All Tomorrow’s Trees

atelier le balto

BAW Garten sits at the heart of Berlin Art Week, acting as a festival meeting place, event platform, and oasis all in one. Located at the iconic Mies van der Rohe building that houses Neue Nationalgalerie on Kulturforum, it offers a range of attractions including food interventions, performances, talks, screenings, and music—all designed to foster a sense of togetherness, exploration, and relaxation. There is a focal point and recurring theme here: sustainability. A look at some of the highlights.

BAW Garten with atelier le balto

Kulturforum near Potsdamer Platz is dominated by vast, grey slabs of concrete, not to mention such sprawling architectural landmarks as the Berliner Philharmonic, the Gemäldegalerie, and the Staatsbibliothek. Adding to this landscape is a colossal excavation site—future home to the Museum of the 20th Century, a building due for completion in 2026. Since July 2023, ›Baumschule Kulturforum‹, a horticultural project under the artistic direction of Klaus Biesenbach and the landscape architecture firm atelier le balto, has been turning a green dream into reality, a plan not too far removed from what German architect Hans Scharoun had in mind during his time as Berlin’s city planning commissioner: walnut trees and whitebeams, field maples and willows swaying gracefully on the piazzetta of Kulturforum. The vision is being brought to life by le balto, who have already transformed the back courtyard of KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Mitte and revitalised the wooded surroundings of the Brücke-Museum. Now they are redesigning the forecourt of Neue Nationalgalerie along the building’s façade, turning it into BAW Garten. The building’s overhanging roof, originally designed for a corporate headquarters in Cuba, still bears traces of the Caribbean’s climatic influence. During Berlin Art Week, more than 50 deciduous trees will adorn the façade, painting a green future that continues inside the building through the reflections cast by its vast glazed façade. From 13—17 SEP, BAW Garten will serve as a temporary hub for, among other things, performances, music, and talks—an ideal place to get together during the festival. What happens to the trees afterwards? They will be incorporated into the aforementioned ›Baumschule Kulturforum‹, a project meant to extend Tiergarten into the stony heart of Kulturforum. And bring nature back to the city.

Caique Tizzi, Foto: Angelo Dal Bo

Food intervention with Caique Tizzi

What brings people together more than a shared meal? Chef and food artist Caique Tizzi, who has been delighting Berlin Art Week visitors with his visual and culinary brilliance for the past two years, is once again staging a ›food intervention‹ at BAW Garten. This year’s concept takes us on a fruit-filled journey, following last year’s exploration of vegetables as a daily changing lunch menu. Inspired by the architecture of Neue Nationalgalerie and nestled within the art installation that is BAW Garten, Tizzi is creating small ›fruit corners‹ that will be offered daily to all visitors to Berlin Art Week. Tizzi aptly calls these morsels ›Edible landscapes / essbare Landschaften‹. In many cultures, fruit plays an important role in hospitality, as the food artist explains, and his creations serve as a gesture of welcome. Beginning with the pineapple (piña), a typical welcome fruit in Brazil, Tizzi moves on to the apple, often considered the original fruit of life, before delving into the pomegranate, an embodiment of femininity and strength. This is followed by the melon, a traditional offering in the Arab and Mediterranean world to welcome guests. Finally, citrus fruits provide a tangy, vitamin-packed finale.

Mobile exhibitions with Motus

Some of you may remember a time, not so long ago, when a certain Bavarian car manufacturer regularly attracted public attention by having its high-power vehicles painted by artists. These artists were usually well known, mostly male, often from Western countries, and always extremely high profile. The initiative was called ›Art Cars‹. Well, that was then—although not too long ago, to be honest. At least in contemporary art, though, the car, once the consummate status symbol, has certainly lost its appeal. In urban areas, where the current cultural battlegrounds revolve around issues such as parking and cycle lanes, the two-wheeler has long been the preferred mode of transport for the discerning crowd. So, a project like Motus, a mobile mini-gallery that Adrien Missika has installed on a converted bicycle, is absolutely a product of its time: (very) low carbon footprint, unwaveringly local, consciously unpretentious, yet mobile nonetheless. Missika’s Motus is set to host daily exhibitions of works by artists such as Jeewi Lee, Saâdane Afif, and Kasia Fudakowski in front of Neue Nationalgalerie, all throughout Berlin Art Week. On Friday evenings you can also find Motus parked in front of a Späti (late-night corner shop) on Kurfürstenstraße. The mountain bike frame, by the way, on which Motus sits is over 30 years old and was made by the Japanese bicycle manufacturer Kuawahra—originally with an ›Art Cars‹-worthy drip-paint finish. 

