For the final exhibition at her gallery in Berlins Mitte district before moving to new premises in Kreuzberg, Barbara Weiss hosted the ninth solo show by Maria Eichhorn. Of course, the artist took the move as her subject, beginning with the shows title Zimmerstrasse 88/89, 10117 Berlin, the gallerys current address. Eichhorn has often placed the commercial and administrative structures of institutions at the centre of her work. An early example is her contribution to Sculpture. Projects in Münster 1997: Eichhorn bought a plot of land in the city centre and documented the change of ownership in the land register (Erwerb des Grundstücks Ecke Tibusstraße/Breul, Gemarkung Münster, Flur 5, Acquisition of a Plot: Tibusstraße, Corner of Breul, 1997).
One work was already visible from outside, as Eichhorn had neatly boarded up the gallerys windows, as if renovation work were going on inside (Seekieferplatten, Maritime Pine Boards, all works 2011). The premises were made to appear as another object for property speculation at this desirable central location, a stones throw from the tourist magnet of Checkpoint Charlie. On entering the gallery, visitors were greeted by a large-format photograph entitled Figuren (Figures), showing the gallerist and the artist marching in step but going in opposite directions. The next room contained an oversized broom to sweep up the already spotless white cube . Finally, in the exhibition space, already dark due to the boarded windows, the lights had been removed from the ceiling (_Licht, Light), making it hard to read the gallerys address which appeared in white letters on a white wall: Zimmerstrasse 88/89, 10117 Berlin. This work recalls Richard Hamiltons design for the white album by The Beatles (1968): on the all-white cover, the title The Beatles appears in embossed letters. In the brightly coloured world of pop, lack of contrast and a self-imposed ban on images is the way to draw attention.
With her brand of institutional critique, Eichhorn pursued a similar strategy to question critically the general framework of the gallery. Darkening gallery spaces and showing conceptual portraits have been part of the marketable repertoire of artistic methods since at least the 1960s, and Eichhorn is of course aware of this tradition. In spite of the shows austere elegance, the content she had packaged in smart design allowed her to address problems often willingly ignored by established galleries such as arts role in processes of gentrification and neo-liberal urban development.
Translated by Nicholas Grindell