For a week now, the four shortlisted projects for the Preis der Nationalgalerie 2015 – by artists Christian Falsnaes, Florian Hecker, Anne Imhof and collective Slavs and Tatars – have been exposed to the public at the Hamburger Bahnhof. A particularly exciting component of Berlin Art Week, this exhibition has unsurprisingly attracted streams of visitors by the day; all conjuring their own predictions as they eagerly awaited the second jury to announce the result. Yesterday, finally, the suspense came to an end, with German artist Anne Imhof named as the winner of this year’s award. If you are amongst those to have visited the exhibition, however, you will know that the judges had no light task on their hands, not least for the equally engaging nature of each work, but also for their unprecedented range in media and genre.
The Preis der Nationalgalerie has taken place on a biennial basis since its establishment in 2000, with this year marking its eighth award. Accepting Berlin-based artists of all nationalities, under the age of 40, the prize is specifically aimed at uncovering those who are well established within the art world, but relatively little known amongst a wider community. It serves the dual purpose of showcasing the internationalism of Berlin’s artist community, as well as heralding innovative creative approaches and new conceptual perspectives. The winner is selected by an international jury, which consists this year of such prestigious figures as the Director of the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris, Bernard Blistène. Rather than a monetary grant, the esteemed award facilitates a solo exhibition, to take place next year at one of Nationalgalerie’s locations.
This year’s program for the shortlist exhibition boasted a distinct shift in terms of artistic engagement with materials and ‘the immaterial’. The four different installations surely represent some of Berlin’s most exciting and progressive art, embodying the diverse range of multi-media and multi-sensorial practices of the contemporary moment at large. Weaving through the exhibition spaces that are split between the wings at either side of the cavernous main hall, each new room engages the viewer in a distinctly immersive experience, whilst exploring different compelling concepts. To the right of the entrance and up the staircase is Imhof’s winning project, which blends two of her works – ‘Deal’ and ‘Rage’ – into one single entity, ‘For Ever Rage’. Falling somewhere between a boxing ring and a modern urban city, the space – though relatively sparse – unites performance, sculptural objects, sound, and etching, all in orbit around the central theme of power structures, and unspoken rules for human interaction.
In the opposite wing, giving you a taste of the diversity amongst the nominees, is the entirely different, and for me, the most powerful works, belonging to Danish artist Christian Falsnaes. His two installations, ‘Moving Images’ and ‘The Title Is Your Name’, achieve that rare and exhilarating affect of instilling physical discomfort and unfamiliarity. Between the two rooms, Falsnaes would have you dancing like a maniac before complete strangers, evaluating that stranger’s sexual appeal, and slow dancing with an iPad, amongst other things. Through a fusion of film and performance, traditional boundaries are collapsed between the artist and viewer, and amongst the viewers themselves, who are ushered down from their restrictive watchtowers, and into the double guise of subject and observer.
Whilst anticipation floods in for Imhof’s upcoming exhibition, this showcase of such innovative and diverse works itself provides us with a unique glimpse into the direction of contemporary art in Berlin, and certainly whets our appetite for what the coming year will bring.
The exhibition will run until January 17th, 2016.