Berlin is nothing if not full of discoveries. So the fact that Gallery Weekend Berlin, held from 16—18 SEP in almost fifty galleries, labelled their latest programme *Discoveries might seem somewhat obvious at first. Isn’t the city known for its abundance of experiments and innovation?
Yet Gallery Weekend Berlin, which was founded in 2005 and has been a highlight of the annual calendar ever since, has a slightly different concept this year. The art usually shown in spring is geared not least to an international public, which has reliably flocked to the traditional Gallery Weekend Berlin date in late April or early May. Many of those exhibitions pack a beguiling, powerful punch—but also mostly feature already well-established artists. Examples include the 2019 inaugural exhibition of Konrad Fischer Galerie’s new space with works by Richard Long, an icon of Land Art since the 1960s; or the 2008 Sprüth Magers show of monumental self-portraits by Conceptual artist Cindy Sherman, who photographed herself as various versions of an ageing American lady. Another includes an exhibition of Ai Weiwei sculptures at neugerriemschneider in 2011, when the artist himself was imprisoned in Beijing and unable to communicate with the outside world.
So Gallery Weekend Berlin has long since proven its relevance. This year it is breaking new ground. The event has sort of ›doubled‹ itself and is institutionalising last year’s September iteration, when it was postponed to autumn on account of the pandemic. To some extent, this second iteration in September fills the void left by art berlin, the contemporary art fair that folded in 2019. And while »galleries usually show their established artists at the traditional Gallery Weekend Berlin in spring, we wanted a more playful approach to the second Gallery Weekend Berlin«, as director Maike Cruse put it in an interview. *Discoveries is to be understood as a kind of bracket for content; the intention is not to restrict, but to give fresh impetus to new ideas.
What individual galleries do with it is up to them. The spectrum of presented artists is therefore quite broad, ranging from true newcomers like Ruscha Voormann at Crone gallery or Daniel Hölzl, a Kunstakademie Weißensee graduate whose visual and acoustic moments at Dittrich & Schlechtriem are as sparse as they are memorable; to gallery Efremidis’s show of New York-based artist Megan Marrin, whose peculiar apparatuses hover somewhere between a sanatorium and a torture chamber and are virtually pushing their way to Berlin in the form of paintings or sculptures, having featured once a few years ago in a group show at Galerie Max Hetzler.
Hetzler, for his part, has put the spotlight on artist heavyweights Julian Schnabel and Matthew Barney—a return, to be sure, considering neither of these artists have had solo presentations in Berlin for many years, though not necessarily a *Discovery per se. In any case, the *Discoveries label is intended as an optional way to present individual artists and highlight them separately. Konrad Fischer Galerie, for example, has decided to present a classic in the form of Wolfgang Laib’s wax and pollen sculptures and, as part of the *Discoveries series, juxtapose it with K.R.M. Mooney, a Seattle-based sculptor born in 1990 whose architectural interventions often combine such disparate materials as steel and lavender blossoms. By contrast, art dealer Wolfgang Werner wisely opted to present Birgitt Bolsmann in the context of *Discoveries: the late artist, who was active in the 1970s and 80s, is a true rediscovery.
Bolsmann and her subjects, whose hyper-decorative surfaces deconstruct the aesthetics of their time, show just how far the *Discoveries framework can be stretched. It doesn’t have to be material fresh from the academy. Galerie Ebensberger brought Philipp Gröning to the erstwhile cemetery chapel of the crematorium in Wedding, where the political film director has installed his immersive ›Oktoberfest Phantom‹, a VR piece. The gallery alexander levy features an essayistic video installation by currently Berlin-based Taiwanese filmmaker and artist Su Yu Hsin—a work exploring various relationships between ecology, technology, and geographic insights. These also qualify as discoveries at Gallery Weekend Berlin, which has increasingly focused on political and social conditions beyond art production. *Discoveries are just the beginning: according to Cruse, Gallery Weekend Berlin will continue exploring »other themes and any possible expansions« each autumn.