Have you met... Cato J. Dibelius

Yesterday, Bpigs had the chance to meet up with Berlin's youngest curator while working on his show "Daddy, YOU can't make a Cactus... this has been done!" at Grimmuseum.

In the span of ten years, Cato J. Dibelius has visited over four hundred international exhibitions. That is roughly over forty shows a year, and a really good mark for one first decade of a life, if you ask me.

In the past few days, Cato has been coming to Grimmuseum to work on the show after going to school. And it's at work where I find him when I arrive.

It's the night before the grand opening, but he assures me that he's not nervous at all. He just looks a bit tired, as I realize that he is still wearing his school shirt.

He gets a lump of plasticine, balls it up with his hands, and throws it firmly against the wall. The squashed ball gets attached to the surface among other plasticine balls resembling colorful polka dots on a white background. "It's a work by Canadian artist Michel de Broin", he explains. "Michel couldn't come, but he told me how to make this piece". Cato is concentrated, following the artist's instructions. It looks like fun. I ask him if it is and he nods while aiming at the area marked out with masking tape.

The fact that Cato is the son of artist Robert Barta has been crucial for his early curatorial practice. He has been exposed to art since the moment he was born, and artist studios have been like playgrounds for him, something you can tell when you see him walking around the gallery and talking to the artists in the show.

Cato started looking at art catalogues and portfolios of some of his father's artist friends at a rather early age: "I have been thinking about putting my favourite works together for two years now. And for this show, I have been collecting works for about one year", he tells me. I also learn that he had a concept for this exhibition, in which he started working with the help of a model of the gallery space constructed by his father, where he put in miniatures of the selected works.

I am particularly curious about the title of the show and its critical hint. I ask Cato to tell me the anecdote/story behind it, and he explains that it's just what he said to his father after he explained to him the art project involving a cactus that he had in mind. Cato immediately recalled the work of Simon Starling "Kakteenhaus", and hence the answer "this has been done". In moments like that, in which Robert was aware of his son's precise memory and precocious abilities to make associations, he encouraged him to put some works together, as he was already doing, but for real, in a group show.

Cato agrees to make a little tour through the exhibition while explaining his curatorial concept to me. We go into the room with the "colorful stuff". "This is abstract, and very colorful", he says about Djuneid Dullo's "Let there be love, let there be blood". "And this one is a bit crazy, and I really like the artist", he comments while we stand in front of a picture of Michael Zheng sporting a rainbow smile. "He used food coloring", he explains.

"This one is really imaginative, bigger than the others, and also quite abstract", he says about Roman Lang's "pasdedeux".

An empty Monopoly board catches my attention. There are no avenues, no railroads and no jail. "This is a painting by Rodrigo Oliveira. I have it at home, in the bedroom". 

As in a sort of purgatory, we stand in the anteroom that houses Thomas Behling's campy piece "Der kleine Junge hat Angst vor dem Schwarzen Mann". (Cue lightning bolts)


I wonder about his classmates and if they are also showing any interest in art. "There is no one to talk about art with in school, they are just not into it. I handed out some cards of the exhibition to my classmates, but I don't know if they will turn up", he says.

"And now, a bit of popcorn", announces Cato, who wanted to have "a bit of everything" in this show. Apart from the "colorful stuff", we find other media such as video or a site-specific installation made out of wooden strips before we finally arrive in the playful room, and then I get the popcorn reference when I see "1:43 – 47, Berlin", a piece by Michael Sailstorfer (depicted). What is striking about Seb Koberstädt's "brown painting" (actually named "Sex"), is that it is made out of beer and cocoa. And also in this room, artists were working on "Revolution", but no more spoilers now, you have to see this by yourself tonight.

I asked Cato if this is what he wants to do professionally in the future and he firmly answers "no". However, he is certain that he would like to do some more exhibitions after this one. Where or when? We'll have to wait to see what Cato is coming up with next.

I leave him getting organized doing a to-do list. He counts with his fingers: "Kügeln, dann Popcorn...."

"Daddy, YOU can't make a Cactus... this has been done!" opens tonight at 19.00 in Grimmuseum, Fichtestraße 2, and will be on view through 17.02.

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