Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Rainbows in Berlin

Berlin’s proposed update to inner city driving laws has some drivers of the roughly 80,000 automobiles old enough to spew excessive pollutants into the atmosphere feeling unfairly targeted (Post Feb. 18). Some drivers are also delightfully creative, as this picture of a tie-dye VW Bug shows. The sign in the window reads, “Against the 2008 Inner-City Driving Ban.”

Tidings from Vienna (Post Apr. 11) continue: Die Presse reports that Austrian architect Adolf Krischanitz, who designed a temporary modern art exhibition hall for the capital in 1992, is looking to do the same in Berlin. Berlin’s Palast der Republik is on schedule to be fully demolished by 2008, leaving two years before the Communist-era structure’s replacement is continued with inaugural construction of the Stadtschloss in 2010. Many have proposed opening a grand hall for contemporary art in this time, an idea enthusiastically endorsed here in New Yorker in Berlin in November.

Krischanitz’s design presents a wooden box similar to his Viennese steel “crate” for this central complex. This structure would also be clad with an outer skin of plastic open to design by featured artists. Here’s hoping that the rainbow-bar-code imagined in this graphic one day pops up next to the Berliner Dom’s archetypical Baroque grandeur. Unfortunately, neither the article nor Krischanitz’s homepage give further details about the proposed design, but stayed tuned on the blog for more updates.

Meanwhile, the Berlin Senate and federal officials are trying to get discussions about the financing of the Stadtschloss wrapped up by summer, Der Tagesspiegel reported yesterday. The latest plan, which forgoes the planned underground parking lot and four-star hotel, clocks in at a clean 480 million. Additionally, the city may bear the brunt of the cost of proposed cultural additions to the site, including the transplant of ethnographic collections from current museums in the Western neighborhood Dahlem, as well as the construction of a major central library.

Berlin art is also appearing in the world of letters: the catalog for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Glitter and Doom: German Portraits from the 1920s” (Post Jan. 16) is reviewed by Francine Prose in this month’s Harper’s. Prose concludes that “only a very few of the paintings in Glitter and Doom move us as great paintings do,” yet finds the scathing Verist style of Dix, Schad, et. al grippingly accurate in its portrayal of reality’s ugly side. Some of the paintings are now on display at Berlinische Galerie’s very own “Masterpieces from the Twenties,” including Dix’s heartbreaking “The Poet Iwan von Lücken” (1926).

Finally, New York Times art critic Holland Cotter wrote about the Jewish Museum’s “Dateline Israel” exhibit this week, reviewed March 27th on this blog as part of a commentary on cliché. Cotter declines to say the dreaded C-word but does lament that Wim Wenders’ Mount of Olives images, which I described as bringing “nothing fresh to the table,” present “an easy idea, a generic consumerist dig.” Cotter and I agree that the show has plenty of interesting images but misses the chance to provoke: I found the show to be largely lacking in insight, batting around ideas that have been “point[s] of concern for native artists for the last fifteen years,” and Cotter criticizes the curators for “stick[ing] to package-tour generalities.” While I conclude that the usual stuff nonetheless provides an interesting framework for a few outstanding pieces, Cotter insists that tougher questions should be posed by the pieces on display. He thereby exposes the real damage of clichés: opportunity cost. When you’re busy repeating, you can’t interrogate at the same time.

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