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I had the privilege of spending a full week in Berlin in order to explore the 9th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art and discover some of what the city has to offer for emerging art.
There is a strong feeling of achievement in creativity in Berlin, notably after the tragedy of the 20th century. Every institution is founded with that goal in mind and you can perceive it.
The opening of the Julia Stoshchek Collection preceded the Berlin Biennale opening, where a veritable who’s who of the international art crowd began its summer European art market marathon. The Stoshchek collection displayed interesting video work by a group of amazingly talented young artists from Europe, the U.S., and Asia.
The epicenter of the art community in Berlin is Auguststrasse, where Michael Fuchs renovated one of the symbols of Berlin’s history, a former Jewish girls school. On this storied ground, a new creative life has blossomed, creating a space for emerging artists. Since its debut, other galleries have opened nearby Fuchs, including Hans Ulrich Obrist’s Me Space.
The Berlin Biennale is spread over several locations, and made a strong impression from the Army of Love to the Duilian installation, and from Wu Tsang to Camille Henrot’s strong political, sociological, and visual statement. The presentation at the Akademie der Kunste offered a very different artistic reality and The Feuerle Collection in the repurposed Nazi bunker will not leave you unmarked.
After a short but very intense stay in Berlin, I left understanding that Berlin’s strong standing in the international art community is not a passing trend, but a deep-rooted reality that I can see will last. And Berlin offers one thing that no other major city can offer: space and freedom for artists via much more affordable rents than in Paris, New York, London, etc. More importantly, there is a feeling that not only it is O.K. to be daring, but that given the city’s history and its recent past, such creative risks are expected from artists.
Outside of the biennial, other must-see shows include the William Kentridge’s great exhibition at the Martin-Gropius-Bau, the Julian Rosenfelt “Manifesto” at The Hamburger Bahnhof Museum. And its “The Black Years” exhibition is probably the best show to explain and summarize why Berlin today is a center for creation in the art world. It is also a vivid reminder that we live on the edge of chaos and that tragedy is just around the corner.
Artists—and in particular in Berlin—are the safeguard of our freedom and liberty. Theirs is a key message: one shall never forget that Berlin is the best and worst illustration of our tragic past, hopeful present, and worrisome future.
– Laurent Moïsi