready to feast, I went straight to Sprüth Magers’s dinner at Chipperfield Kanteen, where collectors included Karen Boros and Justin O’Shea, who has just launched his new menswear brand, SSS World Corp. Having congratulated artist Pamela Rosenkranz on her olfactory exhibition, which reproduces the (surprisingly pleasant) scent of cat pheromones, I sat next to former associate curator at the Art Fund, Emma Enderby, who is in the midst of a new curatorial venture that, for now, remains under wraps. As we ate perfectly cooked steak, a school canteen atmosphere erupted when a plate crashed to the floor and clattered down an entire staircase, with whoops, applause, and table-drumming. Not quite ready for bed, I found the energy for a quick nightcap at Duve Berlin’s after party, held at a very smoky kneipe in celebration of Maximilian Arnold’s solo exhibition “A Deep Scrub,” where pastel pink and green powder pigments are amassed on the gallery’s floor.
After a breakfast meeting with artists Chris Petit and Christopher Roth at Café Einstein, yet more food awaited at Berlin’s famous Paris Bar—adorned with works by Martin Kippenberger and others—for Tanya Leighton and Max Mayer’s joint lunch. Drowning my spargel in hollandaise sauce, I chatted with Starship Magazine’s Ariane Müller about her fascination with Marie Curie, collector Alireza Abrishamchi about the death—or not—of painting, and artist collective Studio for Propositional Cinema about their recent experience of witnessing a strangely romantic car crash in Rome. With an hour to see exhibitions in Charlottenburg, Neumeister Bar-Am’s new video animation by Micah Hesse was a highlight, depicting fetishized arrangements of firearms to strong political effect.
With the main participating gallery openings taking place that evening—nearly fifty spaces!—I joined the bustling crowds moving through Schöneberg, where notable photography shows included Zanele Muholi at Wentrup and Irmel Kamp at Galerie Thomas Fischer. Perhaps the largest exhibition was Anri Sala’s “Take Over,” a vast sculpture/video installation that launched Esther Schipper’s new gallery space on Potsdammer Strasse, while across town at Galerie Thomas Schulte, Michael Muller’s sculptures were interspersed with naked bodies in a fashion show with a difference.
A dinner hosted by Daniel Marzona, PSM, and Žak Branicka was accompanied by the ambient music of artist Robert Kuśmirowski, whose handmade instruments incorporate typewriters, bicycle wheels, and a writing desk. Revelers later went to either Tanya Leighton’s party at Acud or König Galerie’s all-nighter at superclub Berghain, but I headed to Wedding’s new project space gr_und, where music by Berlin’s Nettodog inspired late-night Kate Bush–style dancing amid the green lasers.
Saturday: gallery day, all day. In Kreuzberg, Anselm Reyle’s suspended geometric sculptures filled König’s vast halls, while wooden penises, breasts, and erotic literature entertained visitors to Kasia Fudakowski’s “Double Standards: A Sexhibitions” at ChertLüdde. Thomas Schütte’s colorful clay, bronze, and glass sculptures at carlier | gebauer were a delight, as were the gridded 1970s drawings by Teresa Burga at Galerie Barbara Thumm. Meanwhile, Ariel Schlesinger’s Untitled (Bubble Machine) featured soap bubbles bursting into balls of fire at Galerija Gregor Podnar. Not able to take advantage of the black BMW shuttle service that was available for collectors, I hopped on my bike toward Andreas Slominski’s show at Galerie Neu, where a sculpture of a portaloo emerged from just above the gallery entrance, seemingly ready to shower visitors.
The official Gallery Weekend Berlin dinner took place that evening at Funkhaus—formerly East Berlin’s central radio station. A specially organized boat sailed us past the East’s abandoned Spreepark (an amusement park closed in the early 2000s when 180 kg of cocaine was discovered inside one of the attractions). The meal for more than one thousand attendees was impressive in scale and ambition, with guests including collector Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, tenth Berlin Biennale curator Gabi Ngcobo, and Berlin Biennale director Gabriele Horn enjoying veal and truffles. Some dancing ensued . . . and that’s about all I can remember. (Note: There was champagne.)
The sun finally emerged Sunday after days of gray. Bathed in light, Ali Altin gave a talk at Weiss Berlin and Adam Pendleton poetically recited his text “Black Dada” at the KW. I was about to collapse, but I mustered just enough energy to visit Neukölln’s beautifully titled project space Horse & Pony Fine Arts (a former butcher), where artists OMSK Social Club and Silas Perry had returned from residencies in Zürich and Japan, respectively, to take part in curator Geo-Vanna Gonzalez’s exhibition “A New Prescription for Insomnia.” Not that I needed any help falling asleep when my head finally hit the pillow that night.