Pleasure and Pain

Berlin
10.05.07

Left: Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit. (Photo: Stefan Maria Rother) Right: Artist Mike Kelley. (Photo: Frida Plucinski)


How did Europe steal back the idea of modern art? I pondered the question with Milan gallerist Giň Marconi as we drove from the fairgrounds of Art Forum—no relation to Artforum—to Neugerriemschneider to check out the Jorge Pardo show. Sure, London would be lead suspect for having all the money, and relational aesthetics would play cupid by bringing many European artists together with one neat theory. But Berlin would humbly affirm its own significance by providing a cozy home to artists from Europe and beyond. Marconi noted that he had no intention to open a branch of his gallery in Berlin. “London is for business. I come to Berlin for dinner parties.”

Lucky for us, invites to dinners and parties abounded. The weekend kicked off when Ceal Floyer stepped up to the podium last Thursday night to accept the Nationalgalerie Prize for Young Art (along with a handsome trophy and a seventy-thousand-dollar check). The audience was amazed that international curator David Elliot had mastered the German habit of giving really long speeches at art events in cavernous halls with terrible acoustics, although his echoing mash-up of Hegel, Kant, Debord, and Lewis Carroll raised a few eyebrows.

Left: Artist Pablo Alonso and Kiki from Chicks on Speed. (Photo: Stefan Maria Rother) Right: MoMA curator Christian Rattemeyer, Art Basel artistic director Cay Sophie Rabinowitz, and Art Basel director Samuel Keller. (Photo: Maureen Jeram)


The eyebrows rose even higher when Peter-Klaus Schuster, general director of Berlin museums, took the stand and informed us all that a certain “Tina” Sehgal was one of the finalists, along with Floyer, Damián Ortega, and Jeanne Faust. Some gasped as a young woman did indeed walk up to the podium along with Ortega and Faust to collect the consolation flowers. But she was no Rrose Sélavy—Sehgal, who never takes planes and thus travels only by slower means, like boats and trains, simply had other commitments abroad. The jurists had wasted no time choosing Floyer. “We decided unanimously in two minutes,” said Van Abbemuseum director Charles Esche, to the hearty agreement of fellow jury member Lynne Cooke.

Afterward, in the Veuve Clicquot Room, the champagne poured as freely as the rain outside. Loitering with critics Kito Nedo, André Rottmann, and Luca Cerizza, I wondered whether the wonderful Widow Clicquot changed the name of her late husband’s champagne brand to celebrate or to mourn his passage (or both), until a waitress reminding us not to smoke shook me out of it. “I have to smoke for my heart problem,” explained Nedo, blowing a few rings into the air.

There was no shortage of smoke, or heart problems, at the ballroom in Clara’s Ballhaus, where yet another prizewinner, Danh Vo, who took this year’s blueOrange award, was being feted among—what can I say?—total art cuties, including artists Laura Horelli and Susan Philipsz and Berlin Biennial 5 cocurator Elena Filipovic. (And that was only the gals!) I tried to convince dealer Jan Mot that he should represent Joep van Liefland, Joep van Lieshout, and Erik van Lieshout, and then Adam Szymczyk that he should curate a show based on Witold Gombrowicz’s Pornografia, which had just been banned from high school reading lists in Poland, despite its brilliantly apropos combination of voyeurism and murder.

Left: Berlin Biennial 5 cocurator Adam Szymczyk. Right: Dealer Iwan Wirth with collector Karl Friedrich Flick. (Photos: Stefan Maria Rother)


Next day: the fair. Art Forum is not the only fair in Berlin—you also have spin-offs like Berlin Liste in Gleisdreieck and Preview at Tempelhof Airport. Of course, the question on every visitor’s mind was: Why weren’t the major Berlin galleries participating at any of these fairs?

With fairs on the brain, Marc Spiegler and Cay Sophie Rabinowitz—two-thirds of the new Art Basel triumvirate—showed up, looking exhausted, with Sam Keller at Grill Royal. “I cannot reveal any details about the future,” said Spiegler, although the fact that he had just come home from China suggests that perhaps Art Basel Beijing is in the offing. With Rabinowitz and MoMA curator Christian Rattemeyer, we mused on office policies, from MoMA’s tie policy to Art Basel’s yoga sessions. We tried to ask Mario Testino whether it’s true that at Prada offices you can’t wear socks and stockings, but he wasn’t revealing any details either—just his fabulous smile. Too tired to make it to the bash for Agathe Snow, Terence Koh, and Bruce LaBruce at Peres Projects, I headed home.

