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"Constructing New Berlin: Contemporary Art Made in Post-Wall Berlin"
2006-04-09 until 2006-09-24
Phoenix Art Museum
Phoenix, AZ, USA

Organized by Phoenix Art Museum, Constructing New Berlin, on view April 9 – September 24, 2006, is the first major survey of contemporary art made in post-Wall Berlin, which has increasingly been recognized as a global nexus for contemporary art. Artists have flocked to the new capital of re-unified Germany, lured by generous grant programs, abundant and inexpensive studio spaces, and an expansive gallery scene. The city itself – its history, resurgence and rebuilding – also has provided inspiration and subject matter for these artists. This survey includes 16 Berlin-based artists of various nationalities working in painting, sculpture, photography, film, installation, video-installation, sound, and performance art. The majority of works are from the 21 st century, including a number of new pieces made specifically for this project. After its premiere at Phoenix Art Museum, it will travel to Bass Museum of Art to be on view during the 2006 Art Basel Miami Beach. Artists included are Frank Thiel, Erwin Kneihsl, Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller; Reynold Reynolds, Monica Bonvicini, Tacita Dean, Sabine Hornig, Ali Kepenek, Eberhard Havekost, Thomas Scheibitz, Carsten Nicolai, Thomas Demand, Olafur Eliasson, Swetlana Heger, and Johannes Kahrs.

Constructing New Berlin is the first groundbreaking, major exhibition that Phoenix Art Museum has toured since the acclaimed Copper as Canvas in 1998-99. Constructing New Berlin is presented by the global financial services firm UBS. Additional support is provided by Phoenix Art Museum’s Contemporary Forum. The exhibition is included with Phoenix Art Museum’s general admission.

The City and the Artists

Berlin occupies a unique place in history as the last European city to lose the shackles of World War II. When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, the economic failure of the German Democratic Republic was evident in the vast urban tracts in states of despair and abandonment since World War II. Against this backdrop, however, was a new world of possibilities for the city. Berlin had always been a Mecca for artists, eccentrics, and creative types. With the Wall gone, a vast urban landscape with thousands of buildings opened up for squatters, artists, and bohemians of all stripes at the beginning of the 1990s. The city’s history, and the rebuilding and restoration of the new Berlin, also provided a surge of energy and inspiration for the congregating artist community. What has emerged in the 21 st century is a cultural scene thriving on many levels.

Berlin saw explosive growth in the 1990s, with the return of the nation’s Capital, and with private investment in architecture. Vast areas of the former East Berlin, and its ruined iconic structures such as the Reichstag, have served as blank canvas for some of the world’s leading architects – including Renzo Piano, Sir Norman Foster, Frank Gehry, Peter Eisenman, and Daniel Liebeskind. Through brilliant architecture, Berlin has incorporated its past as a central component of its new architectural landscape.

The character of the city itself also is a source of inspiration. In many ways, Berlin is the epicenter of 20 th century history: a thriving commercial, cultural and industrial center in the early century, then the capital of Nazi Germany, destroyed in the final battle of Europe. Divided as an island in East Germany, it became the symbol of the Cold War and its demise. Walking through the city, this history presents itself in a constant array of surprising architectural juxtapositions. Layered on to this urban landscape are the inevitable sign posts of Globalism.

IMAGE
Stadt 2/36/A (Berlin Reichstag),
Frank Thiel, 1998. 
C-print mounted to Plexiglas. 
Courtesy of the artist and Sean Kelly Gallery, New York.
© Frank Thiel


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