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Top three exhibits capturing the rebellious spirit of 1989

With 1988 art hall Galerie Loock opening an exhibition on East German photographer Christian Borchert on Nov 23, our critic explores this month's top exhibitions at galleries that grew out of the post-Wende buzz.

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Photo by Christian Borchert, copyright Fotothek, Dresden, courtesy of LOOCK Galerie, Berlin. Familie W. (Komponist, Ärztin), Berlin (DDR), 1983.

In the years after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, a new feeling of eu­phoria, creativity and freedom was washing through the city. With vacant buildings in abundance, it didn’t take long for artists to move in and a host of galleries followed – some completely new, others relo­cating to Berlin to take advantage of the post-Wende buzz. Looking back, not all have lasted the course, but we’ve picked three that did and are opening new shows this month.

Now housed in a former school building in Mitte, Eigen + Art is a gallery that started out in 1983 in the Leipzig apartment of founder Gerd Harry Lybke, referred to as “Judy” by art world colleagues. After the Fall of the Wall it globe-trotted through temporary spaces in Tokyo, Paris, New York and London, before finally settling in Berlin’s Augustraße in 1992. One of the first galleries to set up shop in the city after reunifica­tion, it was responsible for the break­through of one of East Germany’s biggest art stars, Neo Rauch, who still shows with the gallery. As well as a second branch in Leipzig, a more experimental satellite space opened in Berlin in 2012. Until the end of the month the original Auguststraße space is showing A Planet’s Revolu­tion, featuring British painter Ryan Mosley’s colourful, carnevalesque landscapes and portraits.

Founded in Friedrich Loock’s Mitte apartment in 1988, Galerie Loock was originally called Galerie Wohnmaschine (after Le Corbusier’s architectural concept) and from the start showed GDR and Japanese artists. After the Wall came down, it moved into more professional prem­ises – which didn’t mean he started selling right away: “There was hardly any business in the first years,” Loock says. “It changed when I went to the first art fairs in Frankfurt and Cologne in 1992. That’s when I sold the first painting.” Now located on Potsdamer Straße, the gallery has developed a particular focus on GDR photography and opens a show this month dedicated to the late East German photographer Christian Borchert. This survey of his work in­cludes 50 prints from his portraits of families taken in the 1980s and 1990s alongside his photos for Sibylle magazine (the GDR’s equiva­lent of Vogue) and shots of daily life in East Germany.

Contemporary Fine Arts, or CFA, was founded in Charlottenburg in 1992 by Bruno Brunnet (later joined by his wife Nicole Hackert), who recalls that “after unification, it was the place we all put a lot of hope into and where a new thing was happen­ing”. The gallery made its mark in the mid-1990s showing Young British Artists such as Damien Hirst and Sarah Lucas alongside Americans Nan Goldin and Raymond Pettibon. CFA has moved around the city a few times, including a recent stint on Museum Island, and is now back in Charlottenburg’s Grolmanstraße off Savignyplatz. Their roster is multi-generational and still leans towards living American, German and British artists. That said, this month sees the sixth CFA show by Romanian-born twin brothers Gert and Uwe Tobias, Black Wind Blowing. Working in their self-developed woodcut printing method, the duo will present a series of colourful winged creatures on canvas that have the air of an updated Hieronymus Bosch. When asked how the Berlin gallery scene has changed since the Wall fell, Brunnet sums it up like this: “People drink and smoke less and do more sport.” For a whiff of that more rebellious spirit of 1989, get yourself down to one of these gal­leries this November!

Black Wind Blowing | Contemporary Fina Arts, Charlottenburg. Nov 9 – Dec 21.

A Planet’s Revolution | Eigen + Art, Mitte. Through Nov 30.

Christian Borchert | Galerie Loock, Mitte. Nov 23 – Feb 15.