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Gallery Weekend 2021: A cultural shot in the arm

Gallery Weekend might have moved mainly online, but culture-starved Berliners can look forward to its feast of shows extending into May and beyond.

Image for Gallery Weekend 2021: A cultural shot in the arm

Isa Melsheimer, at Esther Schipper. Photo: Andrea Rossetti

Berlin’s alternative to the bustling consumerism of a typical art fair, Gallery Weekend is the biggest fixture in the city’s art calendar, kicking off an annual frenzy of exhibition-hopping. This year, however, the weekend will be a more muted affair as it goes mainly online – with appointments possible at some galleries on presentation of a negative same-day Covid test. It may be a virtual launch, but this in no way hinders its emphasis on strong, curated shows – which will mercifully extend well into the summer, allowing Berliners to see the best shows of the year once corona restrictions are relaxed.

Over a year into the pandemic, artists have had a chance to meditate on the frustrations and quirks of life in crisis ahead of this Gallery Weekend. L’Invitation au voyage, a group exhibition opening at Esther Schipper on Potsdamer Straße, offers a kind of lockdown escapism with its abundance of energy and colour. It features the work of 13 different female artists, the most prominent being Paula Rego and the near-ubiquitous Isa Melsheimer. For Isabelle Moffat, head of content at the gallery, the exhibition is a response to the difficulties of the past year, during which “dreams and fantasy and imagination” have taken on a new role. Expect to see a thrilling and curious range of semi-abstract, figurative and collage works that take a porous approach to reality.

Down the road, Klosterfelde Edition will be showing the work of Rirkrit Tiravanija, Go for the Good Spirit. The Thai conceptual artist “will be conquering our gallery”, gallerist Alfons Klosterfelde says, “providing nourishment to the cultural spaces that have been closed off throughout the pandemic.” The space has been transformed into a kind of cultural wellbeing centre, replete with Japanese flower arrangements, a running water source, bronze wind chimes and other elements that all aim to bring “good spirit” to the gallery space. Over at Daniel Marzona, don’t miss the chance to dip into the topsy-turvy world of Sofia Hultén in her exhibition Super Call Me Fragile Ego. The artist’s disruption of visual expectations now seems perfectly in sync with the absurdity of life mid-pandemic.

But it’s not all corona. In Kreuzberg, Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler boasts a new Anna Uddenberg exhibition that launched on April 24. While artist liaison Sigrid Hermann was tight-lipped ahead of the opening, she did say that the new series of works from the artist, known for her commodified mannequins, will “provide a different take on gender and sexuality from what we’ve ever seen from her before”. Efremidis Gallery in Charlottenburg is showing Berlin-based artist Mathis Altmann’s Butcher Block exhibition, addressing co-working strategies, a thrilling mix of kitsch with a biomorphic tech-y texture. Taking the co-working space WeWork as his starting point, the German artist will be investigating the idea of labour in contemporary capitalism and the changing role of creativity in the digital era.

For aspiring Berlin galleries, an invitation to participate in Gallery Weekend (you can’t apply) is a sure sign that they are doing something right. Efremidis is a new addition to the annual event’s exclusive club of 49 galleries. “We feel honoured, because once you are in, you are in,” says programme director Tenzing Barshee. It’s the “spirit of collaboration” that appeals to him. While Gallery Weekend – and the bumper month that follows – are a cultural shot in the arm for the public, the event is also a much-needed exchange for the venues themselves.

Image for Gallery Weekend 2021: A cultural shot in the arm

Paula Rego Caritas at Esther Schipper. Photo: Paula Rego

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