We all need an Autocenter
Founded in 2001 by Joep van Liefland and Maik Schierloh, the Autocenter has become, in the last months, one of the most important spaces for contemporary art in Berlin. Of course, the invitation from the last Berlin Biennial to show in their fake Gagosian Gallery has been putting a lot of light on that projektraum (for a serious and complete definition of that word, see the special issue “Berlin” from FGA). But the two founding members were clever enough to produce in that context an event that will not establish or promote Autocenter as a “label”. They simply built up with tires and car parts, light and sexy posters, a proper garage in Berlin-Mitte. The name was the program.
The last time I was in the big white cube located in the surroundings of the S-Station Ostkreuz (one of the most depressing locations I have ever seen...), a commercial gallerist that was visiting the opening carefully looked at the portfolio of the previous exhibitions, writing on a piece of paper the names of artists that could be interesting. And his shopping list became quickly longer than a Xmas wish-list. The Autocenter, with exhibitions lasting only a weekend, is a dynamic and exceptional place with a broad view from contemporary art. Within the last months we have seen there Damien Deroubaix, a french painter that deals with grindcore and trash culture. A large video installation of Markus Draper evoking a haunted house. Some sculptural-paintings from Eva Seufert, Ulrich Emmert and Norbert Witzgall made a picturesque duo, and Marike Schuurman hang her black and white photographs... Etc.
But the important fact is that Autocenter has been able to develop some no-profile as a profile. Nowadays many small and young independent art spaces are finding a line that they consciously follow to quickly build up an image and an existence in an over-informed and over-competitive world. One will be dealing with art that thinks about art, another will show figurative-post-expressionist-paintings when the neighbor will focus on scandinavian political art... The Autocenter however, in its large selection and openness, remains a place for surprises and discoveries.
But the point with those spaces is that they can propose things that neither a gallery nor a museum could do. Like the younger place called Homies that was, on sunday november 26th, inviting all the collectors of the artist Tatjana Doll to bring their pieces and leave them there for the duration of the exhibition. The artworks will not be for sale: they are already owned by people. No curator, nothing to buy (except the few beers you might drink during the opening) and a lot of good mood and good food (visitors where invited, on top of bringing their art pieces, to contribute to the buffet). Like the Autocenter, they are building a community of people that share the same hedonistic vision of art. A moment of fun and pleasure, of intellectual quality and unexpected breakthrough.
^Thibaut de Ruyter, curator and editor based in Berlin