Why is Berlin such a magnet for artists?

Artists from all over the world flock to Berlin to live and work. What makes the city such a draw? Chris Dercon explains the German capital’s cultural appeal.

Like thousands of creative people from all over the world, Chris Dercon has felt the call of Berlin. It was recently announced that the head of London’s Tate Modern will leave the gallery to become the director of the Volksbühne Berlin, one of the world’s most exciting and dynamic theatre companies.

Berlin is teeming with artists: there are an estimated 20,000 living and working in the city. They have been attracted to the German capital by cheap rents, masses of studio space and the city’s carefree, freewheeling spirit. Berlin’s arts scene stands out on the world stage. Cultural projects are generously funded and supported by many large and powerful institutions in the city.

To explain its creative allure, Dercon speaks to another London museum chief soon on his way to Berlin – Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, who will take up a key position in the Humboldt Forum from 2016. Controversially, this 600 million euro project is rebuilding Berlin’s Stadtschloss, the Prussian imperial palace that will become a vast cultural centre to rival the Louvre in Paris – and the British Museum.

“Berlin has always used its buildings to articulate what it wants to be,” says MacGregor. “What is so remarkable about the remaking of museums and cultural institutions in Berlin is that they are… conceived as a way of shaping what the city becomes.”

The Berlin edition of Artsnight screens on BBC World News from 2-4 May.

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