13 Unmissable Shows and Events During Berlin Gallery Weekend 2017

From the best exhibitions on the official roster to the top satellite shows, talks, and performances around the city.

Michel Majerus, "aluminium paintings," neugerriemschneider, Berlin, Installation view. ©Michel Majerus Estate 2017, Courtesy neugerriemschneider, Berlin and Matthew Marks, New York. Photo: Jens Ziehe, Berlin

The 13th edition of Berlin Gallery Weekend kicks off next Friday, April 28, amid an unusually busy year in the art world. Now a popular format copied by cities like Beijing, Warsaw, and Mexico City, the weekend sees Berlin’s galleries opening their springtime exhibitions in one jam-packed weekend, showcasing the best of what the city’s art scene has to offer.

This year, anticipate a few sensations and surprises: Jonas Burgert will display his largest painting ever at Blain|Southern, taking up almost the whole of the cavernous gallery at 22 meters (about 72 feet). And König Galerie, in an unexpected move, will show work by Anselm Reyle, whose market soared just before it crashed, together with the economy, around 2009, and who “retired” from art making in 2014 (although he did step out for last year’s Gallery Weekend.)

Maybe in response to market uncertainty, one takeaway from the participating galleries’ announcements is a focus on historical German positions: Otto Piene will be on view at Sprüth Magers; Jürgen Klauke at Guido W. Baudach; Charlotte Posenenske at Mehdi Chouakri; and Günther Forg at Galerie Max Hetzler, besides a show of editions by Sigmar Polke at me Collectors Room. Others are playing it relatively safe with exhibitions of well-established contemporary German artists, like Cosima von Bonin at Galerie Neu, Markus Oehlen at Gerhardsen Gerner, and Thomas Schütte at carlier | gebauer.

Among the list of 47 participating galleries, two—Esther Schipper and Mehdi Chouakri—are inaugurating new spaces, and Galerie ChertLüdde will participate for the first time.

As artnet News previously reported, 2017 is one of the busiest years for art yet, with documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel, the Venice Biennale, Skulptur Projekte Münster, and the Istanbul Biennale all opening in succession throughout the summer. Gallery Weekend makes Berlin a destination on this seasonal tour—one so overwhelming, we’ve compiled a list of the unmissable gallery exhibitions and the best events happening around the city, to help navigate the seemingly endless art possibilities.

Cosima von Bonin, Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Neu, Berlin

Cosima von Bonin and Andreas Slominski at Galerie Neu
Galerie Neu will open two shows during Gallery Weekend: “Early Works” by Cosima von Bonin at the gallery’s offshoot MD72, and “transhumanistisch” by Andreas Slominski in their main space. The gallery showed the two artists’ work in dialogue last year, in a group show called “Die Fremde, 1998.” The title came from a work by Slominski, an instruction to carry a stranger’s hair in your underwear. von Bonin’s piece in that show, The Italian, was a sculpture of a cartoon-like figure with a gaping mouth, terrified expression, and a long narwhal tusk of a nose.

Angela Bulloch, Heavy Metal Stack of Six: Greige, (2016) Courtesy of the artist and Esther Schipper, Berlin. Photo: ©Carsten Eisfeld

Anri Sala and Angela Bulloch at Esther Schipper
Gallery-goers will get to see the result of Esther Schipper’s long-awaited move into a vast new space, following its merging with Johnen gallery in 2015. Located at Potsdamerstrasse 81E, it joins a complex already packed with galleries like Blain|Southern, Galerie Judin, and Galerie Thomas Fischer, and will be located on top of Andreas Murkudis’ concept fashion store. The new space will open with an audiovisual installation by Anri Sala, “Take Over,” inspired by national anthems. The gallery will also show three new Heavy Metal Stacks and a wall painting by Angela Bulloch.

Michel Majerus, 10 bears masturbating in 10 boxes, (1992) ©Michel Majerus Estate, courtesy neugerriemschneider, Berlin and Matthew Marks, New York. Photo: Jens Ziehe, Berlin.

Michel Majerus at neugerreimschneider, and Michel Majerus Estate
neugerreimschneider gallery will show aluminium paintings by Michael Majerus: large, colorful compositions on metal canvases. Additionally, the former studio of the late Luxembourgian artist, who worked in Berlin until his untimely death in 2002, and which now hosts his estate, will reopen with a display of the first of a three-part exhibition of Majerus’s sketches, notes, and archival documents, titled “Laboratory for Appraising the Apparent.”

Pamela Rosenkranz at Sprüth Magers
Sprüth Magers will open “She Has No Mouth,” an exhibition by Pamela Rosenkranz, who represented Switzerland in the 2015 Venice Biennale with a memorable piece showing a pool of monochromatic goo matching the “standardized northern European skin tone.” Currently, the Fondazione Prada in Milan has a show of Rosenkranz’s work titled “Slight Agitation,” which features an installation “impregnated with the fragrance of synthetic cat pheromones.” During Gallery Weekend, Sprüth Magers will also open “Lake in the Sky,” an exhibition of work by Lucy Dodd, who is also known for creating immersive installations, and also once used the excrement of house pets as a medium.

