The Best Shows to See During This Year’s Gallery Weekend Berlin

From Rebecca Horn’s kinetic installations to Richard Sides’s matrix, assistant editor Carina Bukuts chooses the exhibitions not to miss

BY Carina Bukuts in Critic's Guides , EU Reviews | 28 APR 21

Susan Philipsz Slow Fresh Fount, 2021
Susan Philipsz, Slow Fresh Fount, 2021, four channel sound installation and six steel barrels. Courtesy: the artist and Konrad Fischer Galerie, Düsseldorf/Berlin; photograph: Roman März

Susan Philipsz

Konrad Fischer Galerie

1 May – 17 July

Echoes happens when a sound wave reflects off a surface and the sound is repeated back to you. For sound artist Susan Philipsz, measuring spaces through her own voice is a means of understanding their spatial depth. At Konrad Fischer Galerie, Philipsz’s investigation of echoes now takes sculptural form. Slow Fresh Fount (2021), the exhibition’s titular work, takes inspiration from the eponymous poem in Ben Jonson’s play Cynthia’s Revels (1600), which addresses the Greek mythology of Echo and Narcissus. On the first floor, four oil drums act as resonating bodies for Philipsz’s sound recording of the poem. Different in height and width, the barrels each create their own unique echo of the artist’s voice, amplified by the cathedral-like acoustics of the old transformer station, where the gallery is located.

Richard Sides, Stern, 2021, acrylic on canvas, magazine pages, 100 x 100 cm, (courtesy the artist and Schiefe Zähne, Berlin
Richard Sides, Stern, 2021, acrylic on canvas, magazine pages, 100 × 100 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Schiefe Zähne, Berlin

Richard Sides

Schiefe Zähne

30 April – 5 June

You don’t need to take a red pill to enter Richard Sides’s exhibition at Schiefe Zähne, ‘The Matrix’. However, you might still experience that your perception of space changes and various timelines overlap within the show. By lowering the height of the ceiling to 2.5 metres and installing temporary walls with a mural of blue vertical stripes within the gallery, Sides creates a first shift of perspective. Found, discarded printers and fax machines seem like relics of past communication system, while a sculpture reminiscent of the Boston Dynamics robot dog ‘Spot’ leaps forwards to a dystopian AI future, seemingly asking what objects speak to different temporalities. 

Rebecca Horn, Bee's Planetary Map, 1998
Rebecca Horn, Bee's Planetary Map, 1998, installation view, Galerie Thomas Schulte, Berlin. Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Thomas Schulte, Berlin; photograph: Stefan Haehnel

© Rebecca Horn VG Bildkunst Bonn 2021

Rebecca Horn

Galerie Thomas Schulte

28 April – 26 June

After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 everything seemed possible in the city on the Spree. It was then when many artists moved to Berlin to benefit from cheap rents for apartments and studios, and an emerging gallery scene quickly followed. Galerie Thomas Schulte, one of the most exciting galleries during that time, dedicated its inaugural exhibition in 1991 to Rebecca Horn. Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, the gallery once again invited Horn for a solo exhibition, which comprises recent works as well as kinetic sculptures from the 1990s. Bee’s Planetary Map (1998) features beehives-cum-lamps suspended from the ceiling, their honey-yellow light stream shining on rotating mirrors placed below, which project the light onto the gallery walls. But as with many of Horn’s works, one has to wait a little until the kinetic elements come into play: every 2.5 minutes a stone falls from the ceiling, to scatter one of the mirrors into shards spread across the gallery.   

Nicholas Grafia, The Ambush, 2021
Nicholas Grafia, The Ambush, 2021, acrylic and graphite on canvas, 180 × 100 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Peres Projects, Berlin

Nicholas Grafia

Peres Projects

30 April – 4 June

Düsseldorf-based artist Nicholas Grafia’s first exhibition at Peres Projects, ‘Free Verse Spirit’, explores the meaning of oral history within the medium of painting. In his colourful works, he combines Philippine history and folklore with pop culture to address the cultural maintenance of identities. During the Spanish colonization of the Phillipines in the 16th century, indigenous Filipinos were held captive in so-called encomienda labour camps. In The Ambush (all works 2021), Grafia gives agency back to the suppressed. In the purple shades of night and under a full moon, a group of Filipino Aeta hunters with bows and arrows attack the head of the labour camp.

