A little contemporary art guide to Berlin

I asked of one of the locals who is helping us out at Galleria illy to for suggestions as I wanted to check out the contemporary art scene in Berlin.

ME Collectors Room

I took to heart her recommendation of ME Collectors Room Berlin, a brand new space built by Thomas Olbricht to display his collection to the public at Auguststr 68 (it opened last May). I was immediately attracted by the bar and its display of succulent sandwiches dressed with pesto sauce (which seems a rather strange condiment in Germany, no?). I ate one of these Genovese specialties while seated on a saddle-shaped chair (although, as you can see in the photo, normal 4-legged grey plastic chairs were also available – but I’m adventurous when I travel!).

Sufficiently sated, I turned around and found the real (non edible) art, an exhibit called “Passion Fruits picked from the Olbricht Collection”. It closes September 12 (2010) so if you’re in Berlin already for the Galleria, or if you have the fortune to live there, run over to the ME, asap! (Don’t worry, there’s also the Wunderkammer with the permanent display of works from different cultures and historical periods, and until 2011 a solo exhibit of the Chinese artist 王 Ouyang Chun.)

From the catalogue by Sana Pianta:

The first show of selected works from the Olbricht Collection, auspiciously entitled PASSION FRUITS, presents the outcome of a passionate engagement with art. Curated by Wolfgang Schoppmann, a longstanding advisor and companion of Thomas Olbricht in Essen, it reflects in both concentrated and expansive form the overall concept of the collection.

The stimulating entrée to the exhibition, a work by the young artist Corinne von Lebusa entitled “Ich geh mit Dir, wohin ich will” [I’ll go with you wherever I want], proffers a host of lover-icons spurred on by lust and longing. No less surprising impressions and opportunities for subjective experience follow: sheer astonishment in the “Kunst- und Wunderkammer”, the encounter with icons of contemporary culture, apotheoses of female beauty, feminist reflections, vegetable deformations of the figure, classical clarity and marbled astringency, fantasy-driven pictorial production and graphic art which enters surreal symbolic territory, unorthodox appropriations and quiet warnings. This diversity in contemporary art is represented – and that is a particular mark of the collection – by an equal number of female and male artists –  picked from the Olbricht Collection.

For me it really was a unique experience; I was particularly struck by the audacious combinations of the works in the room, from a chair made of stuffed animals to a selection of plastic firetrucks in a glass case.

KW (Kunst-Werke) Institute for Contemporary Art

The ME is right next door to the KW Institute for Contemporary art (Auguststr. 69), which also boasts a pleasant bar and a garden space (see photo). It defines itself as an Institute or “a place for the production and presentation of discourse-oriented contemporary art” that has no permanent collection but rather communicates “contemporary cultural developments in Germany and abroad by means of exhibitions, workshops and resident artists’ studios.” Until November 11th are two solo shows by Brazilian artist Renata Lucas and photographs and videos by Dor Guez.

The area around Checkpoint Charlie

I didn’t have time to also visit the area around Checkpoint Charlie that was also recommended to me for its surfeit of smaller galleries. Concentrated on Zimmerstrasse, Kochstrasse and Lindenstrasse are almost a dozen galleries (they open at 11am). Upstairs Berlin at Zimmerstr. 90/91 (go to the inner courtyard, first building on your left, second floor) concentrates on young, contemporary art from emerging and mid-career International and German artists, though at the moment it doesn’t appear that they have anything on (maybe their website is just not up to date?).

At Kochstrasse 60 is the main office and exhibition space of Galleria Crone (with its original branch in Hamburg and another space in Berlin) – they have a storefront space in which the more established artists are presented, leaving room for the emerging artists in the back gallery.

Galleria Nordenhaken is on the ground floor at Lindenstrasse 34/35 (they also have a branch in Stockholm). Opening today until November 6, 2010, is a solo exhibition called “Blues Brothers” – a new series of works by Finnish photographer Esko Männikkö, whose images play with the documentary quality of their medium, producing multiple layers of reality and narrative (see photo).

Berlin Gallery Map

We thought you might find a map useful for planning your visits to these galleries (as well as to Galleria illy), so here you go…

View Berlin Contemporary art map in a larger map

Berlin is hopping – why not go… Gallery Hopping! Do you have anything to add to our list? Please let us know in the comments.