MOTUS, Adrien Missika

Open-air cinema with Videoart at Midnight

Videoart at Midnight has long been a Berlin institution. For 15 years, Olaf Stüber has been inviting artists to show their films on the big screen at Babylon cinema in Berlin’s Mitte district—always on Fridays, always at midnight. Now, for BAW Garten, Stüber has curated a multi-part, open-air cinema series set to run on the terrace of Neue Nationalgalerie during Berlin Art Week. The four screenings, featuring films by artists such as Yalda Afsah, Bani Abidi, Annika Kahrs, and Isaac Chong Wai, to name just a few, follow loosely woven thematic threads and delve into pressing issues of our time: the complex relationship between humanity and the animal kingdom here, questions of taxonomy, categorisation, and conservation there—forces that shape environmental protection and institutional efforts in distinct yet interconnected ways; followed by look a historical interpretation and the political dimensions of memory and heritage. We see films about gorillas communicating by hand signals and birds attending (and occasionally interrupting) concerts; about trees under glass or gracing the world’s streets; about the tastes of home and the agony of displacement; about gentrification; about the inability to break free from one’s own insular perspective; about the difficulty of looking back. Films about the fear of tomorrow. And films about hope.

Jalda Afsah, SSRC, video still

Talks with many

Artist talks and panel discussions are some of the most important public rituals in the art world—a means of self-exploration and -affirmation. And as we are often painfully aware, understanding complex concepts usually requires much more dialogue than we initially anticipate. So, let’s keep the conversation going, endlessly if need be—especially when it comes to climate change, arguably humanity’s most daunting challenge and one that is almost too colossal to fully comprehend. BAW Garten will be hosting a number of events focusing on this central theme throughout the week. It all starts on Wednesday, in collaboration with C/O Berlin, to coincide with the opening of the Berlin Art Week exhibition ›Image Ecology‹. The discussion aptly titled ›Beyond Fossilized Sunshine‹ will focus on ›photography in the context of the climated crisis‹. On Thursday, a panel discussion convened by Monopol magazine will explore a ›Green Deal for Culture‹ and asks how cultural institutions can potentially lead or catalyse the transition towards greater sustainability. Panelists include, amongst others, Minister of State for Culture and the Media Claudia Roth, and Klaus Biesenbach, Director of Neue Nationalgalerie. Finally, on Friday, the Gallery Climate Coalition, an international consortium of galleries, institutions, artists, and arts organisations dedicated to advancing the art world’s journey towards climate neutrality, will present another talk with the ›From Theory to Practice‹. To round off the week, Jackie Grassmann will offer intimate tête-à-tête sessions with individual artists and protagonists from Berlin’s art scene over the weekend. Among others: Coco Fusco, Isaac Chong Wai, Antonia Alampi, Daniele Maruca, Fabian Schöneich, Willem de Rooij, Fatma Shanan, Sally von Rosen, Lisa Long. The dialogue continues. 

Yoko Ono, Cut Piece, Foto: Yoko Ono Studio

Performances with Neue Nationalgalerie

Yoko Ono’s ›Cut Piece‹ is a seminal work of feminist performance art. First performed in Kyoto almost 60 years ago in 1964, this piece saw the artist simply sitting silently. The active role in this case was taken by the audience, who gradually snipped away her clothing, piece by piece, until Ono was naked. Over the course of Berlin Art Week, this ground-breaking performance, which tells of both strength and vulnerability, will be re-enacted once a day within the transparent confines of Neue Nationalgalerie’s glass cube. Beyond the gallery’s doors, an intriguing line-up of Berlin artists will be performing at the weekend, Göksu Kunak among them. At the heart of Kunak’s ›Venus‹ is the concept of the car—an enduring cliché and the condensation point of countless fantasies. Kunak consciously layers additional clichés, external attributions, and media imagery to explore complex issues of gender, migration, implicit Orientalism, freedom of movement, and social exclusion, not least along the axes of mobility and urban space. Images are made more complex, their meanings more elusive, associative threads more intertwined. Some people move fast and with impunity, while others are relegated to waiting, literally stuck in place. Some have horsepower, others cruise the city’s nocturnal streets on Bolt’s electric scooter.

Göksu Kunak, Venus, Foto: Jiri Arendt

DJ Sets with Refuge Worldwide

Please don’t stop the music—Refuge Worldwide, with its over 200 Berliner residents, is curating »a diverse programme of ambient sounds, deep pop and good vibes« for BAW Garten, as co-founder Richard Akingbehin describes it. He and fellow co-founder Georg Patrik, aka No Plastic, will take to the decks on WED, 13 SEP. They will be followed by DJ Fire Abend, Gabi & Jopo, and Alias Error. What began in 2015 as a fundraising platform that works in collaboration with non-profit organisations such as women’s shelters, refugee accommodation, and associations supporting the unhoused, evolved into Refuge Worldwide in 2021. It now stands as a radio station in the heart of Neukölln, broadcasting live online from Tuesday to Friday. As well as music, the station hosts discussions on socially relevant topics such as sustainability and mental health. It’s the perfect opportunity for Berlin Art Week visitors to relax with a drink and enjoy good music as the sun sets over Kulturforum.

Refuge Worldwide, Foto: Frankie Casillo

Highlights at BAW Garten