March 2009, Forgotten Bar Project @ Art Forum Berlin

Courtesy Galerie im Regierungsviertel, Forgotten Bar Project

 

THE FORGOTTEN BAR PROJECT: 

BARA, TJORG DOUGLAS BEER, AMIE DICKE, ANDREAS GOLDER, THOMAS HELBIG, THOMAS HIRSCHHORN, JOHN KLECKNER, JOHN KØRNER, KLAUS METTIG, ROTHSTAUFFENBERG, KATHARINA SIEVERDING, ALEXANDROS TZANNIS, MALTE URBSCHAT, ERIK VAN LIESHOUT, COSTA VECE.

‘Who needs a Kunsthalle when there are bars like this?’ – Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung

This is the way art fairs should be, right? The perfect meeting place of artwork, guestlists, free alcohol-laced booze (this time in the form of frozen vodka shots), gallerists, artists, collectors all milling around drunk, sore legged, taking on the great show by the great Swedish artist Tobias Bernstrup (more of that later), a mammoth walk to the toilet, desultory talk of sales trends, art trends, what-openings-were-good tre

This is Saturday night during Art Forum Berlin and the latest manifestation of the hugely successful Forgotten Bar Project. During the summer months the artist Tjorg Beer and his counterpart Maike Cruse, formerly of Kunst-Werke, Berlin got together and worked out of the Galerie im Regierungsviertel on the momentous project: ’62 Days, 58 Shows, 212 Artists’. All this number munching effort happening in the tiny space of a blocked-off sliver of a room on Schönleinstrasse in Kreuzberg. One would turn up and join the huddle of artists and other art-goers blocking the footpath, step inside, via a big, makeshift step, into the narrow bar. A counter, some booze, some art on the walls…Here, during July and August they held the mammoth series of exhibitions – an opening every night – the place serving as much as a meeting place for the city’s countless artists as well as a freestyle space allowing a programme of new work. 

Of course there is something very attractive about the idea, recalling as it does the many ideas expatriate artists coming to Berlin have of the city; a centre of art where it is possible to afford central, spacious studio space; where it is perennially possible to exhibit and see contemporary work outside overly commercial spaces; where in short, it is possible to be an artist and enjoy the work produced by your peers. You could say this was a raw, indulgent art show – or rather one big long series of shows – for artists. Of course the ‘public’ could turn up, everyone was invited, and they would have had a much better time at the Forgotten Bar than at any gallery or museum they’re likely to ever get around to visiting.

The night during the Art Forum Berlin weekend was a welcome reprise of the summer shows. There were works on the walls of Ritter Butzke (the popular club in Kreuzberg where the latest manifestation occurred: the Forgotten Bar also set up its stall in Studio Maffei in Milan, Italy during October), including pieces by Tjorg Beer himself, Thomas Hirschhorn, John Korner and a dozen or so others. And while it might have been too much work to take this all in for most, there was no missing Tobias Bernstrup’s performance. Bernstrup’s work is a tangible realisation of the virtual world of video games, overly aestheticized, futuristic cross-dressing, and minimalistic music performance where the idea of stage presence is toned down to the point of robotization. This, I realised at some stage during the second act, is what 21st century Berlin cabaret looks like: and the crowd were, in their very Berlin, art fair way, the perfect audience to take it all in late on a Saturday night in October


John Holten is a novelist, poet and editor. His website is found at www.johnholten.com

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