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Berlin Art Week: Fairs, exhibitions and private openings

If you've been hungry for art, get ready for a feast of as much modern and contemporary as you can take: Starting this Wednesday (Sep 9), Berlin Art Week is back with shows at museums and private collections, Positions Art Fair and more.

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Last year’s Berlin Art Week attracted 100,000 visitors. (Photo: Positions Berlin Art Fair, Clara Wenzel-Theiler)

If you’ve been hungry for art, get ready for a feast of as much Modern and Contemporary as you can take: Starting this Wednesday (Sep 9), Berlin Art Week is back with shows at museums and private collections, Positions Art Fair and more.

Starting September 9, it’s Berlin Art Week: For the seventh time, museums, private collections, project spaces and institutions synchronise to open bill-topping exhibitions throughout the week to make Berlin an irresistible date in the international art calendar. This year is looking a little lacking with no Art Berlin fair (it was scrapped by owners Koelnmesse after the 2019 edition failed to meet financial expectations) and, naturally, nervous international travellers will likely deplete the event’s usual 100,000 visitors. However, there is some positive news: Positions Art Fair (entry €8-15) will return for its seventh edition with 57 international galleries at Flughafen Tempelhof and Paper Positions Berlin (entry €8-14), which was cancelled in May, will take place alongside it in the former airport hangars with 46 galleries showing works on paper. There’s also a new art fair kid on the block as König Galerie, in tandem with their fi rst solo show for German artist Friedrich Kunath’s unique twist on Romanticism, presents a second edition of its Covid-inspired Messe in St Agnes (Sep 12-20). The art fair in its Brutalist ex-church venue fi rst popped up in June for an entry fee of €8-10 with over 100 works and will again include new and secondary market artworks for sale.

Museums and Co.: new exhibitions and last chances

Alongside these fairs are 150 exhibitions nestling under the Berlin Art Week umbrella. It’s no mean feat to wade through them, but among the museums and institutions poking their heads above the parapet are: newcomers Times Art Center with the group exhibition Readings from Below including Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Christine Sun Kim and Hao Jingban; Berlinische Galerie’s solo presentation of this year’s GASAG Art Prize winner Marc Bauer (expect “complex installations based on the medium of drawing” from the Swiss artist, photo); the Christo and Jeane Claude (of Reichstag-wrapping fame) retrospective at Palais Populaire is closing at the end of the week and as Christo passed away over the summer it’s an ever more fitting moment to catch a glimpse of their genius; professor, writer, musician and artist John Miller’s witty observations on everything from identity to economics are embodied in bold sculpture, installation and photography in a survey show at the architecturally unique Schinkel Pavillon; and German photographer Michael Danner’s exhibition Migration as Avant-Garde (2008–2017) at Berlin’s bastion of photography C/O promises to be a moving, critical and rousing work about Europe’s borders.

Outdoors and off the beaten track

Also looking to the theme of borders and migration but outside the gallery walls is the open air intervention titled Wir (alle) sind das Volk (2003/2017) by conceptual artist Hans Haacke. Realised in the form of flags, banners and posters on and around Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (n.b.k), the Haus Der Kulturen Der Welt, Akademie der Künste and Kindl Centre for Contemporary Art, the work ´ takes up the slogan of East German demonstrators from 1989/90 with the artist hoping to emphasise our ties to all people, including migrants and refugees. Kindl also has four excellent shows open inside its galleries (see our interview with Kindl Director Kathrin Becker overleaf) and Gropius Bau shows Otobong Nkanga’s exhibition There’s No Such Thing as Solid Ground (see our four-star review). For something more intimate and off the beaten track head to at least one of the 10 winners of the 2020 Project Space Award. Among them is The Watch, a former GDR Berlin Wall watchtower in Berlin-Treptow saved from demolition by artists occupying it. The Watch has remained a home to exhibitions and residencies since reunification and is housing a group show reflecting on this caretaking: 2020 to 1990, 30 years of artistic use of the former GDR watchtower at Schlesischer Busch.

The privates: yes, they’re still there!

Despite the city losing a couple of private collections this year (and a few less than gracious spats about it in the press), there’s still plenty of opportunity to see what big collectors choose to spend their cash on. Seven private collections are taking part in Berlin Art Week, but if you can only visit one it should be the city’s new church of video art, the Julia Stoschek Collection. Located in Berlin since 2016, the collection has always delivered high calibre shows, so expect nothing less from its exhibition Quantification Trilogy by Canadian video artist Jeremy Shaw.