This year’s abc art berlin contemporary saw almost 100 participating galleries mount stands from 17 different countries and a strong German contingent was noted. Housed within the halls of Station-Berlin, a former postal depot, from 17—20 September, the industrial space lent itself to an open fair layout that was less dense than past editions of abc. This sense of space was due in part to the design concept developed by Berlin-based architectural office June14 Meyer-Grohbrügge & Chermayeff.
For the first time since its inception, abc organisers opened the fair up to formal applications—(previously abc had operated with an invitation-only policy)—allowing a range of fresh entrants to exhibit at the fair this year. A distinguishing aspect of abc 2015 was the inclusion of the exhibition Proximities and Desires in the dimly lit Hall C wing of the venue. This ‘value-add’ element of the event presented key works from Berlin-based collections such as: the About Change Collection, Boros Collection, Feuerlé Collection, Haubrok Collection, Julia Stoschek Collection, Olbricht Collection, Salon Dahlmann, Wurlitzer Berlin-Pied-à-Terre Collection, the collections of Dr. Mathias Döpfner, Paul Maenz, Egidio Marzona, Alexander Schröder, Wilhelm and Gaby Schürmann, and Ivo Wessel. Organised by curator Nikola Dietrich, stand out pieces that have been rarely seen in public were exhibited by artists such as: Giovanni Anselmo, Nora Schultz, Manfred Pernice, Heimo Zobernig, Elmgreen & Dragset, John Knight and Ana Mendieta.
Elmgreen & Dragset, Olbricht Collection. Exhibition view, abc art berlin contemporary. Photo: Stefan Korte. Image courtesy abc art berlin contemporary
One of the highlights of the ancillary events hosted by abc 2015 was the Talking Galleries program that included the panel discussions: The Added Value of Working Alongside a Gallery, moderated by art historian and curator Chris Dercon, and How to Grow with your Artists: Different Gallery Models, moderated by Chus Martínez, Director of the Institute of Art at the FHNW Academy of Art and Design, Basel. Talking Galleries is an open platform for gallerists and art professionals that allows for exchange about new trends and issues specific to the art gallery sector, and it stages projects worldwide. This satellite inclusion was well suited for abc’s audience. Additionally, the Open Studios program presented intimate opportunities for art fair enthusiasts to gain access to a range of Berlin-based artists’ studios.
Standout Gallery Booths
Dittrich & Schlechtriem: Julian Charrière
Swiss artist Julian Charrière is perhaps best known for his collaborative site-specific piece Some pigeons are more equal than others, created with Julius von Bismarck for the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale. So it was interesting to see the carefully curated solo presentation of works from the artist’s two recent series, Polygon (2015) and Tropisme (2014), at Dittrich & Schlechtriem’s booth. Four black and white large-scale analogue medium format film photographs from the artist’s Polygon series hung on the booth’s walls. Depicting remote landscapes with abandoned structures shot at the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in Kazakhstan, the blurred, poetic imagery in these works is a result of the film being exposed to radiation. Positioned diagonally across the centre of the booth was work from Tropisme, which comprises a reflective, refrigerated showcase; its contents: frozen plants cast in ice coverings. The otherworldly icy outlines of ferns, orchids and succulents could be made out, as if conserved to act as the last remaining specimens left on earth, archived for the future.
Exhibition view, Julian Charrière at DITTRICH & SCHLECHTRIEM, abc art berlin contemporary 2015. Copyright Julian Charrière, VG Bild-kunst, Bonn / Courtesy DITTRICH & SCHLECHTRIEM, Berlin
Neumeister Bar-Am: Kate Cooper
London-based artist Kate Cooper’s solo presentation at Neumeister Bar-Am’s booth continued her ongoing interest in the body, gender, and image production and distribution. (Berlin audiences may remember the 2014 Schering Stiftung Art Award winner’s work that was exhibited at KW Institute for Contemporary Art earlier this year). Her digitally created imagery at Neumeister Bar-Am was presented in a three-part installation comprising a lightbox, video and print. One particular element unnervingly depicted familiar pink body parts partially immersed in a blue substance.
