Berlin’s 13 Best Art Shows of 2017

Berlin's art scene continued to thrive in 2017, as evidenced by the abundance of bold, thought-provoking and downright fun shows on offer.

While we were all watching the world burn in 2017, it looks like the fire ignited many artists to make great work, and many curators to show it. Of Berlin’s best art shows in 2017, a baker’s dozen rose above the rest, and imprinted themselves on our hearts and minds. In no particular order, these are the 13 best Berlin art shows of 2017. If you are worried that reading a list of all the brilliant things you weren’t at will further your winter blues, you’re probably right — but lucky for you, a couple of these gems are still running.

1. Candice Breitz, “Love Story”, KOW Berlin

Candice Breitz’s “Love Story” offered an incredibly thought-provoking commentary on our collective perception of refugees in western/central Europe. At the core of “Love Story” is one of the most crucial questions of our times: how can we create empathy in a heartless world? Breitz explores this by getting two megastars, Julianne Moore and Alec Baldwin, to recount shocking true stories of violence, war, trauma and abuse as if they were their own. These accounts are based on the real lives of six refugees currently living in Berlin, and it’s chilling how much empathy they conjure when  plucked out of the news cycle and placed into the mouths of famous white actors. The overall impact is discomfiting. Thankfully, Breitz doesn’t just use the two actors to front these histories; the six participants also voice their own experiences. “Love Story” is an intelligent and subtle work which avoided pandering to sensationalism; we’re excited to see what Breitz does next.

Candice Breitz, Still from Love Story, 2016. Image: Courtesy of Candice Breitz and KOW, Berlin.
Candice Breitz, Love Story, Installation  view, 2016. Image: Courtesy of Candice Breitz and KOW, Berlin.
Candice Breitz, Still from Love Story, 2016. Image: Courtesy of Candice Breitz and KOW, Berlin.
Candice Breitz, Love Story, Installation  view, 2016. Image: Courtesy of Candice Breitz and KOW, Berlin.
Candice Breitz, Still from Love Story, 2016. Image: Courtesy of Candice Breitz and KOW, Berlin.
Candice Breitz, Love Story, Installation  view, 2016. Image: Courtesy of Candice Breitz and KOW, Berlin.
Candice Breitz, Still from Love Story, 2016. Image: Courtesy of Candice Breitz and KOW, Berlin.

2. Lu Yang, “Welcome to LuYang Hell”, Société

Lu Yang took us into her virtual hell, and we revelled in our condemnation. Post-internet art might be on its way out but, somehow, Yang managed to draw us back in. She doesn’t care for the defunct and overcooked ideas of what it means to exist in digitised world — rather, she revels the internet’s narcissism. The artist’s virtual face literally sneered out at us from every corner, most memorably in the form of a giant hot air balloon monster. Honestly, Yang, condemn me for life.

Lu Yang, “Welcome to Lu Yang Hell”, 2017. Installation view at Société, Berlin. Image: Uli Holz. Courtesy of Lu Yang and Société.
Lu Yang, “Welcome to Lu Yang Hell”, 2017. Installation view at Société, Berlin. Image: Uli Holz. Courtesy of Lu Yang and Société.
Lu Yang, “Welcome to Lu Yang Hell”, 2017. Installation view at Société, Berlin. Image: Uli Holz. Courtesy of Lu Yang and Société.
Lu Yang, “Welcome to Lu Yang Hell”, 2017. Installation view at Société, Berlin. Image: Uli Holz. Courtesy of Lu Yang and Société.
Lu Yang, “Welcome to Lu Yang Hell”, 2017. Installation view at Société, Berlin. Image: Uli Holz. Courtesy of Lu Yang and Société.
Lu Yang, “Welcome to Lu Yang Hell”, 2017. Installation view at Société, Berlin. Image: Uli Holz. Courtesy of Lu Yang and Société.
Lu Yang, “Welcome to Lu Yang Hell”, 2017. Installation view at Société, Berlin. Image: Uli Holz. Courtesy of Lu Yang and Société.
Lu Yang, “Welcome to Lu Yang Hell”, 2017. Installation view at Société, Berlin. Image: Uli Holz. Courtesy of Lu Yang and Société.
Poster, Lu Yang, “Welcome to Lu Yang Hell”, 2017. Installation view at Société, Berlin. Image: Courtesy of Lu Yang and Société.

