Exhibitions and Fairs

Return To The Real. Four Berlin Exhibitions Post-Lockdown

Berlin exhibitions. Hassan Sharif, Broom, 2016.
Hassan Sharif, Broom, 2016; Installation view I Am The Single Work Artist at KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin 2020; Courtesy Sharjah Art Foundation Collection; Foto: Frank Sperling

By Shira Wolfe

After two months of lockdown, Berlin galleries and museums were allowed to welcome visitors back for real-life visits in early May. Though each institution approached the reopening with similar enthusiasm and due deference to the new health regulations, there there has been a pleasing diversity to the formats of exhibition making in Berlin’s post-lockdown summer. We suggest four to visit, each of which take measures to ensure the best, and safest, Berlin art experience this summer.

1. König Galerie

König Galerie
König Galerie. Courtesy König Galerie

König Galerie was founded in 2002 in Berlin by Johann König, and represents 40 international emerging and established artists. Since 2015, the gallery has been located in Kreuzberg in the former Brutalist St. Agnes church from the 1960s. Exhibitions take place in the former church chapel and nave. From 17-26 June, König Galerie presented Messe in St. Agnes, which offered visitors the opportunity to see the gallery’s Art Basel selection in real life, accompanying Art Basel’s online viewing room option in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. A large collection of 20th and 21st century works from the primary and secondary market were also exhibited in the gallery’s saleroom. The live exhibition has now ended, but you can still get the full experience in the 3D exhibitions of both the Art Basel selection and the saleroom.

All in all, the exhibition includes over 100 artworks by artists such as Alicja Kwade, Neo Rauch, Daniel Richter, Isa Genzken, Martin Kippenberger, Otto Piene and Katharina Grosse. Highlights from the 20th century art in the saleroom include screenprints and a collage work by Andy Warhol, a Henri Matisse ink painting, a small ink and pencil drawing by Louise Bourgeois and an early pencil on paper work soaked in grease by Joseph Beuys.

Red Love (1983) by Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol, Red Love, 1983. Courtesy König Galerie

In the impressive nave, the upper gallery space of the building, visitors can experience Short Story, the first solo exhibition by Elmgreen & Dragset at König Galerie, which runs through 2 August. The artist duo presents three figurative sculptures enacting an ambiguous post-game narrative in the immersive setting of an almost-full-size tennis court.

Elmgreen & Dragset, Short Story
Elmgreen & Dragset, Short Story. Photo by Roman März, courtesy the artists and König Galerie

Next up, opening on 4 July 2020 and on view till 2 August 2020, is Mona Ardeleanu’s solo show Soft Crush. Drawing non-hierarchically from European and Asian traditions, Ardeleanu crafts mysterious objects from patterned fabrics, lace, tassels or furs. Working on the flat surface of a canvas, her draped fabrics create the illusion of a three-dimensional space, creating objects the artist herself refers to as “bodies.”

Mona Ardeleanu, Kuro, 2018
Mona Ardeleanu, Kuro, 2018. Courtesy the artist and König Galerie

Opening hours are Tuesday-Saturday 10am-6pm and Sunday 12-6pm. Due to COVID-19 measures, the exhibition can only be visited by booking a ticket in advance and a limited number of visitors are allowed to enter the space at the same time.

2. PalaisPopulaire

Berlin exhibitions - PalaisPopulaire
PalaisPopulaire. Courtesy PalaisPopulaire, photo by David von Becker

Deutsche Bank presents the exhibition Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Projects 1963–2020 at Berlin’s PalaisPopulaire until 17 August 2020. The 70 works on show come from the collection of Ingrid and Thomas Jochheim, who are showing this part of their collection comprehensively for the first time.

Christo, Wrapped Reichstag (Project for Berlin), 1987
Christo, Wrapped Reichstag (Project for Berlin), 1987. Drawing in two parts, pencil, charcoal, wax crayon and map. Courtesy Ingrid and Thomas Jochheim and PalaisPopulaire

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s unforgettable project Wrapped Reichstag. Works on display at PalaisPopulaire include preliminary studies and drawings of this project, as well as studies, drawings, collages, lithographs, and early wrapped objects created between 1963 and 2019. From this practice of wrapping everyday objects like magazines and newspapers in foil and binding them with chord, and Christo’s early work in the ‘60s replicating store fronts covered with cloth, Christo and Jeanne-Claude moved on to wrapping entire landscapes and architectures.

Christo, Wrapped Woman, 1968
Christo, Wrapped Woman, 1968, 1997. Photo by Shira Wolfe, Courtesy Ingrid and Thomas Jochheim and PalaisPopulaire

The artist couple realised 23 different projects around the world between 1962 and 2019, which were all created without any private or public funding. All their projects were made possible by the sales of studies, drawings, collages, lithographs and editions, like the ones that make up the Jochheim collection. The works on display are a testament to the creative genius of Christo and Jeanne-Claude. They also reveal how much time, energy and detail went into the planning of their large-scale public works. Though the projects were usually only accessible to the public for a period of a few weeks, years of planning, political debates, and preliminary works preceded the actual wrapped architectures and landscapes. The collage works in the exhibition include drawings of these buildings with the fabric Christo and Jeanne-Claude used for the wrapping, creating unique pieces that contain the spirit of the artist couple’s vision, even after the large-scale projects have been dismantled.