Kate Cooper, Experimentes in Absorption, 2015. Image courtesy Neumeister Bar-am Gallery
Galerie Nikolaus Ruzicska / Schwarz Contemporary: Henrik Eiben
Schwarz Contemporary, Berlin and Galerie Nikolaus Ruzicska, Salzburg presented a combined solo booth of works by Tokyo born, Hamburg-based artist Henrik Eiben. Eiben’s minimalist mixed media display was a fresh relief for fatigued fair-goers with its harmonious colour palette and seamless continuity. The artist’s investigation into spatiality and the definition of painting was embodied in works on paper, sculpture and paintings that oscillated between being two-dimensional and three-dimensional. Ideas of pattern-making, geometry and assemblage were playfully inherent in this installation of pieces that laid bare their skilful construction. Eiben’s turquoise patinated bronze hanging mobile Linger (2014), made up of triangular shapes, was a highlight.
Henrik Eiben, Silver Lightning, 2015. Leather, wood, aluminium. 90 x 135 x 15 cm. Photo: def image, Courtesy SCHWARZ CONTEMPORARY & Galerie Nikolaus Ruzicska
unttld contemporary: Sofia Goscinski
Sofia Goscinski’s work at unttld contemporary tackled the topics of consumption, waste and recycling via her installation Party Cups. An array of brass sculptures in the shape of crushed, and used disposable plastic cups was strewn across the floor, evoking a post party environment. Emulating rubbish that has been carelessly discarded and forgotten, this act of memorialisation through the employment of a precious material brought into question ideas of transience and value.
Mehdi Chouakri: Saâdane Afif, N. Dash, Luca Trevisani
Mehdi Chouakri’s group presentation of works by Saâdane Afif, N. Dash and Luca Trevisani focused on the artists’ relationships to nature and environment in a globalised context. Luca Trevisani’s pieces were eye catching. Negotiating the border between culture and the natural world, Trevisani installed suspended flower arrangements including striking Birds of Paradise combined with his recent series Notes for dried and living bodies, made up of beautifully delicate prints of found floral patterns on dried exotic leaves mounted between perspex sheets. Here he made a visual connection between living phenomena and scientific artefact.
Exhibition view, Galerie Mehdi Chouakri, at abc art berlin contemporary, 2015. Works by Saâdane Afif, N.Dash and Luca Trevisani. Courtesy Mehdi Chouakri, Berlin. Photo: Jan Windszus, Berlin
Charim Galerie’s presentation of works by Dorit Margreiter and Athr’s presentation of works by Middle Eastern artists Sarah Abu Abdullah, Abdullah Al Othman and Nasser Al Salem were also of interest.
Exhibition view, Dorit Margreiter at Charim Galerie. Photo: Kurt Kladler. Courtesy Charim Galerie, Wien
Popular attractions throughout the fair included: Galerie Guido W. Baudach’s topographical light projection by Philipp Modersohn and Norwegian artist Yngve Holen’s installation that included 3D-printed sculptures in the shape of meat covered in marble-printed foil at Galerie Neu’s booth. Ai Weiwei’s floor installation Iron Grass at Magician Space in collaboration with neugerriemschneider comprised a field of cast-iron sculptures. neugerriemschneider was also associated with Simon Starling’s suspended submarine-esque vessel filled with plants at the fair’s entrance, and contemporary artist Rirkrit Tiravanija’s historical collaboration with the work of Július Koller (1939–2007) that included an interactive table tennis table installation—also recently installed at the newly launched Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow. Sprüth Magers’ installation of prints and sculpture by hyped artist duo Lizzie Fitch and Ryan Trecartin, with their characteristic atemporal pop-digital aesthetic, was a drawcard. Meanwhile newly merged galleries Esther Schipper and Johnen Galerie presented a united front at abc 2015 with a group presentation of works by artists Ari Benjamin Meyers, Jean-Pascal Flavien, Martin Boyce and Ryan Gander. Gander’s marble resin sculptures depicting flowing drapery were particularly memorable. —[O]
Exhibition view, Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch at Sprüth Magers. Image courtesy abc art berlin contemporary. Photo: Stefan Korte