KUNSTSAELE Berlin – Berlin, Germany
The KUNSTSAELE Berlin can be found on the north side of Bülowstrasse, a busy, grey artery running east to west across the city, shadowing the path of U-Bahn trains as they make their way along an elevated section of track. Few art spaces in Berlin are as seamlessly woven into the city’s unique built ecology. The KUNSTSAELE itself is situated on the first floor of a classic Berlin "altbau", and its rooms, with their high ceilings and herringbone pattern wood floors, provide a context that is, at once redolent of a specific architectural lineage, but simultaneously sufficiently open and mutable to provide a backdrop for stylistically diverse exhibitions without freighting them with over determined aesthetic associations. Situated at the northern edge of the city’s Schöneberg district, a historic hub of Berlin’s artistic heritage and presently home to literally dozens of contemporary art spaces, the KUNSTSAELE is distinguished by the fact that it is not a commercial gallery, but instead is the main forum in which the collector, Geraldine Michalke, displays works from her holdings, the Sammlung Bergmeier. The space’s forward-looking approach is particularly notable for devoting equal interest to the display of Frau Michalke’s pieces as to the dialogue she creates in close collaboration with the artist Michael Müller and the former gallerist Alexander Hahn with other works of art, collections, and innovative curatorial and discoursive projects.
Independent curators and art professionals with a wide range of interests and tastes use the space to present themativ and monographic exhibitions including works from the Bergmeier collection, but also pieces from other private and public collections. In 2016, for example, Clemens Krümmel’s “Der Schatten des Körpers des Kutschers” (“The Shadow of the Body of the Coachman”)—the title of which derives from a novella by Peter Weiss—brought together works across genres and media to examine the ways in which embodiment and space interact. That same year, the curator, Heike Fuhlbrügge, used the KUNSTSAELE to realize the exhibition “French Connection_Perspectives on Support/Surface”. The generous interiors of the Kunstsaele acted, in themselves, as a kind of support for a range of works bringing together artists as diverse as Katharina Grosse, known for her polychrome transformation of rooms in institutions like the South London Gallery and Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof, and Shahin Afrassiabi, whose work evokes the spare geometries of the artists of De Stijl. Many galleries with far more space at their disposal would have difficulty presenting works of artists whose works are as expansive as Grosse’s and as self-contained as Afrassiabi without reducing their dialogue to mere juxtaposition, but it is a testament to the KUNSTSAELE’s ability to find the right curators and projects that exhibitions as diverse as Krümmel’s and Fuhlbrügge’s have proven so affecting.
More recent shows have followed a similar trajectory. “Klappe eins, Affe tot…” which closed in April 2017 featured works from one of the artists at the center of the Sammlung Bergmeier , Michael Müller, placed in the company of pieces by Ian Kiaer, Hajra Waheed, and Carsten Nicolai. In addition to these worthies, the exhibition also focused on the interplay of visual art and concrete poetry with the inclusion of Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt, a robustly interdisciplinary German artist exploring the ways text and objects inform and define each other. The most recent exhibition the KUNSTSAELE hosted was the show “Nobody Spoke” by the conceptual artist collective Art & Language, and beginning in February of 2018, the KUNSTSAELE is looking forward to hosting the fifth installment of its “Zu Gast” series (“Being a Guest” is perhaps the most accurate way to render the phrase’s meaning in English), a format with the mission to open other private collections to the public – this time with selected works by Sammlung Wemhöner. In spring a show curated by Ellen Blumenstein, lately the curator of Berlin’s renowned Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art, will focus on different aspects of contemporary subjectivity.
For a collection of modest size, the Sammlung Bergmeier, and its home at the KUNSTSAELE, continues to provide one of the most dynamic sites for aesthetic exchanges in Berlin. Behind the unprepossessing exterior of Bülowstrasse 90 is a universe of discourse as vibrant and restlessly engaged as the city itself.
William Kherbek is the writer of the novel "Ecology of Secrets" (2013, Arcadia Missa) and "UltraLife" (2016, Arcadia Missa). His art journalism has appeared in a number of publications in the UK, US, Germany, Switzerland and Romania.
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