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Back to Reviews 96

Raymond Pettibon 
drawings at Regen 
Projects at the
European Art Forum.

Hans Hemmert, 
Unterwegs, 1996.

John Currin, 
Pamela, 1996, at 
Regen Projects.

Christopher Wool, 
Ohne Title, 1990.

Pipilloti Rist, Das 
Zimmer, 1994-96, 
at Galerie 
Frank + Schutte.

Julian Opie, There is 
an office building 
(1 of 6), 1996.

Tracey Emin, Exorcism 
of the Last Painting 
I Ever Made, at 
Galleri Andreas 

The Hamburger 

Andy Warhol, 
Portrait Erich 
Marx, 1978.

Daniele Buetti at 
Galerie Ars Futura.

Ads for Steven 
Prina's performance.

Hunter Reynolds 
as Patina Du 
Prey. Photo 
Maxine Henrison.

berlin art diary 

by Mary E. Goldman 

In November, Berlin really got to strut its 

stuff and show off its diverse and 

plentiful art scene. Both the opening of 

the Hamburger Bahnhof, a new contemporary 

art museum, and the launching of the city's 

new European Art Forum art fair drew flocks 

of visitors who were anxious to see how 

Berlin is developing as it repositions 

itself to be the nation's capital. I can't 

imagine that anyone left dissatisfied, with 

both established and alternative venues 

alike staging exhibitions and parties that 

fueled a tireless energy unique to the 


The impressive premiere of the European Art 

Forum (Oct. 31-Nov. 4, 1996) hinted at the 

city's potential to join Chicago, Paris, 

Cologne and Basel as a host of a top-rank 

international art fair. The event, held at 

the Messe Berlin Exhibition and Trade 

Complex, was organized by a new group, the 

European Galleries Projektgesellschaft mbH, 

an organization of 14 European galleries 

that was formed in response to a general 

frustration with the unmanageability of the 

Cologne art fair. In the end, the European 

Art Forum hosted more than 130 galleries 

from 17 countries--over half were from 

Germany, the rest coming from France, 

the U.S. and Europe (including Russia).

The art fair was largely limited to 

galleries that have proven themselves in 

the fields of contemporary and modern art. 

Forty percent of the booths exhibited work 

created since 1945, the other 60 percent 

from 1970 on. The average price range 

didn't exceed DM20,000, although exceptions 

existed, particularly for modernist works. 

The galleries were configured 

alphabetically through a double-aisled 

square, with cafes, book dealers and art-

magazine tables occupying beveled corners. 

Alphabetization proved to be a successful 

and democratic format which offered a 

random but even scattering of highly 

reputed galleries.

I was working at the booth of Regen 

Projects from L.A., which was often humming 

with activity as his installation of works 

by Matthew Barney, John Currin, Raymond 

Pettibon, Richard Prince and Steven 

Balkenhol attracted the attention of 

collectors and browsers alike. Stuart 

Regen, impressed by the space the Messe 

provided, commented that the organizers 

"made an effort to choose galleries that 

shared a common thread." Although more 

expensive than most fairs at DM 250 per 

square meter (30 square meter minimum), the 

area was breathable enough for each gallery 

to exert a greater impact and presence than 

is possible at those fairs that are more 


The European Art Forum attracted prominent 

galleries that normally don't appear at Art 

Cologne, including Max Hetzler (Munich and 

Berlin), Galerie Hans Mayer (Dusseldorf) 

and Luhring Augustine (New York). The 

concurrent opening of the Hamburger Bahnhof 

museum provided additional incentive to be 

in Berlin at this time (over 17,000 people 

attended the fair), and it will be 

interesting to see whether the city will 

stage another blockbuster event for next 

year's fair. Some of the booths I 

interviewed, such as Galerie Jablonka 

(Cologne), Jay Jopling/White Cube (London) 

and Galerie Bob van Orsouw (Zurich), shared 

the opinion that the Messe did 

exceptionally well for its fledgling 

flight, but that art fairs need time to 

prove themselves. The Messe was a financial 

success for most, although I got the 

impression that American galleries were 

doing more business than many of the 

Europeans. Interestingly, no one I spoke to 

had sold to collectors they hadn't had 

previous relationships with.

