BMW Art Guide by Independent Collectors

Contemporary Fine Arts – Berlin, Germany

From West to East and Back Again: a Berlin Institution That’s Made Its Mark

Sarah Lucas, FunQroc (Exhibition view at CFA), 2017. Photo: Jochen Littkemann
Sarah Lucas, FunQroc (Exhibition view at CFA), 2017. Photo: Jochen Littkemann

In the early 1990s, Berlin was not an art hub. Instead, collectors would go to Cologne to seek out pieces in Europe. However, in 1992, this all changed. “When the wall came down, on the 9th November, it was Art Cologne art fair,” Bruno Brunnet, founder of Contemporary Fine Arts remembers. “Even the next morning, you could tell that people bought some things that had to do with this.” Before he knew it, Brunnet moved to Berlin and set up his own space in an old bakery, above a second hand clothing store on Wilmersdorferstrasse. “I thought Cologne was over – the future will be Berlin. But I was a bit scared about the anarchy of the former East, it was all new to me, even the smell in the street.” So he stuck to the West, just around the corner from Paris Bar, at that point a very important meeting place for artists.

Huma Bhabha, Exhibition view at CFA, 2018. Photo: Matthias Kolb
Huma Bhabha, Exhibition view at CFA, 2018. Photo: Matthias Kolb
Georg Baselitz, Exhibition view at CFA, 2018. Photo: Matthias Kolb
Georg Baselitz, Exhibition view at CFA, 2018. Photo: Matthias Kolb

In 1996, however, the gallery joined many of its cohort in Mitte, and spent twenty years in the city’s former East, first in a former butter factory, then in a building opposite Museum Island. In his fourth location, Brunnet (now joined at the helm by his wife and business partner Nicole Hackert) last year finally returned to his roots in the West, in the upscale residential surroundings of Charlottenburg. Over this period the gallery has supported some of the world’s most successful artists: Huma Bhabha, Bjarne Melgaard, and Juergen Teller, to name a few. Often cheeky, sometimes serious, but always worth seeing, the shows at CFA have ranged from what Brunnet calls “forklift shows” (named after the vehicles required to get the works installed) to more restrained uses of space, such as the knockout show of Sarah Lucas’s work in 2017, in which the artist also performed a foot-bathing ceremony.

Georg Baselitz, Exhibition view at CFA, 2018. Photo: Matthias Kolb
Georg Baselitz, Exhibition view at CFA, 2018. Photo: Matthias Kolb
Emily Mae Smith, Exhibition view at CFA, 2018. Photo: Matthias Kolb
Emily Mae Smith, Exhibition view at CFA, 2018. Photo: Matthias Kolb

“The shows we can install here are of course different than we could install at the last location,” Brunnet says. “But in Berlin, if I started looking for a big hall at 9am, by noon I would have one. For our clients and artists, it’s more important to be in a city where you have normal people living and shopping.” The new space, unlike the previous one, isn’t a total tourist destination. “It was good for the city, and good for business, it just wasn’t our business,” he explains.

Whether in the East or West of this now-united city, Brunnet has held onto the one thing that keeps him going in the art business: talking to artists. “Georg Baselitz is eighty, but we regularly meet with him and his wife and sit for four, five, six hours in a restaurant, drink and talk. I don’t know if that’s the goal of the gallery but at least it keeps me going. Michael Krebber, whose work I opened the gallery with, is still, after all these years, just the same. It’s the same with Sarah Lucas, Tal R…” Talking to people, after all, allows you to communicate, to see their real interests, and show them what yours are. In other words: it builds a relationship. For Brunnet, there’s nothing more important. “The older I get, it’s more about the people you know I can trust.”

by Josie Thaddeus-Johns

Sarah Lucas, FunQroc (Exhibition view at CFA), 2017. Photo: Jochen Littkemann
Sarah Lucas, FunQroc (Exhibition view at CFA), 2017. Photo: Jochen Littkemann

Josie Thaddeus-Johns is a writer and editor based in Berlin, covering art, music, film and more. She writes for the Guardian, Broadly, Creators Project, and others. She is currently working on her first novel.

