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Culture

Berlin Gripped by International Art Fever

Berlin is playing host to a large number of art exhibitions and fairs, featuring work by Jeff Koons and Paul Klee as well as a slew of international artists from India to Mexico, South Africa to Romania.

Visitors look at artworks at Berlin's Art Forum fair

The Art Forum in Berlin is one of Germany's most significant fairs for contemporary art

At the Mies van der Rohe-designed New National Gallery, US contemporary artist Koons is parading a glittering array of huge sculptures and paintings.

Yellow house I by Paul Klee

Paul Klee's highly individual works are on display in Berlin

On a lower floor is a selection of work by the late German expressionist painter Paul Klee, garnered from both private and international collections.

Simultaneously, the 13th Art Forum -- Berlin's International Fair for Contemporary Art -- opens at the city's Funkturm trade fair grounds.

It brings together 127 galleries from 26 countries, and around 2,000 artists from across Europe, as well as from Russia, India, South Africa, the USA and Central America.

Solo exhibition by promising Indian artist

Mumbai-based artist Riyas Komu, seen as one of the most promising contemporary Indian artists, is meanwhile exhibiting at the Bodhi Gallery in his first German solo exhibition of sculptures and paintings.

One of 37-year-old Komu's sculptural installations titled "Watching the other world spirits from the gardens of Babylon" is seen as a take on the US invasion of Iraq with its immediate physical and traumatic impact on the individual and his or her surroundings.

Wagon-like constructions, carved from used wood and detailed with skull and brain depictions refer, he says, "to the origin of all militaristic methods of destruction, namely mankind."

Komu is often described as a champion of the underdog with his sculptures and paintings questioning what people hide behind the masks of their faces. He employs a dozen workers in Mumbai who all come from the village where he used to live.

"It is interesting to introduce traditional craft into my work. Such craft used to be used only for decorative or luxurious purposes, whereas I use it in an entirely different context," Komu said.

Berlin contemporary art fair kicks off

The director of the 2008 Berlin Art Forum is Sabrina van der Ley, who shortly will become curator of contemporary art at the Kunsthalle (Art Hall) in Hamburg.

"Since the Art Forum began in Berlin in 1996 it's grown into the biggest art fair in Germany, which was what everybody was hoping for," she told DPA. "In those 13 years it has also become the most important art market place in Germany, especially for contemporary art," she says.

A work by Jaroslaw Flicinski at the Art Forum in Berlin

A work by Jaroslaw Flicinski at the Art Forum

This year's Art Forum sees more than half the exhibitors coming from abroad. But Berlin is well represented with 28 galleries, say the organizers, who promise "exciting new encounters" with exhibitors from Spain, Austria, Russia, India and, for the first time, South Africa.

The Nordic Countries are well-represented as are the Benelux countries. Thirty-one galleries are first-time participants in Berlin.

Three years ago Mihai Pop and Adrian Ghenie founded the artist-run gallery "Plan B" aimed at an international audience in Cluj, the largest city in the Romanian province of Transylvania.

Now after organizing last year's Romanian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, they are in Berlin to show the work of six artists operating in different media. Among them is David Nuur, who attracts attention with subtle thought-provoking sculptures.

Increasingly global art world

Twice daily, international experts will hold talks at the Art Forum on the increasingly global art world.

Mexico's Nino Monocal presents a solo exhibition of paintings by the multi-facetted and emerging artist Duvier del Dago in Berlin, and Berlin-Beijing gallery owner Alexander Ochs displays sculptures and paintings by outstanding Chinese artists.

Game Bird Group, an installation by Mark Dion at the Art Forum in Berlin

"Game Bird Group," an installation by Mark Dion at the Art Forum

Yin Xiuzhen's "Bras" (20,000 euros) and Yang Shaobin's "My Left Leg" (230,000 euros), earlier displayed at the Shanghai Art Biennale, are to be seen at the Art Forum.

The Korean painter Sun Young Byun's "The House in the Painting, The Painting in the House" is also shown alongside the star Chinese artist works. The Art Forum runs until November 3.

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