Berlin is one of the world's most important centers for contemporary art. This is reflected in the Berlin Biennale, which takes place every two years under a different curator, each time with a different theme.
Home for art
The Kunstwerke Institute for Contemporary Art has been home to the Berlin Biennale since 1998 and has become legendary. The former margarine factory is considered an epicenter of the Berlin art scene and has always been a focal point of the festival - until this year. Now it's been made a secondary location.
Away from downtown
Berlin's Mitte district has artistically dried up, says Juan A. Gaitan, a Colombian-Canadian artist and the curator of this year's Berlin Biennale. That's why he chose Berlin's leafy Dahlem neighborhood. There, a state museum exhibits its ethnological collections, which are expected to move into the centrally located Humboldt Forum soon. For Gaitan, it's a reason to ask questions.
Dialogue with the past
The run-down museum in the western part of Berlin contains ancient artefacts from around the world. For the Biennale, works by 28 international artists have been carefully added. Some of the pieces seek dialogue with the past. These artificial flowers by Colombian artist Alberto Baraya seem to be reminiscent of German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt's vasculums from the early 19th century.
Juan Gaitan has curated a rather quiet event that inspires visitors to consider the values that are presented in museums, as well as the history of exhibitions. This year's Biennale encourages art lovers to pose critical questions about the history behind objects and artworks.
Artist Beatriz Gonzalez has been dealing with the post-colonial history of Colombia and the representation of the political reality in the country almost all of her life. With her works resembling street signs, she sensitizes viewers to the dramatic situation in her home country.
David Chalmers Alesworth interprets the taming of nature and the history of migration. The British artist also creates artworks that he calls "textile interventions." For example, he inscribes research on colonial history and even new urban landscapes onto old, hand-woven rugs.
The Haus am Waldsee in the southern part of Berlin is another location for this year's Berlin Biennale. Built by a Jewish textile manufacturer, it was one of the most important art institutions in West Berlin from 1946 to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Then Berlin's Mitte district became popular and the Haus am Waldsee was forgotten.
A deer's eye peers out from a hunter's coat, observing every visitor to the Haus am Waldsee. The installation is a prime example of the main theme expressed in the works shown here: wild, untouched nature and the people that have reshaped it with their cities.
On the top floor of the Haus am Waldsee, Swedish artist Matts Leiderstam presents his works. He photographed both front and back of portraits he discovered in the Berliner Gemäldegalerie (Portrait Gallery) and in Stockholm's National Museum. Then he attached them to the wall, revealing the stickers, inventory numbers and notes written long ago on their back sides.
Dialogue of cultures
A subway ride from the Haus am Waldsee to the Kunstwerke Institute for Contemporary Art in downtown Berlin takes half an hour, but feels like a journey through time. However, the back-to-the-roots tone of the Biennale hardly changes. At the Kunstwerke Institute for Contemporary Art, Portuguese artist Leonor Antunes gives handicraft by indigenous people in Brazil a modern twist.