Heading to Berlin Gallery Weekend? Here’s Our Ultimate Guide for What to See, Where to Eat, and How to Party Like an Art Star
Here's our insider's guide to help you make the most of this year's Berlin Gallery Weekend, which kicks off today.
Berlin’s influx of art lovers reaches an all-time high at the end of April every year with the city’s premiere event, Berlin Gallery Weekend. However, the fact remains year after year that the city can feel sprawling and difficult to navigate, especially to first-timers. There are also around a hundred exhibition openings happening throughout the weekend on and off the official bill, not to mention a slew of talks, events, and parties. You might not make it to all of it, but if you are strategic and head to gallery-rich neighborhoods you can cover a lot of ground.
We mapped your weekend in Berlin, replete with a bit of sight-seeing and cool places to refuel.
11 a.m. Have lunch at Beba, the new restaurant at the recently revamped Gropius Bau
This year, the historic Gropius Bau underwent a makeover thanks to its recently arrived director Stephanie Rosenthal, including a new restaurant in the exhibition hall. Beba is a little pricey, but has nevertheless fresh options (they have a vertical garden with vegetables inside the cafe) that are creative updates on traditional Jewish fare.
12 p.m. See Theaster Gates’s show
While you are on a full stomach, spend time at the museum’s first two exhibitions of its updated program. Theaster Gates‘s “The Black Image Corporation,” explores the legacy of Johnson Publishing Company archives, an important source of representation and discussion of black culture in the 20th century. Their current group show, “Berlin Will Always Need You,” is a contemporary take on the Berlin art scene’s relationship to craft: it includes almost entirely Berlin-based artists who are not from Germany.
3 p.m. Bike to an artist talk with Ryan Gander at Esther Schipper
There is more than a handful of uber-convenient bike-rental apps to download and their corresponding bikes are lined up for casual use all over the city—we recommend traveling that way so that you can enjoy a portion of the tree-lined Landwehr Canal on your way. After the Gropius Bau head to Esther Schipper to catch their exhibiting artist Ryan Gander in conversation editor-in-chief of Mousse Magazine, Francesco Tenaglia. Catch an early-bird preview of the British artist’s second show at the gallery.
In that same courtyard, there is a cluster of galleries worth checking out, including Galerie Judin, which is showing German artist Michael Buthe. Blain|Southern presents two major bodies of works by the French conceptual artist Bernar Venet. One courtyard behind is the Romanian gallery Plan B, which is showing a survey of work by the late Bucharest-based sculptor Horia Damian.
5 p.m. Stop for early dinner at Brasserie Lumières
This is a favorite haunt for members of the Berlin art world in the gallery-rich area around Potsdamerstrasse. It’s airy, historic dining room is a great place for a glass of wine and a bowl of moules-et-frites before heading out to see the rest of the night’s gallery openings.
6 p.m. Check out the shows on the Ufer
There is a conveniently cozy strip of galleries in old apartments that have been converted to galleries along the Landwehr Canal. Emerging Swiss artist Veit Laurent Kurz has a solo show at Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi; next door, catch Barbara Wien‘s presentation of South Korean artist Kim Yong-Ik. Daniel Lergon will present new series of experimental wall works that are called paintings, though the artist rarely uses paint but rather chemicals and light processes. Femke Herregraven will show her works that explore the intersection of global finance and politics at Future Gallery.
7:30 p.m. Head to Mitte
There is another slew of great shows to see in Mitte, in the center of Berlin, but if you had to pick only a few, make sure you check out German artist and rising star Jana Euler’s psychedelic paintings at Galerie Neu. A few blocks away, German Pop Art art pioneer Thomas Bayrle’s is presenting his first show at neugerriemschneider gallery.
9 p.m. A nightcap at Pauly Saal… or maybe not?
The resplendent restaurant and bar in a former Jewish school is well known for its sophisticated cocktail menu. Don’t forget to go home before midnight—a sensible piece of advice in a curfew-free city like Berlin. (Gallery Weekend is an ultra marathon not a sprint.) If you don’t get too sucked in by the comfort of Pauly Saal’s low-lying couches and ambient lighting, then head to Galerie ChertLüdde’s gallery weekend party. The Kreuzberg gallery is celebrating the opening of Venezuelan painter Sol Calero’s show, the collective CONGLOMERATE, and Juan Antonio Olivares openings at ACUD, a cornerstone arts and music venue in Mitte. The party will double as a video premier for a film by Vanessa Safavi.
