On Sept. 3, 2004, Kunstherbst Berlin, a "downtown" arts festival featuring a wealth of exhibitions, talks and cocktail receptions, opened with a reception at Villa Grisebach, Germanys most renowned auction house for 20th-century art. Organized by Klaus Siebenhaar and a team from the Institute of Culture and Media Management, this years festival, which runs through Oct. 4, focuses on art in new and growing markets. A program titled "Art and Market" is giving the public rare access to the homes of private collectors, including Peter Raue, the influential lawyer who spearheaded the presentation of selections from the Museum of Modern Arts collection at the Neue Nationalgalerie.
Open houses are also spotlighting the art holdings of corporations like Deutsche Bank and Daimler Chrysler. Andreas Kaernbach, curator of the Deutscher Bundestag collection -- the art collection of the German parliament -- is not only showing off its art but is also hosting a series of talks by artists and art world experts, including Artnets Thomas Eller.
Thanks to Berlin Partners, a Berlin-boosting promotional effort mounted by the government and German companies, Kunstherbst has a broad umbrella that is sheltering a number of other important fall events. Art Forum Berlin, the citys annual contemporary art fair, runs Sept. 17-25, 2004, and the participants -- several who had deserted the fair have now returned -- are clearly hoping for something of a rebirth. The city boasts new galleries, and the respected Cologne Galerie Johnen und Schttle has opened a Berlin space.
Berlins museum of contemporary art, the Berlinische Galerie, inaugurates its own new building in October. Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin is mounting a show of works by Robert Mapplethorpe, while the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of World Cultures) opens "Black Atlantic," Sept. 17-Nov. 15, a program of exhibitions and other events examining the African Diaspora. And the Martin-Gropius-Bau presents shows of Sophie Calle and Francis Als.
Still another initiative, dubbed "Kulturjahr der Zehn" ("Cultural Year of the Ten"), is designed to establish a cultural presence in Berlin for the ten new countries in the European union. This program supports artists and art activities from Latvia, Estonia, Poland and other lands of the expanding Europe.
With so many people working to help the citys art economy regain some momentum and even experience a new period of growth, Berlin has an air of confidence about it. Siebenhaar and his team have conducted a survey of the Berlin art market that is slated to be published on Sept. 23.