How to Survive Gallery Weekend Berlin

By Marine Tanguy & Ariane Belisle
Fresh off the plane from Gallery Weekend Berlin’s 13th edition – a unique art fair that unites Berlin’s major galleries with international collectors, curators and art lovers – I wanted to discuss this incredible experience for my Haute Living series Collecting Art The Smart Way.
The entire two days of gallery hopping were spent – day and night – with my partner in crime, Ariane Belisle, the founder of AIB Art Advisory, a London-based art advisory firm offering art investment advice and specialist services to private collectors and corporate clients. She is someone I love working with but have also grown to love and trust. Thus, we decided to write the entire article with our two pairs of hands, side by side on our flight back to London. 
Ariane Belisle: I contacted Marine on a gloomy London Tuesday asking her if she wanted to visit a city that was, at the time, completely foreign to us both. The plan was to fully immerse ourselves in the weekend festivities. Within a few hours, our tickets were booked and we were off to Berlin. Both avid art lovers (with incessant cravings for all that is Haribo), we came out the other side mostly unscathed with a renewed appreciation for the Berlin art scene… And perhaps a little wiser due to our run-in with the police. 
Here’s what we learned on the ground. It’s a guide we invite you to follow for Gallery Weekend Berlin 2018, although safe souls and rule lovers may want to avoid most of our advice.
Risk takers and free spirits, please read on.
Hotel Graffiti: “Above all else, it is about leaving a mark” 
Marine Tanguy: As soon as we landed in Berlin, we hailed a cab to our hotel. While we cannot disclose the name of our hotel for fears of being arrested next time we land in Berlin, here is what we got up to: Ariane has a thing for both mischief and romance which led her to convince me to write a meaningful sentence or two on the back of the paintings in our room. Yes, and according to her, one should check the back of each painting as soon as you enter a hotel room. Who knows? You may witness a few hotel graffitis with hidden messages. 
Ariane Belisle: To quote Felix Gonzalez-Torres: ‘Above all else, it is about leaving a mark that I existed: I was here. I was hungry. I was defeated. I was happy. I was sad. I was in love. I was afraid. I was hopeful. I had an idea and I had a good purpose and that’s why I made works of art.’ Exploring the artist’s quote is a very literal way.
Hotel graffiti is an idea that has always fascinated me. The subtle cousin of street graffiti, it is about leaving a mark without defacement.
Step 1: Select a frame in your hotel room.
Step 2: Remove the frame from the wall.
Step 3: Scribble a quirky/funny/whimsical/insightful/bleak/melancholic/witty/deep/meaningful/angry (choose the one that applies according to your mood) message on the back of the frame.
Step 4: Rehang the frame.
Step 5: Bask in the glory of knowing that someone far into the future will uncover your hidden message and for a brief moment you will be connected. Plus, it seemed quite fitting to leave our mark in a city whose most iconic wall booms happy birthday messages and declarations of love through the medium of spray paint.
Selfie at Gallery Weekend in Berlin
A Selfie at Gallery Weekend in Berlin!
The Feuerle Collection: Engage all your senses in a German bunker 
Marine Tanguy: Everyone will talk about all the private collections that they will have visited. You need to shine with something more original. Head to the Feuerle Collection, in a 1941 German bunker, you will be plunged in the dark with the music of John Cage and if you walk on and you will encounter a 2000 square meters lake, etc. Oh, and ask to do the visit with art collector Desiré Feuerle himself. We couldn’t have dreamed of a better guide. Expect a spooky, dreamy and meaningful experience. 
Ariane Belisle: Marine excitedly guided me through the deserted streets of Kreuzberg in search of The Feuerle Collection. We were encouraged to ‘Let the music pierce our hearts’ before being led to a pitch-dark preamble room where John Cage booms out of the speakers. As we enter the exhibition space (the distant echo of Cage still with us), our irises expand to allow the little light in. Nobuyoshi Araki and Adam Fuss rub shoulders with Anish Kapoor, Imperial Chinese furniture and Southeast Asian sculptures. The show is theatrical, as the space is decidedly void of cataloguing information. Having worked with private collections for nearly a decade now, never have I seen a display quite like this one. Here, the sensory experience is privileged as the artworks take center stage:
Marine Tanguy: You may be wearing conservative clothing but remember that Berlin is the place to be rebellious. The cool kids head to Berlin, it’s a known fact and you cannot be left out. Following my Parisian experiences, we practiced our best jump on the metro without a card – short lived it seems as we encountered a policeman two stations later. A fine is a mark of rebellion and getting a fine in Berlin is just as cool as encountering Banksy in London. 
