Gallery Weekend Berlin is back for its tenth anniversary with fifty galleries showing over sixty artists. Including the talks, peripheral events, and shows there’s a veritable tidal wave of art crashing over the Hauptstadt this weekend. Getting a piece of the action should be no problem, right? All that's required in way of preparation is a good breakfast and a pair of overpriced sneakers for all that perambulation flitting between venues, soaking up as much culcha as you can manage. But are you really prepared? A beginning is a very delicate time and embarking on a weekend’s worth of art viewing deserves the right kind of start.
My opinion is that you could do a hell of a lot worse than starting your journey at Sprüth Magers this year. The intuitively hip curators have corralled a triptych of work that is not only remarkable in itself but serves as a great primer for a weekend of looking at, thinking about, understanding, and enjoying art. The gallery’s three shows provide a catalyst for the senses—perfect for getting the critical and aesthetic synapses booted up to simultaneously appreciate and question the offerings of Gallery Weekend.
For starters there's a Fischli and Weiss installation. Eine Ansammlung von Gegenständen (1984-2013) is an accumulation of discarded objects, a garage sale in the making comprising the kind of jumble you might find lying in any Berlin Zu Verschenken box. But these pieces were meticulously crafted and detailed; like handmade readymades or post-readymades, they're fake discarded things left over from previous projects, with the added confusion of becoming artworks. The installation plays with our perception of what is genuine and what is artificial, what the artist chooses as subject and the process of its production.
Further Gallery Weekend investigation of the readymade might lead to Adam McEwen’s showing at Capitain Petzel. McEwan has previously made everyday objects—chocolate bars, ATMs, safes—from graphite. Or take a look at the work of Bertrand Lavier who is exhibiting at Kewenig. Lavier once upped the scale of the readymade with Giulietta (1993), his crashed and mangled blood red Alfa Romeo which has a permanent allocated parking space at the Pompidou Centre in Paris.
Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Major Tom, 20 years old, Kansas City, Kansas, $20, 1990-92, Chromogenic print, 23 3/4 x 35 7/8 inches; Copyright Philip-Lorca diCorcia / Courtesy the artist, David Zwirner, New York/London, and Sprüth Magers Berlin London
From the object to the figure—and back to Sprüth Magers. Phillip-Lorca Dicorcia's Hustlers (1990-1992) is stunning series of photographic portraits of LA’s male sex workers that plays with beauty, tragedy, and ideas surrounding the staged image: the “model” and the “real person.” The subjects are genuine hustlers encountered in situ—they were paid the same amount to pose as they normally charged for sex—but the compositions and arrangements were carefully pre-planned and lit. Like the work of Fischli and Weiss, they prompt us to examine our perception and investigate the relationship between artist and model/sitter and, of course, viewer.
(They also resemble of lot of the Berlin hipsters you’re likely to encounter on your wanderings around town. You may wonder if they've been paid twenty-five bucks to stand around looking awe-struck and forlorn too. No they haven’t—they’re delighted to do it for free.)
You might find that ideas and themes at work in Hustlers resonate in Tim Eitel's paintings at Galerie Eigen + Art. His work can also combine a sense of tragedy and isolation with a sort of sublime otherliness. Or try the photography of Charles Fréger at Kicken. His Wilder Mann (2010-2011) is a series of portraits that combines the oddly personable with the theater of ritual. He travelled Europe photographing the costumed participants in folk and pagan traditional ceremonies. Bedecked in straw, fur, hessian, and antlers the figures appear archaic and raw (even though we know underneath there's an office supply salesman from Münsterhausen or somewhere similar).
The third player in Sprüth Mager’s troupe is Reinhard Mucha who will fill the large space with assemblages of office furniture, milk stools, and a nod to a dead hare. Wheeled skates and stranded platforms lie inverted or trapped behind fish tank glass. Tables stand in line as if coupled together like rolling stock denied the gift of locomotion.
Frankfurter Block, 2012 , Work ensemble (detail) [Capriccio] - How a Dead Hare Operates with Pictures, 2012; © Reinhard Mucha; Courtesy the artist / Sprüth Magers Berlin London
Frankfurter Block (Arbeiten am Hohlkasten) (1981-2012), comprises several pieces and is an on-going project that has reoccurred over years—each time in a slightly different iteration. Together the works seem to interrogate the logic of their own construction and purpose, demanding to understand their innate desire for agency and motion. Suggested, not least by the Beuys reference, is the idea that we share a desire for an explanation of how the schematic we are presented with operates and, as it moves from place to place, the meaning that it carries.
You might also like to check out Memory Palaces, the very promising sounding group show at Carlier Gebauer which includes, among works from eleven other artists such as Emily Wardill and Valerie Snobeck, an installation from Neil Beloufa. He has also created sprawling, Heath Robinson-like mixed media installations that question their own elaborate contrivances as well as films that play with the fuzzy logic between fact and fiction.
On your way out of Sprüth Magers don’t forget to pop into the amazing artist film and video store, Image Movement, downstairs. They carry a selection of over 600 artist films on DVD, records, and even offer Fischli and Weiss special limited editions.
Have a nice weekend.
(Image on top: Peter Fischli / David Weiss, Eine Ansammlung von Gegenständen, 1982-2013, Polyurethane, painted, Dimensions variable; Copyright Peter Fischli / David Weiss / Courtesy Sprüth Magers, Berlin London)