the process is the artwork

Fear for Contemporary Art

In september 2010 I visited ART FORUM Berlin, an International Art fair where some of the most acknowledged galleries present “the best of the best” from their stack of artists. But my oh my! Everything was installed so tightly that the works could barely breathe. This is the place to experience art reduced to commodity.

Me, at the Art Forum Berlin 2010. Photo: Rasmus Hungnes.

I was explained that the Art Forum is not an art exhibition. The purpose of this particular circus is getting to know the galleries. That doesn’t justify the lack of innovative presentation strategies though. Only a few of the galleries had interesting curatorial solutions adjusted to the context (for instance Galleri ARNDT showing works of Ralf Ziervogel and Team Gallery with works of Gardar Eide Einarsson). But then, most galleries are no more than exhibition booths surrounded by white walls. No wonder it’s hard to differentiate one from another.

Me, standing in front of (between?) works by Ralf Ziervogel at the ART FORUM BERLIN 2010. Photo: Rasmus Hungnes.

Disillusioned with the art market, I consulted a Berlin resident and fellow artist, who advised me to visit the BERLINER LISTE 2010, with the justification of it being the complete opposite of Art Forum. I did not know what to expect, but I was to regret it. The french philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre wrote “Hell is other people” (“L’enfer, c’est les autres”), but I suspect Hell is Berliner Liste: a nightmare of labyrinths filled with kitschy, amateur works, claustrophobically mounted. The experience was so grotesque and horribly depressing that I could just as well have thrown myself and the admission fee (10 Euros) into the Spree river.

Fortunately I didn’t; instead I concluded that:

  • Profesionnal art fairs such as Art Forum Berlin are depressing, but there are actually much worse ones, such as amateur “art” fairs such as the Berliner Liste
  • I cannot tell you what art is exactly – but I’m more aware of what it isn’t


Berliner Liste 2010: Fear for Contemporary Art and Photography. My friend Rasmus Hungnes and I felt obliged to modify the poster just a little bit.

Note: This post was originally published in Norwegian on on 09.10.2010, available from URL: Translated by Ellen Ringstad.

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