Absolutely Magic, Magic Times
Travelogue sculpture network Experience Berlin September 2018.
Berlin Art Week has been attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors to the hip capital city since 2012. Yet Berlin is having a hard time keeping the volatile art scene excited. The rents are rising and investors are buying the popular off-locations on a large scale resulting in artists quickly being kicked out onto the street.
Startup instead of Street Art
Startup instead of Street Art is the name of the game. Berlin's vibrant start-up scene and its hunger for office space have led to a cut-throat competition with the art scene. Cities like Leipzig have long been waiting in the wings to enthrall the creative scene. But Berlin can still assert itself as the top dog of the German art scene, not lastly due to the many international residents who have long since elevated Berlin to equal footing with other metropolises around the globe.
Berlin's art scene has grown up, so sculpture network's visit to this event was long overdue.
For our thirty-strong, international travel group consisting of a colourful mix of artists, art lovers, entrepreneurs and art professionals, an incomparable experience was offered, which demonstrated once again how strong our network and its protagonists, the members, are.
In addition to exploring the local art scene, our trips also focus on networking and the group experience. Immediately after our arrival on Thursday it became apparent that the group, almost exclusively made up of sculpture network members, fit together very well and an intense discourse between the participants started on the spot.
First we visited the Salon Berlin at the Museum Frieder Burda where Sophie Mattheus introduced us to the current exhibition of the artist Candice Breitz. Even before the big #metoo debate, Candice Breitz devoted herself to the subject with interviews of South African sex workers, who gave insights into their lives in conversation. The complexity of the positions in this debate, which became apparent during our visit to Sydney in October 2017, is having an effect. There we were able to take a closer look at this in front of the world-famous opera with the installation 200 Women the listening ground. Society still has a huge task ahead in 2018 in this respect.
With these first impressions and an excursion to a rooftop terrace , which showed us the sheer size of Berlin, we started the second day
Tomás Saraceno – Kunstsaele – Potsdamer Straße
The highlight of the second day was a visit to Tomás Saraceno's studio. Even though the great master had to cancel being there in person at short notice - he is currently preparing a large exhibition in Paris - his team gave us intimate insights into the work of one of the most important artists of our time.
Saraceno's play with forms, nature and technology fascinated us. In addition to spiders and daring forms, we were mainly inspired by his penchant for technology, which was revealed by the many books on aerodynamics and mechanics. His idea of a more sustainable world, emancipated from the effects of industrialization, always resonates with us. He asks the question "Where is our society going?” – in times of digitalization and industry 4.0 this is certainly a core topic for scientists, philosophers and artists.
Fortified by an excellent lunch, we entered the surprise of our journey - the Kunstsaele Berlin. .
When entering an exhibition for the first time, one often asks "What awaits me here?". This is also the case with the Kunstsaele, where minimalism and the concentration on simplicity first catches your eye. The Kunstsaele is definitely a place for discriminating art viewers and it lives from the energy and charisma of the founders. Michael Müller, a fascinating personality, led us with his eloquent style through the exhibits, which at first seemed simple, but gained strength and expression that one can hardly imagine through the explanations.
This feeling is difficult to put into words when writing this report, because it is almost impossible to find words to explain the aura surrounding Michael Müller, who studied Buddhist philosophy in Tibet for many years. It is something you have to experience yourself. As a result our tour guide had all the trouble to prying the participants away from this magical place.
The new galleries Hotspot Potsdamer Straße
At the end of the day, the new Mecca for the global players of the international gallery scene was on the agenda. Between the galleries Esther Schippers, blainsouthern, Reiter and Co. we were able to attend some openings and even get some free drinks. The participants were allowed to follow their impulses and freely explore the complex on their own.
Who are you? Positions - Julia Stoschek Collection - Boros Collection
Day three started with a round of introductions for the participants in the gallery of our tour guide Paulinas Friends – again and again we hear stories from former participants, who met people on a trip with whom friendships and projects develop. For that reason we at sculpture network attach great importance to highlighting these experiences. Here the participants were able to introduce themselves to the group for 90 seconds and exchange their ideas. We are curious to see what will result from this journey!
After we were told from several sources that the Positions was much stronger than Art Berlin, we quickly changed our program and visited the Positions at the invitation of founder Kristian Jarmuschek. (Later on two members of the group, who visited Art Berlin on their own in the afternoon, told us that our decision was absolutely right).
Although you will not find the big names from the gallery scene at Positions, we can still say that the quality of the works shown was outstandingly good for a trade fair.
After a greeting and introduction by the founder Kristian Jarmuschek, we were given a short guided tour in which the entire spectrum of the fair was revealed.
We were also able to discover a few sculpture network members as exhibitors at the fair.
It's amazing how the Positions has been able to establish itself in the short time since it was founded in 2014. Jarmuschek's concept was a complete success, his approach that excellent curating makes it possible to "buy any work at the fair without having an unpleasant surprise at home" works out very well. The price range reaches will into the five-figure range and attracts not only small collectors, but also international greats in search of the "next big emerging artist".
In contrast to Art Berlin, a continuing theme is always recognizable, which conveys to the viewer that they are observing a part of the whole.
We were amazed at the large amount of three-dimensional art. This is a trend that can be observed at more and more events. It shows that sculpture has emerged from its shadowy existence at the turn of the millennium and is now making a significant contribution to enriching the art world. Here, trade fair organisers have succeeded in creating a dialogue between the flat pieces on the wall and the three-dimensional pieces in the room. This creates a sense of excitement that does art good and validates our fifteen years of work.
Berlin's private collections
At the end of our journey, two of Berlin's most famous collections were on the program.
The Julia Stoschek Collection Berlin showed the exhibition with the artists Arthur Jafa, Frida Orupabo, Ming Smith, and Missylanyus, curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist in cooperation with the Serpentine Gallery in London.
Thematically this exhibit concentrated heavily on the black civil rights movement and we mainly saw impressive photographs and video installations here. Thematic parallels to the Salon Berlin became obvious and reminded us that our society continues to face great challenges in ensuring equal treatment of all people. Since we had been in the middle of a demonstration against the Turkish president Erdogan the day before (whose visit to Berlin took place at the same time and posed some logistical problems for us), we were able to immediately establish a connection to the works shown. Since sculpture network's annual theme for 2019 will be three-dimensional art and society, we are already curious to see what our network can contribute to the addressing the current problems under the motto sculpt the world.
Last but not least, we visited the Boros Collection, which is certainly one of Berlin's best-known collections due to its location, a bunker from the Second World War. Normally open only for guided tours, an exciting concept was pursued during Art Berlin that could set a precedent from our point of view. Throughout the building there were extremely knowledgeable young art historians who, on request, provided explanations for the works on display, which were often not immediately accessible by mere observation. The result was an interactive museum experience that breaks down barriers to understanding art and also gives the untrained observer the opportunity to understand and process what has been seen.
It was a successful conclusion!
Before our travel group, now having merged to form a unit, made their way home again, our last dinner together was on the agenda. Overwhelmed by the moment and the experiences made, spontaneous speeches were swung, which were translated into the five languages of the participants (Thank you Rainer Fest, Johannes von Stumm, Günther Grättinger and Carla Rump!). We as organizers were completely overwhelmed by the great encouragement and enthusiasm of our participants. Once again the importance of our work was confirmed and we were pleased to see how kindly it is received by the members.
Author: André Kirberg
André Kirberg is Managing Director
of sculpture network service GmbH.
He accompanied the group through Berlin
and was overwhelmed by the positive reactions of the participants.
The title of the article Absolutely Magic, Magic Times is a quote from Johannes von Stumm spontanious speech on the last evening of our trip.