“Is it clever to take a van round Berlin on a day when widespread local weather protests, which can block the inroads, have been introduced?” somebody asks within the automotive taking us, a gaggle of journalists, from gallery to gallery. In previous years, folks talked in regards to the first Gallery Weekend after the pandemic, or the primary one after the struggle in Ukraine—the 2023 version of the Berlin-wide occasion is ready within the period of the polycrisis. But, as artists and art-adjacent cultural employees are invoking crises—local weather, struggle, inflation—the market appears untouched by all of it. It “demonstrates resilience,” says the Artwork Basel and UBS World Artwork Market Report.1 However that glosses over a basic restructuring. Whereas small galleries wrestle, huge ones develop. Berlin hasn’t had a lot luck with gala’s, but it surely has a excessive density of galleries, fifty-five of which participated on this yr’s Gallery Weekend. The occasion capabilities as a good of kinds, however one the place sellers should not required to go away their areas. Can this show of art-market energy function a barometer for the current second, one thing delicate to delicate adjustments within the atmosphere? And are we on the cusp of one thing new, probably one thing threatening?
“La concept se escapa” (the thought escapes), scribbled Frieda Toranzo Jaeger on the sting of one among her work. Galerie Barbara Weiss presents works by the 1988-born artist from Mexico Metropolis that simply learn as vital of unbridled tech optimism. Self-driving vehicles going to area caricature already-cartoonish Silicon Valley utopias. On the similar time, the work evoke a personal world, taking part in on small-scale private mythologies. One triptych exhibits a view of an airplane wing, on the very finish of which a tiny flame erupts, as if a secret Surrealist joke is hidden inside; in others, driverless vehicles operate as escape pods, tenderly embellished with flowers. Toranzo Jaeger seems seduced by otherworldly temptations. One of many works might be opened and shut like a small fifteenth-century Flemish altarpiece. Rhinestones on its exterior spell out “Neocolonialism,” once more turning an all-too-easy studying round. “Sick, I really like slogan artwork,” says a fellow journalist on the preview.
ChertLüdde opens an exhibition on the work of Clemen Parrocchetti, an unsung hero of Nineteen Seventies Italian feminism, for the primary time outdoors of Italy. Parrocchetti, born in Milan in 1923, used what she referred to as objects of “female tradition”—textiles, cooking, stitching utensils—to create minuscule preparations, massive textile installations, and protest banners, and actually, a few of them have been used at rallies. Parrocchetti, who got here from an aristocratic background, was concerned with militant teams within the Nineteen Seventies, and considered her artwork as an extension of her politics and vice versa. In the primary gallery, Monia Ben Hamouda presents an set up of fragile sculptures drawing on Arabic calligraphy (the Tunisian Italian artist is the daughter of an Islamic calligrapher). The seemingly gentle metal items are repeated with variations all through the spacious gallery, suspended from the ceiling and hovering over powdered spices blended into swirls on the ground. Ben Hamouda’s variations recall Giacomo Balla’s portray The Hand of the Violinist (The Rhythms of the Bow) (1912), by which the Italian Futurist cut up motion into frames like a slowed-down movie, and reminded us of an age-old query of illustration: What’s motion in time? On the wall, the sculptures are virtually figurative: one hand holding a rock, and others in varied levels of hurling them, referring to the ritual stoning of the Satan as a part of the pilgrimage to Mecca, the Hajj, and in addition to protests the place insurrectionists see no different however to pelt stones at armed forces.
For a few years, the collective Slavs and Tatars managed to keep away from gallery exhibits whereas they have been regulars at biennials and different massive worldwide exhibitions. So now, at Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, they’ve enacted what appears like a reemergence. Behind a portal, roughly rendered as a vertically put in carpet dividing the gallery, they curated a small group exhibition with work, drawings, and a woven rug by frequent collaborators Andrey Anro, Dozie Kanu, Mina Masoumi, and Lin Might Saeed. In the primary room, Slavs and Tatars’ suspended psychedelic blown-glass lamps resemble melons—a pun on the Slavic etymology of дыть, which suggests blowing and is just like the phrase for melon (дыня in Russian). The melon, in accordance with Uzbek delusion, was initially confined to the Backyard of Eden, and was mentioned to comprise infinite knowledge within the cracks of its pores and skin, which appear to be convoluted letters, if one may solely decipher them. By the way, that’s how the group’s work typically feels once they obsess over alphabets, phonemes, and their switch all through what they name the East—which, by their definition, is the area between the Berlin Wall and the Nice Wall of China.
Approach west, in Berlin-Dahlem, Fluentum will not be technically a gallery, however a personal assortment of time-based media, nestled between nineteenth-century villas and sober postwar condominium complexes. It’s housed within the former headquarters of Nazi Germany’s air drive. The location’s stark classicism, with its black faux-marble partitions, communicates an intense ambiance of oppression that has attracted movie location scouts; it was used as an example in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (2009). Now, Loretta Fahrenholz’s solo present Trash The Musical occupies the area, with the eponymous movie (2023) at its heart. However possibly extra unsettling is Fahrenholz’s AI-generated assortment of stills from Tarantino’s blockbuster, which re-create the movie as an algorithmic puppet theater. Upstairs, the artist has arrange an area with totally different mushroom-shaped lamps, once more paired with AI-generated imagery of households picnicking in nature. Fahrenholz fuses the strangeness of defective AI photos with uncanny psychedelia.
If there may be such a factor as a blockbuster exhibition this yr, it’s Cao Fei’s Duotopia at Sprüth Magers, or a minimum of that is the one on everyone’s checklist. The presentation brackets a earlier digital age—that of the 2000s, period of the proto-metaverse on-line recreation Second Life—with our personal, the place distinctions between the digital and the remaining are erased. The 1978-born artist takes over everything of the huge gallery with a VR work and immersive installations. Oz (2022) introduces a brand new avatar for a brand new metaverse. It’s androgynous and adorned with tentacles, like a benign and barely drained Cthulhu. What actually makes the present stand out, nevertheless, are the artist’s extremely private set up and video works. In Nonetheless Alive (2023), her mom grieves the demise of her stepfather, who died from COVID-19 issues. For Isle of Instability (2020), Cao Fei shot her daughter on iPhone in her house whereas Singapore was beneath lockdown; there may be an oblivious high quality to the scene, her daughter retreating to an island of what appears to be like like a sleeping bag subsequent to a home plant and an air air purifier. Cao Fei takes her work in a barely totally different route along with her movies Nova (2019) and MatryoshkaVerse (2022), the previous a retro-futurist narrative a couple of scientist’s son trapped in a Soviet-era time machine, the latter a journey into town of Manzhouli, on the border of Russia and China, the place a theme park with a Matryoshka-shaped resort and music exhibits seems extra otherworldly than the metaverse ever may.
Maybe the exhibits at this yr’s Gallery Weekend really feel slightly secure—many acquainted artists make a return—however the works inform of unease. Quickly, and possibly subsequent yr already, every thing might be totally different.
Philipp Hindahl is a author and editor primarily based in Berlin. He writes about artwork, structure, and literature for magazines and newspapers.