At the Fair's opening press conference, the 

dominant note sounded from the podium was 

to the effect that Berlin enjoys both the 

geographic and historic position to be the 

gateway to the East, and that the fair was 

intended to serve as a forum for a cultural 

dialogue between estranged nations as well 

as to foster art sales. After about the 

third speech I began to nod off, but I was 

roused by the apparition of a man in a 

Batman T-shirt who stormed the conference 

yelling "Batman forever!" while swinging a 

whirring toy, lasso style over his head. 

Everyone sat in stunned silence until he 

proceeded to squirt our distinguished hosts 

in the face with a water gun. As he was 

being "escorted" out, he threw a handful of 

flyers into the air which urged everyone to 

boycott the fair so as not to support an 

"corrupt elite art mafia." 

The unrest that resulted from this heroic 

interruption, performed by Moscow artist 

Alexander Brener (who has made an even 

worse fuss before, at the "Interpol" 

exhibition in Fargfabriken in Stockholm--

see Raphael Rubenstein's report in the 

April 1996 Art in America) settled quickly 

as the panel recomposed, but the ensuing 

questions from the press focused on the 

conspicuous absence of East European 

galleries, particularly those from Germany. 

Volker Diehl, the chairman of the 

Projektgesellschaft, responded rather 

unconvincingly that many galleries from the 

east were invited, but declined because 

they were not in a financial position to 

join the Messe. It seems that the gateway 

to the West can only be entered if you can 

afford to tip the doorman on the way.


As it happened, a significant portion of 

Berlin's galleries were not part of the 

European Art Forum, and dealer Rupert 

Goldsworthy, a British gallerist with a 

Berlin space, took advantage of Berlin's 

cultural spotlight by organizing an 

alternative art fair that ran Oct. 31-Nov. 

5, called Berlin Mitte '96. Not intended as 

an unfair, the event "highlights the 

current special flavor of Berlin Mitte, the 

fastest developing urban and cultural area 

in Europe." 16 galleries from Berlin, 

Zurich, Lucerne, London, New York and Paris 

exhibited in a 600-square-meter area 

located in the heart of the city where a 

concentration of new galleries has spring 

up. In contrast to the sleek space-station 

appearance of the other Messe hall, Berlin 

Mitte '96 took place in the rooms of an 

unrenovated former department store. 

Although rough in appearance, it was an 

admirable try given the speed and frugality 

with which it was organized. 	

The opening night was surprisingly jammed, 

as the Mitte mythology lured many to see 

what the fuss was all about. Unfortunately, 

the work was erratic, with a poor showing 

from a number of Berlin galleries who 

obviously didn't realize this was an 

opportunity to prove their potential. One 

success was Gallery Gabauer und Thumm, 

which showed a dizzying video installation 

by Michel Francois. Another was New York 

dealer Pat Hearn's presentation of a Lutz 

Bacher video in which she interviews a 

frequently propositioned young woman. Also 

eye-catching was the booth of Ars Futura 

from Zurich, which exhibited disturbing 

collages by Daniele Buetti, who scribbled on 

the back sides of fashion ads, impressing 

doodled scarifications on the skins of 

famous models.

On the last day, I spoke with Armelle 

Pradalier, representing the Galerie 

Georges-Phillipe Valois in Paris. Her 

general feeling was that the Mitte fair had 

been a worthwhile experience. She noted, 

however, that many Berlin gallerists were 

not at their booths every day, which seemed 

unprofessional given that this fair was 

largely a promotion for them. After 

interviewing a number of participating 

galleries, I got the sense that work had 

sold and valuable contacts made. Unlike the 

big Messe, the majority of collectors who 

bought were new clients. Goldsworthy 

remarked, " I achieved more in the past 

five days than I have in the two years I've 

been in Berlin."

Berlin Mitte '96 provided a more honest and 

diverse impression of what the art scene in 

Berlin is all about. I was only 

disappointed that a more collaborative and 

enthusiastic spirit didn't exist between 

the Mitte galleries, which would have 

resulted in a stronger representation. This 

perhaps is due to the fact that there are 

very few collectors living in Berlin, so 

many new galleries are not exactly 

thriving. There was also the underlying 

rumor that implied that associating with 

the Mitte fair could put one on the 

Projektgesellschaft's black list for next 

year's Messe. Rupert Goldsworthy, feeling 

disillusioned by Berlin, is taking some 

months in New York to see if his 

opportunities there are worth a move. It is 

uncertain whether any of the gallerists in 

Mitte will reorganize for next year.


