Artist-Run Spaces in Berlin
deserted factories attract artists from all over the world. The
affordable space also generates a rare phenomenon: artist-run galleries
and project spaces that host exhibitions and collaborations outside of
the commercial art market. These projects range from the cleanly
professional to the exuberantly grungy, but each venue exhilarates in
its own quirky way, presenting underrepresented art and unusual
As alternatives to the white cube, artists reconfigure buildings
such as abandoned butcher shops and bombed-out department stores. The
new After the Butcher project turns a former meat-processing plant into a space for site-specific installations, while the artists of super bien! host exhibitions in a glass greenhouse. General Public animates a derelict building with shows, film screenings, and performances, and the collective Chaos Computer Club set up an interactive LED display
in the windows of an empty office building, enabling passersby to
generate light shows with their cell phones. Far more common, however,
is for artists to open project spaces in their spare bedrooms; Croy Nielsen, for example, is an exhibition venue in an expansive apartment in Prenzlauer Berg.
Other artists occupy conventional gallery spaces, but fill them with esoteric exhibitions. Sparwasser HQ, which is run collaboratively by artists and theorists, lights up a storefront in Mitte with conceptual and political projects. A few blocks away is PROGRAM,
a nonprofit space melding art and architecture with exhibitions of wall
paintings, labyrinthine installations, and video projections. In the
shadow of the Alexanderplatz TV tower, the artist Lena Ziese founded Jet, which currently hosts thematic exhibitions on the subject of failure.
Currently, the Brunnenstrasse galleries â many of which were
originally founded by artists â are drawing the largest crowds. For
these producer-galleries, artists band together, hire a director, and
each hold solo shows during the year. Diskus, founded by nine young sculptors from the Dresden Art Academy, is one such gallery, as is Amerika, which primarily represents artists from the Academy of Visual Arts Leipzig. A collaboration between curators, Curators Without Borders is an experimental, international space, while Artnews Projects, an extension of artnews.info, hosts traveling, concept-based exhibitions.
Besides the vast range of exhibitions, a plethora of alternative
symposia, lectures, and publications expand the art scene. The most
prominent discussion forum is the United Nations Plaza â organized by ten artists including Martha Rosler, Liam Gillick, and Walid Raad
â which hosts free seminars probing contemporary art production, but
many exhibition spaces hold additional lectures and screenings.
Alternative publications that add to the dialogue include Mono.Kultur, Texte Zur Kunst, and 032c.
Although many Berliners bemoan the increasing commercialization of the
art scene, the reality for now is that in a city of few buyers, the
commercial galleries remain observers, rather than rulers of this
experimental playground â one of the few that is still generated by
artists, for artists.