It’s August in Berlin -- time for the annual Sommerloch (summer hole), which means, well, that nothing is happening. This isn’t entirely true: while most galleries have closed up shop and gone on holiday, now is the perfect time to join hordes of Eurotourists and cruise the German capital’s art museums.
At Hamburger Bahnhof, still more works owned by the controversial German übercollector Christian Flick are on view, this time in memoriam of the artist Jason Rhoades, who died recently and young. DAAD (German Academic Exchange Program) artist-in-residence Matthew Buckingham is also displaying his videos in the institution’s "workroom," and a retrospective of Brice Marden’s post-monochrome paintings and drawings continues until October.
Degas, Monet, Cézanne, Gauguin? Those pining for a shot of revolutionary French art can visit the Neue Nationalgalerie’s exhibition of 19th-century French masterpieces on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art -- which might be especially interesting for New Yorkers -- on view until Oct. 7, 2007. More France -- and some German interpretations thereof -- is featured at the Alte Nationalgalerie in a show charmingly called "France in the Old National Gallery. French Art and German Impressionism from the National Gallery Collection."
For contemporary photography, art lovers can head to the Martin-Gropius-Bau to visit a major retrospective of Cindy Sherman’s work, along with an unusual exhibition presenting works by the late Berlin-and-Paris-based photographer Ré Soupault, whose haunting shots cover stolen moments in various European cities in the period between 1934 and 1952.
More funky photos, these by Helmut Newton, Larry Clark and Ralph Gibson, grace the halls of the three-year-old Helmut Newton Foundation. At the Deutsche Guggenheim, the young New York artist Phoebe Washburn has installed one of her funky monumental constructions -- this one including real grass -- and at KW Institute of Contemporary Art, Joe Coleman’s "Internal Digging" show, organized by new curator Susanne Pfeffer, is on view till Aug. 19, 2007.
Intrepid travelers can head out of Berlin to the Sacrow Castle, about 30 minutes away, to see works by Candice Breitz, Thomas Demand, Gerhard Richter and other heavy hitters in the latest Rohkunstbau exhibition, a long-running series of shows mounted every summer in a castle (the word "rohkunstbau" means "raw art structure"). For details, see www.rohkunstbau.de
The Sommerloch is over before you know it, and then it’s time for the city’s biannual "Long Night of the Museums" on Aug. 25 -- now celebrating its 10th anniversary -- when a huge selection of the city’s museums keep their doors upon until 2 am and offer not only art but musical entertainment and fun programs for kids. Match that, New-York-center-of-the-art-world! For details, see www.lange-nacht-der-museen.deHedi’s up?
Some exhibitions feel like threats. At Arndt+Partner in Berlin, fashion’s it-boy Hedi Slimane demonstrates that the white cube is just another place that needs a little interior decoration. In an exhibition titled "Sweet Bird of Youth" -- it may as well have been called "Young American," considering its content -- Slimane purports to seek a "floating condition" of adolescence that has "glided overhead as a sweet bird." To this end, he has filled the gallery half with works by young male artists from the U.S. -- Slater Bradley, Matthew Cerletty, Terence Koh, Ryan McGinley, Paul P, Dash Snow -- and half with works of his own making.
The result? Art and fashion fit together seamlessly -- that’s the frightening part. All the works here are black and white, which gives the exhibition the shallow unity of a runway show. Slimane has combined homoerotic images of young men (by himself and the other artists) with his own sculptures, which are constructions of neon tubes, mirror, fencing and audio speakers that resemble the 1980s output of Robert Longo as well as the esthetic of Banks Violette.
Slimane’s oeuvre also includes a video projection titled Ice Cream Fantasy, some images of the American flag, and a glittery carpet that goes down the middle of the space like a catwalk.
Gerrit Gohlke, who reviewed the show in Artnet.de in a text titled "Anorexia Mentalis," didn’t think much of Slimane’s effort. "If art entirely loses its content," he writes, "it will look like Slimane’s exhibition, for which viewers should dress very carefully, since they quickly become part of the lifeless parcourse." Gohlke goes on: "It’s not inspiration -- just anorexia.""Sweet Bird of Youth," July 3-Aug. 31, 2007, organized by Hedi Slimane at Arndt + Partner Berlin, Zimmerstrasse 90-91, 10117 Berlin The Return of Hercules
On July 31, 2007, the Foundation of Prussian Cultural Heritage held a press conference in which an ivory work by Balthasar Permoser that had been lost since World War II was returned to the collection of Berlin’s Museum of Applied Art. In 1943, the ivory had been removed from the Berlin Castle Museum, along with other items, and stored in the Oegeln Castle near Beeskow (Brandenburg) to protect them from firebombing. The works were moved to the Arolsen Castle in Hessen in 1945, and in April 1945 two partially looted railway cars containing artworks removed from Berlin museums were secured by American troops. The Permoser ivories had been missing ever since.
The sculpture group -- a Herkules und Omphale -- resurfaced in March 2005 in the hands of Sotheby’s New York, which contacted the Berlin State Museums with the anonymous owner’s permission. An agreement for return of the piece was quickly worked out, with the payment of a finder’s fee. The exact sum remains undisclosed, but foundation president Klaus-Dieter Lehmann confirms that the price was much lower than the work would have claimed on the art market.
Permoser (1651-1732) is considered to be one of the most important German Baroque sculptors. Herkules und Omphale, which exists in four similar versions, is considered one of his masterpieces. Two are in the Green Vault in Dresden (one signed by the artist), a third in St. Petersb urg’s Hermitage and now the fourth has finally found its home in Berlin.
KIMBERLY BRADLEY is a critic and journalist based in Berlin.