Berlin and Istanbul Curators Announced; Scheibitz and Seghal in the German Pavilion; The Remixed “Uncanny”


Maurizio Cattelan, Massimiliano Gioni, and Ali Subotnick have been selected to curate the 4th Berlin Biennial, which is due to open at the Kunst-Werke and the Martin-Gropius-Bau in spring 2006. “For the first time, the biennial will be directed by a group composed of an artist, a curator, and an editor,” said founding director Klaus Biesenbach. The trio runs New York’s Wrong Gallery (a glass door in Chelsea with 2.5 square feet of exhibition space behind it), and also pens the monthly column “El Topo” in the architectural magazine Domus. Cattelan caught international headlines once again with his controversial installation in Milan this past spring; Gioni, director of Milan’s Trussardi Foundation, co-curated Manifesta 5 at San Sebastián; and Subotnick is a writer, editor and curator. While in the past the Berlin Biennial suffered from lack of money—which caused such frequent delays that the event became a triennial—the German Federal Cultural Foundation has guaranteed funding over the next five years.

The Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts has announced that Charles Esche and Vasif Kortun will co-curate the 9th International Istanbul Biennial, tentatively entitled “Istanbul,” which will open in September 2005. For the first time, the event will take place not only at various locations in the city of Istanbul but also at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. In Istanbul, Kortun, who directs the Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center, will address themes of post-industrialization, modernity, and consumerism. Artists will be offered long-term residencies, during which they will create specially commissioned works that spotlight aspects of the city’s past or present or that speculate on its future. The parallel show at the Van Abbemuseum, where Charles Esche is director, will reflect upon the Istanbul Biennial’s history to address the notion of “elsewhere.” By using two sites, the curators hope to raise “questions about the hierarchy between the stable museum context and the transient biennial event.”


Thomas Scheibitz and Tino Seghal will represent Germany at the 51st Venice Biennale in 2005, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reports. Curator Julian Heynen, who put Martin Kippenberger and Candida Höfer in the German pavilion in 2003, sees Scheibitz and Seghal (both of whom appeared in the last Biennale) as a counterbalance to the “heterogeneity” and “lack of clarity” prevalent in contemporary art. Scheibitz, born in 1968, studied painting in Dresden and has been exhibiting his work internationally since the ‘90s. Seghal, born in 1976, was awarded a special prize at this year’s Art Basel for his ephemeral works of choreography. Some critics found the installation of Kippenberger and Höfer at the 50th Biennale far too “museal,” and a question remains as to how Heynen will show Scheibtiz’s and Seghal’s works—especially Seghal’s fleeting performances, which are never documented.


After its stint at Tate Liverpool, Mike Kelley’s updated version of his 1993 exhibition “The Uncanny” has arrived in the city that originally inspired it: Vienna, where, in 1919, Freud wrote his seminal essay. As the Neue Zürcher Zeitung’s Ramin Schor reports, the new version of the show, at the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, includes works by Kelley, Paul McCarthy, Judy Fox, Tony Matelli, Ron Mueck, Paul Thek, Tony Oursler, and many others. It also features a host of scientific, occult, and other non-art objects, some culled from Viennese mental institutions and amusement parks. The catalogue reprints Kelley's influential original essay, with an introduction he wrote for the revamped show. By replaying his curatorial role, Kelley once again ends up redefining the role of the critic: “Kelley is one of those artists who offer a critical discourse along with their work,” Schor comments. “As Isabelle Graw has observed, such artists undercut the critic. Kelley himself has stated that the real and remaining task of the critic lies only in opposing him.” “The Uncanny” continues until October 31.

Jennifer Allen

Berlin's Homegrown Artists; Tuymans and Tillmans on the Flick Collection; A Speculative History of Pop


Berlin’s Art Forum fair got going last week, but there was little exhilaration about the new season among the critics at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Both Niklas Maak and Thomas Wagner argue that Berlin suffers from a shortage of institutional spaces in which to show contemporary art, with the exception of private collections. While the city has become an arts capital and boasts a lively scene, its exhibitions fail to reflect that: One must travel to New York or London to see the latest work of locally based artists such as Thomas Demand or Olafur Eliasson. “Instead, at the Hamburger Bahnhof, the so-called ‘regionally-based’ exhibitions dominate, with artists from Spain, Scandinavia, China or Australia,” Maak gripes. “These exhibitions are financed by the embassies. . . [T]hey are more damaging than useful to the Hamburger Bahnhof’s reputation.”

Die Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Frank Frangenberg seems to have found a temporary palliative at the fair: “Made in Berlin,” an exhibition curated by former Hamburg Deichtorhalle director Zdenek Felix, who chose works by forty-two Berlin-based artists, from Björn Dahlem to Thomas Locher. For Felix, there are some notable absences in the show, such as Isa Genzken. Her gallery, Neugerriemschneider, once again declined to participate in Art Forum, citing a scheduling conflict.


Despite protests, the Friedrich Christian Flick Collection—more than four hundred works in seventeen thematically organized rooms—opens this Tuesday in the Riecke-Halle, a converted warehouse next to Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof. Critics including Salomon Korn, vice-president of Germany’s Central Jewish Council, contend that the state-sponsored exhibition will serve to whitewash the Flick name while raising the collection’s market value. “Mick” Flick’s grandfather was the Nazis’ primary munitions supplier, and was found guilty of using slave labor at the Nuremberg trials. Unlike two of his siblings, Flick declined to contribute to the German government’s fund for victim compensation, though he did open a center devoted to combating racism and intolerance.

The debate gets play-by-play coverage in all the major German papers this week. Die Zeit’s Hanno Rauterberg takes the most original approach, asking a group of artists—Gerhard Richter, Hans Haacke, Wolfgang Tillmans, Luc Tuymans, Marcel Odenbach, Stephan Huber, Thomas Schütte, and Thomas Struth—whether Flick has purchased their work and what they think about the whole affair. “When collectors actively represent unpleasant political interests or when they work against the interests of art, I don’t sell to them,” says Tillmans. “Like Charles Saatchi, who conceived the Tories’ misleading ad campaigns and now speculates on art and manipulates artists’ careers. Mick Flick doesn’t do any of that.” Like Tillmans, Tuymans has sold work to Flick and takes a pragmatic view. “Of course, it would have been better if Flick had given a bit more of his money back, and given it back earlier,” says Tuymans. “I met him once and suggested that to him, but he didn’t want to do it. But should one nail him to the cross, as many would like to do?”

The opening promises to be extremely eventful. German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder will speak—an invitation that is already giving Die Zeit’s Jens Jessen a sense of déjà-vu. “The Chancellor of Germany and the grandson of the munitions industrialist will stand together in celebration,” writes Jessen. “Just as Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler and the elder Flick once stood together during the mobilization of Germany.” Survivors who worked for no wages in the Flick factories have promised to come to Berlin to attend the opening—albeit holding candles instead of wine glasses.


Why was Pop art born in America? Why didn’t the movement emerge in the twenties from Futurism, Dada and Cubism? In the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, art historian Beat Wyss poses the questions, and contends that that the answers lie in the state of industrial development in Europe in the interwar period: “Locomotives, factories and tanks functioned according to the tautly conceived logic of engineering, which was followed by the masses.” In this industrial configuration, Wyss argues that there was no room for Pop. “The reconciliation of art and mass production became possible only in the post-industrial era, at the level of communication and mass consumption,” writes Wyss. “The spirit of the economically liberal United States, which developed the cultural conditions for this age of deregulated mass consumption, was favored by the fact that this large country had rarely been threatened by outside enemies.”

Jennifer Allen