From Bratwurst to Bulgari

Gallery Weekend Berlin dinner at the Postbahnhof. (All photos unless otherwise noted: Louisa Elderton)

THEY SAY YOU CAN’T DO IT ALL. When it came to the fourteenth edition of Gallery Weekend Berlin and the second iteration of ArtMonte-Carlo—both of which opened on April 27 and ran until April 29—I did as much as I could. The organizers of the latter attempted a collaboration, ferrying collectors between the two sites via private jet and helicopter—not very Berlin, but very Monte Carlo. The idea was to coax the most coveted collectors from Monaco’s principality to Germany’s capital and vice versa. Not a bad idea given Berlin’s desire to entice the international elite.

The New York Times hosted the Art Leaders Network conference in Berlin that week, one of the many happenings that were drawn into the madness of the city’s festival. An out-of-touch article from the vaunted paper reported “cheap space” for artists in the city (cheap, perhaps, for the stars referenced, such as Ai Weiwei and Sean Scully). The reality is that real estate prices have skyrocketed—last year saw a 21 percent increase—while less than one tenth of Berlin’s artists can actually live from selling their art. According to a recent report, male artists in the city make about $13,750 per year, while women earn closer to $9,895 annually—the gender pay gap is alive and real.

One woman making headway in the arts is Stephanie Rosenthal, who recently became the director of Gropius Bau. The museum’s current exhibition, “Covered in Time and History: The Films of Ana Mendieta,” celebrates twenty-three of the late Cuban American artist’s films, which have been recently restored and digitized. I joyfully soaked these works up before heading to Claudia Comte’s press view at König Galerie. The space, a refurbished church, was filled with a forest of trees installed by the artist, gently charred to reveal their rings. Downstairs was an exhibition of the obscure Pop artist Evelyne Axell, whose bright paintings depict women as silhouettes, with a few works that look like tropical paint-by-numbers. While championing women artists, it was disappointing that König’s “Happy Endings” party, organized in collaboration with the men’s fashion blog Dandy Diary, featured a tiger penetrating a woman on the invitation wristband. There were also several masseuses hired for the venue, an Asian restaurant. Many people boycotted, including me. No time for tigers—I’m busy having sex with humans, thanks.

View of “Leda Bourgogne: Skinless,” 2018, at BQ Gallery.

I did make time to see Leda Bourgogne’s compelling show “Skinless” at the gallery BQ. It featured a series of corporeal sculptures and canvases that integrated boxing gloves, zippers as mouths, and poems made from chewing gum squashed onto the floor. I then hauled ass to the airport for my Monte Carlo flight (yes, this writer wants to do it all—except tigers).

When I arrived, the Prince of Monaco had just pulled up to the exhibition center for ArtMonte-Carlo (plate number MCO 1) and was standing in the lobby with Thomas Hug, the fair’s director; Marie-Claude Beaud, director of the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco; and Cristiano Raimondi, the museum’s head of development (who, by the way, I had spotted in a hanging basket at the fair’s yacht garage party, with Dakis Joannou’s Jeff Koons–designed yacht docked outside). The fair itself was refreshingly small in scale, with excellent quality modern and contemporary works. Galleries included Franco Noero, who was there with sculptures by Tunga (primordial-looking platters made of crystal, resin, and ceramic), and Michael Werner, with some exceptional portraits by Francis Picabia and Sigmar Polke’s painting Color Sample for Venice—Durer Loop, 1986, made with “graphite in spirit lacquer.” The standout booth belonged to Robilant + Voena, which had on display numerous Lucio Fontana ceramic Concetto Spaziale (Space Concept) pieces from the 1950s and 1960s. The Breeder, from Athens, showcased Zoë Paul, who completed a nearly twenty-foot-long curtain work for the contemporary art center Spike Island in the UK. Later, curator Célia Bernasconi gave me a tour of Latifa Echakhch’s excellent show at the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco. The artist’s films reinterpret the museum’s remarkable collection of automata—some of the shimmying machines were even at the fair.

Dakis Joannou’s Jeff Koons–designed yacht.

I came back to Berlin on a Friday night, when most of the city’s galleries had scheduled their openings and dinners. I joined the throngs on Potsdamer Platz to catch Becky Beasley’s mordantly titled “Alcoholic Depressive Mother” at Galeria Plan B. The show featured works from the artist’s 2009 “Brocken” series: black walnut planks based on her father’s (sometimes loving, sometimes threatening) arm span. I also admired Danny McDonald’s assemblages of Americana at Isabella Bortolozzi Galerie. The launch of the nonprofit space PS120 had hipsters sipping drinks on the venue’s giant terrace, while inside, works by Rosemarie Trockel and Joan Jonas sat next to newly commissioned pieces by young artists, including Olu Ogunnaike. PS120’s director, Justin Polera, who wanted to envision a different gallery model for the city, found the superb site through his realtor husband, Henryk Kabatteck. Party people from the reception then headed over to the smoky haunt Ku’damm Karree, a nightclub-pub in a shopping mall, from which I heard some people left at 8 AM. Who needs yachts when you have, um, shots?

Artist Danny McDonald with one of his works at Isabella Bortolozzi Galerie.

Saturday and Sunday catapulted me from Charlottenburg to Kreuzberg (a few days before May Day, when the area explodes with anarchists and police). Faith Ringgold at Weiss Berlin got my vote as the best show of the weekend. Also extraordinary was Louise Bourgeois’s “The Empty House” at Schinkel Pavillon, an astonishing selection of works from the last two decades of her life. Stanley Whitney’s jazz-inspired grid paintings at Galerie Nordenhake were also a sight to behold. I spotted Art Basel’s global director Marc Spiegler moseying through the R. H. Quaytman show at Galerie Buchholz, and a little bit later, I saw Norman Rosenthal tucking into sachertorte at the CFA, where Huma Bhabha’s sumptuous olfactory sculptures were on view. I rolled into the official weekend dinner at the Postbahnhof, an old train station that’s now an events venue, where David Neuman described the opening of his new Magasin III satellite space—of which he is the chair—in Tel Aviv, a site he hopes will build bridges between cultures (now more necessary than ever, with Trump moving the American embassy to Jerusalem). Artist Anri Sala was also in attendance, having just returned from a well-earned break in Albania. We ate salmon ceviche and drank and drank and drank. Don’t ask me what happened next. I’ll come up a little short.

Monte Carlo at night.

Cristiano Raimondi, head of development at Nouveau Musée National de Monaco, being interviewed at the opening party for Art Monte-Carlo.

Célia Bernasconi, curator at the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco, with a sculpture by Latifa Echakhch.

Asad Raza, Root sequence. Mother tongue, 2018, at Art Monte-Carlo.

Dealer Stathis Panagoulis.

Thomas Hug, director of Art Monte-Carlo.

Dealer Jelena Seng.

Dealer Sorana Serban and artist Becky Beasley.

Artists Geovanna Gonzalez, Tom Kobialka, and Penny Rafferty.

Henryk Kabatteck, dealer Justin Polera, and artist Peter Niemann.

Dealers Nicole Hackert-Brunnet and Bruno Brunnet.

24.	Rhea Dall, the director of UKS, the Young Artist’s Society); architect Etienne Descloux, artist Monica Bonvicini, curator Ignas Petronis, and a friend. (Photo: Bitsy Knox)

Writers Boris Pofalla and Kito Nedo. (Photo: Bitsy Knox)

Esra Aydin, head of culture for Volkswagen; Bart van der Heide, chief curator at the Stedelijk Museum; Yilmaz Dziewior, director of Ludwig Museum; Eva Birkenstock, director of the Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen. (Photo: Bitsy Knox)