Posts Tagged architecture

Berlin. (and me)

I was in Berlin in 2011… It took me all that time to write a few words and post pictures about it.
Berliner Mauer - before going to "Topographie Des Terror" museum.

Berliner Mauer: 1961 – 1989

I went to Berlin twice, and this second time to attend the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert December 4th 2011 at O2 World Arena. Such events are always the perfect excuse to visit a location and enjoy some time off. Europe has its history and heritage, and as many opportunities as there are languages, cultures, countries just one hour flight away from home.

The city is well-known for music, for shows and certainly one the of most trendy location on the continent.  U-Bahn (underground) and S-Bahn (local trains) are very convenient and safe at all times to commute around this big city. Potsdamer Platz along with the Sony Center worth a visit, even more at night to see the lighting in the courtyard and of the complete building. Alexanderplatz with its “universal time” clock and this unique design, the Fernsheturm built in sixties as a demonstration of power toward the West offers beautiful views on the city: you won’t get bored there. If O2 Arena is for the big venues, smaller places such as Yorkschlösschen in Kreuzberg area are also available to hear jazz and a whole range of concerts and shows, almost on daily basis. But above music and leisure to which I will come back later, in more than probably any other location in Europe, Berlin comes with an important part of our 20th century history…

Starting a post about travel providing personal details and background might be of importance depending on the location you are talking about. Berlin is certainly among them. I am 39 years old, Swiss with 50% of Italian descent (and passport). My Twitter profile says the rest. Nonno (grandfather in italian) did WWII in Africa  under command of Mussolini. He was made prisoner by the English army until 1946 and never said a single word about the war during the following 45 years before his death, except that as a truck driver, he was proud and lucky to not have to kill anyone. The most striking event in my life related with Berlin was the fall of the wall in November 1989 through the eyes of a teenager looking at dad’s TV. I did not have a lot more information than this about Berlin history so let’s say that I was arriving, for the second time, with almost nothing.

A Berlin visit remains a shock more than anything else.

Using the word shock is a personal choice and I am certainly to express my feelings along with a few information provided in this post. Imagine a location where anywhere you are heading for, the most important facts of the second half of the 20th century history are smashing your face. I would consider a journey in Berlin as an opportunity for a catch up. A catch up with the WWII, with Nazism and its background, with the cold war years and eventually the darkest parts of our recent human history.

Don’t try to be ready for what you will see in Berlin, you can’t – it is beyond human imagination.

The methodology.
GESTAPO - remainder of the building of the secrete state police.

GESTAPO – remainder of the building

Topographie des Terrors (Topography of Terror) is certainly a must, a kind of a quest in itself requiring a few hours to make sure you are to leave the area with sound information.

Nazism brought a new approach in killing people by implementing and improving over the years a methodology. From Einsatzgruppen to concentration or extermination camps, nothing before comes as close as this methodology leading to industrial-scale mass murders. Inside the building is the exhibition with a comprehensive information describing each step and stage of the process along with a library – entrance is free. There is also a walk outside with the remainders of the Gestapo building (secret state police) and a part of the Berliner Mauer.

My visit was characterized by a wide a range of feelings, from fear to sadness and from shock to a sudden will of screams that could finally end with inside tears.

Judisches Museum.

Emotional aspect related with the period mentioned above, a visit to the Judhisches Museum is certainly advised to understand interactions between Jews, Germany and Europe in general.  You will go through 2000 years of Jewish history related with Germany and German speaking territories. A walk in the Shaleket – Fallen Leaves installation, one of the empty spaces of the building with over 10’000 open-mouthed faces cut from heavy, circular iron plates covering the floor, is definitely a moving experience. The museum is highly recommended for anyone looking at the big picture and context linked with the Jewish religion.

Checkpoint Charlie.
Check Point Charlie - go to the museum to understand the outcome of Berlin post wall history.

Check Point Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie / Mauer Museum also deserves a visit, maybe the most accessible of the ones described in this article. You will be surprised how quickly the physical division of Berlin happened, putting families and friends apart and preventing relatives from seeing each others for 28 years.

The exhibition features the significant steps of the construction of the wall as well as the most surprising tricks developed to escape to the West (including cars, tunnels etc).

Berlin Underground.

Third Reich and Nazism were a threat for the world, but also for the German people. Having a tour with Berliner Unterwelten E.V. (Berlin Underground) will allow you to understand how Hitler was treating his people, putting them at risk into unreliable bunkers. Berliners were targets of the state propaganda, living in very difficult conditions, running into twisty corridors underground to save their life with Berlin above them under fire and air raids leaving the city destroyed at 80%.

Berlin steps back.
Alexander Platz - Caorusels at night - colours and gluhwein!

