Art around the clock

The Clockwork Gallery is a string of superlatives: it’s Berlin’s smallest exhibition space (two panels, about 100 x 70 cm each), it has the longest opening hours (24-7), and it has the largest audience (even if half of them don’t realize they are looking at art). Occupying two sides of a revolving advertising light cube below a four-sided clock, the nonprofit project founded in 2007 by two artists and now run by one of them, Alexander Hassenpflug, offers an ambitious program with an impressive artist list and exhibitions that change every month. Like the other companies advertising their services on the cube, Hassenpflug has to rent ad space for his exhibitions, but in Berlin, even media agencies seem to have a soft spot for art so he gets special rates. Every work is produced exclusively for the project and is installed by the same team who normally hang advertising posters. Sometimes they make mistakes, like hanging works upside down; sometimes they are given special instructions by the artists, to turn the translucent glass panes inside out to create a special light effect, for example. The project doesn’t only make use of advertising space, it is an advertisement itself, for how the creative power of a private initiative can bring art to the public.

Clockwork Gallery, Mehringplatz/metro station Hallesches Tor

Alex Dellal


“I’m presenting the work of Alex Hoda in Berlin because I want people seriously interested in art to see and get to know about it. Elsewhere, art events are all about celebrities, but in Berlin it is really about the art”, says Alex Dellal of 20 Hoxton Square Projects on his reasons for making an appearance on the Berlin Gallery Weekend exhibition schedule. It might seem odd to hear these words coming from someone who is probably better known for his high-society credentials than his work as gallerist, but he’s obviously sufficiently savvy to want to build his artists’ careers on something more substantial than a social network. Few people in Berlin know that he’s actually the owner of one of Mitte’s most beautiful buildings, the former ironmongers on Wallstraße (a fitting location for Hoda’s bronze sculptures and which housed Elizabeth Peyton’s show at last year’s Gallery Weekend). Dellal purchased it four years ago and eventually plans to install apartments and maybe a project space open to collaboration with the local scene. But he doesn’t feel the need to rush things, and as the Berlin real estate market is in his favour anyway, the building is still unrenovated. Since this is becoming an increasingly rare sight these days, we certainly hope it’ll stay in this rather beautiful state, a little longer. We’ll be seeing Dellal again at the next Berlin Gallery Weekend at the latest. After all, he says that it has become one of his favourites dates on the international art calendar.


Tim Noble & Sue Webster

One of the most talked about exhibitions during Gallery Weekend was the sculptural installation Turning the Seventh Comer by Tim Noble and Sue Webster, created in collaboration with architect David Adjaye at the Blain/Southern gallery’s massive new Berlin space. A pitch dark, intestine-like passage leads – after turning seven corners – to a gilded sculpture that casts a shadow in the form of the artists’ face-to-face profiles. The “heads” are made of mummified rodents that were collected by Noble’s mother’s three cats and tucked away under a comfy armchair in her country cottage.

sleek: The labyrinthine tunnel takes after the Egyptian pyramids, whose riches were (somewhat ineffectively) protected by a malediction that would befall intruders who disturbed the peace of the pharaohs. Are the dead, mummified creatures in your sculpture a warning sign? Will something bad happen to those who enter the installation?
Tim Noble:
It’s not about the decay of the flesh or a curse; it’s about finding a secret. The gallery space seemed to suggest that a lot of objects should to be put in it, but we didn’t want to do that. We said to Harry [Blain], listen, this is a brilliant space, but how about we show in the dirty old shed over there? We wanted to create a personal, intimate encounter with just one piece. And we wanted to put a delay on getting to it.

sleek: This space, which used to house the printing presses of the German daily Der Tagesspiegel, is not easy to work with and will probably influence the art shown here. Do you think the gallery will now specialize in huge installations?
Sue Webster:
In a way, we influenced the decision of where to open the gallery, based on what we wanted to do with our installation, because we went with Harry to look at spaces together. We looked at a lot of locations, but this was the one we all wanted the moment we saw it. There was something going on in the building, a resonance which was tremendously exciting. So we were quite adamant that they should not make a gallery out of it yet. We wanted to keep it really raw.

