Berlin Gallery Weekend
Johann König, Max Hetzler, Hamish Morrison

Issue no2
April - May 2019
Magisch Realisme

As the opening night of a proper Berlin Gallery Weekend requires, the art was somewhat secondary to the ubiquitous wine and networking by its fashionable and multilingual audience. In terms of art however, this year, the participating galleries seem to put a collective focus on exceptionally theatrical pieces and forms of presentation. From the mystically lit and almost unearthly canvases of Matti Braun at Esther Schipper to Damien Hirst’ signature works of animals suspended in formaldehyde, including The Black Sheep With The Golden Horns (2009) in Haunch of Venison. And there were more galleries that didn’t fail to disappoint. Here are some highlights.

Johann König gallery David Zink Yi - something eerie

The second day of gallery weekend was remarkably less well visited but in the case of Johann König, less crowded spaces only accentuated the mysteriousness of the new exhibition. Metal, miniature palm trees, no taller than 3.5 meters, by Peruvian born artist David Zink Yi (1973), form its focal point. The trees, entitled Neusilber (2010) are finely elaborated reproductions of the palm species ‘Washingtonia Robusta’ (that can grow up to 30 meters tall) erected in aluminum and stainless steel. Their presence transforms the hangar-like space in a futuristic, artificial tropical setting. But there is something eerie about seeing the exemplification of the exotic, the palm tree, painted in silver and small enough to almost touch its leaves. There’s no reference to warm and better places but only a disturbing gaze into an apocalyptic future, in which these natural wonders can only be experienced by their artificial counterparts.

Also shown are some earlier works by Zink Yi: the film Pneuma (1994) and two photographs of the series Angel, bist du es? (2009). Both of the pictures depict two pairs of feet of which one pair hangs in the air, without any indication on how the person to whom these feet belong got in this position. Although it’s presented otherwise, the photographs and the installation show little coherence, but it nevertheless becomes clear that Zink Yi tries to make identity and identification less fixated by deserting preconceived notions and letting the unknown rule.

Max Hetzler gallery Monica Bonvicini - space dialogue


Instead of emphasizing the mystical and the unknown, a great contradiction is shown in concreteness, materiality and sometimes even raw brutality at gallery Max Hetzler. Located in Wedding, in the northeast of Berlin, the impressive industrial space shows an equally impressive range of recent works under the title Bet Your Sweet Life, by Italian artist Monica Bonvicini. Ranging from the Hurricane and Other Catastrophes series (2008/2009) to recent installation pieces like Deflated (2009), - a bundle of cold drawn steel chains on a mirror coated pedestal - and Light Me Back (2009) - which consists of a great bundle of fluorescent lights, hung on the ceiling by a steel supporting structure - it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by her consequent ‘in your face’ approach.

Light me Back is without a doubt the great eye catcher of the show. At first, the piece is almost literally blinding, especially in a space that is in no need of artificial lighting due to its enormous windows. Since the lighting is so bright, the chunky black chains that carry the piece are hardly noticeable; thereby creating the illusion of a floating enlightened ship-like construction that seems to have conquered the force of gravity. However, once your eyes are used to the brightness, the piece looses a bit of its initial poetry and reveals its industrial materiality: light bulbs, steal, chains and cables.


Check out Bonvicini's exhibition view at Vernissage TV.

Bonvicini’s choice of material sometimes pushes the envelope towards fetishism and voyeurism, which becomes particularly apparent in Black You (2010); a bedroom arranged installation consisting of one leather coated chair, table and bed with framed spray painted drawings on the wall. Many works bluntly confront the viewer with her gender struggle when it comes to art and architecture, as in the case of one of the weaker pieces Genital Modes (2010); an installation consisting of several dozens of the plexiglass boards with black inscriptions that are scattered all throughout the gallery walls showing terms such as ‘erectable’, ‘expectant’, ‘gates’, and ‘conducting’. Bonvicini corresponds with, reacts to and critiques architecture; built structures mainly designed and executed by men. Not only does her work perform in this space, it actively goes into dialogue with the space itself. For that alone, the partnership between art and space couldn’t have been better as the partnership between Monica Bonvicini and gallery Max Hetzler.

Hamish Morrison gallery Judy Millar - animalistic quality


Another great example of work and space coinciding, reacting and conflicting with one another is the daring choice by the Hamish Morrison gallery. For the Berlin Gallery Weekend it shows new work by established artist Judy Millar (New Zealand, 1957), entitled A Better Life. Initially built for the La Maddalena church during the 2009 Venice Biennale, the main piece consists of giant orange and black painted canvases that crawl through the room, overlapping one another, consequently building random structures that have collapsed on several places.

The piece seems to live a life of its own as it organically moves through the white cube, which is separated by one white wall in the middle that can be passed by either side. The threatening scale of the work becomes even more explicit when few people, who take interest in the work, stand next to it and look remarkably small in comparison. One of the galleries’ entries offers a spectacular view of the work from above, providing it with an animalistic quality; an anaconda attacking the walls, trying to smear the surfaces with orange and black paint residues. Millar’s gestures on the canvases are amplified ten times their original size. The blown-up version of her strokes has a huge impact on the character of her painting. Where figurative shapes are only vaguely noticeable in her regular sized canvases, here, they’ve become apparent. Figures, contoured with thick black lines, doom up out of the canvas structures. The work no longer looks like a crawling creature, but a fallen painting. A spectacularly fallen painting.

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Metropolis M Magazine for contemporary art No 2 — 2019