Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: KunstHalle’s “Macht Kunst” Show

On display for 24-hours straight at Deutsche Bank’s new KunstHalle: over 300 artworks representing the wide array of artistic talent that Berlin has to offer when artists are invited to display their work in the former Deutsche Guggenheim on a first-come-first-serve basis.

JingToeVisitor and researcher Jing Toe is up to her eyeballs in art. Photo: Chris Phillips

So what’s the verdict? What does the massive project say about Berlin’s art scene––its strengths and its weaknesses? The results probably cut both ways. On the one hand, it’s great to see the 25-30% of exceedingly impressive work on display in an elegant space like the KunstHalle. Yet as one collector pointed out when we spoke to him: Shouldn’t these artists have representation already, and thus be able to skip stunt gigs like this one? Does this exciting exhibit just confirm our worst fears that in Berlin artistic supply far outstrips demand?

Charity Case Or Shrewd PR?

Inside the gallery, artists seemed keen on the KunstHalle, even if they suspected Deutsche Bank of having public relations motivations for the art. “I was surprised,” said Omar Jaramillo, whose art hung on the walls in a small room. “I found it really impressive.” Asked what he thought the drive behind the show was, he suspected it was PR, but nonetheless, “this event shows there’s a necessity for an art salon here in Berlin.”

BeatrizCrespoBeatriz Crespo stands in front of her work. Photo: Chris Phillips

Sascha Walmroth, another Berlin-based artist echoed the call for a salon, referencing the French court, queens and ancient empires as images the exhibition called to mind. Still, his assessment was measured. “The layout? It’s a bit too close… You can’t rest your eyes on one thing.” He also noted the timing of the show. “What isn’t a PR move for the Deutsche Bank? They haven’t been in a good position the past few years. But it’s nice that they open a space for artists.”

AnnaSpindlerAnna Spindler, coy, afront her work. Photo: Chris Philips

Out-of-towner Jing Toe, a PhD student from China, seemed thrilled by the exhibition. “This is a great activity for everybody. I saw the line the day before yesterday…. I think it’s so great to let everybody’s work in. This type of exhibition could never happen in China.” Asked about the quality of the work she saw on the walls, Toe was politic. “Yeah. It… includes a lot.”

The Horse’s Mouth

Klaus Winkler, a press spokesman for the KunstHalle, seemed impressed with the work and insistent that it represented a new democratic outlook for the hall. “This is not an ivory tower, this is a KunstHalle for everyone here in Berlin.” When asked whether the show’s art-of-the-people style would ever be repeated, Winkler was ambiguous though. “We have so many artists here in the city and the variety of artworks are so broad. It was clear that the first exhibition should be made by Berlin artists and not by the established artists.” On the question of whether they’ll follow up with more exhibitions like it in the future, we just couldn’t quite get a firm answer.

A Mixed Bag Or A Diverse Satchel

Overall, the exhibit included a refreshing mix of artists, from highly-lacquered freuqenters of Auguststrasse to a number of wide-eyed and less-than-polished figures who seemed a bit awestruck at the high-end digs their work had wandered into.

SaschaWalmrothSascha Walmrouth scrutinizes his work. Photo: Chris Phillips

One artist who identified his roots as “street art” spotted us several times as we wandered around the gallery, each time offering up enthusiastic non-sequiturs. “It’s a melting pot of creativity;” “Rambo is like a warrior and Audrey Hepburn is a nice girl!”

For most artists, the real advantage seemed to be the opportunity to network out of their immediate friend circle. Around the gallery, artists from across Berlin chatted with each other and the press. Artist Winston Churr summed up his belief that the packed walls and fast location were made up for by the opportunity to meet more artists. “We stand in our studio the whole day, I hardly go out. So this is a great opportunity to get to know Berlin.”

Article by Christopher Shea