This is a true story. This is the story of a city famous all over the world for its vital art scene, fed by the enthusiasm of private initiatives rather than the government, an enthusiasm so strong that it has even managed to fill an institutional void brought about by a lack of public funding and competence. In this city, there is no Kunsthalle, no public art gallery for contemporary art that would reflect what an international audience finds so appealing about this city’s art scene. It needs no such institution, you might think, because there are the great private initiatives, the commercial galleries, the off-spaces, the studio shows, the parties… and indeed: had this art scene ever relied on the city’s administration, it would not exist.
Now a strange thing is happening. The city’s mayor also happens to be its Kultursenator, which is the person presiding the culture senate so you might presume this person should know a thing or two about art but this is not the case with the mayor. He not only doesn’t know anything about art, he also hasn’t been able to do anything to establish a public art gallery over the past 10 years (yep, he’s been in charge for quite some time now as most people in this city don’t have a future anyway so they keep voting for him) but he sure sees that all that private enthusiasm and energy and money and everything has somehow contributed to making his city look cool. And now he thinks that he can look cool too. His idea of looking cool is to announce a “performance showcase of young Berlin art”, an exhibition that is to prove the existence of an art scene in this city so vital that it deserves pondering the idea of establishing a public gallery for contemporary art – um… ah… eh?
The really funny, pardon, really sad thing about this is not that all of the sudden the mayor is able to spend 1.6 million euro on one single exhibition project (the city’s annual art budget totals 4 million euro…), and it’s not the fact that nobody needs this exhibition anyway. The really sad thing is that it will look terrible. It won’t have anything to do with the real Berlin art scene. No serious artist will submit their portfolios just because a bunch of ignorant and incompetent politicians want to play curators. No serious artist will follow an open call which is sure to attract submissions only from those artists who never get selected to participate in seriously curated exhibitions.
Berlin’s art scene should not be messed with by an ignorant and pretentious administration. Rather let there be no support at all, than one contaminated by incompetence and shady intentions.
And therefore, we ask you to read this open letter by the “Haben und Brauchen” initiative, and, if you agree, to sign the corresponding petition (we actually do not entirely agree with all of the points of critique listed but this didn’t keep us from signing), and to spread the word and pass this on.