There are between 400 and 600 museums and art galleries in Berlin. These range from large, state-run National Gallery or Natural History Museum equivalents, to small private collections. I decided to invest in a Museums Card, which for €50 allows me unlimited access to the permanent exhibitions in all state-run museums and art galleries in Berlin for a year. Given that entry to some of popular ones, like the Alte Nationalgalerie or the Neues Museum costs €10 or more a time, I thought that was a pretty good deal. Also, what I liked about all the free museums and galleries in London was that you didn’t feel you had to spend all day there to get the most out of your ticket – you could just pop in and visit one floor, or one exhibition if you wanted to. As much as I love visiting museums and galleries, I can only cope with so much in one day.
Last weekend I took advantage of a colleague from the London office being over and went with her to the Hamburger Bahnhof. No, this is not a train station in Hamburg (sorry for those of you who were feeling proud of your German translation abilities) but rather a huge contemporary art gallery. It gets its name from the fact that it used to be the rail station for trains running between Berlin and the hanseatic city of Hamburg. Today it houses works by artists such as Andy Warhol, Joseph Beuys, Roy Lichtenstein, and many other major figures in art since the 1960s.
My colleague and I chose to participate in one of the installations – “The Probable Trust Registry: The Rules of the Game #1-3” by Adrian Piper aims to explore how trust is formed and the role of trust in society: gallery visitors can sign a contract, voluntarily committing to align their future deeds with ethical principles like honesty and reliability. At the end of the exhibition, all of the data will be collected into a registry, which will be sent to all participants, and will supposedly represent a community of people who are likely to be trustworthy in the future. So, who knows who might get in touch with me in a few months time?!
“Moving is in every direction” was the title of the major temporary exhibition, and it traced the history of installation art from the 1960s until today, focusing on narrative structures, through a wide variety of large walk-in “environments” and video and sound installations. I felt very British as we joined a queue without any real idea of what we were queuing for; one by one, the people ahead of us went up a short flight of stairs, went through a door, and then….well that would spoil it! Here is a taste of some of the other installations:
A few weeks ago I went to a very different gallery, one which I would probably never have come across had it not been suggested by my university friend Luba, who is very clued up on contemporary art and happened to be over in Berlin for an Artificial Intelligence conference (yes, modern language degrees really can lead to anything…) Hidden behind a rather inconspicuous front door in between a wine shop and a restaurant near Potsdamer Platz was one of the smallest lifts I have ever been in, which would supposedly take us to the Daimler Contemporary art gallery. As the lift doors opened, I had the impression that we had in fact just arrived at Gringotts Bank (Harry Potter reference, for those of you who are none the wiser…) – see photo.
The title of the current exhibition will give you an idea as to the weird and wonderful things that can be found there: “On the Subject of the Ready-Made or Using a Rembrandt as an Ironing Board”. Welsh conceptual Artist Bethan Huws had curated an exhibition featuring about 120 artworks from the Daimler Art Collection, elaborating on Marcel Duchamp’s concept of the “ready-made”. I’m still not sure I completely understood the concept, despite the surely-far-too-fancy-to-be-free exhibition guide, but it made for interesting viewing. I am not going to try and impart any impressive sounding commentary on the significance of particular exhibits; instead, I will just share a few photos:
That’s enough art for one day. Now I’m going to watch Call the Midwife!