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“Berlin is very individualistic, still very avant-garde and for me that is something that has always been part of Berlin. It’s liberal and rebellious.”
Esther Harrison is editor-in-chief of Art Berlin, the online art magazine about Berlin’s bustling creative scene, featuring both established and young artists in unusual Berlin spots. Her stints working in the music industry and squatting in the 90s have provided her with a radical sense of self-expression which perfectly delineates the city’s unruly, aesthetic charm. “Berlin is always a step ahead when it comes to innovation. I would hope there would be more opportunities for upcoming artists and more programmes” Esther tells SUITCASE, before sharing her insider knowledge of the city.
Pounding in from the industrial edges of the city’s dark techno temples, Berlin at night is disorientating and brutal, a euphoric trap of heavy electronic streaks and quirky venues holding you captive until sunrise. By day, it’s a tranquil metropolis with vast swathes of green, chic Michelin-starred restaurants and street markets, where a turbulent 20th-century history and iconic architecture blends with the pioneering art scene of today.
Berlin is a unique fusion of glamour and grit; colourful graffiti murals splash its urban confines, canopied beer gardens skirt derelict skate parks, with busking musicians and beer sellers on every corner. A city with no boundaries, it’s a tabula-rasa canvas and multicultural vessel that is constantly evolving with emerging new talent and cultural influences. The adrenaline buzz that fills the air will keep luring you in for just one taste– it’s inspiring, accepting and free.
Unlike any other place, it is a capital city which has avoided becoming obsessed with material wealth, placing greater emphasis on autonomy, ecology and creative pursuits. Since the collapse of the Berlin Wall, relatively low rental costs, an abundance of space and a free-flowing spirit make it the ideal playground for artists. “You can never divide the history out of the minds of the people, especially the artists…yet it’s Berlin itself, the personality of the city that truly inspires.”
Located in the heart of Kreuzberg, Kunstler Benthanien is a contemporary arts venue which brings together novel exhibitions and work from contemporary artists. It offers residency programmes for both foreigners and locals, as well as hosting regular open studios for the public to wander through, explore and connect with artists.
Situated in Alexandrinenstr, Gallery Konig is a converted cathedral entirely devoted to art. The gorgeous architecture offers the perfect open space to showcase an array of multimedia approaches including sculpture, videos, sound installations, painting and performance art. Its influential gallerist, Johann Konig, selects a roster of international, emerging and established artists, mainly from the younger generation.
Located in Mitte with 300 square metres of exhibition space spread over 80 rooms, Boros Bunker is a transformed techno bunker offering a private collection of contemporary art. But you can’t just walk into this massive five-storey landmark – visitors need to request an appointment and can spend months on the waiting list, “it’s like a treasure castle”, says Harrison. Once inside, you can easily spend all day discovering works by Wolfgang Tillmans, Damien Hirst, Elizabeth Peyton and many more. The sculptures, photographs and sound installations are so thrilling that they move visitors to tears.
Magic Beans Gallery
Right in the heart of Auguststrasse, Magic Beans has recently sprouted up as the most refreshing and charismatic contemporary art gallery on the block. A firm believer that art should flow and be easily accessible, international curator Christian Efremidis’ goal is to offer emerging sculptors, painters and installation artists the platform to flaunt their raw talent by introducing them to global opportunities. Our eyes are glowing for this one.
Once a beautiful 19th-century railway station, the gleaming white Hamburger Bahnhof building is an excellent example of Berlin’s boundary-pushing art scene. The polished floors and white-washed walls house a world renowned collection from Berlin entrepreneur Dr Erich Marx, as well as a vast collection of art from Beuys to Liechtenstein and Warhol. A permanent collection from the National Portrait Gallery also dominates the 2nd floor with a focus on 1960 to present. Conceptual art at its best, highlights include video art, design, photography and painting.
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