11 a.m. Have brunch at the new Baldon and catch shows in Wedding
The new restaurant in the northern corner of the city is a self-described Brutalist oasis, and it does not disappoint. Architect Arno Brandlhuber’s mixed-use concrete and glass Lobe Block, which hosts Baldon as well as ateliers, apartments, and artist studios, has been accumulating a lot of acclaim since it opened last year (they have live drawing workshops).
Have a slow brunch there. Everything on the seasonal, market-fresh menu is truly delicious. While you’re up in that neck of the woods, check out the small institution Galerie Wedding, where Berlin-based artist Sissel Tolaas—an artist, researcher, and chemist— is making sensory artworks with smells as her main medium.
1 p.m. Head to Kreuzberg for more galleries
Many of the best galleries in Kreuzberg district are within walking distance of each other. Klemm’s and Soy Capitan share a courtyard in an old industrial building. A few minutes walk from there, Barbara Weiss and Kraupa-Tuscany Zeidler are nestled together in another historic courtyard, tucked behind Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, which houses many artists studios. They include the German artist Pieter Schoolwerth, who is renowned for remixing compositions from Old Masters works into his layered paintings.
4 p.m. Hear Eugenio Re Rebaudengo in conversation at Kunstlerhaus Bethanien
While you’re there, the Italian art collector and curator, who is the son of esteemed collector Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, will be speaking at Berlin’s foremost artist residency, the Kunstlerhaus Bethanien. It acts like a portal for many international artists who come for the residency and, often, never leave. (The Dutch artist Guido van der Werve, for example, who has a show on during Gallery Weekend on the outskirts of Berlin at a new collection). Re Rebaudengo, will be in conversation with a group of curators and artists about contemporary painting’s evolution in the face of “glocalization,” omnipresent social media and increasing mobility.
Refresh yourself at Ora Bar, an apothecary that has been converted into a cafe and bar. It’s beautiful wooden interior with old medicine vessels is only rivalled by its delectable cocktail menu.
7 p.m. See a David Wojnarowicz performance at KW
The multimedia performance “ITSOFOMO (In the Shadow of Forward Motion)”, created by the late David Wojnarowicz in collaboration with composer and musician Ben Neill, will have its European premiere at KW Institute for Contemporary Art over the weekend. The multimedia performance of music, text, and video will feature Ben Neill and the percussionist Don Yallech, who played alongside Neill and Wojnarowicz in 1989.
An intimate survey of Wojnarowicz’s works is currently on view at the institution, so get there a bit before the performance to catch this moving and deeply political show of his videos and photographs by the prominent 1980s artist and AIDS activist.
11 a.m. Go West
There is so much to see in the Western part of the city, including its famous park, Tiergarten, in case you are looking for a space to pause before seeing more art. Stop on your way and see Elmgreen & Dragset’s “Monument to Gay Victims of Nazi Persecution” on the Mitte side of the park, and bike right through it to get to Adam Pendleton’s show “Who We Are” at Galerie Max Hetzler. Head further west to Michael Krebber at Galerie Buchholz, which is housed in a beautiful historic apartment.
Increasingly, more galleries are moving to this more stately area of town, including WENTRUP, which moved there from Kreuzberg last year. For their first Berlin Gallery Weekend in their new space, the dealer is presenting a two-person exhibition of vibrant paintings by Florian Meisenberg and David Renggli; Not far away at CFA—also relative newcomer to the neighborhood but a veteran gallery in Berlin—Tal R is presenting a series of new paintings.
2 p.m. Lunch at Paris Bar
Yes, we are recommending yet another French brasserie, but Paris Bar is a classical artist hang-out, which means you must go. It’s been that way for decades, and it’s also seen the likes of music stars too, like David Bowie, Iggy Pop. and Madonna. “Every real artist is at home at Paris Bar,” as a curator once said.
The late artist Martin Kippenberger is said to have once paid his tab by trading art for for beer and steak frite, but we don’t recommend you try that.
3 p.m. Check out the art fair Paper Positions
If you feel like switching into a different gear, head to Paper Positions. In the opulent, sun-filled atrium of Deutsche Telekom Hauptstadtrepraesentanz, the works-on-paper art fair is launching its first edition in Berlin during Gallery Weekend.
8 p.m. Watch the sunset (and eat) at Grill Royal
Wrap up your weekend on the water, overlooking the picturesque museum island at Grill Royal. This is a celebrity-sighting restaurant but it also delivers succulent steaks and perfect martinis. It has late hour sun, making it the perfect place to unwind after chasing over town this weekend, under their notorious outdoor light installation by Claire Fontaine that states, ironically, “Capitalism Kills Love.”
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