Alexander Platz – Caorusels at night

The city architectures, monuments (including recent constructions) and buildings are a demonstration of the ability to step back and go ahead. I don’t think a lot of people have committed as much as the German and Berliners to look back at their history and do their best to learn from it as well as provide visitors with a clear, transparent and balanced information, this regardless of the gravity of the events and tragedies happened here. I ignore if this can be qualified as a form of resilience but I think an incredible work and challenge has been achieved. Visitors will enjoy a contrasting journey, walking between historic sites, hearing various musics and concerts, looking at a yesterday divided city transformed now into an amazingly coherent aggregate of buildings and blocks all together. Shopping at Kurfurstendamn, Unter den Linden and Freidrichstrasse, music in Kreuzberg and historic sites almost everywhere, an incredible trip is waiting the visitor in one of the most trendy location in Europe – and probably the cheapest big city on the continent. And if you are there in December, enjoy a Gluhwein at Alexanderplatz Christmas market and look at the fantastic colours of the carousels around!

Gallery: Berlin in Christmas.

– Copyright ©: All pictures and texts by Frederic Galetto –

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Art|Basel: the walk of an ignorant into a corridor.

Art is a rare passion where you can experience emotions, chokes, smiles, laughs and tears and being ignorant in the particular matter itself…
Basel: View on the old town, with the Rhine, the Mittlere Brucke and Munster Platz.

Basel: View on the old town, with the Rhine, the Mittlere Brücke and Münsterplatz.

Basel is a small and calm town, a beautiful place nearby the Rhine, ideal to have a break. It is also the main swiss spot for any art related event, the location with the highest number museums in Switzerland. The city is surrounded by France and Germany, Alsace being probably one of my favorite place in Europe. Alsace means wine, cuisine and beautiful villages with typical architecture, sun, very cold winters with warm people setting up the most beautiful Christmas markets on the continent. Jokes apart, the region is absolutely stunning, if you go, enjoy the trip by train and bikes and experience multi-modal transportation! Cycling passes are perfect and trains arrive and pick you up on time – don’t be late – no second chance in Basel SBB!

Alsace 1

Alsace, sun and Christmas market with decorated house.

Art|Basel is a unique event, the quality and number of items you may see during the exhibition is beyond imagination. Consideration left apart, everything become subject to ones own appreciation, references and preferences but I am somebody you may call an ignorant in art and art related topics. I am not aware of the latest trends and it does not interest me. I can’t afford most of the famous artists and my rented flat has not enough walls to be transformed into a gallery. But I don’t care, and more interestingly, I think I am lucky enough to be like that: Ignorant.

Walking Art|Basel is an adventure, it is jungle art or safari art! So jump in for the ultimate “art game drive”!

Accessing Art|Basel is easy, the region has probably the most efficient public transportation in the country. You may take your entrance ticket on line ahead to avoid the queue… You have to pass through security checks to access the main gates. I am then provided with a plan at the entrance desk which is likely to stay in my back pocket. You can’t believe really what you see and what is happening here. It is immediate and you are under a unique “positive” pressure within seconds. The quality of the artworks, the care taken to make all available to you, the people walking around, running the corridors between the booths, the languages spoken: Art|Basel is a unique world in itself, and discovering it requires only interest and curiosity… and a bit of time.

Art|Basel: Hope - Robert Indiana @ Galerie Thomas - Munich

Art|Basel: Hope – Robert Indiana @ Galerie Thomas – Munich

I start trying to agree the sense of the walk in order to miss the least possible number of booths. I did not make plan ahead in my mind on where I do want to go. All significant galleries of the world are here. I have a some Italian and American names as well as a few artists preselected, but nothing really precise. Art|Basel is about the destruction of stereotypes and standards, don’t limit your brain and the horizon of the trends made available to you! Not looking at names allows you to any surprise, the unexpected painting or choking picture at the back of the wall, the one that everybody missed, the bright idea and concept at the top of a staircase leading to a few extra square meters of a booth dedicated to a particular artist: Push the doors! Walk up and down! Don’t be shy! That what it is about.

Art|Basel: Takashi Murakami: Naked Self-Portrait With Pom. 2013, platinum leaf on bronze.

Art|Basel: Takashi Murakami: Naked Self-Portrait With Pom. 2013, platinum leaf on bronze.

And ask. The fact that almost all galleries and persons are here to make business with critical deals to negotiate during the show is an opportunity to talk, learn and get the story behind any painting or sculpture. Galleries floors are linked with superlatives, there is no place in the world where you can be that close to Botero, Picasso, Murakami, Opie and others, you really can touch them.

I want to be speechless…

I want to be choked by beauty, by aesthetic, by concept or by ideas. Art does not need to be justified. It is useless and does not allow you to achieve a particular thing, task or goal. Art provides you with your daily emotion prescription. It is not expensive and it is not cheap, at least when you are like probably most the visitors: it does not matter. Justifying or motivating preferences are sometime a kind of nonsense.

