What’s that? The Berlin art scene is multifaceted and lively
“Two Berliners meet up. One is an artist and the other one is too.” That’s the beginning of a popular Berliner joke. And as with most jokes, there’s is a kernel of truth in this one as well. In the capital city Berlin, the chances of artistic self-realization are greater than in other major cities. This freedom attracts creative people from all over the world to Berlin.
The art that Berlin stands for today is as diverse as the city itself. In trendy districts like Schöneberg, Kreuzberg, or Friedrichshain, graffiti dances across the facades. In Berlin-Weißensee, artists move into studios located in old workshops, while students at the nearby art school deal with topics such as art therapy and spatial strategies. And at the Soho House in Berlin-Mitte, a shark sketch by Damien Hirst adorns the foyer—only about 1.5 kilometers as the crow flies from Caspar David Friedrich’s painting “Mönch am Meer” in the Alte Nationalgalerie. In short: The Berlin art scene is multifaceted and lively. Internationally acclaimed stars and the works of great masters attract visitors from all over the world to the major galleries and museums. At a few streets and buildings, however, you can explore the untamed, free scene in the most unusual places of this city. “Everyone’s an artist here” — because anything goes in Berlin.
Today more than 175 museums in the capital present art and cultural history from all eras. Berlin, however, now mainly stands for contemporary art. This is demonstrated, for example, by the newest museum on the “Berliner Liste,” which opened in Spring 2017: Urban Nation Museum for Urban Contemporary Art in Berlin-Schöneberg is dedicated to a comparatively recent phenomenon of art history with works of street art and graffiti. And also events such as the Berlin Art Week, which include the art fairs Art Berlin and Positions, among others, the Gallery Weekend Berlin, or group exhibitions such as Ngoro Ngoro, first started in 2015 by the painter Jonas Burgert, have established themselves internationally among friends, connoisseurs, and collectors of the arts.
A major reason for this are initiatives such as “Kulturprojekte Berlin”. The Federal State company brings artistic ambitions together with the right sponsors and paves the way for projects that resonate: The Light Border for the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall or the annual Long Night of the Museums are successful examples.
In addition to the established gallery world of Berlin-Mitte and in City West, the free scene of the city remains in constant motion everywhere.
In addition to the established gallery world of Berlin-Mitte and in City West, the free scene of the city remains in constant motion everywhere. Because there is no standstill in a city of constant change. Artists move like nomads from district to district, discovering and conquering new spaces and niches. Here today, there tomorrow. If a place like the Kunsthaus Tacheles in Berlin-Mitte is cleared away—for a long time probably one of the most central places conquered by art in Berlin—artists will find new gems. If a gallery on Auguststraße closes, three new locations will celebrate their opening in Schöneberg or Wedding the following weekend.
Exact numbers to gallery density in the capital simply don’t exist. Estimates assume 400 to 600 “art sites.” These include pop-up exhibitions in shops or temporary uses of mothballed locations—such as the former East German recreation center SEZ in Friedrichshain or the Kaufhaus Jandorf am Weinbergspark built in 1904 in Mitte. Without hesitation, such places are declared temporary galleries: Paint the walls white, nails go in, pictures go up, Cheers, Adieu! But most of these “art sites” disappear as quickly as they came into existence. They have their 15 minutes of fame or artistic rebellion—until the establishment lays claim and the art moves on.
...and world prestigious galleries
Some of these places get established and turn into institutions. A prominent example is the renowned Galerie Michael Haas in Berlin-Charlottenburg. Founded in 1976, today the gallery looks back on solo and group exhibitions of internationally known artists: from Jean-Michel Basquiat to Georg Baselitz and Otto Dix to Gerhard Richter. It deals with masterpieces by Chagall, Klee, Nolde, Picasso, Warhol, and other world famous artists. At the same time, Michael Haas embodies a special Berlin freedom that allows every person to have an alter ego and self-realization on several levels as well. Haas exhibits his own works under the pseudonym Joachim Elzmann and is both a gallery owner and an artist.
Construction worker during the day, sculptor at night - a very normal Berlin biography, no-one's astonished anymore. Because it's possible in Berlin.
That, too, is Berlin: individual bandwidth. To put it bluntly: Construction worker by day, sculptor by night—a very normal Berlin biography, which is often puzzling, but which surprises nobody here. Because anything goes in Berlin.
Perhaps one of the most important reasons why so many creative people are attracted to Berlin today is precisely this freedom: A life for art is possible here, even if you can’t (yet) make a living from it.
Photos ©Lea Gryze ©Berlin Partner