Ariane Belisle: Picture this: Marine is sporting a Comptoir des Cotonniers beige trench coat. I am wearing a fitted black Bagley Mischka leather jacket. Together we look like the perfect art power couple. But appearances can be deceiving. Feeling rebellious and a little bit smug after hitching a free metro journey, our joy ride comes to a sudden halt two stations later as we are stopped by a Berlin officer. Still a firm believer that rules are (sometimes) meant to be broken, I’m keeping the fine as a badge of honor. You win some. You lose some.  
Gallery Selfie: “There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment.”
Marine Tanguy: During art openings, art people are always terribly serious with a glass of wine in hand, barely moving and judging always. Think Woody Allen complications and gallery conversational style. Again, act original and pull out your iPhone to take the cheesiest selfie. They will thank you later, at least a few seconds of derision for them.  
Ariane Belisle: While Marine is relatively new to the selfie, I am a veteran. Like most, I like to visually document my existence, creating a ribbon of narrative that meanders through the peaks and troughs of my life. Gallery openings are no exception. Capture the humanity of the moment (a poetic way of saying: “But first, let me take a #selfie”) using Jonas Burgert’s colossal work as a backdrop. 
Sprichst du Deutsch?: Attend an academic talk in German
Marine Tanguy: My friends tend to have too high of opinions of myself. This was the case with my architect friend Pierre Escobar, who was led to believe that I was also fluent in German. To his surprise, I can only speak French and English. I hope he still counts me as a friend after this disappointment, but in the meantime, we got invited to a full on academic talk in… German. We should have expected it, one would say, as we are in Germany but still, a front row seat to a full hour of German discussions of both visual arts and architecture is the best way to push anyone to want to learn a language. I would still recommend the experience. I am booking my German classes as soon as I land in England. 
Ariane Belisle: At what point are sounds infused with meaning? We tested this theory by attending an academic talk in German. The sound map in my brain – currently limited to French, English and basic Spanish – relentlessly tried to decipher meaning but to no avail. As the speaker animatedly discussed architectural reappropriation in a language completely foreign to me, my brain entered a meditative state and the Germanic syllables were relegated to a distant hum. 
The Studio: Visit an emerging artist 
Marine Tanguy: Artists are the best cultural guides. We visited the studio of artist Zdenek Konvalina and we loved his works: his art feels like an optical play of colours, like a beautiful ballet of colours. His girlfriend is a ballet dancer (your everyday couple really), they are passionate, the studio is inside the house and they live in a cool spot. Oh, and they directed us to a list of emerging art galleries afterwards that we loved.  
Ariane Belisle: I love visiting artist studios. Far from the harsh neon lighting of the white cube, you get to experience the artworks in a more organic setting. Zdenek Konvalina’s studio was no different. Full of canvases, the spray-painted studio walls still carry the outline of artworks that were once hung there.  
rsz_marine_m7Photo Credit: Artist Konvalina Studio In Berlin
Lose the Map: Get lost in Berlin
Marine Tanguy: Don’t take an actual map of Berlin Gallery Weekend, for all you know, you may end up never getting lost and always arriving on time. What a terrible way to go about things. Get lost, explore, discover hidden galleries and never, ever be too organized about it! 
Ariane Belisle: Eschewing the iconic fair tent in favor of the gallery spaces themselves, Gallery Weekend Berlin is spread across the city. Running from East to West and back again (sans map), we somehow managed to hit all the must-sees and stumbled upon a few hidden gems we would have otherwise missed. 
Celebrity Spotting: Have a coffee with Hans Ulrich Obrist
Marine Tanguy: Don’t go to any cafes. Go to the one where Hans Ulrich Obrist is seen having a passionate and arty discussion. Cafés are a social scene, pick the right one: Dada Falafel.
Ariane Belisle: I never quite understood our society’s fascination with celebrity culture. Having spent my formative years at The Courtauld Institute of Art in London – a unique place that developed a subculture where artists, curators and writers took on the status of rock stars – this attitude is still with me today. Hans Ulrich Obrist: Most definitely a rock star! 
Postcard Wall: An ode to Gallery Weekend Berlin 
Marine Tanguy: Collect all the postcards from the exhibitions. It’s the best way to create a postcard wall in the entrance of your home, a continuous ode to your arty travels but also to remember the very long and bizarre names of these German artists. Trust me, you want to find a way to remember them. 
Ariane Belisle: Back in London, with a folder full to the brim of postcards (Marine has a knack for finding both Haribos and postcards in gallery spaces), I look forward to retracing our steps through the streets of Berlin with the help of these visual mementos.

An advocate for artists since a young age, Marine managed her first gallery at age 21, opened her first art gallery in Los Angeles at age 23 and finally created her current business, MTArt, to promote the artists she believed in across the globe.