The Wall Museum Berlin
Berlin, history, Museum, things to do

The Wall Museum East Side Gallery

The Wall Museum at the East Side Gallery, which opened last year, is situated in the same building as the Pirates Bar. Less well known is the fact that the roof used to be an observation point when the Wall was up.

The Wall Museum Berlin

As its name indicates, the museum focuses on the years of the Wall, 1961-1989. It starts with a short video that summarises the events leading up to the building of the Wall, and then leads you chronologically through events until its climactic fall.

The exhibition mainly consists of videos, showing interviews with escapees to watchtower guards and ordinary people whose lives were affected to key players such as spies and politicians. The atmosphere inside the museum is almost oppressive, with no windows and the blaring noise and heat of screens in each room. This may be apt, seeing as the Wall itself was oppressive and the Cold War was a battle of ideologies, often fought out on TV screens.

Nowadays, with a pivot to video taking place on many news sites and media creating and catering to shorter attention spans, there is something disturbing about a museum that relies so heavily on the moving image. I want space to contemplate in exhibitions, more depth, and a variety of different sources to peruse so that I collect and evaluate information independently. Sure, everything is curated, but relying solely on videos feels lazy and fleeting.

The Wall Museum at the East Side Gallery is open daily from 10 am to 7 pm and entrance is €12.50 for adults / €6.50 for students and children under 10 go free. 

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art, Berlin, Life in Berlin

R.B. Kitaj: Obsessions Exhibition at the Jewish Museum Berlin

The Unpacking my Library, 1990-1991 first large-scale retrospective of R.B Kitaj‘s work in fourteen years is currently on at the Jewish Museum Berlin.

R.B Kitaj (1932 – 2007), an American Jewish artist, spent almost 30 years in England. Like his friends David Hockney and Lucien Freud, he turned to figurative art in the 1960s.

His work is highly referential and collagic, drawing on a wide range of literary and artistic sources. He frequently uses newspaper cuttings and other texts in his work. Literature played a significant role in his life – he was a “self-professed bibliomaniac” and part of his huge collection of books are on display in the exhibition. The painting above is entitled ‘Unpacking My Library’, alluding to an essay by Walter Benjamin.

Kitaj’s circle of friends included philosophers, writers, poets and other artists. He drew from their work, and also represented them in his paintings. Below, ‘Two London Painters’, shows close friends Frank Auerbach and Sandra Fischer.

Two London Painters, Kitaj

Other friends and role models included Philip Roth, Joseph B. Soloveitchik and Ezra Pound.

Much of his work, such as The Murder of Rosa Luxemburg, La Pasionaria (a.k.a Isidora Dolores Ibárruri Gómez, a leader of the Spanish Civil War) and Dismantling the Red Tent, painted in the aftermath of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, refers to historical and political events. Another obsession of Kitaj’s was his Jewishness, reflected in works such as ‘Drancy’, which was an internment camp from where Jews were deported to death camps.

The last retrospective of Kitaj’s work, held at the Tate in 1994, received bad reviews and proved a traumatic experience for the artist. He blamed critics for his wife’s death following the end of the show, and left England soon after, never to return. For him, the ‘Tate Wars’ confirmed his position as an outsider. Several works made after this episode reflect his feelings – the most obvious being ‘The Killer-Critic Assassinated by His Widower, Even’ painted in 1997.

In 2007, Kitaj committed suicide. A couple of years ago, The Guardian blog asked, Did Art Critics Kill Kitaj? Whatever the case, the current exhibition proves he was unfairly judged. For more about the artist, read his obituary in The Guardian.

Obsessions is on at the Jewish Museum Berlin, Lindenstraße 9-14, 10969 Berlin, until 27th January 2013.