Hundreds of artists have signed an open letter condemning Berlin’s art galleries, citing cultural exploitation, opaque capital flows, and disenfranchisement. Critics, led by artist Candice Breitz and photographer Tobias Zieloni, have called for a social media boycott of Kunsthalle Berlin on the eve of the exhibition’s opening. Boycott of Berlin Art Museum coincides with the art museum’s opening at the former Nazi Tempelhof xhamster Airport on 28 January 2022. As a sign of a boycott of this privatized culture, Berlin artists and cultural figures are increasingly protesting the so-called “Berlin Art Museum,” which opened a few days ago in Hangars 2 and 3 at Tempelhof Airport.
A new private art space at Berlin’s Tempelhof airport is currently the subject of protests, with the city’s artists accusing the space of not meeting the needs of their community. Berlin artist calls for the boycott of new temporary art space in the historic airport hangar, arguing that the company reflects the interests of its supporters far removed from much of the city’s art scene. Furthermore, Berlin artists believe that private exhibitions are not in the interests of Berlin artists or their art world. Bonn held a show last year at the abandoned Nazi-built Tempelhof airport near Berlin, where a new temporary museum, Kunsthalle Berlin, opened a few weeks ago.
A cynical neoliberal machine
Designated as an airport in 1923, rebuilt by the Nazis in the 1930s, and closed since 2008, a new art space opened at Tempelhof Airport in late January with a retrospective by French artist Bernard Wentz. Last summer, the Diversity United traveling exhibition opened at Berlin’s former Tempelhof Airport, an architecturally significant airport that remains one of the city’s most famous public spaces. The Berlin-based artist defines Kunsthalle as “a cynical neoliberal machine,” taking issue with the space’s founder and curator Walter Smerling, who works in the abandoned Tempelhof. The airport hosts the first exhibition of “United for Diversity.”
Artists set a backlash against curator Walter Smerling, who brought about the opening of “United for Diversity” at the Berlin Kunsthalle. Thanks to a group including the German Foreign Office, real estate developer Christoph Groner, Day A strong network including the Müller Automotive Group and several state funding agencies, including the Tretyakov Cam4 Gallery in Moscow, where Diversity United is currently exhibiting Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.
Curator alleges there is no lack of transparency
Boycotts of the Berlin Kunstmuseum remain particularly skeptical of curator Walter Smerling after the 2021 “United for Diversity” exhibition, which Vladimir Putin backed. Curator Walter Smerling told a press conference at the opening of the latest Smerling exhibition at Tempelhof that he was “open to dialogue.”
The curator denies allegations of a lack of transparency in the decision-making process and says, “He doesn’t think boycotts are the right way to protest temporary art galleries.” Smerling said he welcomed the “conversation” with the artist, but Candice Breitz said the revelation came too late. It is clear that Walter Smelling does not see boycotts as a solution and, in his position, prefers applause, cooperation, “dialogue,” collaboration, or at least acquiescence. Still, not much in the Berlin art world People – with a few notable exceptions – were willing to applaud him.
Lack of trust on representatives
Zoe Claire Miller and Heidi Sill, representatives of the BBK Youporn berlin artists’ association, also objected to its founder’s use of “Kunsthalle” to refer to space. The boycott aims to unite those who see the Kunsthalle as an unpleasant slap in the face for Berlin. Those of us who boycott are grateful for the support of all these voters, knowing that operations like the Kunsthalle Smerling is just as damaging to the fragile ecosystem in which state museums and art institutions must struggle to survive as they are to the Berlin community.
A considerable number of Berlin galleries also supported the boycott. In an open letter, artists, curators, cultural scientists, architects, and urban planners have stepped into the cultural and political debate in the city of Berlin and brought its complex issues to the fore. The exhibition ignores years of controversy over the meaning and necessity of a permanent Berlin art gallery.
Most artists and art professionals in Berlin were unaware that curator Walter Smerling would open the new galleries until the doors were almost open. Artists linked to the boycott of Berlin’s Kunstmuseum said Diversity United did not adequately compensate many of the participating artists. The exhibition traveled to Russia with the express approval of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Members have accused cultural consultant Walter Smerling of the German capital’s art scene of an unethical balance between private foundations and public institutions.