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Vito Acconci, Project 
for Railway Center 
East, Basel, at 
Klosterfelde Gallery 

Lorna Simpson, The 
Bed, At Gallery 

Lorna Simpson's 
Fire Escape, 1995

Gabriele Basch's 
"Pop Mix/Volume I" 
at the Neu 
Berliner Kunstverein.

Claudia Hart, 
Still from Face 
Dancing, 1996

From Hart's A 
Child's Machiavelli. 

Claudia Hart, Eat 
Me, 1996 at the 
Neu Berliner 

Hendrik Silbermann 
at Gallery Refugium.

Hendrik Silbermann, 
at Gallery Refugium

Micha Brendel's 
installation at 
Lutz Fiebig.

Paco Knoller at 
Franck & Schutte.

Jorge Pardo, Vivienne,
at Neugerriemschnider.

"Picasso and his 
Time" at the
Stuler Bau

Lovis Corinth, The 
Blinded Samson, 
1912, Oil. Collection 

berlin art diary:
mitte mania 

by Mary E. Goldman 

The contrast between the sweltering New 

York heat during the Soho Arts Festival and 

the arctic chill in Berlin the very next 

week was a rude awakening to the onset of 

the notorious Berlin winter. In the 

galleries, too, things looked very 

seasonal, with the usual emphasis on 

American art imports. Berlin's hot new 

gallery district is located in the former 

East Berlin, in a section called Mitte 

(meaning middle), which is in the throes of 

major construction designed to make it the 

new heart of city. Many of the new spaces 

are West German galleries who have either 

migrated or created new branches in the 


While snaking my way through scaffolding 

and rubble en route to a Vito Acconci 

opening at Klosterfelde Gallery (Martin 

Klosterfelde is the enterprising son of 

Hamburg gallerist Maria Helga 

Klosterfelde), I was drawn to the glow of 

Matt Mullican's light boxes on view at the 

Projektraum Berlin (a gallery whose owners, 

Mathias Kampl and Andreas Binder, are from 

Munich). Mullican's images of rippling 

water and rave-like psychedelic patterns 

set up complementary visual rhythms. The 

Acconci show consisted of architectural 

models of recent public projects and 

proposals. Acconci peopled his model for 

the Railway Center East in Basel with 

strange toy urbanites, giving it the effect 

of a high-rise doll house. Also imported 

was Lorna Simpson's small show of lonely 

urban and hotel-themed black-and-white 

photographic silk-screens on felt, at 

Friedrich Loock's Galerie Wohnmaschine. 

Loock is a native East Berliner who started 

this Wohnmaschine illegally (pre-

unification) by transforming his apartment 

into an underground gallery. 

The Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, one of the 

more sizable and impressive exhibition 

spaces in the area, had a group show, "Pop 

Mix/Volume I," curated by Kathrin Becker, 

with Thomas Hauser, German artist Gabriele 

Basch and the American artist Claudia Hart, 

whose borderline maniacal Face Dancing 

video was a highlight of the show. Hart, who 

has been living in Berlin for the past four 

years, also painted a large-scale pink mural 

in the style of the illustrations for her 

first pocket-sized artist's book, A Child's 

Machiavelli, the sequel of which, Dr. 

Faustie's Guide to Real Estate Development, 

was just released. Both books are skillful 

and precocious adaptations that bundle cut-

throat morality, i.e., "If somebody's got 

to hate you make sure it's a bunch of 

weaklings with no money," in a cuddly cloak 

of storybook illustrations and characters. 

Berlin is a hard-core party town, luckily 

for me, since after dragging myself through 

torn-up streets all day I find an evening 

cocktail can be critical. The other night, 

the art-world heavies crowded in for the 

opening of the new location for Neu 

Gallery, run by Alexander Schröder and 

Thilo Wermke. They were exhibiting works by 

Daniel Pflumm and Andreas Slominsky, but it 

was so smoky that I couldn't see a thing. 

The evening ended at Panasonic, the club 

for the tragically hip, to which we dragged 

the newly arrived Steven Prina, who is in 

Berlin until December doing an artist's 

residency at the Kunstlerhaus Bethanien.

Not all the galleries I hit in Mitte had an 

American agenda. Galerie Refugium was 

exhibiting mixed-medium boxes by Dresden-

born artist Hendrik Silbermann. His 

assemblages evoke religious reliquaries as 

well as the work of Cornell and Duchamp, 

but they still read fresh in his choice of 

objects and display. Stepping around the 

corner for a much needed dose of caffeine, 

I spied a new addition to the neighborhood, 

Galerie/Edition Lutz Fiebig, which had the 

work of another Dresden-born artist, Micha 

Brendel. The space was filled with the 

stretched skin, organized bones and pickled 

organs of animals, a la Damien Hirst, but I 

was quickly assured that Brendel was doing 

his thing long before Hirst floated his 

first cow.

