PReview Magazin


2009:Jun // David Ulrichs

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In 2008, on the eve of the gallery openings of the Gallery Weekend Berlin, in a veritable tour de force artnet published a little booklet of reviews: one review of each participating gallery show. It was apparently a pro bono effort meant as an advertisement teaser aimed at Berlin’s commercial galleries. This year, due to lack of funding, it was rumoured that the pamphlet would not be published. However, shortly before the openings, phone calls were made to arrange for previews of the works and exhibitions to make the little publication possible. In what seemed a last-minute effort, artnet contributors were dispersed across the city to view what in the coming month would fill the gallery spaces of Europe’s contemporary art capital. Punctually, on the morning of the openings, a pack of folded broadsheets in artnet orange entitled “PReviews” was left like an abandoned baby on the doorstep of each of the participating galleries.


While last year’s pamphlet for the Gallery Weekend Berlin contained more kudos than critiques, this year, with headlines reading “Standardised Navel-gazing”, “Heros of Failure”, “Laboured Abstraction” or “Geometric No Man’s Land”, it surely woke some of the gallerists from their dogmatic slumbers. Thankfully artnet has made a continuous effort to offer real art criticism of commercial and non-commercial exhibitions. It has not even shirked in its heavy criticism of the programme of the Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin, no less, at whose helm stands the former director of artnet Germany, Thomas Eller. Thus, it comes as no surprise to have found the broadsheet filled with honest opinions, simply spoken.

Miraculously, the pamphlet manages the precarious balancing act of simultaneously addressing the art flaneur and the art collector by focusing on their common denominator: a short attention span. Thus, it is made up of 100-word blurbs about each exhibition with a couple of perforated black-and-white images to break up the layout. With a sense of humour – not usually a German forte – it addresses the real concerns of the target audience on this long weekend in May: the weather and the performance of Sotheby’s shares. Preferring the writer’s unmediated opinion, it keeps art-historical information to a minimum, and apart from the name of the artist, the gallery and a few sparse dates, it relates no hard facts. It contains both short slating reviews and ditties of praise.

The broadsheet proceeds in an alphabetical order, leaving the content of the front page to happenstance – at least regarding galleries. Yet, rather undemocratically the marriage of certain authors with certain galleries de facto influences which author gets the front page. Undoubtedly, the decision-making process is as rigorous as it is confidential. Nevertheless, it is no surprise that the abbreviations ‘hjh’ and ‘gg’ appear numerous times on the front page. Despite these minor glitches, PRviews deserves a lot of credit and with its looser editing procedure, it really works for its contributors. Written in haste, these shortsharpshocks are the elevator speeches of art critics!

The Berlin gallery scene is a complicated web of old boy/girl networks. Thus, every larger art event – whether the annual art fair Artforum or the Gallery Weekend Berlin – is a chance to renew old vows and strengthen affiliations. One of last year’s gallery weekend participants explained his absence this year by commenting, “The Gallery Weekend Berlin presents itself as one big happy family, but we all know about the internal animosities. The friendliness is forced, like at any family reunion….I guess I’m just not into family reunions.”

PReviews Cover (Ausschnitt) Mai 2009 (© 2009 Courtesy artnet, Berlin)
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