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Berlin’s art bazaar

The seventh edition of Gallery Weekend consumes the Berlin art world this weekend, boasting more galleries than ever showing off the best they have to offer.

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Alice Aycock/MMX/Sarkis

The seventh edition of Gallery Weekend consumes the Berlin art world this weekend, boasting more galleries than ever showing off the best they have to offer. But 44 exhibitions in three days? Only jet-lagged obsessive collectors, art scene gossips and celebrity gawkers would take the bait and attempt to take it all in.

Most of the shows are long-term events, lasting into June, making the Berliner’s task less consumption-oriented and more opportunistic. From international political intrigue to home-grown authenticity, here is our guide to the weekend’s best. Also, don’t forget to check out our interview with Gallery Weekend cofounder Esther Schipper.

Friday: Opening night (high)lights

If you thought hearing about Spargel-season was getting tiresome, just wait for the Ai Weiwei debate (more on that later). Clamoring for flashing bulbs is typical Friday night flair, but these shows, flying just below the radar, are actually about the art.

The incomparable sculptor Alice Aycock is at Galerie Thomas Schulte, displaying her divinely-inspired work The Wavy Enneper. Actually it’s a genial marriage of mathematical theory and natural beauty. It’s huge. And it’s brilliant.

On a black-tie kind of night, the Venice Beach punk-rock illustrative artist Raymond Pettibon, whose 1980s album covers for SST Records are legendary, will be at Contemporary Fine Arts. Berlin-based Anselm Reyle, a collector favorite, will be showing as well.

Johnen Galerie divides its space between Martin Creed, on the 10th anniversary of his Turner Prize-winning installation at Tate Gallery, and polaroids from Canadian-born and one-time Berlin expat Attila Richard Lukacs. The Lazarus-like Lukacs always has a beautifully shocking story to tell.

Saturday: Insider/Outsider

It costs money to be crowned a Gallery Weekend gallery. Most must focus on international (read: Düsseldorf) collectors this weekend. But some of our Berlin favorites do a little piggy-backing, using the occasion to throw parties of their own.

Tanas has shown Sarkis’ The Speed of Colors since the beginning of February, but the prophetically-timed exhibition uses Gallery Weekend as an excuse to invite the 72-year-old artist to Berlin for a weekend of participatory events, including an English-language dialogue with the artist himself (18:00). The early front-runner for show-of-the-year just got better.

MMX is a thing of the past. But the already legendary open-art venue reopens for a three-day exhibition. The ever-more rugged MMX team, fresh from excavating the new space Co Verlag at Torstraße 111, celebrates the release of the book that will immortalize last year’s project, again lighting-up the front garden on Linienstraße. And, in a nod to nostalgia, Tacos Berlin will be on the premises all weekend long.

Gallery Weekend has yet to find its way to Köpenicker Straße, the new home of Exile. But no doubt collectors-in-the-know will venture out to catch the opening of Martin Kohout’s Glare Inland, Quiet Attachment. The Prague-born, Berlin-based artist’s new show will be inaugurated by a live performance from o F F.

Sunday: May Day

It’s difficult to imagine gallery viewing on May Day in Berlin. It’s a day for revolution, for discontentment and dissidence. No worry. Revolution and rebellion are as much a part of Gallery Weekend as the art.

Harry Blain and Graham Southern ditched Haunch of Venison last year. Less than six months after Christie’s permanently closed the doors, the London pair is back to take Berlin. Opening Blain|Southern on Potsdamer Straße with post-YBA favorites Tim Noble and Sue Webster this weekend is a statement. The pharaoh tomb-inspired, labyrinth installation might just lead somewhere.

“Who’s afraid of Ai Weiwei?” So read many of the handmade signs protesting the artist’s disappearance. Elizabeth Taylor is rolling over in her grave, probably onto Michael Jackson. I’m still inclined to believe it’s all a brilliant performance piece. But if not, it will be a relief for his art to take center stage at Neugerriemschneider. And by Sunday, Amnesty International should have stopped protesting.

Klosterfelde shows John Bock, the Berlin-based performance artist. His work is confrontational, leaving audiences with an unconventional feeling and a taste for action. He performs at Schinkel Pavillon (15:00), with plenty of daylight remaining for auto burning and other expressions of anarchical tendencies.

Those who wish to assert themselves in a more socially-accepted manner, hobnobbing with the crème de la crème can try to muster a table at Grill Royal. Vegans are better off trying their luck with Martinis at Paris Bar, a whiskey-sour at Victoria Bar or a nightcap at Broken Hearts Club. It’s an art weekend in an art city. Live it large.