On Nov. 3, the new museum for "Contemporary 

Times," showcasing the collection of Erich 

Marx and selected works from the New 

National Gallery, opened at the Hamburger 

Bahnhof in Mitte. The museum is being 

directed by Britta Schmitz, coming from the 

New National Gallery, the state museum for 

modern and contemporary art. A major hitch 

facing the administration is the condition 

imposed by Marx that stipulates that he 

must first approve the art works before 

they can be displayed in the museum. 

Failure to comply would result in his 

pulling out the collection.

Marx compiled the bulk of his collection in 

the 1970s and '80s with the guidance of 

Heiner Bastian, who had been Joseph Beuys' 

assistant and later made his career as a 

private art dealer. Marx's interest seems 

to be in Conceptual, Minimalist and Pop 

Art, and features mostly German and 

American artists. Work by Joseph Beuys and 

Andy Warhol is the cornerstone of his 

collection, as he purchased a vast amount 

of early drawings by both artists, as well 

as major pieces representative of their 

artistic styles and thematic progressions 

throughout their respective careers. Also 

of importance are Cy Twombly, Roy 

Lichtenstein and Robert Rauschenberg, 

acquired with a similar thoroughness.

The building, a neoclassical former railway 

station, is now decorated with a neon 

installation by the late artist Dan Flavin, 

shrouding the museum in an eerie purple 

glow. Approaching it is a dramatic 

experience, particularly when the sky is 

gray or dark (which it is most of the year 

in Berlin), further punctuated by 

neighboring construction cranes that adopt 

a sculptural quality by virtue of 

association. Upon entering the main railway 

area, one is immediately dwarfed by the 

scale of both the space and the work. The 

hall maintains its original infrastructure 

with arched ceiling, gray girders and 

windowed back wall. I was struck by the 

uniformity and coldness of its initial 

impact. The room is dominated by four 

mammoth installations. Two large-scale lead 

sculptures by Anselm Kiefer, a glass igloo 

by Mario Merz and a stone piece by Richard 

Long entitled Berlin Circle. The structure 

of the hall detracts from the experience of 

perceiving each artwork as an independent 

entity, even making the corrosive aura of 

the Kiefer work seem sterile.

In general the collection sits 

uncomfortably in the building. Laid out in 

a wishbone shape, there are different 

stairways and dead ends which disorient the 

visitor. Although not a huge museum, I was 

never certain if I had missed entire 

sections, which in fact I had on my first 

visit. The role of the Hamburger Bahnhof is 

unclear, as it vacillates between being a 

museum and a showplace for Marx. The 

sporadic mixing of art from the New 

National Gallery makes it impossible to 

ascertain his vision for the collection, 

but the omission of artists who would have 

been appropriate to show along with his 

collection prevents it from functioning as 

a well-rounded contemporary museum. This 

problem is exacerbated by the absence of 

any clarifying wall text, which is 

particularly disturbing in the Beuys and 

Warhol rooms, where the early and later 

works are devoid of historical context. 

Regardless of that oversight, the museum 

houses some exceptional work, such as 

strong videos from Bruce Nauman, Bill Viola 

and Gary Hill. One of the more successful 

installations is Document I-V, made by 

Reinhard Mucha in 1992 for Dokumenta IX. 

Perhaps the greatest treasure offered by 

the Hamburger Bahnhof is the Beuys Archive, 

the only comprehensive library of his taped 


The Hamburger Bahnhof fills a gap for 

contemporary art which had existed in the 

museum culture in Berlin, as many artists--

Matthew Barney, Rachel Whiteread and Cindy 

Sherman, to name a few--have not had much 

previous exposure in the city. The museum 

also organizes special events, concerts and 

programs in the evenings. I am encouraged 

by what the museum means to the city, but 

was hoping that it would be a more dynamic 

experience than it turned out to be.


My disappointment was eradicated later that 

night as the Bunker celebrated its re-

opening with the exhibition "Files," based 

on the theme of technology and its 

influence on communication, art and 

architecture. Built in 1941 by the Third 

Reich, the Bunker is an imposing building 

in the middle of Mitte which has been, 

among other things, a civilian shelter 

during WW II, an ammunitions bunker for the 

Red Army, and a storage house for fruits 

and vegetables during DDR times. After the 

fall of the wall, it was transformed into a 

techno-club which occasionally presented 

theater and avant-garde events.

