What To Expect
Beginning immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, artists of all backgrounds and persuasions joined an already thriving, politically subversive artistic community on the Wall's east side. Transforming the former East's derelict buildings and abandoned factories into workshops and collectives and by scavenging materials and ideas from a collapsed social and economic system, these artists fashioned a new identity for the reunited city and, in doing so, formed the nucleus of what has today become the Berlin art scene.
With well over 300 established galleries of contemporary art and an ever-expanding network of small and temporary spaces scattered around the city, Berlin has clearly established itself as the cultural and creative capital of Europe. At the heart of this capital lies Auguststrasse, the original core of Berlin's artistic community in the early 1990s and now home to the city's most prestigious galleries. In the company of a Context docent - a practicing artist or critic familiar with the scene - this is where we begin a three-hour tour of Berlin's art galleries.
But before plunging into the galleries themselves, we'll explore the background of this area by paying a visit to Kunsthaus Tacheles, the massive, skeletal ruin of a 1907 department store that has been occupied since 1990 by a collective of artists from all over the world. Walking through its labyrinthine, graffiti-covered warren of workshops and exhibition spaces, we'll get a good sense of what this part of Berlin looked and felt like when the Wall fell: a crumbling but vibrant hotbed of new ideas and of new ways of creating art out of the literal and figurative rubble of the past.
Once we have understood the area and the origins of the Berlin "scene" we'll jump into the art itself. Moving down Auguststrasse, and perhaps also visiting a few galleries on nearby Linienstrasse, we will be guided in our itinerary both by current openings and exhibitions as well as by our docent's knowledge of the galleries' strengths and weaknesses. We will certainly explore a number of well-established spaces such as the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Eigen + Art, and Galerie GERKEN, but we will also visit a variety of lesser-known galleries in order to have a broad overview of the kind of programs on display. If the group decides to go a bit off the beaten path, we might choose to Brunnenstrasse, which hosts a series of unpretentious, youthful galleries, or to the burgeoning scene on Heidestrasse, right around the corner from the famous Hamburger Bahnhof museum of contemporary art.
Whichever path we choose we'll be able to experience what makes the gallery scene in Berlin so different from the equivalent scenes in such art meccas as New York, Paris or London: True to its chaotic and revolutionary origins, the Berlin scene is constantly expanding, constantly re-inventing itself, and constantly seeking out new centers, spaces, and ways to push the envelope of contemporary art.
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4 hours and 30 minutes