Berlin’s Exhibition Culture is Evolving
Author: Dagmar von Schönfeld, Content Editor & Senior Key Account Manager Culture by visitBerlin
In Berlin, art has risen from the walls, transformed itself and conquered new spaces. At the same time our whole world is changing rapidly: digitization, global networking, social upheaval, new perspectives on the past. In order to be part of the change, art must be communicated in a new way, exhibition spaces must evolve into spaces of experience. The creative hub Berlin shows new approaches.
A fresh breeze in Berlin’s museums and exhibition halls
The Neue Nationalgalerie is a world-renowned museum. The famous steel and glass architecture with its wide, light-flooded exhibition hall has been displaying paintings and sculptures of classical modernism for over 50 years. Recently, it has been brought to life in a new way: performances transform the exhibition hall into a dynamic sensual experience. Architecture, sculpture, music, and dance merge in unique artistic actions. Further dance performances this year also involve the outdoor areas of the Neue Nationalgalerie.
The new Humboldt Forum in the heart of Berlin is another spectacular venue for art and culture with huge exhibition spaces. One with a special offer: visitors and professional dancers open up the spaces together – with dance and theater, performances, accompanied by sound installations. The science exhibition After Nature does not need long text panels to convey the sensitivity of ecological systems: As soon as you enter, large schools of fish on huge projection screens react sensitively and collectively to every human movement.
Berlin’s Museum für Naturkunde (Museum of Natural History) is not only an exhibition venue for thousands of animal specimens, but also a renowned research institution. Now the boundaries between visitors and science, between research and art, are falling. For the new Science Variety Show, researchers and artists have developed evening show programs in which research results are conveyed through music, artistry and storytelling, and in which people from different backgrounds talk about science at eye level.
Old industrial buildings, breweries, party grounds: Experiencing art in unusual places
Located in the heart of the capital, they are gigantic spaces with impressive room heights: For years, thousands of people danced to club sounds in the former combined heat and power station, Kraftwerk. And until today, they dance in the legendary Berghain, a former hall of a freight station and the center of Berlin’s techno culture since the 1990s. Both venues are now also dedicated to art. The Berlin art platform Light Art Space experiments with excitingly innovative exhibition formats in the eternally dim halls. It fuses art, science and technology into deep sensory experiences – whether it’s about artificial intelligence, Berlin’s origins as a former swampland or the motive of collective imagination. All performances come together under the leitmotif of light.
In the 20-meter-high boiler house of the former brewery the KINDL, international artists show installations and performances, films and videos, sculptures and paintings. Recently, it was stuffed with human body shells made of black latex: they hung motionless from the ceiling, tried to climb rope ladders, dangled from steel girders and brick walls, or lay powerlessly stretched out on the concrete floor. The installation was accompanied by a soundtrack modelled on the human pulse, the “ultrasound”.
Whether in the former minting plant Alte Münze, right on Alexanderplatz, the Lighthouse of Digital Art, on the site of an old railroad workshop, or the light installation Dark Matter on a former factory premises: sensory journeys of discovery through soundscapes, virtual reality and light imaginaries deeply touch and offer a new experience of art and space for the visitor.
Berlin exhibitions: New themes and critical views
Paul Gauguin is one of the most important French painters, famous for his South Sea paintings created in the 19th century. This year, the master and his artworks were viewed from an unusual angle in an exhibition at the Alte Nationalgalerie on Museum Island Berlin: It follows the question of how much were his exotic and erotic depictions influenced by the western-colonial thinking of the time? And how do artists from Samoa or Tahiti actually perceive Gauguin’s paintings today?
Critical perspectives are currently shaping several exhibitions in Berlin: The Brücke Museum, with its focus on Expressionist art, devoted an entire exhibition to the question of how much the work of the artists was intertwined with the colonial era, its power relations, and racist ideas. In the Neue Nationalgalerie, similar questions are raised and the problem of the relationship of male artists to young female models is touched. Since last year, the Humboldt Forum has been displaying Berlin’s extensive collections of art and cultural historical objects from all over the world while focusing on the origins of the artefacts, often looted from other countries in colonial times.
However, it’s not just about the past. Today, the global metropolis of Berlin stands for a lived and practiced tolerance and openness. Accordingly, Berlin’s museums and exhibition venues are taking up current social discourses, confronting contradictions and challenges. The renowned exhibition house for photography C|O Berlin in 2022 dedicates itself to the topic of queerness, the Gropius Bau recently focused on the life of the black LGBTQIA community in South Africa. At Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin’s museum for contemporary art, an exhibition explored the brutal processes of nation-building. The themes of diversity and roots, of belonging and being different have arrived in the Berlin art and exhibition scene and do reflect the current social awakening.
Header Image © Ralph Larmann
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