All images courtesy CFA, Berlin

More Information on CFA

Galleries (39)

Gianni Manhattan - Vienna, Austria

Young, International and Critically Astute

Misako & Rosen — Tokyo, Japan

Redefining the Conversation Around Aesthetics

Tiwani Contemporary – London, Great Britain

The London Gallery Promoting African Self-definition

Frutta Gallery — Rome, Italy

Understanding Tradition Without Hesitating to Break It

Bo Bjerggaard – Copenhagen, Denmark

Showcasing Figurative Painting With a Side of Communal Spirit

Pierre-Yves Caër Gallery – Paris, France

The Parisian gallery creating a home for Japanese artists in the European art market.

Blindspot Gallery — Hong Kong, China

Throwing a Spotlight on Local Artists

Vane – Newcastle upon Tyne, Great Britain

The Not-for-profit Space Offering Context And Critique In Newcastle

H’art Gallery — Bucharest, Romania

One of Bucharest’s Oldest Private-Run Galleries

LambdaLambda Lambda – Pristina, Kosovo

Mastering the Language in the Kosovan Capital

Deák Erika Galéria – Budapest, Hungary

Beyond Budapest’s Baths

The Breeder Gallery – Athens, Greece

Breeding New Forms in Athens

Tim Van Laere Gallery – Antwerp, Belgium

An autonomous gallery representing both upcoming and well-established artists

Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler – Berlin, Germany

One of the most cutting-edge galleries in Berlin

Galerie Fons Welters – Amsterdam, The Netherlands

A Doorway to Amsterdam’s Contemporary Art

Bosse & Baum – London, United Kingdom

Ambitious perspectives in Peckham

TM51 – Oslo, Norway

Three Galleries in One – Oslo’s Most Accessible Space

mfc-michèle didier – Paris, France

A Space that Reflects the Artistic Discipline

V1 Gallery – Copenhagen, Denmark

Challenging the Boundaries of Art

Upstream Gallery – Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Tackling the Shift Between the Analog and Digital in a Post Internet World

Galerie Forsblom – Helsinki, Finland

Bringing international contemporary art to the Finnish capital

The Journal Gallery – New York, USA

Saving New York from Becoming a Sale-Focused Gallery Wasteland

Peres Projects – Berlin, Germany

Bridging the Gap Between Los Angeles and Berlin

Galeria OMR – Mexico City

Mexico City’s advocate for modern artistic tendencies and international contemporary art

LOYAL – Stockholm, Sweden

A Gallery that Pushes the Dialogue Around Young and International Art in Sweden’s Capital

Chimera-Project — Budapest, Hungary

Post-contemporary interest in aesthetics while eagerly re-constructing and defining traditions

La New Gallery — Madrid, Spain

Celebrating contemporary art in all its multi-faceted forms

Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery – Sydney, Australia

Her uncanny ability to recognize unique Pacific Rim talent

Take Ninagawa Gallery – Tokyo, Japan

Promoting emerging Japanese artists within a cross-generational, international framework

RaebervonStenglin – Zurich, Switzerland

It is much more about concepts, long conversations and long-term commitment

Galerie Emanuel Layr – Vienna, Austria

Finding the right chord among the various artists

Platform China – Beijing/Hongkong, China

This shows how much prejudgment there still is

Fluxia – Milan, Italy

Strive to discover new approaches in contemporary art

Gaudel de Stampa – Paris, France

“Discreet” seems to be the perfect adjective

NON – Istanbul, Turkey

The dawn of an era of collaboration

Vermelho – São Paulo, Brazil

There were no galleries open to a new generation of artists working in a nontraditional way

Eleven Rivington – New York, USA

Newfound talent and rediscovers international artists for a new audience

Ibid. – London, Great Britain

Rather than listing names