Leaving the still bullet-hole-scarred Mitte 

and going west to the glossier, swanker 

gallery scene in Charlottenberg was like 

traveling to another city altogether. One 

of the more influential and elegant 

galleries in the area, Franck & Schulte, 

was showing the German artists Paco Knöller 

and Hanns Schimansky, friends whose work 

shares a distinct visual language. 

Knöller's paintings have more figurative 

references than Schimansky's drawings. A 

few blocks away at the more funky 

Neugerriemschnider gallery (Tim Neuger is 

the protege of gallery giant Max Hetzler) 

were three massive paintings by L.A. artist 

Jorge Pardo. Pardo floats vibrant amorphic 

shapes on neutral unprimed canvases, which 

visually expand the intimate scale of the 

gallery space. 

On the museum front, there is a lot of 

excitement over Heinz Berggruen's famous 

Pablo Picasso collection, on loan to the 

city for the next 10 years. The exhibition, 

"Picasso and his Time: The Berggruen 

Collection," opened on Sept. 5 at the 

Westlicher Stüler Bau, one of the buildings 

in the Charlottenberg Schloss Museum 

quarter (displacing an impressive 

antiquities collection to storage). The 

113-piece exhibition, curated by Hans 

Jürgen Papies, includes 64 Picasso 

paintings, sculptures and works on paper, 

as well as impressive pieces by van Gogh, 

Cezanne, Braque, Giacometti, Laurent and 

Klee. Berggruen amassed his fortune as an 

art dealer in Paris and had a friendship 

with Picasso that enabled him to assemble a 

strong and eclectic collection. Highlights 

include the sculpture,Absinthe Glass and a 

portrait of Dora Maar entitled Woman With a 

Yellow Sweater. The exhibition was not 

actually a gift to the city and there is 

suspicion that after its 10-year run, the 

sons of Berggruen, who both have galleries 

in the U.S., might have other ideas of its 


Another notable show was the comprehensive 

retrospective of Lovis Corinth on view at 

the Altes Museum, Aug. 2-Oct. 20, 1996. 

Corinth is often classified as one of the 

forerunners of German Impressionism, but 

the exhibition testified to the diversity 

of his work. His broad spectrum of painting 

styles ranged from a conservative, academic 

approach in his formative years to a more 

gestural and expressionistic style in his 

mature work. On the other end of the 

spectrum was a contemporary group show 

entitled "Family, Nation, Tribe, Community: 

Shift" at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt. 

Curator Frank Wagner based his theme on 

lifestyles that deviate from the mainstream 

either by personal choice or political and 

economic constrictions, and included some 

new works by Edward and Nancy Reddin 

Kienholz, Wolfgang Tillmans, Bettina 

Allamoda, Mike Kelly and a sexy, 

mesmerizing video by the Italian duo 


I've also heard that there is a Salvador 

Dali show up at the Schloss Charlottenberg 

that shouldn't be missed, but that's going 

to have to wait. I am busy as can be 

helping newlyweds Bruno Brunnet and Nicole 

Hackert move their Contemporary Fine Arts 

Gallery from Charlottenberg into a new 

space in Mitte. They will open next week 

with British artist Sarah Lucas.

Perhaps the biggest news this month is that 

Berlin is hosting it's first international 

art fair, "European Art Forum," Oct. 31-

Nov. 4, 1996, with 130 galleries 

participating (conspicuously, only 14 from 

Berlin will be represented). The fair is by 

invite only, so Mitte gallerist Ruppert 

Goldsworthy is organizing an un-fair that 

will include many of those who were not on 

the organizer's priority list, and are 

incidentally some of the more innovative 

galleries in the city. In a kind of double 

whammy, the same week a huge Museum for 

Contemporary Art opens in the railway 

station building of the Hamburger Bahnhof. 

The long-awaited project opens its doors 

Nov. 3 and will house the collection of 

Erich Marx as well as the contemporary 

collection from the National Gallery.

All this activity just two weeks before the 

Cologne Art Fair, Nov. 7-11, 1996, looks 

like a little spotlight stealing to me. 

Berlin has high hopes to become the next 

cultural center in Europe and the upcoming 

weeks of blockbuster events should prove an 

interesting step in the right direction. I 

will be working with Regen Projects from 

L.A. during the Berlin art fair and I can't 

wait to get the inside dirt. The city will 

be bustling, so check back in a few weeks 

and I'll let you know if it was all a great 

success or just ambitious delusions of 


MARY E. GOLDMAN is an American critic and 

curator who works at Contemporary Fine Arts 

in Berlin.