Both Berlin and London have vigorous contemporary art scenes but also confess to a certain dearth of native collectors for that art. So a new artistic exchange between the two cities, recently initiated by the British Council Berlin and the Goethe Institut London, must have seemed like a good idea. With 13 galleries involved, the project aims to expose artists from each city to new audiences and markets.
"In Berlin the most exciting galleries can be found in one part of town, the Mitte district," said Barbara Honrath, head of arts for the Goethe Institut London, "and we thought it would be interesting to find similar spaces in London and invite exchanges."
The gallery swap, which kicked off in May with a presentation of the Korean-born Berlin artist Helen Cho by Galerie Wieland at VTO in London, is the first of its kind between the two cities. Coordinated by curator and art critic Mark Gisbourne, the exhibitions from Berlin will continue in London venues throughout the summer. The participating London galleries are scheduled to show in Berlin during the autumn months.
So far, the exchange has provided a number of debuts. Martin Assig, a German artist whose work has recently shown in Madrid and Bremen, opened his first London exhibition at the Laurent Delaye Gallery, July 5, 2002. In exchange, the British artists Janice McNab and Mark Dean will show at Berlin's Galerie Volker Diehl in mid-September. "We're hoping to put more German collectors in touch with our artists, and vice versa [for the Germans]," said Laurent Delaye.
As one might expect, an exchange like this is of greater interest to younger or more adventurous galleries. Essor Project Space, for example, opened just ten months ago in London. The gallery hosted three Mitte district galleries -- Kapinos, Barbara Wien and Wohnmaschine -- in June and plans to curate a group show at WBD in Berlin in late September. "For us, this is about showing our artists outside our space and using the space that has been given to us," said Roger Tatley, assistant director of the gallery.
Some galleries are taking the collaboration a step further, mixing German and British work together in the same exhibition. Cabinet Gallery in London teamed with Galerie Neu to show art by Josephine Pryde, who works in both cities. And, at ecArtspace, Angela Diamandidou has put together an exhibition of abstract painting by the British painter Frances Blane and the German artists Christopher Gais and Frank Zeidler.
Diamandidou, who arranges exhibitions in non-traditional spaces, sees a lot of similarities between the regeneration in the Mitte district and that of the Clerkenwell neighborhood of London, where she is showing paintings by Blane, Gais and Zeidler in an empty warehouse. "I want to bring art into the regeneration, to involve local people, and use these empty buildings to show young artists," she said. The Berlin half of the exchange opens In October in a space shared by the Mitte district's Galerie Inga Kondeyne and Galerie Seitz & Partner.
EcArtspace's exhibition opened on June 8; Cabinet Gallery will show Pryde and Katharina Wulff in October and November.
Having provided transport and coordination of the project, the British Council and Goethe Institut hope that the participating galleries will continue to work together in the future. As the Goethe Institut's Honrath pointed out, "Berlin and London attract young artists. It's sensible to find a way to link them."