Kayode Ojo, “He Enjoyed His Privacy” (2020), 290 x 80 x 80 cm (114 1/8 x 31 1/2 x 31 1/2 in). Courtesy of the artist and Sweetwater. Photograph by Diana Pfammatter.
Kayode Ojo, He Enjoyed His Privacy, 2020, installation view, Sweetwater, Berlin. Courtesy: the artist and Sweetwater; photograph: Diana Pfammatter

Kayode Ojo


30 April – 19 June

All that glitters is not gold – and who would know that better than New York-based artist Kayode Ojo, whose shiny installations deal with the relationship between original and fake. In his installations he references modernist furniture designs and high-fashion accessories by using mass-produced materials such as mirrors, glass, rhinestone and chrome, cheekily suggesting that anything can be transformed into luxury if it’s polished enough. ‘Call it What You Want’, the title of Ojo’s exhibition at Sweetwater’s new location on Leipziger Straße, couldn’t be better suited to speak to his works.

Natalie Ball, Toes Out, 2021
Natalie Ball, Toes Out, 2021, Converse shoes, elk fur, textile, leather, lodge pole pine,

61 × 28 × 33 cm. Courtesy: the artist and and Wentrup, Berlin 

Natalie Ball


21 May – 19 June

Putting up an exhibition during a pandemic comes with many risks and questions: Will the artist be able to travel? Will the works arrive on time? Will galleries be allowed to open at all? Given the current circumstances, it’s amazing that galleries still proceed with long-planned, ambitious projects, as in the case of Natalie Ball’s show at Wentrup. A few days before Gallery Weekend, the exhibition now needed to be pushed back a few weeks due to Covid-19 restrictions in the Chiloquin reservation where Ball is based. However, ‘Deer Woman Gets Enrolled on October 30, 2013’, the artist’s first exhibition at the gallery, is worth waiting for. In her works, Ball addresses her native American heritage and the privileges and restrictions attached to it. Her sculptures combine materials such as fur, wood and textiles, to create powerful assemblages that reflect on questions of identity.


Raul Walch
Raul Walch, 'Die Balkone', 2020. Courtesy: the artist

‘Die Balkone’

Various venues, Prenzlauer Berg

30 April – 2 May

In spring 2020, when our screens were flooded with a vast amount of digital programming, curators Övül Ö. Durmusoglu and Joanna Warsza initiated ‘Die Balkone’, an exhibition taking place on balconies and windows across the district of Prenzlauer Berg. For the project, they invited artists and cultural workers living in their neighbourhood to join them in suspending artworks from the private homes of their apartments to the public. This year, more than 40 artists’ installations will be part of ‘Die Balkone’, including contributions by Kader Attia, Rosa Barba, Yael Bartana, Lina Majdalanie, Tom McCarthy, Rabih Mroué, Olaf Nicolai and Jan St. Werner. While the exhibition started off as a lockdown project, I strongly hope that many more iterations of ‘Die Balkone’ will follow in the years ahead. (‘Die Balkone’ is not part of the official programme of Gallery Weekend Berlin.)

Berlin Gallery Weekend 2021 takes places from 30 April until 2 May. Upon entering the exhibitions, time slots need to be booked on the galleries’ website and proof of a negative Covid-19 test needs to be provided.

Main image: Rebecca HornTurm der Namenlosen (Tower of the Nameless), 1994, installation view, Galerie Thomas Schulte, Berlin. Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Thomas Schulte, Berlin; photograph: Stefan Haehnel © Rebecca Horn VG Bildkunst Bonn 2021 

Carina Bukuts is associate editor of frieze. She is based in Berlin, Germany.