“What a Topical Theme!”
The Press on the Berlin Art Week and “Xenopolis” at the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle

The Berlin Art Week, sponsored by Deutsche Bank, turned out to be a huge success: around 100,000 visitors flocked to over 100 events. At the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle, “Xenopolis” is on view – the exhibition project poses the question: How do artists view the metropolises of today, where a wide variety of nationalities live?
“A highlight of the art calendar, more attractive than ever before,” is how Christiane Meixner characterizes Berlin Art Week in the Tagesspiegel. With this event, writes Focus, “the capital once again proves its status as an international art metropolis.” “Bigger and more interesting than ever before,” asserts Zitty. Art calls on people to “head for Berlin,” the city magazine tip devotes its cover story to the Berlin Art Week, and Monopol even has a special issue dedicated to the event. Neues Deutschland quotes Secretary of State for Cultural Affairs Tim Renner: “Berlin Art Week reflects the diversity of Berlin as a location for art – excellence meets underground barrier-free.”

Many critics see one of the highlights of the event as being the cooperation project Stadt/Bild, for which four of the German capital’s leading art institutions – Berlinische Galerie, Deutsche Bank KunstHalle, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, and Nationalgalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – joined forces to explore the city theme. At the KunstHalle, the exhibition Xenopolis, curated by Simon Njami, was on the agenda. Many journalists see links to the current refugee crisis. “Indeed, the participating artists proved early on to be seismographs for approaching social developments,” writes Inge Pett in art in berlin. The exhibition, she says, investigates “issues of social relevance that occupy us more urgently than ever before.” Lennart Laberenz from Freitag is also enthusiastic: “At the KunstHalle, there is the manageable, precise, political exhibition Xenopolis. The well-shot, almost meditative film Sounds of Blikkiesdorp is a stunner: a highbrow documentary about a colony of people who have been displaced to an area far outside of Cape Town.” In her feature on Berlin Art Week, Alexandra Mangel of Deutschlandradio Kultur has a similar view: “But pressing current issues are also addressed. Xenopolis is the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle’s exhibition contribution – the very title suggests foreign elements are flocking to the city. For example, the Swiss artist Laurence Bonvin shows a container city near Cape Town and films people’s everyday lives there with an atmosphere of tranquility and restraint that shows what it means to live there for years.” And the Berlin-based musician Christiane Rösinger (Lassie Singers and Britta), who also reports for the Austrian channel FM4, explains: “In Xenopolis, the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle shows the capitals of the world as the origin of nations. And here at the latest the dominant theme of our time, the so-called ‘refugee crisis,’ is addressed. ‘Polis’ is the city of free citizens, and ‘xenos’ means ‘the foreign.’ Xenopolis is the foreign city, just as Berlin among others presents itself to newly arrived people.” In the Monopol Special on the Berlin Art Week, the artists’ duo Mwangi Hutter, one of the seven positions in Xenopolis, speaks out. Their sculptural installation “is based on the experience of how it feels to be a foreigner in different places.”

For ArtXenopolis is one of the “ten exhibitions you should definitely not miss,” and for IndieBerlin it is one of the Berlin Art Week events “that is particularly worth the effort.” In addition, such disparate publications as ARCH+, Contemporary And (C&), Spike Art Magazine, Style Mag, Kunstforum, Mousse, Berliner Zeitung, Siegessäule, and Art Newspaper draw attention to the show.

“What a topical theme!” writes Claudia Wahjudi in Tagesspiegel. “Xenopolis is the exhibition shown by the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle devoted to the Art Week’s theme of Stadt/Bild (City/Image). When it opened, more than 20,000 refugees had arrived in Berlin alone this year. (…) Simon Njami placed the seven contributions so airily that there is room for visitors to think about what it means to be foreign.” On the occasion of his exhibition, Roxana Azimi dedicated an extensive portrait to the curator in Le Monde. tip published an interview with Njami in which he explains the exhibition’s specific view of Berlin. “Every artist provides his own view and creates his own Berlin. Berlin as such doesn’t exist: Berlin is a construction of different Berlins, through which the artists guide us. All of the participating artists are foreigners according to their passports. Their studios are their estates.” And in a conversation with Sleek the curator sums up the objective of his project thus: “I precisely wanted to give an impressionist portrait of a city that different people, with different backgrounds, identities, and sensibilities could claim theirs.”