The seventh edition of Gallery Weekend Berlin [April 29–May 1] got an early start this year. Eigen+Art, Max Hetzler and Sprueth Magers previewed in early April stunning solo presentations by Olaf Nicolai, Glenn Brown and Sterling Ruby, respectively. They cashed in on the presence in Europe of high-flying American collector couples Don and Mera Rubell and Susan and Michael Hort, who would miss the actual event but were in Germany for this year’s Art Cologne.
“Gallery Weekend Berlin is not competition,” Art Cologne director Daniel Hug assured A.i.A., happily conceding, “Berlin is the most relevant place in the art world right now, internationally.” We recalled what Belgian collector Luc Haenen, told us at Art Brussels: “Berlin is a great city to showcase contemporary art, but the buying happens somewhere else.”
Steadily growing in number, the 44 participants included most of the city’s big-gun galleries. However, noteworthy absentees included: Galerie Christian Nagel; Isabella Bortolozzi, who showcased new works by 2010 Turner Prize winner Susan Philipsz; Galerie ScheiblerMitte, with an solo show by a young British artist, Tom Chamberlain, whose paintings take Op Art into the 21st Century. Giti Nourbahksh, whose infamous “open letter” regarding her Art Basel exclusion caused a stir last year, opted out of this year’s Berlin event. Venklasen/Werner also stayed away, yet showed Meredyth Sparks, while Blain Southern—also not on the list—opened an incomparable project space, with a 46-foot roof, in the old printing press of the city’s daily, Der Tagesspiegel. It reminds of the Tate’s Turbine Hall.
Whether it is a young gallery like PSM, with under a dozen emerging artists on its roster, or Kunsthandel Wolfgang Werner, which showed museum-worthy sculptures by Jean Tinguely, the participation fee was set at an egalitarian 7,500 Euro. BMW sponsors a fleet of limos to shuttle VIPs, and some slender pamphlets. These pamphlets are designed by BOROS, the creative agency owned by mega-collector Christian Boros, who also throws the opening-night dinner.
After mixed reports last year of insufficient seating and not enough food to go around, this year organizers this year pulled all the stops to exquisitely dine an allegedly 1200-strong guest-list. Gallery Weekend organizer Michael Neff addressed the crowd from atop a golf caddy, not un-reminiscent of the Popemobile, chauffeured by a beaming dealer, Martin Klosterfelde.
The dinner was notable for an artist, Ai Weiwei, honored at the dinner by a sunflower seed placed on the plate of every guest. It was a not-so-subtle reminder and an ad by his gallery neugerriemschneider.
Left to right: Burkhard Riemschneider, Guido Westerwelle, Tim Neuger. Photo by David Ulrichs.