sleek: When Harry Blain and Graham Southern closed their former Berlin gallery, Haunch of Venison, nobody expected them to reopen a new space so soon. But here it is. Why the insistence on Berlin? Does the city have a special meaning to you?
Berlin was the first place I ever travelled to, my dad took me when I was 16. The Wall was still up, we stayed in the West and went on a tour to the East one day. As soon as we crossed Check Point Charlie I was struck by all the red communist flags. Everything was black and white, with a sea of red flags. Berlin still feels black and white to me. My favourite album cover of all time is David Bowie’s “Heroes”, perfection in black and white, recorded in Berlin. I’ve kept coming back year after year and I noticed that the parts that I liked about Berlin are slowly disappearing…
This was also one of our main struggles with this space. We asked them to keep as much stuff in as possible, but they want to turn it into a conventional gallery. Every day we came in we noticed that more and more things were missing, cleaned away. But we managed to keep quite a lot of stuff here.

sleek: They’re probably just waiting for you to leave to change it all!
It’s like anywhere else, anything that’s slightly edgy gets conventionalized, sanitized. Galleries, especially in London, have come to resemble shop windows. You can take it all in, consume the art quickly. We wanted to bring it back to the intimate experience of looking at art and thinking about it. We wanted to do something memorable that would haunt the viewers during a weekend where everyone is shopping around.

Marcelo Burlon

Although Marcelo Burlon was all over town at the last Berlin fashion week, he claims he didn’t come here for fashion. In fact, he came to live out his love for music and DJ at such diverse locations as the Soto store, King Size Bar and Soho House. “Berlin to me is not the place to discover new designers, it’s not about fashion at all. I have friends here, I love the city’s attitude and atmosphere, the street culture. Living here would suit my lifestyle extremely well – but I could never make a living here, there are no clients.” One of Europe’s most important communicators in fashion, Burlon has worked with all major high fashion brands, and doesn’t see a market for them here: “If you can afford these brands, you don’t go shopping for them in Berlin. In fact, I’ve found something positive about this: I can still get all the pieces from my favourite designers when they are long sold out elsewhere. Which says a lot about the situation.” Burlon is based in Milan but can be found working all over the world. Upcoming projects include a photo shoot for GQ Mexico (he’s with Artlist Paris), DJing in Ibiza and in San Francisco with Devendra Banhart, throwing a party in New York, creating music for runway shows, curating for the Lane Crawford stores in Bejing and Shanghai, directing a video for Fiat 500 by Gucci… Here’s hoping he’ll have a reason to come and work in Berlin some day.

Justus Köhncke’s hairspray for sleek

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Have we mentioned that our latest issue, Sound | Silence, comes complete with a soundtrack? And that some of the tracks on the CD were composed exclusively for sleek? Like this one by Justus Köhncke, that accompanies a fashion spread by Markus Pritzi. As a musician, Justus Köhncke (who is also increasingly successful as a visual artist) has inspired music writers to neologize wildly in an attempt to define his style. Instead of trying to find yet another term to suitably describe his musical output, we’d just like to point out that what marks his exclusive track for this issue, inspired by the fashion spread by Markus Pritzi, is something of a rare commodity in the musical realms he occupies: humour. If you don’t speak German, the track’s vocal core – a remark made during Pritzi’s shoot, and probably just about every fashion shoot in the world – might be lost on you though: “Mach’ ma’ Haarspray”.


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On aura tout vu… now we’ve seen it all!

