A Guide to Berlin's Art Week and Gallery Weekend

The city’s best autumn exhibitions

BY Sonja-Maria Borstner in Critic's Guides | 09 SEP 20

Nina Canell
Nina Canell, Dits Dahs, 2020, installation view, Daniel Marzona, Berlin. Courtesy: the artist and Daniel Marzona, Berlin.

Nina Canell, ‘Dits Dahs’

Barbara Wien

9 September – 7 November

Daniel Marzona

11 September – 24 October

For this year’s Berlin Gallery Weekend, Barbara Wien and Daniel Marzona have teamed up to present new sculptures by Nina Canell. Entitled ‘Dits Dahs’ – a reference to Morse code signals – both exhibitions assemble objects that explore transference between sound, matter and form. For her eponymous work at Daniel Marzona, Canell installed small motors on wires with shells and coins in order to make the different materials dance, creating a soundscape of the mundane. At Barbara Wien, Craver (2020) combines diverse elements – fossilized limestone, rubber, an electric switchboard – to prompt a dialogue between their physical textures. Informed by an understanding of sculpture as process, Canell’s works are a close study of the interplay between heterogeneous materials.

Vivian Suter
Vivian Suter, studio view, Panajachel, Guatemala, 2018. Courtesy: the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York/Brüssel, House of Gaga, Karma International and Proyectos Ultravioleta; photograph: David Regen

Vivian Suter, ‘Bonzo’s Dream’


13 September – 14 February 2021

For the first time since its inauguration in 1967, the Brücke-Museum is hosting a show by a non-member of Die Brücke – the early-20th-century expressionist artists’ group to which the institution is dedicated. In a large exhibition, which extends out into the garden, freely suspended abstract canvases by Vivian Suter and small collages by her mother, fellow artist Elisabeth Wild, hang alongside 40 paintings and sculptures from the museum’s collection. Produced in the garden of her Guatemalan studio, Suter’s colourful acrylic and oil paintings include traces of soil and rainwater. ‘Bonzo’s Dream’ returns these works to the natural environment, since the museum is located in Berlin’s Grunewald forest.

Berlin Biennale
Elena Tejada-Herrera, They Sing, They Dance, They Fight (2020), installation view, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin. Courtesy: the artist and KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; photograph: Silke Briel

11th Berlin Biennale, ‘The Crack Begins Within’

daadgalerie, Gropius Bau, KW Institute for Contemporary Art and 11th Berlin Biennale c/o ExRotaprint

5 September – 1 November

Titled ‘The Crack Begins Within’, the 11th Berlin Biennale – co-curated by María Berríos, Renata Cervetto, Lisette Lagnado and Agustín Pérez Rubio – has a clear objective. Comprising works by more than 70 artists, presented at four different venues across the city, the exhibition aims to draw attention to social, cultural and political fracture. At KW Institute for Contemporary Art, for instance, Elena Tejada-Herrera’s three-channel video installation They Sing, They Dance, They Fight (2020) is a collage of several short films that propose alternative narratives of femininity promoting solidarity in resisting the violence routinely inflicted on women in patriarchal society.

Barbara Hammer
Barbara Hammer, No No Nooky T.V., 1987, film still. Courtesy: the artist and KOW, Berlin

Barbara Hammer, ‘Would You Like to Meet Your Neighbor?’


10 September – 7 November

A pioneer of experimental feminist and queer cinema, Barbara Hammer used moving images to render visible the invisible. ‘Anyone can be left out of history,’ she once explained, ‘and I am compelled to reveal and celebrate marginalized peoples whose stories have not been told.’ For the first exhibition since the artist’s death last year, KOW presents Hammer’s film works from the 1980s, which address lesbian identity, love and sexuality. In the titular Would You Like to Meet Your Neighbor? (1985), for instance, Hammer rides the New York subway in a costume printed with a route map, asking fellow passengers intimate questions that highlight feminist issues.

Émilie Pitoiset
Émilie Pitoiset, Wild Rose, 2017, hand-sewn seat belt tailor made and hood, metal, 156 × 60 × 58 cm. Courtesy: the artist

Émilie Pitoiset, ‘MANIAC’


10 September – 24 October

Émilie Pitoiset’s solo exhibition at KLEMM’S focuses on her fascination with dance marathons and the fatigue caused by participants’ hours-long physical exertion. Popularized in the 1930s during the Great Depression, such contests blurred the line between theatre and reality, with the audience witnessing the contestants’ increasing loss of control as their bodies became exhausted. Echoing this wild choreography, the sculptures and photographs in ‘MANIAC’ are installed haphazardly throughout the exhibition space. Works such as Wild Rose & Not yet titled#5 (2017) – a human-scale metal figure, clad in a dress made from seat belts, pitching forward – perfectly capture these moments of bodily slippage.

Elif Saydam
Elif Saydam, Artists (Kotti), 2020, 23k gold, inkjet transfer and oil on canvas, 30 × 21 cm.

Courtesy: the artist and Tanya Leighton, Berlin

Elif Saydam, ‘Gut Feeling’

Tanya Leighton

11 September – 24 October

For their first exhibition at Tanya Leighton, Elif Saydam has created a series of oil paintings exploring the legacy of ornament within the tradition of 16th-century Persian and Ottoman miniatures. Combining traditional motifs such as flowers, fruits and decorative patterns with cartoonish elements borrowed from smartphone games, advertising and graffiti, Saydam’s works dismantle traditional categorizations of imagery. Artists (Kotti) (2020), for instance, incorporates materials ranging from pure gold to stickers and iron-on badges, interweaving pictorial elements from disparate times and cultural backgrounds.

Three additional must-see shows in Berlin:

At goeben project space on Potsdamer Straße, don’t miss Benedikte Bjerre’s solo exhibition ‘My Dream Is longer than the Night’ (until 10 October). In west Berlin, Galerie Buchholz presents exhibitions by California-based artists Vincent Fecteau and Richard Hawkins (until 31 October). Another highlight is Studio Berlin, an exhibition of works by 80 Berlin-based artists presented in the techno club Berghain.

Berlin Art Week runs from 9 until 13 September. Berlin Gallery Weekend runs from 11 until 13 September.

Main Image: STUDIO BERLIN/Berghain, © Rirkrit Tiravanija. Courtesy: neugerriemschneider; photograph: Noshe

Sonja-Maria Borstner is a writer and curator based in Berlin, Germany. She is the editorial assistant at Gropius Bau and co-editor of the online magazine PASSE-AVANT.