Christo, The Floating Piers (Project for Lake Iseo, Italy), 2014
Christo, The Floating Piers (Project for Lake Iseo, Italy), 2014. Collage, pencil, wax crayon, enamel paint. Photograph by Wolfgang Volz, map, fabric sample and tape. Courtesy Ingrid and Thomas Jochheim and PalaisPopulaire

Entry to the exhibition is free, but entry slots must be booked online in advance following COVID-19 measures. On 24 June at 6pm, there will be a live conversation about Christo and Jeanne-Claude at PalaisPopulaire.

3. KW Institute for Contemporary Art

KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin exhibitions
Philippe Van Snick, Dag/Nacht, 1984–ongoing, Installation view entrance gate, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, 2016, Photo by Frank Sperling, Courtesy Tatjana Pieters

KW Institute for Contemporary Art was founded in the 1990s by Klaus Biesenbach and a group of young art lovers in a derelict former margarine factory in Berlin-Mitte. It has since grown into one of the most important centres for contemporary art in Berlin. KW, which reopened to the public on 30 May, is currently hosting the first major retrospective of the Emirati artist Hassan Sharif (1951–2016) in Europe. The exhibition reveals the mind of a unique conceptual artist who in his own way was engaged with everyday objects, archaeology and landscape to reconceive a conventional understanding of time, space, form and social interaction.

Hassan Sharif, Jumping No. 1, 1983. 3 of 7 photographs.
Hassan Sharif, Jumping No. 1, 1983. 3 of 7 photographs, Photo-documentation of a performance in Dubai, Courtesy Estate of Hassan Sharif; Alexander Gray Associates, New York; gb agency, Paris; Gallery Isabelle van de Eynde, Dubai

Sharif, who lived and worked in Dubai, was one of the most influential Middle Eastern artists of the 20th century. He was one of the first artists to break with classical conventions of art production in the Arab world. His artistic language was non-elitist, pared-down, process-based, and inspired by the Fluxus movement. For a long time, Sharif struggled with being dismissed by most of the Arab art world which favoured tradition, while people in the West accused him of imitation. Yet Sharif developed a voice and style uniquely his own, following the credo “Art becomes important as a means to make one aware of one’s actual environment.” As such, his conceptual explorations brought postmodern artistic traditions into his particular environment in the Arab world.

The KW retrospective presents around 150 works by Sharif, including drawings, paintings, assemblages, sculptural installations and performances. The total number of visitors permitted to visit current exhibitions at KW is limited to 25 people in order to be able to maintain the minimum distance of 1.5 metres between visitors.

KW Website

4. AP [Artists’ Positions]

AP Berlin exhibition
Installation shot AP “Screen time is up”. Courtesy AP

AP [Artists’ Positions] is a Berlin-based, artist-run exhibition space, initiated by artist Zdenek Konvalina and run from his apartment in Moabit. The initiative aims at collaboration with Berlin artists in the curation of exhibitions and art-related events. AP launched their inaugural exhibition, “Screen time is up,” right at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe when Berlin was on lockdown. Due to the timing of the exhibition and the subject matter, which examines our relationship to the increasingly digital world, the organisers made the decision to show the exhibition online only, but still installed the artworks in the physical space, allowing for a full virtual experience of the art in the exhibition space.

AP art Berlin, Screen time is up exhibition
Installation shot AP “Screen time is up”, works by Moritz Neuhoff, Zdenek Konvalina and Christian August. Courtesy AP

Borrowing its title from one of the artworks in the exhibition which is named after an iPhone notification and the current social stasis experienced worldwide, “Screen time is up” was prompted by reflections on the expanding digital world, our relationship with our devices and changing realities. According to AP: “As we are forced to spend even more time on our screens in our current situation, questions such as: how does our ability to interact in the physical world get influenced, come to the forefront.” The exhibition brings together 5 Berlin artists who each in their own way explore and confront the digital world with their art: Moritz Neuhoff, Christian August, Ria Patricia Röder, Aaron Scheer and Zdenek Konvalina.

The exhibition intends to draw attention to the potential impacts of seeing and experiencing things through screens, while at the same time creating an environment where viewers can take a break from the information overload. The online exhibition offers several different ways to see the art, from photographs of the artworks to a full virtual walk through the space.

Artist Positions’ Website

Relevant sources to learn more

Read more about some of the artists exhibited in these exhibitions in the following Artland articles:

Female Iconoclasts: Louise Bourgeois

Stories of Iconic Artworks: Joseph Beuys’ I Like America and America Likes Me

The Other Joseph Beuys: The Drawings of the Myth-Making Action Artist

Subtracting Reality, Revealing Beauty. A Tribute To The Unique Legacy of Christo and Jeanne-Claude

Stories of Iconic Artworks: Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Surrounded Islands

5 Contemporary Collage Artists Adding New Layers