Exhibitions to see in and around Gallery Weekend Berlin
From Beckmann to Bourgeois, there’s something to pique the interest of anyone bound for Berlin between 27 and 29 April. Sarah Crompton’s tour of highlights begins with a major Christie’s exhibition on making and collecting art in Germany
It’s a wonderful thing to have invented a formula that is copied around the world. Gallery Weekend Berlin, now in its 14th edition, has inspired similar events in Beijing, Warsaw and Mexico. By packing all its spring show openings into one party-filled weekend, the city shows off its art scene to maximum effect. The fact that the artists are shown in the galleries that nurture their work gives it added meaning. This year it features 46 galleries, and these are our selected highlights...
Berlin’s Czech Embassy and Cultural Centre, 25-29 April
In June last year, Max Beckmann’s Hölle der Vögel (1937-8) — a nightmarish allegorical vision of a man being tortured by vicious birds — sold for £36 million at Christie’s in London. This was the highest price ever fetched at auction both for a Beckmann and a work of German Expressionism in general, and it followed record sales for other works of German art by Albrecht Dürer and Albert Oehlen.
A major exhibition, organised by Christie’s to coincide with Gallery Weekend Berlin, will put these sales in context. Hosted by Berlin’s Czech Embassy and Cultural Centre, and comprising loans from private collections and works from upcoming sales, it will feature over 80 works by artists including Georg Baselitz, Gerhard Richter, Thomas Struth, Neo Rauch, Joseph Beuys, Otto Dix, Max Pechstein, Caspar David Friedrich, Joseph Heintz, Lucas Cranach and many others. Decorative arts including Augsburg silver and works by David Roentgen, antiquities and works of African, Indian and Chinese art, will also be shown
Curated by Christie’s Tim Schmelcher under the title Beauties and Beasts, the show aims in part to explore how views of what is beautiful and ugly, and their expression in art, have changed over time. Among the exhibits are works such as Leda, a late 16th-century take on the classical myth by the Swiss artist Joseph Heintz the Elder, and Max Pechstein’s Szene im Wald from 1910, which idealises nature as an earthly paradise and celebrates the naked body as something beautiful and free.
He once wanted to be a theatre manager, a director and a stagehand, so when Max Beckmann fulfilled his destiny and became one of Germany’s most distinctive and profound artists, he made theatre a metaphor for life. He saw his role as a social commentator, and packed his political observations of the turbulent times he lived through — from the start of his career in the 1920s, through fame and exile, until his death in 1950 — into his depictions of actors and clowns, circuses and fairs.
One of the highlights of the show, which was seen in Bremen before arriving at the Museum Barberini in Potsdam, is the triptych Actors, in which the king who commits suicide on stage wears Beckmann’s face.
The magnificently located Schinkel Pavillon — in the grounds of the Kronprinzenpalais, with floor-to-ceiling windows and stunning views across Museum Island — is opening a new installation of the work of the great French artist Louise Bourgeois to coincide with Gallery Weekend. The selected works — some never exhibited together before — reveal the central themes of Bourgeois’ life and work: the effects of biography and memory on her life as a woman.
They include Peaux de Lapins, chiffons ferrailles à vendre (2006), one of the series of installations that the artist called ‘Cells’, which consists of an arrangement of flesh-coloured materials and significant objects; it will stand at the centre of the glass octagon in an exhibition that fills the pavilion and one floor of the gallery.
Since its foundation in an old margarine factory in the early 1990s, the KW (Kunst-Werke) Institute for Contemporary Art has established itself as one of the most significant institutions of its kind in Europe. This exhibition is Germany’s first survey of the output of the pioneering Swiss architects and designers Trix & Robert Haussmann and will take up two floors of the museum. Also on show at the KW (26-29 April) is work by the Canadian artist A.A. Bronson, who has lived in Berlin since 2013.
Yet given the labour involved in her infinitely intricate thread works, she is clearly unfazed by repetitive tasks. These creations range from gigantic, handmade, site-specific installations requiring hundreds of thousands of metres of yarn — such as those that filled Le Bon Marché in Paris last year — to her ongoing Night Sky series: dense patterns sewn onto canvas on stretchers, like paintings of the cosmos.
Shiota is best known for The Key in the Hand, her installation for the Japanese pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2015, which took her and a team of assistants two and a half months to create. That, too, involved boats (symbolic of journeys), as well as 50,000 keys (‘If you have a key it means you have a chance; you can open a door’). Both are recurring images in her work, as are old clothes, shoes and suitcases: memory is an abiding theme.
This remarkable portrait series by the photographer Heike Steinweg speaks volumes. One of the stark, life-size colour photographs shows the long, tumbling hair of a woman with her back to the camera. Alongside is a caption that reads: ‘I would like to speak about my feelings, which are universal and can be understood by anyone. It does not depend on my face, or my nationality, or my religion, or my skin colour. Everyone can understand my feeling, my sadness at the fact that I can’t return to my homeland.’
Most of the women in the portraits face the camera, looking the viewer in the eye. Steinweg’s idea is to capture the fact that these women, who come from disparate backgrounds but all now live in Berlin, share the quality of courage in leaving their homelands to build a new life. The trust the women have in her is repaid by the respect she shows them. These are not portraits of victims but of powerful individuals who have taken their destinies into their own hands. Their stories are explained in accompanying captions.
The Berlinische Galerie, Berlin’s museum of modern art, plays host to a show celebrating the sculptures and prints of Eduardo Paolozzi, one of the founders of British Pop art. The first monographic show of his work in Germany for more than 30 years, it focuses on his innovative output between the 1940s and 1970s.
His fascination with the relationship between man and machine took various forms, from light, colourful ink drawings and collages, to heavyweight bronzes and plaster sculptures. All reveal an artist who was hugely important in his time, but is now perhaps overlooked. This exhibition aims to change that.
Cuban-American photographer and film-maker Ana Mendieta, who died in 1985, is the subject of an exhibition at Martin-Gropius-Bau that presents her groundbreaking films in newly restored and digitised formats. Mendieta’s work is essentially unclassifiable, moving between body and performance art, photography and film, but always concerned with the relationship between the female form and the earth and landscape.
The influential NBK (Neuer Berliner Kunstverein) is showing a new film by the American-born, Paris-based artist Eric Baudelaire. He was formerly a political scientist, and that interest is evident in his film and video works, which develop fictional narratives in response to real-world events. Walked the Way Home is the latest in a series that reflects his preoccupation with the change in Europe since the recent terrorist attacks. Based on observations of the growing number of armed soldiers in urban spaces, it contrasts their presence with that of civilians in a series of almost surreal images.
This original and fascinating exhibition at the Alte Nationalgalerie investigates the very Germanic idea of the wanderer, which has been a central theme in art from the 19th century onwards. A loan of the most famous of them all — Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer above the Sea of Fog — forms the centrepiece of Wanderlust, a show that will also encompass Courbet, Hodler and Gauguin, as it examines the way in which the journey through nature became a symbol of the journey through life itself.
This April, Christie’s invites you to a series of special events in Berlin celebrating the very best of making and collecting art in German