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by Gesine Borcherdt

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Berlin's art scene has figured out how to do away with the art fair and have an art fair, too. It's called Gallery Weekend Berlin (GWB), Apr. 29-May 1, 2011, and now, in its seventh edition, represents 44 galleries in neighbourhoods across the German capital. Though spread far and wide, Berlin's highly developed transit system, not to say widespread use of bicycles, makes the city tour not altogether impossible.

Overseen by a committee of Berlin dealers and under the direction of fair promoter Michael Neff, GWB has become a major event on the spring art calendar in Europe, luring collectors from all over (in a way that Berlin Art Forum, which takes place in the fall, has not always been able to do).  

GWB's celebratory air is certainly marred, however, by the arrest and detention by Chinese authorities of Ai Weiwei, who was due to install an exhibition at neugerriemschneider in time for the weekend. Dealer Tim Neuger told Artnet Magazine that the artist had completed his plans for the exhibition -- a suite of porcelain sculptures, made in Jingdezhen, China's famous porcelain manufacture, surrounded by tree sculptures constructed of wood from the mountains in the south of China -- and that the show would go on.

Berlin's more established contemporary art galleries are showcasing their top artists, for example, Tony Cragg at Buchmann Galerie, Albert Oehlen and Glenn Brown at Galerie Max Hetzler and Gerwald Rockenschaub at Galerie Mehdi Chouakri.

GWB co-organizers ZAK | BRANICKA and Nordenhake also set the bar high with Roman Opalka and Mirosław Bałka, respectively, who define a focal point in art history with their Polish roots at the Lindenhaus gallery building.

Another cause for excitement is the pairing up of American appropriation icon Cady Noland and Spanish social performer Santiago Sierra at KOW Berlin, while Klosterfelde boasts an exhibition of the energetic John Bock and Esther Schipper features the ironic postminimalist Gabriel Kuri, all at the gallery's new location on Potsdamer Strasse.

Contemporary Fine Arts is featuring drawings by Raymond Pettibon and Anselm Reyle, who is new to the gallery and is showing there during GWB only for the second time.

Lüttgenmeijer is provoking interest with its exhibition of the whimsical Dutch conceptual artist Ger van Elk, whose work has been little seen in the city, while insiders are anticipating the show at carlier | gebauer of the Italian-born Berlin artist Rosa Barba, who is already making waves with 16mm film installations involving Pirate Spaces and Vertiginous Mapping.

Sommer & Kohl is presenting the Brazilian favorite Alexandre da Cunha, while Galerie Kamm is giving its space to its youngest artist, Kathrin Sonntag, who was born in 1981.

Two other “new generation” galleries have opted for group exhibitions: At Tanya Leighton, Gianni Jetzer, director of the Swiss Institute in New York, has organized a show called “The Confidence Man,” while Arratia, Beer brings together renowned names like Francesco Vezzoli, Wim Delvoye and Lawrence Weiner under the title “As long as it lasts. . . .”

Konrad Fischer but has chosen to team up with Barbara Wien Wilma Lukatsch to exhibit Swedish installation artist Nina Canell.  Like the Berlin-based Iranian Nairy Baghramian, who exhibits at Daniel Buchholz, she has already developed a following among insiders.

Traditional, but by no means overrepresented positions will also be on display in the work of Ukrainian photographer Boris Mikhailovat Barbara Weiss, Americans Alice Aycock and Sol LeWitt at Thomas Schulte and Chuck Close at Haas & Fuchs.

BGW suffers a bit from a lingering controversy from several months ago, perhaps better forgotten, when dealer Giti Nourbakhsch -- who had resigned from the GWB committee, and subsequently was not admitted to that year's Art Basel art fair -- sent an open email to all Berlin galleries complaining of bad faith in the affair. Whatever you might think of Giti's tactics, it's certainly not the kind of thing that would ever happen in New York!

At any rate, in GWB (and paying the several thousands in participation fees) or not, Nourbakhsch is open with a show of Berta Fischer and a group exhibition, titled "Chairs." Also out of GBW is Isabella Bortolozzi Galerie, which is open with Turner Prize winner Susan Philipsz, whose show is set to open on Apr. 29, 2011, which everyone will want to see.

GESINE BORCHERDT is editor of Magazin.