Art in Berlin goes back to school
Berlinâs Haus der Kunst und Esskultur has become the city's most idiosyncratic cultural venue. (Stefan Korte)
A Jewish girls' school in Berlin, left to ruin for the better part of two decades, was recently given a five million euro facelift by well-known gallerist Michael Fuchs, to become the city's most idiosyncratic cultural venue.
As you walk through the spruced-up, art-clad space of Berlin’s Haus der Kunst und Esskultur (House of Art and Dining Culture), it takes some imagination to picture the building as it once was. Built in 1927 by Alexander Beer in the function-over-form style of New Objectivity, it has served many purposes throughout the years, originally accommodating 300 pupils learning Hebrew and traditional arts, then becoming a base from which Jews were deported to concentration camps in 1942, and finally being used as a military hospital until the end of World War II.
However, these dark days are no longer apparent. In place of what was once a draughty assembly hall is the Michael Fuchs Galerie, where the inaugural exhibition Hang On (running until 31 March) includes Warhol portraits of Frederick the Great, Frank Stella's stainless steel and carbon sculptures and works by contemporary German artists like Jonas Burgert and Gregor Hildebrandt.
"We're very excited about exhibiting here," said gallery director Daniel Loganathan. "You can see the ceiling is still in its original state; the character of the building has been perfectly kept."
Another familiar name on the Berlin gallery scene, Eigen + Art Lab, occupies two carefully restored classrooms and a corridor. Until 19 May, the gallery is showing the carnivalesque paintings of British artist Ryan Mosley. On the first floor of the Haus der Kunst und Esskultur, a cavernous space is given over to the CWC Gallery, currently zooming in on Canadian photographer Robert Polidori’s emotive shots of Havana, Chernobyl and New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
School dinners will never be the same again with much-lauded Austrian chef Siegfried Danler-Heinemann overseeing the menu at new restaurant Pauly Saal, where Venetian chandeliers and bottle-green banquettes add a touch of 1920s decadence to the former gymnasium. In the kitchen, the emphasis is on earthy, top-quality ingredients: freshly baked bread, homemade sausages, house-pickled vegetables, offal and suckling pig. If that doesn't appeal, try New York-style deli Mogg & Melzer ‘s pastrami and barbecued brisket, or The Kosher Classroom, which opens for Sabbath dinners on Fridays and brunch on Sundays, with Kosher wine tastings, cooking classes and cocktail courses in the pipeline.