In Berlin, art turns up in strange places | Scene in Berlin | DW | 12.11.2010
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Scene in Berlin

In Berlin, art turns up in strange places

From old Nazi bunkers to train stations, art can be found nearly everywhere in Berlin - even in museums. DW's Anne Thomas discovered art in the most unlikely places and found some striking juxtapositions.

Scene in Berlin

There's absolutely no doubt about it: Berlin is a city of art and everyone I meet seems to be an artist of some sort. The guy behind the bar at my local pub is striving to be the next Picasso; when not whipping up cappuccinos the waitress at my favorite cafe works on her bestseller; and all my neighbors seem intent on making it in the music world.

Art is everywhere. Graffiti is ubiquitous - the drab buildings would just not be the same without a tag or two. And for the big-name artists who preferred canvas, there is a whole slew of exhibitions on Museum Island.

Hordes have flocked to the Neues Museum since it re-opened last year, not only to catch a glimpse of the splendid Nefertiti, but also to admire how architect David Chipperfield has revamped the building.

Collision of time and space

In Berlin, even high art is let out of the museums. When a friend of mine asked if I wanted to visit a Nazí bunker, I assumed she meant we would be going on a historical excursion. Little did I know! Before going anywhere at all, we had to go online to reserve a guided tour. When our day finally arrived - months later - we were buzzed into the daunting edifice through a heavy steel door.

Inside, the bunker has been converted into an extremely modern five-storey exhibition space where contemporary works collected by millionaire Christian Boros over the past 25 years adorn the walls, floors and ceilings. Many of the light, sound and video installations have a jocular lightheartedness to them that contrasts sharply with the building's original purpose.

Once again in Berlin, not everything is as it seems.

Courtyard at the MMX Gallery in Berlin

The unlikely juxtapositions are themselves works of art

From the post office to the pool

It is a city where present and past are constantly flowing into each other. At C/O Berlin, a former post office currently devoted to photography, the paint is peeling off, there are visible bullet holes in the walls, and bulbs and wires are exposed. It is impossible not to think of those who used to sell and buy stamps here.

On the first floor, there is a gym with the original wooden floor and a basketball hoop. Although I did my best to concentrate on fashion photographer Peter Lindbergh's glamorous shots of models and actresses, I could not help imagining the postmen trying to score a slam dunk before embarking on their next round.

However, at Stattbad Wedding, which used to be a municipal swimming pool but now houses an art gallery and several studios, the art seemed to merge seamlessly with the space. Currently on display is an exhibition by Barbara Papadopoulou called "Matryoshka," in which the Greek photographer examines pregnancy and childbirth.

As I entered the former changing rooms, I saw huge photographs of naked pregnant women on the walls and immediately felt as if they belonged. The benches were still there, as were the cabinets they would have locked their things in, and a mirror or two, and it was not hard to visualize the swimmers of the past.

Poor, sexy, and artistic

Before I started to get haunted by ghosts again, I saw it was already time to meet up with friends at systM. Bang in the middle of Berlin's gallery district, this is a cozy little bar where punters can take in temporary exhibitions and discuss modern art while sipping cocktails. Not a bad idea if you ask me and the alcohol keeps you in the present!

After a few, we stepped out into the cold drizzle and huddled toward the underground. I wondered where the next new gallery would crop up and wasn't surprised when I got off at Jannowitz Bridge to see that it had already been turned into an art space with the bare cement walls looking very much like those in the bunker. The wooden panels were covered in graffiti a la Banksy and a wannabe Rothko had created several abstract works in neon colors.

Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit was right when he famously said the German capital was poor but sexy and surely that's why the city will continue to attract artists and art lovers alike - in the strangest of places.

Author: Anne Thomas

Editor: Kate Bowen

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