Saturday night brought Mike Kelley’s opening at Jablonka Galerie—a nice collaboration with Sammlung Falkenberg, where six privately purchased pieces were also on view. Talk about instant criticism: An irate guest punched Kelley in the face for making too much money. (The visitor would have had a real field day at the fair!) At the postdinner party at Sale & Tabacchi, there were rousing rounds of applause for the glass teams from the Czech Republic, where you can get the biggest bell jars in the world blown by hand or mouth. Everyone—from the glass teams to Kelley to Rafael Jablonka—were making speeches while standing on chairs. Patrick Painter yelled “YES” to every thanks as if it were a goal in the World Cup. I was sitting with Mark Francis from Gagosian, and together we nominated Emi Fontana the best-dressed woman there.

Left: The Süddeutsche Zeitung's Holger Liebs with artist Franz Stauffenberg. (Photo: Maureen Jeram) Right: Artist Rita McBride with curator Ami Barak. (Photo: Stefan Maria Rother)


After chatting at Grill Royal with Frieze critic Dominic Eichler, we decided that before heading home, it was our critical duty to attend the Texte zur Kunst panel with the deceptively simple title “How to Have a Party to Celebrate the Magazine.” But we couldn’t find the panel, just people discussing, dancing, drinking, and spilling out into the street—an old Berlin party tradition. Although the party survived the many trams and cars veering close to the guests, it couldn’t quite recuperate from the round of pepper spray released—perhaps by an angry theorist—in the club around 5 AM.

Sunday morning, we headed over to Sammlung Hoffmann, where grande dame Erika Hoffmann was hosting her annual brunch for the gallerists. What a fab installation. A favorite: Nancy Spero’s 1968 work Super Pacification (made during that other failed war—Vietnam), with an A-bomb plane dropping what looked like breasts (the other great American pacifier). After brunch, I skipped an afternoon tour with Jonathan Monk at Kunstlerhaus Bethanien for the Kelley talk at the American Academy, run by Gary Smith, the Walter Benjamin scholar–cum-diplomat. Smith had persuaded Michael Kimmelman—yet another new Berliner, heading the New York Times’s office here for the year—to be Kelley’s foil. It was quite a crowd—even Diane von Furstenberg showed up to see what they had to say. Kimmelman did an excellent job of remaining afloat during an absolutely brilliant talk from Kelley. Indeed, I never learned so much art history in so little time, despite his saying intermittently and self-depreciatingly, “Blah, blah, blah.”

The dinner—an intimate, lakeside affair in Potsdam, featuring such eminent guests as Jablonka, Tacita Dean, Thomas Demand, and Heike Föll—was fantastic, although I could not understand why Andreas Slominski kept saying good-bye to me. (Perhaps he mistook me for Tina Sehgal.) Teaming up with Diedrich Diederichsen, Monica Bonvicini, Juliane Rebentisch, and American Academy program director Philipp Albers, we took a cab to Ex ‘n’ Pop club, where the charming curator Reiner Opoku was hosting a collaborative painting show between Jonathan Meese and Tim Berresheim. Quite frankly, beyond reading a large sign stating NO DRUGS!!!!, I cannot remember the rest. I woke up in the recovery room of the Friedrichshain hospital with the chief of endoscopy giving me my last quote: “Frau Doktor Allen, you have an ulcer.”

Jennifer Allen

Left: Curator Anselm Franke. Right: Klaus Wowereit, Art Forum Berlin artistic director Sabrina van der Ley, and dealer Kamel Mennour. (Photos: Stefan Maria Rother)


Left: Curator Iara Boubnova. Right: Dr. Christian Göke, COO Messe Berlin, with senator Harald Wolf. (Photos: Stefan Maria Rother)


Left: Dealer Andrée Sfeir-Semler. Right: Collector Louis Nčgre and dealer Bruno Delavallade. (Photos: Hannah Dübgen)


Left: Dealers Christian Nagel, Rudolf Kicken, and Elizabeth Dee. Right: Curator Silke Bitzer. (Photos: Stefan Maria Rother)


Left: Contemporary Fine Arts director Nicole Hackert, Mario Testino, and Jennifer Allen. (Photo: Maureen Jeram) Right: Artist Riccardo Previdi. (Photo: Stefan Maria Rother)