When I moved to Berlin in early 2010, there was a palpable sense that everything was about to change. Pretty much everyone who has moved to Berlin at some point over the last 20 years has had that feeling. Most get tired of waiting somewhere between two and eight years later. I lasted five. Returning to the city last week for the 13th annual Gallery Weekend Berlin, however, I soon realized that over the last two years everything has, in fact, changed—and most of it for the better.
Don’t get me wrong, all of Berlin’s galleries aren’t suddenly selling out their shows on opening night. The city is still not overflowing with collectors, and this edition of Gallery Weekend did suffer slightly in terms of international attendance due to the packed spring art-world calendar. But Berlin’s sidewalks are, suddenly, filled with an inordinate number of people dressed head-to-toe in Acne or Gucci, and its streets, filled with many more expensive cars. Economic opportunity in Berlin has grown in very visible ways. Rents have also increased, but they still remain low compared to other major cities, which means that the capital that comes with opportunity can be funneled into disposable income more readily than might be the case in New York or London.
A number of galleries I spoke to over the past week noted that this wave of new wealth in the city is beginning to trickle into their programs. One mid-level gallerist said he was in the process of bringing on one or two very young artists whose prices would be kept low to further encourage the emerging Berlin buyers to forego one or two outfits or a weekend away in favor of a work of art.