Imagine you have a day in Berlin. For one reason or the other you want to stay away from the big sites. You may have been many times before, or maybe you just want to save yourself the queuing amongst crowds of tourists in front of the Pergamon Museum or the Bundestag.
Both of these reasons were holding true for me on my most recent visit to the German capital. Having been to and lived in Berlin before, as well as recently having been chewed through and spit out by one of the best techno festivals Germany has to offer, I was in the mood for taking it easy on my last day, before returning to the hustle and bustle of the big smoke, aka London.
Completely by accident, my friend and I came across a brilliant breakfast spot. Sucre et Sel, a French-style brasserie, just off Rosenthaler Platz, that offers a great value-for-money breakfast. When I ordered the Depardieu (€10), which promised to contain a mixed plate of original french cheeses and meat, an egg, bread and a croissant, I did not expect this:
Full and content I said good-bye to my friend and walked from Rosenthaler Platz via the Hackische Hoefe towards Oranienburger Strasse. Hidden in the side streets around this tourist strip, bursting with cocktail bars, are many of Berlin’s galleries and contemporary art venues, such as the KW Institute for Contemporary Art. However, this time I gave the former a miss in favour of it’s neighbour the ME Collector’s Room.
On its website, the Collector’s Room is keen to distinguish itself from the concept of the traditional museum or gallery space. While the top floor holds the permanent exhibit of the Wunderkammer Olbricht, a bounty of all kinds of paraphernalia, the bottom floor provides a space for the changing display of themed exhibitions which showcase artworks from private collections.
On the day of my visit and still up to the 21 September, the Collectors Room is showing works from the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Collection. Rebaudengo’s is one of the most important private collections of international contemporary art in Europe and has, for instance, been exhibited at London’s Whitechapel Gallery in 2013.
Rebaudengo’s taste in art ranges from quirky to earnest, juxtaposing a keen interest in art that explores human emotion and psychology with a fascination with the quirky and whimsical. Stanze/Rooms is the focus with which the Collectors Room presents a selection of works that “recreate the idea of the stanza as the personal habitat of poetic reflection.” Hereby, the concept of room is understood as both physical and metaphorical as a place of withdrawal and reflection. A place to contain, to delimit a personal and mental, conceptual or actual space.
The visitor is introduced into the exhibition with last year’s Turner Prize winner Laure Prouvost’s video work Wantee (2013). Set in the house of the artist’s fictional grandfather, this assemblage of close shots of a muddy interior, crazy teapots and deranged furniture with the artist’s own voice recounting her grandfather in a continuous murmur, jointly explores the diverse concepts of room mentioned above.
In this vein, the exhibition continuous, each artwork on show presenting its own stance, or ‘stanza,’ on the concept. Maurizio Cattelan’s installation Bidibidobidiboo (1995) and Andrea Zitter’s A to Z 1994 Living Unit (1994) present actual 3D containers of space, Cattelan’s plexiglass cube one that acts as an insight into a satirical alternative universe in which squirrels commit suicide, and Zitter’s in the form of a piece of functional compact furniture/dwelling/suitcase hybrid.
Actual rooms are juxtaposed with visual reproductions, such as the stills from Cindy Sherman’s films (1977-1980), and explorations of the room as metaphorical. The latter is explored in Sam Taylor-Wood’s work The Travesty of Mockery (1995). The two screen video installation shows a couple fighting, the mental restriction of the two sides of their argument reflected in their physical restriction to the left and the right screen respectively. Fixed by the diametre and reach of the camera shot, each of them is incapable of leaving their designated side.
Undertaking the curatorial venture of gathering a themed selection of works from a private collection can sometimes generate an exhibition outcome that seems forced, one where the works seem to have been pressed into conceptual molds they don’t really fit. Thankfully, this is not the case with Stanza/Rooms. Here the idea of the room has been explored and thought through to the end, enabling the visitor to gain access to a variety of diverse works through their conceptual connection.
Should you make your way to Berlin this summer, I strongly recommend you visit the exhibition, and of course you will have to fuel your visit with a French breakfast at Sucre et Sel.
Stanze/Rooms Works from the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Collection
02 May – 21 September 2014
me Collectors Room Berlin / Olbricht Foundation
Auguststrasse 68, 10117 Berlin, Germany
Tuesday – Sunday 12pm-6pm
Admission Wunderkammer and exhibition:
Regular 7 Euro / reduced 4 Euro