For Gallery Weekend Berlin, it seems the second time’s the charm. This year, the event decided to split off into two separate events, in April and September, in part to uplift galleries at a time of great uncertainty over fair calendar, but also because its usual spring slot has, for the past two years, coincided with significant health restrictions in the city.
The weekend event is normally a time when out-of-town collectors bop around the sprawled-out city’s galleries in event-sponsored BMWs. Over the years, dealers have tended to report strong sales relative to the low cost of staging presentations from the comfort of their own galleries.
And though this year was markedly different, moods remained high. Collectors from within Europe—and at least one from China—passed through the city-wide event on their way to Art Basel, which is opening today. The timing proved a little tight for German dealers trying to head there early to install at the fair’s Unlimited or Parcours sections this past weekend. Because most dealers had to leave, participants convinced Gallery Weekend to close on Sunday, a day earlier than originally planned.
Despite the hurdles, the event this week had an air of triumph. Most of the 47 participating galleries followed the brief to present a so-called “discovery” position—meaning younger or emerging artists (with lower price points, usually) and a bent towards experimentation.
Germany-based artists were among the most exciting presentations, including Brook Hsu, who showed moody green-hued paintings at Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler. At Esther Schipper, newly represented Berlin-based artist Cemile Sahin considered her Kurdish migrant background with a contemporary reflection on the treaty of Sèvres, which redrew borders after World War I and deconstructed the Ottoman Empire (one of the works was bought by the Bundeskunsthalle, Germany’s federal art collection and exhibition space).
At Guido W. Baudach, the young German artist Jasmin Werner, considered the strange saga of the Palast der Republik, the former East German seat of government that was destroyed to make way for the Humboldt Forum. (The building’s remains were sold off to Dubai to become a part of the Burj Khalifa.)
The gallery Société opted not to show a discovery per se, but an artist long overlooked in Europe, the Alabama-born painter Thornton Dial, who died in 2016. Working with the artist’s estate, David Lewis Gallery, and Souls Grown Deep Foundation, the gallery managed to bring half a dozen large, sculptural canvases comprised of materials from everyday life in America.
On the whole, the city was in a discovery mode: An election is underway, which means a whole new host of politicians will begin to shape the city’s fragile cultural landscape—and top museum positions were filled last week, including by Klaus Biesenbach, who is taking the reins at Neue Nationalgalerie. In the meantime, the city teeters is on a precipice, gridlocked by a lack of space, be it homes, studios, or gallery spaces.
See images of the exhibitions below.