The Exhibitions to See During Berlin Gallery Weekend

Your go-to guide to shows in the German capital, from Theaster Gates at Gropius Bau to Raphaela Vogel at BQ

BY Hili Perlson in Critic's Guides | 25 APR 19

Guido van der Werve, Number nine, the day I didn't turn with the world, 2007, film still. Courtesy: the artist and Fluentum, Berlin

Guido van der Werve
25 April – 22 June

In 2016, Dutch artist and filmmaker Guido van der Werve was involved in a serious cycling accident that almost cost him his life. What saved him, according to his medical team, was his extraordinary physical fitness, achieved in part through the training required to make his radical artworks, in which the artist often films himself in extremely precarious and physically demanding situations. In Number Nine, The Day I Didn’t Turn with the World (2007), for instance, he spent 24 hours at a fixed point on the north pole, slowly swivelling in the opposite direction to the earth’s rotation, while trying not to freeze to death. This work, along with five other films from the artist’s ongoing ‘Numbers’ series, comprise Van der Werve’s first major solo exhibition in Germany, which also marks the opening of a new private museum, Fluentum. Located in a Nazi-built military facility, later used as US Army headquarters, the museum houses a private collection dedicated to time-based media. After Berlin Gallery Weekend, the space is open by appointment only.

Raphaela Vogel, Music Lost Its Time, 2019, film still. Courtesy: the artist and BQ, Berlin

Raphaela Vogel
27 April – 6 July

A play on the artist’s surname, Raphaela Vogel’s latest solo exhibition, ‘Vogelspinne’ (tarantula or, literally, ‘bird spider’), comes on the heels of a number of recent institutional shows at Kunsthalle Basel (2018), Haus der Kunst Munich (ongoing) and Berlinische Galerie (2019). Vogel’s irresistibly subversive mixed-media and video installations explore womanhood, childbirth and the perpetual tourbillon of interactions, expectations and transactions in the art world. In Music Lost its Time (2019), she comments on the increased attention her work has recently received and faces her fear of being consumed by an insatiable beast, ever-hungry for new production.  

Signe Pierce, Uploading My Consciousness Into Unreality, 2018. Courtesy: the artist and EIGEN + ART Lab 

Signe Pierce
Eigen + Art Lab
24 April – 15 June

Signe Pierce and Alli Coates’s viral video American Reflexxx (2015) picks up on the social experiments of iconic performances such as Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece (1964) or Marina Abramović’s Rhythm 0 (1974) and transports them to the digital age. It shows the artist walking down Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, after dark, wearing a tight blue mini dress, her peroxide blonde hair framing a mirrored metallic mask that covers her face entirely. Inebriated gangs of passers-by begin to taunt and pelt the ‘freakish’-looking woman, their rage quickly escalating to assault. The spontaneous reaction of this angry mob prompts us to reflect on our own inherent prejudice and intolerance. For her first solo exhibition in Germany, Pierce – who has transformed her appearance to embody an archetypical hypersexualized femme in art and life – will show a new, immersive work that similarly implicates the viewer in reacting to female stereotypes and Otherness.

Moneta Sleet Jr, 1965. Courtesy and photograph: Johnson Publishing Company, LLC. All rights reserved.

Theaster Gates
Gropius Bau
25 April – 28 July

In this latest show, Chicago-born artist Theaster Gates continues his tribute to the Johnson Publishing Company, which he first brought to Europe in 2018 with the exhibitions ‘Black Madonna’ at Kunstmuseum Basel and ‘The Black Image Corporation’ at Milan’s Fondazione Prada. Founded in 1942, the Johnson Publishing Company launched magazines such as Ebony and Jet, which helped shape the way African Americans thought about the aesthetic representation of their political and visual culture. From an archive of more than four million images, Gates here focuses on two photographers, Isaac Sutton and Moneta Sleet Jr, explaining in an accompanying video this was because ‘they were both thinking about fashion and beauty, and the political life’. Alongside these framed prints, the video Michigan Avenue in Full Bloom (2018) documents the interior of the publishing company’s former Chicago offices. Artists Vaginal Davis, Mac Folkes and Wu Tsang will, throughout the exhibition’s run, stage their own interventions with Gates’s selection.

Schinkel Pavillon ‘Straying from the Line’, 2019, exhibition view. Courtesy: Schinkel Pavillon, Berlin

Straying from the Line
Schinkel Pavillon
13 April – 28 July

Expansive yet not overwhelming, this intergenerational group show examines a multiplicity of feminist perspectives, arguing for their centrality to – and inseparability from – other forms of resistance against inequality, oppression and abuse of power. Occupying every inch of the Schinkel’s octagonal space, works by artists as diverse as Elaine Sturtevant and Maria Lassnig, Nancy Spero and Ellen Cantor, or Cosey Fanni Tutti and Claude Cahun hang shoulder to shoulder with pieces by Anna Uddenberg and Martine Syms – to name but a few – charting a mind map of narratives that boldly challenge the status quo.

Jana Euler, GWF 3, 2019, acrylic and oil on canvas, 3 x 2 m. Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Neu, Berlin

Jana Euler
Galerie Neu
26 April – 30 May

In her solo show ‘Great White Fear,’ Jana Euler unveils a new series of large-scale portrait-like figurative paintings. The works depict sea creatures that could be majestic white whales, if it weren’t for the bulging veins running the length of their slippery bodies. Exposed as a rather comical cross between erect penises and great white sharks, the creatures on the canvases are ‘captured’ mid-air, water splashing and foaming around them, their faces twisting in ecstasy. Faces? Euler, to drive home her point, stuck noses and expressive facial features on the beasts. It is far more infuriating to have to be fearful of creatures you find a bit ridiculous.

Main image: Moneta Sleet Jr, 1965. Courtesy and photograph: Johnson Publishing Company, LLC. All rights reserved.

Hili Perlson is a writer, art critic and fashion journalist based in Berlin.