3. Anna Uddenberg, “Sante Par Aqua”, Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler

Uddenberg’s latest solo show consists of four soft textile objects, which resist easy definition. Are they absurdist massage chairs from the future? Deconstructed car interiors? Futurist fetish spa furniture? Every piece begs to be touched, to be engaged with. “Twin Generators and Upgraded Space” was a personal favourite: the soft, fur-lined mechanical-bull-meets-salon-chair calls you to take a ride as you shuffle your feet about the enclosed space.  

Left: Anna Uddenberg "Sante Par Aqua", 2017. Installation View. Right: Anna Uddenberg, "Pockets Obese", 2017. "Sante Par Aqua", Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin. Image: Courtesy of the artist and Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin. Photographer: Gunter Lepkowski
Anna Uddenberg, "Sisterunit on Fly", 2017. Sante Par Aqua, Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin. Image: Courtesy of the artist and Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin. Photographer: Gunter Lepkowski
Anna Uddenberg, "Cozy Stabilization Unit", 2017. Sante Par Aqua, Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin. Image: Courtesy of the artist and Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin. Photographer: Gunter Lepkowski
Anna Uddenberg, "Twin generators and Upgraded Tender", 2017. Sante Par Aqua, Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin. Image: Courtesy of the artist and Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin. Photographer: Gunter Lepkowski
Anna Uddenberg, "Sante Par Aqua",  2017. Installation view, Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin. Image: Courtesy of the artist and Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin. Photographer: Gunter Lepkowski
Anna Uddenberg, "Pockets Obese", 2017. "Sante Par Aqua", Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin. Image: Courtesy of the artist and Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin. Photographer: Gunter Lepkowski

Anna Uddenberg “Sante Par Aqua” is running till 13.01.2018 at Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin. 

4. Dara Friedman, “Dichter”, Supportico Lopez

Late last year, Dara Friedman held an open audition where people were asked to recite a personal poem which had influence and meaning in their life. Friedman then chose 15 of her favourites to be filmed on 16mm film in a Kreuzberg studio. Friedman adapted Jerzy Grotowski’s vocal techniques to fill the speakers’ bodies with their own sound waves, investigating ideas of thinking with the body as well as the mind. The result was an eerie and arresting multi-video installation. The red, pink and purple backdrops united each of the works, and created a bold and memorable aesthetic. 

Dara Friedman "Dichter", 2017. Installation view. Image: Courtesy of the artist and Supportico Lopez
Dara Friedman "Dichter", 2017. Installation view. Image: Courtesy of the artist and Supportico Lopez
Dara Friedman "Dichter", 2017. Installation view. Image: Courtesy of the artist and Supportico Lopez
Dara Friedman "Dichter", 2017. Installation view. Image: Courtesy of the artist and Supportico Lopez
Dara Friedman "Dichter", 2017. Installation view. Image: Courtesy of the artist and Supportico Lopez
Dara Friedman "Dichter", 2017. Installation view. Image: Courtesy of the artist and Supportico Lopez
Dara Friedman "Dichter", 2017. Installation view. Image: Courtesy of the artist and Supportico Lopez

 5. “the new liquid model”, DUVE Berlin

This packed-out, one-night exhibition featured works by Jala Wahid, Rindon Johnson, Julia Colavita and Adam Chad Brody, followed by a contemporary dance performance by Shade Therét. “the new liquid model” explored the environmental, social, structural and political impact the world has on the body, bringing us back to the physicality of human existence. Any show that ends with the audience participating in an impromptu jelly fight definitely deserves a mention.

