Circleculture Gallery, Berlin
November 18,2011- January 24, 2012
Isn’t a street art gallery a contradiction in terms? “We don‘t see ourselves as a street art gallery”, the charming lady manning the front desk at Circleculture Gallery informs me, “we rather consider ourselves working with artists who have a background in street art, or other urban subcultures”. Circleculture is essentially striving for everything: the alternative credibility and anti- academic accessibility street art promises, the respectability of high art, and the accountability of a proper gallery.
Having carved out a rather specific niche in Berlin, and surviving for more than a decade to date, this is already an argument in case. That said, the current show, GIVE, could hardly be more conventional in terms of presentation, consisting almost entirely of moderately-sized prints on paper presented in a row, neatly framed and signed. ere are works by gallery artists, some already quite reputable, such as X0000X, whose black and white stencils are probably closest to classic notions of graffiti, as well as Stefan Strumbel, who works in his Black Forest retreat and is best known for his pop-punk cuckoo clocks, and the eclectic trash paintings of Berlin-based Spaniard Anton Unai. Some bigger art-world names are thrown in for good measure, including cute-ish silkscreen or o set print editions by Raymond Pettibon, David Shrigley and Harmony Korine.
The exhibition is an attempt to raise money for the Amani orphanage in Mbigili, Tanzania, and, of course, the orphans, most of whose parents have become Aids victims, deserve every last euro. The work of the gallery artists is most certainly validated by showing with the bigger names, so it also makes sense for the gallery. It’s perhaps not the greatest work I‘ve ever seen, but a win-win situation, and a feel-good event for all that.
Most of the work is priced at under a thousand euros, so exactly how much money this show will generate is a matter of conjecture, as is the difference the percentage the gallery receives will actually make for the kids in Tanzania. The show’s priority is a little ambiguous: if benefiting the kids is the main aim, wouldn’t exhibiting more expensive work, by bigger names, generate more income?
Perhaps it’s no surprise that the best work in the show is the most expensive: a print of a photograph by JR, showing a group of young black men in a Paris street. One is carrying a large video camera, threateningly attempting to train it on the photographer/viewer, preparing to shoot back. And, yes, it has been presented before, on the outside of the Tate Modern, three-and-a-half years ago. That does kind of make it street art, doesn’t it?