Art|Basel Unlimited: Rob Pruit - Us - 2013 @ Gavin Brown Enterprise - New York

Art|Basel Unlimited: Rob Pruit – Us – 2013 @ Gavin Brown Enterprise – New York

Explaining emotion or what is particularly attracting you can be a fruitful exchange of ideas and points of view but in the end, any justification become useless. Keep in mind that you are the only one reacting like this in front of a piece or painting. Unique is you, unique is what you are looking at, unique is the particular instant when this happens in your life: Enjoying this moment as a gift for the mind, and remember or forget for ever just after the entrance of the next gallery booth…

At the center of the galleries hall of Art|Basel is a bench and the bench may be a particular place.

I am facing the booths, at my back is the internal courtyard of the building. Seating and resting are both fine, but you also discuss…Looking at a painting, I took the right to react quite openly and perhaps in an unexpected manner for part of the “art literate” audience present: Escaping a gallery booth with an exuberant “gosh! $145’000.- for this!!” and seating on the famous bench, to recover. A man was seated a few meters away, he approaches me and says: “Expensive eh”. I responded “Yes, but I love it, would clearly see it in my entrance lobby or leaving room”. And the man to come back and say: “The gallery selling… it is well known name and the price is correct, they will not ruin their reputation by overselling you something too expensive”. And me to carry on by a resigned “Yep but I can’t afford it anyway”. The man gives me a brochure. I take it and carefully look at it. I am suddenly realizing that I am speaking with a gallery owner in Basel. He is doing this activity by passion and as a part time occupation. I come up with this consideration by reading the gallery schedule: Opened Thursdays and Fridays 1700 – 2000 and Saturday 1000 – 1600. The brochure mentions the current exhibition dedicated to Albert Merz, the gallery is supporting local Swiss artists (although Swiss, Albert Merz is working in Berlin). Prices are indeed much lower than the ones in the booth I just came out from.

Art|Basel Unlimited (2012): Pier Paolo Calzolari - Untitled @Bernier / Eliades - Athens, @Marianne Boesky Gallery - New-York & @Tucci Russo Studio per l'Arte Comtemporanea - Torino.

Art|Basel Unlimited (2012): Pier Paolo Calzolari – Untitled @ Bernier / Eliades – Athens, @Marianne Boesky Gallery – New-York & @Tucci Russo Studio per l’Arte Comtemporanea – Torino.

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Art|Basel Unlimited (2012): Pier Paolo Calzolari – Untitled (detail) @Bernier / Eliades – Athens, @Marianne Boesky Gallery – New-York & @Tucci Russo Studio per l’Arte Comtemporanea – Torino.

I look again at the paintings responsible my unexpected “gosh $145’000.- for this!” and read again the artist”s name: Pier Paolo Calzolari. Both artists Albert Merz or Pier Paolo Calzolari, although very different in term of approaches and regardless of their respective values on the market, are appealing for me. Pushing a bit the thinking, pro and cons, I just discovered how easy and cool being an ignorant is. Yes the ignorant just expressing a “gosh! $145’000.- for this!!” for a painting of Pier Paolo Calzolari is also discovering what Arte Povera is. I will later start to read and inform myself on this particular trend from around the ’60s until now, and have great pleasure seeing exhibition dedicated to modern art.

Art|Basel is an environment in itself.

The gallery owner I discussed with has no booth in Art|Basel – too expensive and risky for him. But he is here to eventually make deals too and attract potential clients in his gallery. All businesses are there, all price ranges in the end and for all tastes and preferences. The booths with big names, the bench with “less big” names both doing business over four days. Some says that artwork bought at Art|Basel are immediately taking a 20% increase on their respective prices, I believe they take a lot more value to the eyes of their future happy owners and for the majority of the visitors they will remain only the souvenir of an exceptional moment.

Art|Basel (2012) - Art Parcours: Performance in Predigerkirche - Los Carpinteros A Hundred and Fifty People, 2012 Fortes Vilaça, Sao Paulo; Sean Kelly Gallery, New York

Art|Basel (2012) – Art Parcours: Performance in Predigerkirche, Totentanz 19, 4051 Basel  – Los Carpinteros
A Hundred and Fifty People, 2012
@Fortes Vilaça, Sao Paulo; @Sean Kelly Gallery, New York

Don’t believe me!

Just start walking the corridors of Art|Basel… by the way there is another hall nearby the galleries building, it is called Art|Basel Unlimited: in there you will find performances… and if you still have time and energy, walk the beautiful city streets where there is Art|Basel Parcours, where performances are into various historical buildings and locations around the city. An endless journey to eventually carry on in Miami Beach and Hong-Kong

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