This past Sunday, among the hustle and bustle of Gallery Weekend, the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle exhibited the much-anticipated final installment of "Macht Kunst," bringing together approximately 1,800 artists to cover the labyrinthine walls temporarily set at the Alte Münze in Berlin. We remember the immense response, success, and winners—even the controversies—of the first exhibition and I think it’s safe to say that its momentum carried over for this last one; more than 6,000 visitors in a gap of twenty-four hours can attest to that.
After this tidal wave of visitors subsided and the exhibition ran its one-day course, a jury composed of Friedhelm Hütte, head of the art department of the Deutsche Bank, with curators Sophie Olfers and René Block, gave us the three winning participants. These three will be given their own two-week solo exhibition at the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle while a fourth winner, the audience’s favorite, will be granted a one year studio scholarship that includes a €500 monthly stipend.
We reached out to the winners to get a firsthand account of the experience leading up to this exhibition and their reaction to having their work recognized and seen by thousands.
And The Winners Are…
French-Canadian artist Nicolas Fontaine took home one of the jury prizes. The painter has been making colorful works covered in glitter––equally psychedelic as they are mesmerizing––that shimmer and shine as you walk by them. Although painting is his forte, the artist also dips his creative fingers into video work; on his website is a garish and glitchy home-made video uploaded to Vimeo featuring the artist as a sort of ring-master, guiding us through his studio to a catchy circus-themed tune. His sense of humor also sparkles and shines when he presents the award-winning painting of this exhibition, “Lotus Capricorn,” in another video as he playfully hums the tune of "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" while directing the camera. Watch the silliness here.
Fontaine, whose been living in Berlin for the past five years and studying under the tutelage of the painter Werner Liebmann, knew his objective in "Macht Kunst" from the beginning. “There were a lot of skeptics around me,” he says, ”I was also sometimes skeptical about the exhibition at first, but the prize drove me to apply.” He caught wind of the open call just two days before the submission dates, decided to make a brand new piece for the show and, in a rush against time, was able to finish it just a few hours before having to submit it. “Glitter is not just kitsch or shiny, it makes the painting come to life as the spectator moves around," he explains about his peculiar medium. "It's also very meditative and hypnotic. I like to make works that are on the edge of bad taste and true beauty; decoration and fine art; kitsch and critical.”
German photographer Annina Lingens's work couldn't be more divorced from Fontaine's frenetic practice. She’s been living in Berlin for the past four years as part of her studies at Lette-Verein, which she finished last year. Having studied both dance and fine arts, one can spot a performative zest in some of her photographs. For one particular series, her models pose while bending their neck back as far as possible. The results are quirky portraits of seemingly headless figures. But in her more recent work she has a more conservative approach: by photographing strictly groomed hedges or the empty facades of houses, Lingens work appears as an invitation to fall in love with the banal. This is also evident in her winning photograph (see image above). "I wanted to make a reportage about wrestling kids in Berlin," she explains, "But I was so shocked with the losing and crying kids that I focused on them instead and the idea of creating an anti-happy family altar came up.” And it was this mix of competitive sports, innocence, sweat and tears that makes her "Kinderaltar" photograph such a compelling work.
As for the people’s choice award, it seems that (yet again) the visitors were swayed by the wrist of an Eastern European painter (see image above). Like Lovro Artukovic, who won this award at the first Macht Kunst, Radoslava Markova is an artist born behind the Iron Curtain. Her paintings are often dark with cool undertones and inhabited by ghostly, fleeting figures. “I am very glad to receive this award but mostly surprised,” she tells BAPs about the experience. "If I am being totally honest, it was not the price I came for; I have participated with no expectations whatsoever but now I am glad, of course, that all the queuing paid off. My painting is all about human relationships and coming together, so there is an interesting parallel there.”
From Lena Ader, a student at the Alanus College of Art & Social Sciences in Bonn and third winner of the jury prize, we were unable to retrieve a response. Yet the soft, warm tones that make up the intimate relationship expressed in her award-winning painting (see image above) screamed loud enough to attract the attention and praise of the judges.
“I have been working my ass off so much to be able to come and stay here. When you see those efforts rewarded it’s great. Hopefully this will kick start my career,” a sentiment expressed by Fontaine but certainly relatable and likely shared by the other three winners.
We'd like to extend our congratulations to all the winner and express our excitement at their solo exhibitions coming up later this year. It will then be their chance to prove that they certainly deserved these awards!
Article by James Shaeffer & Jovanny Varela-Ferreyra