October 2007, Kunst Herbst, (Art Autumn)

October 2007,  Kunst Herbst, (Art Autumn)
Artforum Berlin
Kunst Herbst, (Art Autumn)

The season of surfeit is upon us. The annual madness of Kunst Herbst (Autumn of Art) has arrived in Berlin which sees no less than four art fairs descending on the town simultaneously, all aggressively competing for the discretionary income of a jaded clique of super rich collectors for whom Berlin now rivals Basel, Köln and Miami as a top shopping destination.

Is any of the work presented at these fairs any good? – The question is moot. The shear quantity of it insists that participants must either adopt desperate presentational strategies to fix themselves in the memory of the viewer or (more often) ultra conservative ones to appeal to the impulse buyer and justify the extremely high costs of participation.


First off the starting block is the 3rd Preview Berlin, The Emerging Art Fair , which is situated in Hanger 2 of Templehof. The empty fascist triumphalism of Speer’s now largely redundant airport providing a fittingly grandiloquent context for the fifty seven participating galleries as well as a rather ominous portent of what was to follow over the next few days. The ‘emergent’ status of the galleries and artists presented here is belied by the slickness and expensiveness of their presentation.

Painting is back with a vengeance (but then in this context it has rarely ever been away). Glitterballs seem to be a recurring theme as do snow cones, empty and rather forlorn at Maisterravalbuena (Madrid), outsize in polythene and complete with clown portrait and potted plant at Artmbassy (Berlin). Artfinder (Hamburg) boasts a pool of oil above which hover two photo laminated Asian looking skyscrapers. Metro (Berlin) shows a tiny framed video, no more than a centimetre square, of a couple fucking whilst opposite at Kunstagenten (Berlin) the crudely panelled and wallpapered booth shows odd and rather formal self portrait photographs by Thorsten Brinkmann in which the artist invents a series of bizarre alter egos with the aid of clothing and objects rescued from the street.

Förderkoje (Nurturing Berth), a Berlin based space that exists nomadically hosted in private dwellings, have virtually walled themselves in to their booth presenting videos and large inkjet prints of their ‘Ultra Art Fair’ project while an assistant sits at a window beneath a Chinese good luck emblem assembling a puzzle. Despairing of the context nothing remains but to comment on the whole expensive circus.

At David Gallo (Berlin) Almagul Mevlbayeva’s video projection has three naked and bruised figures, a middle aged man and two younger women, kicking a rotting sheep’s head down a deserted road.


Opening the same day at the other end of town is Kunstsalon. Perhaps ostensibly the most ‘alternative’ of the fairs, Kunstsalon, in this its fourth year, is situated in the extensive BVG tram workshops by the river Panke in Wedding (North Berlin).

The low-lying unrenovated sprawl of various factory and workshop buildings provided the 60 participants with a little more space to stretch out and try more ambitious presentational gambits than the identikit white cubes typical of these events. Catering remained strictly beer and sandwiches and children and dogs were a voluble presence at the informal opening.

Although the work and its presentation was of a, debatably, more patchy quality - contributions from a number of artist run spaces were notable as was the use of containers to provide individual exhibiting spaces for artists. The slightly ramshackle and improvised feel of the fair seemed a little truer to the spirit of Berlin’s art scene but it should be noted that a number of the participants here (both galleries and artists) were also to be found also at Preview and ArtForum.

Highlights included A trans Pavilion ‘s presentation of Michael J. Birn’s large architectural model of a re-imagined Berlin, Elisabeth Sonneck’s colourfield abstractions at Galerie Brunnhofer (Linz, Austria), Gallery Guillaume Daeppen (Basel), who presented a vibrant collection of slacker chic from Hilde Kentane, Christophe Lambert and Luca Schenardi, Zak Gallery’s (Berlin) presentation of Pawel Ksiazek’s installation De Stijl vs. Black Metal (which did indeed manage to attempt a reconciliation between the two) and Mathius Meyer (aka Mo Magic) whose huge black wooden tractor (Planet Funk) came equipped with two record decks on which the artist played a DJ set at the opening.
whitehot gallery images, click a thumbnail.

David Selden

Formerly an artist and  gallerist,  David Selden is a freelance writer
living and working in Berlin. He writes about music for dorfdisco.de 
and maintains the blog Unter den roten Geweihen 

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