Thursday, October 05, 2006

Steven Brown @ Art Forum Berlin

I was delighted to hear from an art buddy and native Detroiter, Steven Brown who is currently in Germany pursuing his fine art masters, who recently attended Art Forum Berlin. He sent me some great pics and a story to accompany...see below. This is a new feature of detroitarts but I hope to have more highlights like this coming. (above The Messe) Jack Pierson
“Art Forum Berlin In 1,000 Words or Less.”
By: Steven M Brown
October 5, 2006

What: Art Forum Berlin
Where: The Messe Berlin
When: September 30 – October 04 2006

“121 galleries from 22 countries will show new works by their stars and new-comers at the beginning of the season in autumn in Berlin.”

After much hemming and hawing I decided to take the train to Berlin for Art Forum 2006. It was a last minute trip but given the immaculate rail system here in Germany it was as though I had been planning for months. The trip offered certain revelations as to the nature of Berlin as a modern city and arts paradise as well as a window onto much of what is revolutionary, beautiful, and commercial in contemporary art.

Was it worth it? Uh huh.

William Pope

The exhibition was housed in Berlin’s premier exhibition/fair grounds, The Messe. Under a grey sky The Messe appeared both hideous and magical, reminding me of something a Manga animator might dream up for after the apocalypse comes. Art Forum was installed inside of the sprawling North Hall of The Messe. It was not difficult to navigate as a visitor because there was really no way to navigate it. Despite the hyper-detailed map, people were forced to simply begin walking without purpose, viewing as they went, hopefully finding a way out in the end. I had to give myself over to the scale of the event in order to take anything away. Paramedics would have had a much tougher time in an emergency. The exhibition was mostly white-walled and packed with a mixture of amazing work and deliberately dressed people. (Fortunately I counted only a handful of trucker hats) No more than 5 minutes after I entered I stood (modestly curious) as a nice couple from who knows where inquired as to the price of a small (12x16) ‘anonymous’ painting. After being told the work was priced at 26,000 Euro (35,000 USD) they politely asked if they could carry it out with them. I guess names aren’t always everything.

Wawrzyniec Tokorski

The event serves as a temporary and contemporary museum of the highest quality, as well as clearing house for just about any art form that can be bought and sold. The over-arching principles of AFB are newness and quality. Both were present in equally breathtaking amounts.

“This year at the 11th ART FORUM BERLIN, the entire spectrum of contemporary art will be represented: painting, photography, installations, media art, sculpture, works on paper, editions and multiples.”

True! The exhibition was so diverse I could imagine purists falling into fits and pulling their hair out in the corner. The work ranged from, oil on just about everything, to graphite on paper, to monumental c-prints (I mean 20 feet x 10 feet monumental), to the requisite neon installation, to video installation, to interactive design…name it and it was there.


Markus Oehlen’s work seemed to be everywhere. His giant oil on canvas compositions would stand out even in a 4th of July parade, or, as was the case even at Art Forum Berlin. Performance artist William L Pope had a small work titled “Salt Lick” represented by a London-based gallery whose name I didn’t get. The orange crusty surface was accompanied by instructions to lick the surface and spit the contents of one’s mouth onto the floor. By day 4 of AFB no one had followed his instructions. It’s understandable really. Birgit Dieker was a new name for me but I will certainly not forget it. The works presented by Birgit, who is represented in Europe, all utilized fabric and found clothing. I was most struck by pieces that looked like anthropomorphic humanoid forms made by ‘stacking’ old shirts like a Russian doll until a solid form was realized. The ‘heads’ of these forms were then excavated until the layers within were revealed. David Scher, (another new name for me) shows in the still-hot city of Leipzig. He reminds me of SF based artists like Shaun O’Dell. I am struggling to understand why exactly, but it may be they blend an interest in formal and technical aspects of drawing and painting with the insane ‘abstract expressionist/Korean animation/Americana’ symbolism that I find more and more in contemporary painting. All things considered I was really completely under-whelmed by the installation section. The area was used for works that were not installation but were too large to be exhibited in the main spaces, as well as ‘true’ installations that I found generally a bit stale.

Alexander Ochsgallery Berlin_Beijing

The city of Berlin itself is as amazing as it is strange. My first impressions were of the new 700-million Euro Hauptbahnhof (the largest in Europe). It’s a glass cathedral that accepts trains on two levels. It’s larger than most airports and busier too. 800 years of history seem to still be active and alive all around the city. The touristy areas are still quite raw and it would seem everyone finds a voice there. The city is in many ways a blank slate. It is ancient and contemporary and many areas still bear traces of multiple invasions, regime changes, world shattering bombing campaigns, and geopolitical division. Award winning architecture and still dead soviet-era buildings stand together, roving bands of street-kids wait for trains next to rich Golden-Youth at the U-Bahn station, wurst peddlers next to kebob carts.... It seemed like strange things were afoot all around me. AND the people are delightfully nice. There were areas where just walking around I felt as though I was on some high-grade synthetic black-market chemical. Even at the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate it was all a bit like a blurry dream of some “Soviet Brooklyn.” I was unprepared for the tarnished-polish of the city. All things said it’s an amazing metropolis and host to a seemingly non-stop party circuit at a seemingly infinite variety of clubs, venues, squat-houses, hotels, galleries, etc. There are no less than 50 museums in Berlin proper, including the Pergamonmuseum, Bode-Museum, as well as the Alte and Neue Nationalgaleries. These are all situated on the Museum Island, which is still reeling from a 400-million Euro renovation project. There are more official and alternative gallery spaces than I can count, all presenting a variety of work befitting an international city such as Berlin. I was also lucky enough to catch Cai Guo-Qiang at Guggenheim Berlin. I was introduced to him through the Woodward Lecture Series a few years ago. I have seen him at the Corcoran in Washington DC as well and I am never disappointed with his work.


Suffice it to say there’s too much to discuss in one sitting. Maybe next year I can offer some perspective on the changing face of Art Forum Berlin. But for now, like the 10,000 other visitors, I am still in the hazy neon thrall of the grand event.


This has been a free community service for DetroitArts.

Steven Matthew Brown lives and works in Weimar, Germany and attends MFA classes at Bauhaus-Universität Weimar.,



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great write up, Mr. brown.

1:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

a great new feature for your blog, ann.

12:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thats some awesome work!

3:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting . . .

10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Cristin,

It's my pleasure to share any experiences or resources I can. I had initially thought of establishing a site of some sort for art and culture as I am experiencing them, but I think sharing with Detroit through Ann’s great weblog will be best.

I look forward to bringing back something from Art Cologne in a month or so.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy!


7:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm really enjoying this blog. I just wanted to point out that William Pope's name is actually William Pope.L
He's got a great book out called The Friendliest Black Artist in America©

8:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who knows where to download XRumer 5.0 Palladium?
Help, please. All recommend this program to effectively advertise on the Internet, this is the best program!

7:26 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home