Rindon Johnson "It Is April", 2017. Installation View, "the new liquid model" DUVE Berlin. Image: Courtesy of the artists and Naomi Bisley.
Shade Therét, "Body as Archive" performance view at ‘the new liquid model, DUVE Berlin, 2017 Image: Courtesy of the artists and Naomi Bisley.
Harriet Henderson, "liquid models", 2017. Installation View, "the new liquid model" DUVE Berlin, 2017. Image: Courtesy of the artists and Naomi Bisley.
Installation View, "the new liquid model" DUVE Berlin, 2017. Image: Courtesy of the artists and Naomi Bisley.
Left: Harriet Henderson, "liquid models", 2017. Right: Installation View, ""the new liquid model"" DUVE Berlin, 2017. Image: Courtesy of the artists and Naomi Bisley.
InstallationJala Wahid, "I am a Charm" 2017. Installation View, "the new liquid model" DUVE Berlin, 2017. Image: Courtesy of the artists and Naomi Bisley. View, "The New liquid Model" DUVE Berlin. Image: Courtesy of the artists and Naomi Bisley.
Harriet Henderson, "liquid models", 2017. Installation View, "the new liquid model" DUVE Berlin. Image: Courtesy of the artists and Naomi Bisley.

6. “Jaguars & Electric Eels”, Julia Stoschek Collection

“Jaguars & Electric Eels” was the second exhibition of the recently re-opened space showcasing art collector Julia Stoschek’s immense collection. Stoschek selected 28 media artists whose work explores evolution, nature and the supernatural. The result questioned our binary understanding of the artificial and the natural, while moving towards a hybrid future. 

Aaron Young, "Good Boy", 2001. Installation view, "Jaguars and Electric Eels", Julia Stoschek Collection, Berlin. Image: Courtesy of the artists and Julia Stoschek Collection, Berlin. Photo: Simon Vogel
Anicka Yi, "The Flavor genome" 2016. Film Still. Image: Courtesy of the artists and Julia Stoschek Collection, Berlin.
Isaac Julien, "True North", 2004. Installation view, "Jaguars and Electric Eels", Julia Stoschek Collection, Berlin. Image: Courtesy of the artists and Julia Stoschek Collection, Berlin. Photo: Simon Vogel
Cyprien Geillard, "Koe", 2015. Installation view, "Jaguars and Electric Eels", Julia Stoschek Collection, Berlin. Image: Courtesy of the artists and Julia Stoschek Collection, Berlin. Photo: Simon Vogel
Anicka Yi, "The Flavor genome" 2016. Film Stil. Image: Courtesy of the artists and Julia Stoschek Collection, Berlin.
James Richards & Leslie Thorntorn Crossing, 2016. Image: Courtesy of the artists and Julia Stoschek Collection, Berlin. Photo: Simon Vogel

7. Hiwa K, “Don’t Shrink Me to the Size of a Bullet”, KW Institute for Contemporary Art

In conjunction with Schering Stiftung, KW Institute for Contemporary Art presented a selection of works by Hiwa K, winner of the 2016 Schering Stiftung Art Award. “Don’t Shrink Me to the Size of a Bullet” combined work from the last ten years with Hiwa K’s latest project, which was co-produced by the Ernst Schering Foundation themselves. Together, the works formed a deeply personal exploration of Hiwa K’s own diasporic identity, deconstructing the resulting social and political implications through stories told by the artist, as well as his friends and family members. This quotation from 2016’s “Don’t Panic” sums up the tone of the whole show:

“Last time I saw my mom before my farewell, I said, ‘Mom, I am leaving for good. I don’t know…maybe I will not make it like the other 28 people who got shot last week.’ She said ‘Son, if death comes, don`t panic. It is just death.”

Hiwa K, "My Father’s Color Period" (Detail) 2012, Installation view KW Institute for Contemporary Art, 2017. Image: Frank Sperling
Hiwa K "For a Few Socks of Marbles" (Detail), 2012. Image: Courtesy Hiwa K, KOW, Berlin and Prometeogallery di Ida Pisani, Milan/Lucca (IT)
Hiwa K "Moon Calendar", Iraq, 2007. Image:Courtesy Hiwa K and KOW, Berlin
Hiwa K, "Moon Calendar", Iraq, 2007, Single-channel SD Video, Installation view, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, 2017, Image: Frank Sperling
Hiwa K, "The Existentialist Scene in Kurdistan" (Raw Materiality 01), 2017,
for Contemporary Art, 2017. Image: Frank Sperling
Hiwa K, "The Bell Project", 2007/2015,Two-channel video, Installation view KW Institute for Contemporary Art, 2017. Image: Frank Sperling
Hiwa K, "My Father’s Color Period", 2012; "What the Barbarians did not do, did the Barberini", 2012/2017, Installation view KW Institute for Contemporary Art, 2017. Image: Frank Sperling

8. “Squishy: eels swim in snakey”, Julius

The dramatic space at Juliusstrasse 38 amplified the playful artworks by Débora Delmar Corp, Joey Holder, Ittah Yoda, Sachin Kaeley, Miriam Lenk and Selou Sowe. Aside from the bold works and memorable staging, “Squishy: eels swim in snakey” is definitely a contender for Best Show Title of the Year. 

