abc art berlin contemporary: It’s a setup!

On Saturday afternoon, with five days to go until the start of abc art berlin contemporary 2012, the atmosphere at the venue was magical. Calm, yet dense with anticipation, the vast dimensions of the exhibition halls echoing the sound of drills and hammers, the subdued buzzing of electric motors belonging to fork trucks and lifting platforms mingling with the smell of freshly timbered line-ups in a strange sensation of synaesthesia… If you belong to those who have ever set up a gallery booth at an art fair you know: the best moment about an art fair is that time when it still belongs to those setting it up and no one else.

We walked around, basking in memories of old times when we used to help install shows and gallery booths at fairs, secretly envying the staff members for their cluttered office space, desks brimming over with to-do lists and memos, the hurried smoke by the back door, the tension created by shortage of time and supplies, all counterbalanced by that feeling of belonging, of getting something done, of being part of a concerted action, confident that things will fall into place and everything will work out just beautifully.

When they’re done installing, when the art has been brought in, the staff by the entrance counters and the guides and the hall manager and everyone has been briefed and the doors open to the visitors, the place will not belong to those who created it anymore. They will feel great relief, because they’ve once more managed to get something organised in time, and maybe someone will come and pad their shoulders and thank them for the great work and they will look at what they have created and be happy to see how people enjoy it, but they will also be overcome by a feeling of nostalgia, of loss – the magic they shared when they were still alone will be gone.

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