The third edition of the art berlin fair opened to the public yesterday, September 12, with 110 galleries presenting their artists’ work in two vast hangars of the historic Tempelhof Airport. It is the second edition of the fair at the wartime airport built by the Nazis, a location it now shares—albeit in different hangars—with the smaller, more indie art fair, Positions Berlin. The pairing wasn’t intentional but rather the result of a scheduling clash last year during Berlin Art Week, and the two fairs have been little more than begrudging neighbors since.
Roughly a third of art berlin’s exhibitors are participating in a section dedicated to special presentations in smaller, more affordable booths. But collectors can find reasonably priced works by artists at different stages in their careers all across the fair. Here are five standout works that span various media, all priced under €10,000 ($11,000).
Isaac Chong Wai’s Suspension of the Air (2017)
Zilberman Gallery, Istanbul and Berlin
Photo credit: Isaac Chong Wai, © Kunstraum München.
The Berlin- and Hong Kong-based artist Isaac Chong Wai is currently showing his first solo show in Zilberman Gallery’s Berlin space, as well as a special presentation at the gallery’s Istanbul location. The artist has previously created a performance based on Chinese police training exercises. His installation at art berlin also touches on the theme of the feeling of powerlessness in the face of an authoritarian regime. Called Suspension of the Air (2017), it is a floor sculpture comprising broken glass and a deflated lifebuoy cast in bronze. The unique piece is perhaps a visual metaphor for the judicial and state organizations meant to protect citizens that are used instead as means of oppression and control.
carlier | gebauer, Berlin and Madrid
Price: €3,500 each
Edi Rama, Untitled, (2018). Courtesy carlier | gebauer.
Albania’s prime minister, Edi Rama, is also, famously, an established artist who has shown his work around the world. His Berlin- and Madrid-based gallery, carlier | gebauer is showing a ceramic sculpture resembling slabs of soft matter stacked on top of each other, as well as wallpaper with a pattern of small, brightly colored drawings on which tiny, amorphous ceramic pieces are hung. Sculpting is, according to a gallery representative, something that Rama does on the weekends. But the artist’s doodles are done “on the job,” when he is in politician mode. “I couldn’t find a way to survive these long meetings,” Rama told the Guardian in 2016. “Drawing helped me to listen. Only much later did I read studies that showed doodling improves concentration, or lowers stress. It’s a process that has become completely part of me. And it’s very fruitful.”
Vera Kox’s resting assured, piling (2019)
Galleri Opdahl, Stavanger
There is no hierarchy of materials in the sculptural works of the Luxembourgian-German artist Vera Kox. Her humble materials range from foam packing “peanuts” to faux “fried eggs” used in restaurant displays, and even casts of industrial anti-slip flooring can be found in her whimsical works. Her transformation of mass produced materials are as evocative—thanks to their familiarity—as they are enigmatic. Her new piece shown at the fair, resting assured, piling (2019), features a rough patterned ceramic, which is draped like a piece of fabric on a stack of protective foam, the material typically lines the sides of wooden crates used for shipping art.
Natalie Czech’s “Cigarette Ends” Series (2019)
Galerie Capitain Petzel, Berlin
Price: under €10,000 each
Natalie Czech at art berlin. Courtesy Capitain Petzel.
The German artist Natalie Czech has a knack for detecting the beauty and poetry in advertising copy and other pieces of ephemera. She has created poems composed of text fragments from album covers and 1980s TV manuals in the past. Her new series, Cigarette Ends, stages groups of cigarette butts whose logos comprise short, visual verses, like an accidental message found in an ashtray. But none of the featured brands exist anymore. The artist collected packs of discontinued cigarettes from around the world, some dating as far back as the 1950s. Then, disregarding the collectible value of an unopened pack, she smoked them. The various prints are all priced just under €10,000 each for an edition of five.
Nicola Martini’s “Testimoni” Series (2019)
DITTRICH & SCHLECHTRIEM, Berlin
Price: Between €8,000 and €10,000 each
Image courtesy DITTRICH & SCHLECHTRIEM
Italian artist Nicola Martini is showing minimalist sculptural pieces along a long wall dividing the two hangars of the fair in a generous, museum-quality staging. The slug-like plexiglass forms are from a series titled “Testimoni” from 2019, and each contains powder-fine substances that are in fact older works that the artist has ground down. The floor installation, from 2018, consists of aluminum pillars and epoxy resin spheres all containing liquid materials like shellac and water mixed with clay, such that their interiors are never fixed, and always in motion.