The exhibition, organized by the Society 

for Art and Technology, consisted of 

multimedia pieces installed in a labyrinth 

of small rooms and hallways. Over 20 

artists participated, including Claudia 

Tyne Pullman (Germany), Bigert & Bergstrom 

(Sweden), Matthew McCaslin (USA) and Alexej 

Shulgan (Russia). 4,000 people attended the 

opening night (the building's capacity is 

2,000), not the most optimal condition to 

see the work, but it added to the 

voyeuristic sensation of peeking around 

dark corners as crowds of people stood 

transfixed by the strobing effects of 

monitors flashing everything from Internet 

messages to images of explosions. Many of 

the projects used the Internet, which was 

at this time still somewhat of a novelty in 

Berlin. I was mesmerized by the film Crawl 

Space by Jane and Louse Wilson (Great 

Britain), a non-narrative short film pieced 

together with the signifying ingredients of 

the horror genre, i.e. rapid editing, heart 

beat sounds and slow dolly shots down 

menacing abandoned corridors. The suspense 

culminates in the words "crawl space," 

which materialize on the skin of a woman's 

naked abdomen. The night ran late as the 

house-party downstairs didn't really pick 

up speed until 1:00 a.m. At times the 

energy in Berlin is truly infectious and 

before I knew it, it was time for a large 

Früstück (breakfast) to absorb some of 

toxins of the evening.


On Nov. 3, locals and visitors flocked to 

club SO36, to see New York artist Steven 

Prina give a late-night solo concert called 

"Sonic Dan." He sat behind an electric 

keyboard on a blue-lit stage and gave a 90-

minute performance of Sonic Youth and 

Steely Dan songs. Prina has a surprisingly 

good pop-star voice, and the evening turned 

California lounge style which put the 

audience in a relaxed and festive mood--

particularly when they were able to 

identify a song like "Ricky Don't Lose That 

Number." Only the Americans in the audience 

seemed to be getting the humor of it all, 

but that didn't prevent everyone from 

thoroughly enjoying the evening.

After a couple of recovery nights at home, 

I was given the opportunity to don my newly 

purchased black beaded '40s cocktail dress 

to attend a black-tie AIDS benefit given by 

the Deutsche AIDS Stiftung (German AIDS 

Fund) at the Berlin Opera House. My friend 

Hunter Reynolds was invited to give a 

performance art piece during pre-theater 

and intermission. This performance is only 

one element of a large oeuvre dealing with 

remembrance and loss. That night he stood 

on a rotating platform, much like a jewelry 

box ballerina, dressed in his "Memorial 

Dress," a ball gown covered in the names of 

AIDS victims, names that were originally 

taken from the American AIDS quilt.

The main theatrical event was a wonderful 

mixed arrangement of opera performed by 

such internationally renowned talent as 

Monsarrat Caballe, Karen Armstrong, Giacomo 

Aragall and Lucia Aliberti. I was told the 

event was star-studded, but since my 

knowledge of Germany's gliteratti is 

limited, I missed out on the thrill. But, 

in seeking relief from my blood red satin 

pumps (which were turning into torture 

devices), I happened to fall into a chair 

across from Jean-Paul Gaultier, who smiled 

at me knowingly, obviously sympathetic to 

my sacrifice for fashion.

It is a challenge to get bored in Berlin, 

and the range of experiences lets one ride 

the roller coaster in black tie or leather 

pants depending on your mood. Perhaps the 

most interesting aspect of cultural life in 

Berlin is the constant clashing between 

it's problematic history and unresolved 

future. One feels the past lives of 

buildings, particularly in Mitte and 

Prenzlauerberg, another up-and-coming 

neighborhood adjacent to Mitte, deeper in 

the former East. Although art exhibitions 

are often unrelated to their neighborhoods, 

the contrast brings one's perception into 

sharper focus. It is a city where the high 

and low compete for attention, which is 

indicative of the "Mauer dem Kopf" (wall of 

the mind) that still very much exists 

between the East and West. But from this 

struggle for identity springs an unlimited 

diversity, giving one the sensation that 

Berlin is a city where anything is 


MARY GOLDMAN is an American critic and 

curator who works at Contemporary Fine Arts 

in Berlin.