Berlin is making a come back. Over the past five years or so, it's gritty street art and graffiti culture has achieved international attention from electic artist, Jaybo aka Monk to street activist XOOOOX. Considering my love/hate relationship with New York ("New York I love you, but you're bringing me down", Well put, LCD Soundsystem), and the years of Berlin hype, I decided to make the trip across the pond.
I've been couch surfing all over the 12 boroughs of Berlin for about two weeks now, and expecting to continue on for another month. There is so much to see and do here that it's been pretty overwhelming. Thankfully, I came just in time for the riots of May Day prepping me for a weekend of art chaos at Gallery Weekend Berlin. 38 galleries officially participated, and countless more opening their doors. This is the ideal time to experience what the art scene here is all about. In total, I attendence to 30-some receptions, an art 'brunch' at Zink Gallery, and the Sebastian Meschenmoser preview show at the artist's studio space (which is ABSOLUTELY worth seeing). Although I feel caught up in a never-ending whirlwind, the excitement following it has helped me to push through so many events despite my dwindling energy levels.
Is this weekend event an accurate dissection of Berlin art? In some ways, I sincerely hope not. Berlin's enthusiasm for art can't be denied, but I won't help wonder if their appreciation for art proceeds quality and experience? On one hand, this brings art off it's high horse making it more attainable to the masses. On the other, everyone and the mother happens to be exhibiting their work. I've generally seen a fair amount of mediocre exhibitions, and a few truly worth while events. Including the Natasza Niedziolka's show, "Year of the Peacock" at Pool Gallery, and the Heiko Blankenstein show,"Metaflora & Kryptofauna" at Galerie Alexandra Sbahe which I recommend seeing. Graffiti art, as I mentioned, is a strong subculture in the underbelly of the city. I'm personally not a fan, but perhaps I've yet to discover an artist that really "speaks to me". If all of this hype is based primarily on this particular aesthetic then, I'm afraid, I'll be sadly disappointed. With that said and as an artist myself, there are numerous redeeming things about living, exhibiting, and creating art here.
First and foremost, the cost (and quality) of living is a dramatic improvement in contrast to NYC. Starving artist, no more! You can live and work in a beautiful Kreuzberg or Neukolln flat for under 300 euros. Goodbye East Village/Upper West Side/Harlem hellhole shoebox.. You can keep your morbidly expensive utility bills and chicken-sized sewer rats... I prefer fresh air and trees! Danke! Europe, evidently you value the importance of art in society. Marrying the two in harmony, to birth a beautiful love-child of a flourishing economy (in comparison to the Cold War), and an overall boast of morale. Paint the town red, blue, and green - grey buildings be gone! Speaking to artists specifically who work in both New York and Berlin industries have mentioned the significant difference between the interest in each market respectively - having much more success showing and selling in Berlin.
It sounds to good to be true, right? I've heard the comparison that Berlin is like New York was in the 80's; so much opportunity and potential! Now New York -where the over-saturated bubble has already burst - the economy is struggling to survive. Art and music classes have been cut in schools nationwide. When art is one of the few ingredients to instigatte the dialog of change, and stimulating seeds of hope in a community. This should be one of our first concerns! But that topic is a monster all on it's own, and deserves to be talked about in a future article. The point being is, the last thing art appreciators are concerned with is buying art. For this reason, part of me wants to keep Berlin a little known secret, so that it can remain an artist' utopia for all eternity. Another part of me, isn't even completely convinced that this is real at all; a mirage luring me through an endless desert for just a sip of something pure.
With only a month to immerse myself, it's impossible to get a true grip on the city's vitality. So far the ride has been a wild one indeed, and I look forward to seeing how it grows and roots itself in the international art market as time passes.