OnAuraTourVu, A/W 2012. Photo ©Morganistik

As the Bulgarian designer duo “On Aura Tout Vu” stormed Paris Haute Couture last week! Staying true to their name, the designers Livia Stoianova and Yassen Samouilov who’ve been putting on eccentric fashion shows twice a year in Paris since 2002, manage to give anyone who thinks they’ve seen it all something to write home about. In addition to their playful performances, “On aura tout vu” supplied Christian Lacroix, Dior and Givenchy with exclusive projects and are well known for dressing the frivolous dancers of the “Moulin Rouge”. It is hardly surprising then, that they like to play with kitsch when it comes to their Couture collection.

Dresses shaped like skeletons, frisky masks and hats, mirror applications, leather cutouts, fields of sequins and some fur (we can only hope that it was fake) brought some Studio 54 atmosphere to the garden of the Palais Royal, where the catwalk was set up.
And in Monaco this summer, they will set up a fashionable curiosity lab at Villa Sauber, where visitors can gawk at how the “On aura tout vu” twosome breathed new life in the collection of china dolls and robots donated by the passionate collector Madeleine Galéa, as they created miniature designs to reinterpret Monaco’s precious heritage in a scenographic set-up. A mash-up from Second Empire society gatherings to contemporary night clubbing scenes make up the jolly fantasy of “On aura tout vu” till January 29. Not to be missed!

Photos by Morganistik

What a mediocre Berlin Fashion Week – save Kostas Murkudis

While the German press has made out a positive, even enthusiastic response to Berlin Fashion Week’s show schedule, the international press delivers a more candid picture: by not reporting on Berlin Fashion Week at all.

Yes, there were some highlights. But there was also a lot of bullshit that would never have made and will never make it onto a runway in a city like Paris, London and New York.

Don’t get us wrong. We love Berlin, we don’t want to compare it to any other place in the world because we value its uniqueness, and we see good local fashion designers – but we don’t see the city’s fashion week and fashion scene evolving into something that will be both unique and on par with the international scene.


Because there is so little serious interest in fashion that even the only designer of international acclaim on the show schedule, and one of the best around at the moment, seemed to think it made sense to employ a fashion-illiterate PR agency which filled the seats of her show with German F-listers instead of the few members of the international press who had actually made it to Berlin not for the parties but to see some shows.

Because there is so little belief and commitment that hardly any buyer visiting the Bread and Butter tradefair makes the effort to visit one of the promising local showrooms.

Because too many Berliners are so full of themselves they believe playing fashion week is the real thing.

We strongly believe that the local fashion scene is worthy of a fashion week, a true Berlin fashion week with a unique show and event schedule, comprising both local and international designers with that sense of “so Berlin”. We see local designers who seem to incorporate a Berlin influence into their design; constrasting fabrics, bold shapes, unfinished hemlines seem to reflect the abundance of space, brash appearance and constant state of flux characterising this city, and conceptual depth appeals to an art-savvy and intellectually demanding audience. Among them Perret Schaad, Vladimir Karaleev, Michael Sontag, and this season’s newcomer Don’t Shoot The Messengers stand out. But we fear they are not challenged enough here to reach full bloom; with each new collection they only confirm the status quo reached with their first show (often a much lauded graduate collection) instead of demonstrating a gradual refinement of their talent.

Interestingly enough, the only event we consider worthy of our dream vision of a Berlin fashion week (apart from the above-mentioned Dutch designer) was demonstrated by a designer who once said showing in Berlin was just not worth it: Kostas Murkudis. Collaborating with artist Carsten Nicolai (aka Alva Noto), and setting the show in what is soon to become a gallery space, Murkudis created an environment that both stressed and extended the collection’s themes. This was a presentation that was meaningful in the best sense, by assigning each element – sound, image, model, item – a specifically calculated amount of time and space in a meticulously staged framework. The whole affair was not flawless; the light made viewing (and photographing, as you can see) the pieces difficult, a lot of people had to remain standing after a long workday and cope with blocked views, and we would have preferred less themes in favour of a deeper exploration of each of them. And yet, this was the perfect example of how we would love Berlin Fashion Week to be.

Photo© Maxime Ballesteros.