The first iteration of art berlin – a new partnership between abc art berlin contemporary and Art Cologne – has opened its doors this Berlin Art Week. The elaborately configured network of stalls filling STATION-Berlin's vast space will spill out into an accompanying, and no less densely packed, program of events over the course of the fair, as well as in parallel exhibitions opening at its participating galleries.
The halls of STATION-Berlin are buzzing with excitement and a plethora of curiosities – the reverberating hums and incandescence of which expand to the full capacity of the former transit hub's openwork architecture. With its history as a site for international exchange and a continuous flow of traffic, the Postbahnhof seems a fitting setting for the bustle of passing crowds, influx of objects and the varied intersections comprising the fair's vibrant atmosphere.
The sheer number of stalls – with over 100 participating galleries – presents quite an undertaking, but weaving in and out of the constellation of partial walls and hidden nooks within the fair's halls brings its share of rewards. There is even a certain pleasure in taking note of the finer details, such as the unique selection of tables and chairs that each gallery has arranged for visitors, as a significant feature of their design aesthetic. An assemblage by Angela De La Cruz, presented by Galerie Thomas Schulte, even seems to be a play on the theme – with its composition of a sofa, wooden box and chair strategically placed in the center of the gallery's stall, surrounded by wall-based works.
This sort of self-referential, contextually aware mode of display features in other stalls as well. For instance, in Galerie Nagel Draxler's exhibit by Mark Dion, Monster, which visualizes the concept of exhibiting attractions itself. Composed of a large tent, atop which a banner presents the image and headline of a fairground spectacle, the installation simultaneously scares off and beckons visitors inside, where they have the chance to see the skeletal remains of a 'mutant' creature: with the body of a cow and the head of a bear. It's an exhibit within an exhibit, articulating and interrogating notions of display, exhibiting, and the act of consumptive viewing.
A similarly cloaked display is found just across the way, at Sprüth Magers. The installation is particularly hard to miss, with its maze of bright green fabric partitions and the myriad objects that fill it. The free flowing fabric draws visitors into its folds, wherein they find a strange laboratory of various items and materials that float, hang, stand, and mobilize all around them. It seems to contain its own environment: a chaotic bricolage that somehow offers respite from the whir of activity just beyond its enclosure.
Alongside, between and around the more large-scale productions and those that venture to exceed the boundaries of the fair booth's frame, it is also possible to find understated, more minimal installations that are no less captivating. Barbara Wien's exhibition of Haegue Yang fabricates an intimate, domestic setting with a series of geometric wall works comprising metal boxes outfitted with multi-colored blinds – inside of which bulbs emit soft light through the slatted surface to reveal haphazard wiring behind the regularlity of the blinds' horizontal lines. A subtle play of light and shadow is also induced by Constantin Luser's work at Crone, wherein the fine lines of his suspended forms reflect drawings onto the walls' surfaces, layering and entangling shifting impressions of both into an ethereal landscape.
art berlin's expansive program is not just contained within the walls of STATION-Berlin this weekend. Berlin's participating galleries open their exhibitions this evening, and there will be studio visits, lectures and screenings held at various locations across the city. Look out for a shamanic journey hosted by Uwe Henneken, an exclusive screening of Simon Starling's Project for a Masquerade (Hiroshima) at Kino Babylon, an investigative tour of John Hejduk's Kreuzberg Tower by Jean-Pascal Flavien and more.