Installation View, Squishy, Julius, 2017. Image: Courtesy of the artists, Julius and Àngels Miralda
Installation View, Squishy, Julius, 2017. Image: Courtesy of the artists, Julius and Àngels Miralda
Joey Holder, Installation View, "Dark Creatures",  2015-ongoing. Image: Courtesy of the artists, Julius and Àngels Miralda
Ittah Yoda, "Untitled", 2017. Image: Courtesy of the artists, Julius and Àngels Miralda
Left:Selou Sowe, "Untitled", 2016. Right: Sachin Kaeley, 2016. Image: Courtesy of the artists, Julius and Àngels Miralda.
Left: Joey Holder, Installation View, "Dark Creatures", 2015-ongoing. Right: Miriam Lenk, "Untitled", 2017. Image: Courtesy of the artists, Julius and Àngels Miralda
Left: Débora Delmar Corp., "Fresh perishables", 2017. Right: Joey Holder, Installation View, "Dark Creatures", 2015-ongoing. Image: Courtesy of the artists, Julius and Àngels Miralda

9. Ed Atkins, “Old Food”, Martin-Gropius-Bau

Atkins is known for his digitally rendered films featuring strange avatars in even stranger settings. In this regard, “Old Food” at Martin-Gropius-Bau was no exception. The multi-room video installation, featuring interweaving loops of video footage, “Old Food” was a show for the curious, and those who aren’t easily unsettled. 

Ed Atkins, Production still for “Old Food”, 2017. Image: Courtesy the artist, Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin, Cabinet Gallery, London, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York, Rome and dépendance, Brussels
Ed Atkins, Production still for “Old Food”, 2017 Courtesy the artist, Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin, Cabinet Gallery, London, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York, Rome and dépendance, Brussels
Ed Atkins, Installation view of “Old Food”, 2017. Image: Courtesy the artist, Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin, Cabinet Gallery, London, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York, Rome and dépendance, Brussels
Ed Atkins, Production still for “Old Food”, 2017. Image: Courtesy the artist, Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin, Cabinet Gallery, London, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York, Rome and dépendance, Brussels
Ed Atkins, Production still for “Old Food”, 2017. Image: Courtesy the artist, Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin, Cabinet Gallery, London, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York, Rome and dépendance, Brussels
Ed Atkins, Installation view of “Old Food”, 2017. Image: Courtesy the artist, Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin, Cabinet Gallery, London, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York, Rome and dépendance, Brussels

Ed Atkins “Old Food” is running till 07.01.2018 at Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin.

10. Olymphia, “Termination of the World’s Last Harbour”, Acud Gallery

Created by Olymphia (artist duo Kristian Emdal and Loke Rahbek), ‘Termination of the World’s Last Harbour” merged music, dance and live sculpture to form one of the most engaging shows of the year. Four orange-robed performers moved across a sheeted expanse, intertwining with each other as a poem/narrative sounded overhead. They began to mix a plaster-like glue, before playing with various ropes and props — the overall narrative was often unclear, but it was undeniably hypnotic. 

11.  “A NEW PRESCRIPTION FOR INSOMNIA”, Horse And Pony Fine Arts

As a space, Horse and Pony Fine Arts always leaves visitors with a sense that the world is falling to pieces. Denying the white cube and revelling in rawness, “ A NEW PRESCRIPTION FOR INSOMNIA” fit right in. Curated by GeoVanna Gonzales, the exhibition featured work by Omsk Social Club, Julia Colavita, Lorenzo Sandoval, Michele Gabriele, and many others, all of whom identify as “Nation-rejecting State-founders, alienated in their own habitat”.

