This month Berlin is celebrating its emerging artists. Over the last twenty years low rents, liberal values and a rich artistic precedent have drawn more and more creative types to the city. ‘Based in Berlin’, which runs until the end of July at the Monbijoupark Atelierhaus as well as at four other venues, highlights the work of 80 young painters, sculptors, writers, musicians, performers and video artists who live and work in the capital.
‘Many of Berlin’s best artists have exhibition space devoted to them all over the world, but not in Berlin,’ declared mayor Klaus Wowereit at the exhibition’s opening. ‘This show provides an important opportunity for Berlin’s emerging artists to formally showcase their work.’
Despite the inevitable accusations of elitism and unfairness in the selection process (as there are some 6,000 practicing artists in Berlin, 5,920 of them were not included), the exhibition does succeed in raising the profile of the city’s vibrant art scene. But ‘Based in Berlin’ overlooks a fundamental change which is transforming this city.
Gone are the sleepy days before reunification when West Germans had to be bribed to settle in Kreuzberg. No longer can an incomer find a bargain-priced studio in Prenzlauer Berg. Since 1989 Berlin popularity has steadily increased, along with the cost of renting work and living space, to the point that today increasing numbers of wannabe artists can no longer afford to be here.
Last weekend this dilemma was addressed in a parallel show, 48 Stunden Neukölln, a two-day art and cultural festival in one of Berlin’s poorest neighbourhoods. The event’s provocative theme was luxury, and local artists addressed – in manifold ways -- the question of how to survive (and to continue ones creative work) in the city.
Over the course of the weekend 600 events were held in 330 venues ranging from a former prison and the old Kindl-Brauerei to Kiez International, Berlin’s longest running intercultural street fair. Even an Art Nouveau swimming pool was used as the stage for a modern opera, performed in part underwater.
‘For a while now, the value of art has been a matter of debate, especially when discussing the idea of guaranteeing that those working in the arts can make ends meet,’ said the organisers of 48 Stunden Neukölln. ‘The question which we wanted to discuss was whether Neukölln can remain an important – and affordable – home for artists in the future.’
This is a question which Berlin as a whole needs to ask itself. In London artists have been long priced out of the old studios in Kensington and Chelsea. In New York few aspiring creatives can even afford Hoboken these days. Ditto central Paris and Rome. Does Berlin – with its increasing gentrification -- want to go the same way, losing its youngest creative and questioning souls, or can it find a means by which emerging artists can continue to enjoy and enrich this changing capital?
Donnerstag, 23. Juni 2011
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