As Gallery Weekend Berlin celebrates its ninth iteration, Cédric Aurelle is serving as General Manager of the festivities. The founder of the Berlin-Paris Gallery exchange and the former director of the Bureau des Arts Plastiques at the French embassy of Berlin, Aurelle is well-versed in the culture of the city and was happy to place us in the know, as well.
Artsy: Can you talk a little bit about the mission of Gallery Weekend Berlin?
Cédric Aurelle: Gallery Weekend Berlin was conceived as an answer to a recurring question from Berlin-goers: “What is the best moment to come to Berlin and see good art?” For the last nine years, the answer to this question has been to come together and open our exhibitions on the same day, and galleries are open three days long during a spring weekend. On the other hand it was thought of as an invitation to go back into gallery spaces and experience art in a context for which it's been specifically conceived.
Artsy: The art scene of Berlin has grown tremendously since the 1990s. What has been the catalyst, and how do you feel the scene will continue to develop?
CA: The Berlin art scene developed in a giant vacuum—a huge amount of space available for artists to settle in the city with very good material conditions, allowing them to develop projects without thinking of the trivial circumstances of life. This ground also served, metaphorically, a feeling of intellectual freedom and freedom of creation that has labeled Berlin during the last two decades. Waves of artists move to Berlin, so much that it almost became a cliché to be an artist and live in Berlin or vice-versa. Everyone had their project in Berlin, their initiative, contributing to the turmoil of the city and finally spraying a hint of confusion on the whole. Now the waves have flown back and there remains a terrain that is fertile. Lots of artists who made the fame of Berlin do still live here: Olafur Eliasson, Tacita Dean, Monica Bonvicini, Douglas Gordon, Anselm Reyle, as well as younger generations, like Alicja Kwade, Dahn Vo, or Simon Denny. On the other hand, newcomers in Berlin have carriers in mind and solid perspectives.
Artsy: The gallery space has been called a quasi-condensed version of the art world. Can you explain this? How does bringing 51 galleries into the same program bring the art world closer together?
CA: We talk here about galleries who consider themselves producers. Nowhere else will you meet all players of the art world working on a single project: from the artist who conceives a site-specific project, the gallery owner producing the project, playing the role of a curator when curators are not invited to cooperate, the collectors who buy the art and support the art market, the critics who support the projects on an intellectual level and the journalists who mediate them towards the public.
The program of the Gallery Weekend stands out by placing artists together who belong to a canonical history of art—milestones of the art of last decades, stars of the contemporary art scene and very young super hot artists. In this sense it reflects the landscape of the contemporary art market and creation; however, not under a standardized format but through projects that are always specifically developed for the occasion.
Artsy: What are you most looking forward to this Gallery Weekend Berlin?
CA: The exhibitions, of course! There will also be nice parties and glamourous receptions, which are part of the social events of Gallery Weekend, but the art and its displays remain the focus.
Artsy: How might an online digital platform, like Artsy, help bring more international awareness to Gallery Weekend Berlin?
CA: This year, the Gallery Weekend will have 66 great exhibitions on show. To spread the word about the content and the images on a worldwide available platform helps to let people know about it—as a preview and a review, all over the year.
Cédric Aurelle was director of the Bureau des Arts Plastiques at the French embassy of Berlin from 2007 until 2011, and afterwards served as Art Commissioner at the Institut français in Paris. During this time, he initiated among other things the successful gallery exchange Berlin-Paris and Thermostat, a cooperation between 24 art centers and organizations.