Left: Silas Parry, "End of The Line" 2015. Image: Courtesy of the artists and Horse And Pony Fine Arts. Right: "Zoë Claire Miller, "Metaplasm", 2016. Image courtesy of Zoë Claire Miller and Horse and Pony Fine Arts.
"A NEW PRESCRIPTION FOR INSOMNIA", 2017, Horse and Pony Fine Arts, Installation view. Image: Courtesy of the artists and Horse And Pony Fine Arts.
Michele Gabriele, FIRSTY-FISTY, 2015."A NEW PRESCRIPTION FOR INSOMNIA", 2017, Horse and Pony Fine Arts, Installation view. Image: Courtesy of the artists and Horse And Pony Fine Arts.
"A NEW PRESCRIPTION FOR INSOMNIA", 2017, Horse and Pony Fine Arts, Installation view. Image: Courtesy of the artists and Horse And Pony Fine Arts.
"A NEW PRESCRIPTION FOR INSOMNIA", 2017, Horse and Pony Fine Arts, Installation view. Image: Courtesy of the artists and Horse And Pony Fine Arts.
Miller Robinson, 2017."A NEW PRESCRIPTION FOR INSOMNIA", 2017, Horse and Pony Fine Arts, Installation view. Image: Courtesy of the artists and Horse And Pony Fine Arts.
"A NEW PRESCRIPTION FOR INSOMNIA", 2017, Horse and Pony Fine Arts, Installation view. Image: Courtesy of the artists and Horse And Pony Fine Arts.
insomnia7
insomnia8

12. Preis Der Nationalgalerie 2017,  Hamburger Bahnhof

Sol Calero, Iman Issa, Jumana Manna, and Agnieszka Polska were the four incredible artists contesting for this year’s Preis Der Nationalgalerie. The joint exhibition displays an installation from each artist; while their styles and aesthetics differ wildly, they are united by an engagement with social and political issues. Polska (the winner) presents two films which portray the sun as a helpless witness to the slow destruction of our earth. Although the idea seems endearing, Polska brutally comments on the collapse of our ethics and our ecosystem. Calero’s “Amazonas Shopping Center” is a personal favourite. Calero created a participatory, multi-purpose installation in the form of a kitsch shopping centre. Whilst also being immensely fun, the hyper colourful  and “tropical” installation riffs on stereotypical ideas of Latin-American culture. Go see it while it is still running!

Sol Calero, "Amazonas Shopping Center", 2017. Installation view, Hamburger Bahnhof. Image: Courtesy of Sol Calero and Hamburger Bahnhof.
Agnieszka Polska, "What the Sun Has Seen (Version II)", 2017. Installation view, Hamburger Bahnhof. Image: Courtesy of Agnieszka Polska and Hamburger Bahnhof.
Iman Issa, "Heritage Studies", 2015-2017. Installation View. Image: Courtesy of Iman Issa and Hamburger Bahnhof.
Jumana Manna, 2017. Installation view, Hamburger Bahnhof. Image: Courtesy of Jumana Manna and Hamburger Bahnhof.

 “Preis Der Nationalgalerie 2017” is running till 14.01.2018 at the Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin. 

13. Jasmin Werner, “Status Faux”, Gillmeier Rech

“Status Faux” (great name) was Werner’s first solo exhibition at Gillmeier Rech Gallery. Using the framework of Sara and Tobias from the Old Testament, Werner created stair-like sculptures that were perversely unusable; they led to nowhere, much like the metaphorical ladder we all attempt to climb in our own “faux” lives.

Jasmin Werner "Status Faux", 2017. Image: Courtesy of Jasmin Werner and Gillmeier Rech
Jasmin Werner "Status Faux", 2017, Installation view. Image: Courtesy of Jasmin Werner and Gillmeier Rech.
Jasmin Werner "Status Faux", 2017. Image: Courtesy of Jasmin Werner and Gillmeier Rech
Jasmin Werner "Status Faux", 2017, Installation view. Image: Courtesy of Jasmin Werner and Gillmeier Rech.

NEXT ARTICLE
#BMWLUXURY: Canadian Art Collector Joe Shlesinger on the Importance of Privacy and Pearl Jam on the Road