Roni Horn, Portrait of an Image; (2005). Image courtesy Michael Fuchs Gallery.

Celebrate Isabelle Hupert at Michael Fuchs
For the exhibition “Behind the Screen – An Art Tribute to Isabelle Huppert,” artists Marco Brambilla, Douglas Gordon, Roni Horn, Christian Jankowski, and Oda Jaune will show work in tribute to French actress Isabelle Huppert. Jumping off from Horn’s 2005 serial piece, Portrait of an Image, which consists of 50 closeup shots of Huppert’s bare face, the other three participating artists will show their own photographs and videos inspired by the actress.

Berlin Gallery Weekend 2017

Candice Breitz, Stills from Love Story (2016) 7-Channel Installation. Pictured: Alec Baldwin and José Maria João. Courtesy of Candice Breitz and KOW, Berlin.

Candice Breitz at KOW
Ahead of her participation at this years Venice Biennale, KOW Gallery will present a new installation by Candice Breitz titled Love Story. A seven-channel video will retell the stories of people who were forced to seek political asylum in the US, Germany, or South Africa, after their home countries became too dangerous. A man fleeing the war in Syria, a child soldier in Angola, a transgender activist in India, or a political dissident in Venezuela; real stories of the refugee crisis come to the fore. But there’s a twist: the testimonies are recited by actors such as Alec Baldwin and Julianne Moore. Breitz explores the ways in which viewers feel empathy towards fictional characters more readily than towards real people embroiled in, and anonymized by, conflict.

Lu Yang at Société
Lu Yang, an artist whose new-media work is inspired by medical treatments, religion, and Japanese cartoons, will present at Société for the first time. Her previous works are visual assaults on video: Uterus Man from 2013 is a superhero story set to an electro-dubstep soundtrack, inspired by the story of an asexual Japanese man who had his genitals removed. No word yet on what she will bring to the Berlin gallery.

Dara Friedman, <I>Dichter</I>, (2017) Video still courtesy the artist and Supportico Lopez.

Dara Friedman, Dichter, (2017) Video still courtesy the artist and Supportico Lopez.

Dara Friedman at Supportico Lopez
To make “Dichter,” her exhibition opening during Gallery Weekend, Dara Friedman invited 16 actors to read poems that they found meaningful, using a special voice technique that is said to make the speaker’s entire body, rather than just their voice, speak. The results of this attempt at total body communication come in the form of a video on 16mm film, shot in front of a backdrop in lively hot pink.

Bjarne Melgaard at CFA
Following Bjarne Melgaard’s “Purge” extravaganza during New York Fashion Week, the artist, and his controversial reputation, still resonate. And while the artist is associated with Galerie Guido W. Baudach in Berlin, this year, Contemporary Fine Arts gallery will bring an exhibition of his work to its Charlottenburg space. Meanwhile, across town in Mitte, the gallery will also mount a show by Katja Strunz.

Kerry James Marshall. Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for MOCA.

Kerry James Marshall in Conversation with Chris Dercon at Villa Grisebach
April 29, 4:30 p.m.
The American Academy in Berlin and the historic Villa Grisebach will host an exclusive discussion between incoming Volksbühne director Chris Dercon and American artist Kerry James Marshall, who recently celebrated the opening of his career retrospective at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, after showings in New York and his hometown of Chicago. The duo will chat about the impact of Marshall’s work, and two of his new pieces will be unveiled at Grisebach.

Launch of Adam Pendleton’s “Black Dada Reader” at KW
April 30, 2017, 4 p.m.
In the open-air courtyard of Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art, Adam Pendleton will perform a reading from his book, the “Black Dada Reader.” The title is, for Pendleton, the term that defines his oeuvre, and the reader collects writings by such diverse figures as Hugo Ball, W.E.B. Du Bois, Stokely Carmichael, Gertrude Stein, Joan Jonas, and William Pope. L, in addition to critical essays on Black Dada.

Sigmar Polke, <I>Ohne Titel,</I> (1992) ©The Estate of Sigmar Polke, Cologne VG Bild Kunst, Bonn, 2016. Photo Baumann Fotostudio GmBH.

Sigmar Polke, Ohne Titel, (1992) ©The Estate of Sigmar Polke, Cologne VG Bild Kunst, Bonn, 2016. Photo Baumann Fotostudio GmBH.

Sigmar Polke, “Die Editionen” at me Collectors Room
On view from April 28 to August 27
“Die Editionen” is a show of the complete editioned works of Sigmar Polke, more than 200 in total. They belong to the collection of the Kunstraum am Limes, the only collection in the world to own one of each of the artist’s editions, which include objects, books, portfolios, photographs, collages, and prints.

Schloss Biesdorf – Center for Art and Public Space (ZKR)
In the outskirts of the city, the Schloss Biesdorf is opening two new exhibitions at its center for art and public space. One, called Between Spaces, is a group show focused on themes of urbanism, architecture, and public space inspired by the work of New York artist Gordon Matta-Clark, remembered for his subversive practice and theory of “Anarchitecture.” The second exhibition is centered on the landscape of Berlin, juxtaposing historic positions from artists who worked in the former GDR with contemporary Berlin-based artists.

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