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You are here: Home Leisure Arts & Culture Talking Vernissage: A former fish factory gets a new life...
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04/05/2009Talking Vernissage: A former fish factory gets a new life as a place for art

Talking Vernissage: A former fish factory gets a new life as a place for art Our local art critic, Jessica Saltz, talks to the owner of Dada Post, Berlin’s coolest art space you don’t know about yet.

The ‘König’ plaque is still at the entrance of the former fish-smoking factory in Reinickendorf, but there is a new ruler: American sculptor Howard McCalebb is busy transforming century-old dilapidated outhouses into spaces for international artists to live, work and exhibit.

McCalebb, a renowned conceptual artist and former teacher at Parsons School of Design, bought the entire property from the König family for €180,000 in 2008 after just two visits to Berlin from his native California. Although still very much a work in progress, he hit the ground running and the Dada Post inaugural exhibition ‘Youth Cult’ in March pulled together an interesting mix of young contemporary artists from the USA to Peru, who tackled the space with the same breadth of imagination as its proprietor.

The old war bunker that squats in the central courtyard was transformed into a gushing water fountain, the body of which is visible if you descend the steps into the dank bowel of the bunker but which also trickles ominously through the ceiling into the outside space – appearing like a trail of blood on the dark evening of the vernissage.

Swedish artist Maria Bajt stands amidst her mixed media paintings at the Dada Post gallery in Berlin-Reinickendorf.  The gallery's inaugural exhibition, Youth Cult, features international artists at the cusp of their careers.
Rebecca F. Miller/Expatica

McCalebb is working together with Lou Andrea Savoir, a fellow artist and former pupil, to curate the exhibitions. He aims to make sure the original features of the building are maintained so its history still resonates in the working spaces: McCalebb’s sculpture studio is lined with the original tiles and fish-gutting sinks; the gallery space was once the smoking room, complete with original scuffed brick floors and high wooden beams; the reception area was a former fish shop front. Two gigantic old refrigerator rooms that used to hold the piles of fish before it was smoked will house video and music installations – the acoustics are brilliant.


A sculpture by the German artist Elisabeth Rosenthal at the Dada Post gallery.
Rebecca F. Miller/Expatica

McCalebb’s own installation pieces have been around the world from Norway to the United Arab Emirates. A bright yellow sculpture from the ‘Butterfly’ series – inspired by a symbol he found “on the sidewalk in Copenhagen in 1999” stands by the entrance gate.

Now permanently based in Berlin, he recalls fond memories of New York in the 1970’s and 80s, when the city was buzzing with a young bohemian crowd who can no longer afford to live there.

“It is too competitive,” he said of New York. “The profession there is not big enough to absorb everyone who wants to be an artist.”

McCalebb, however, has high opinions of his new home: “It is as cosmopolitan as New York with more museums and it is more comfortable to live here as an artist.”

McCalebb’s decision to set up a gallery space in a sleepy suburb so far off the Berlin art crowd’s radar is ambitious but this city loves a maverick and with two well-established artists in residence, the Dada Post ‘Kunstraum’ will soon become a landmark.

Dada Post owner and curator Howard McCalebb poses in front of one of the outbuildings on the gallery's campus, a compound that used to be known as the König Smoked Fish Factory located in Berlin's Reinickendorf district.  McCalebb is renovating the buildings to be able to host larger events, artists-in-residence and artist studios in the future.
Rebecca F. Miller/Expatica
At Hamburger Bahnhof:

The remnants of the Josef Beuys exhibition at the Hamburger Bahnhof have been filtered off into one wing of the gallery and I hope they stick around. A well-curated artistic retrospective usually fills a void inside you – as satisfying as a well-cooked meal. Beuys never makes it that easy; to re-familiarise yourself with his work is so often to de-familiarise yourself with it and start again. The process is frustrating but compelling, and I welcome the chance to delve back into his wide body of work.

What would Beuys, himself a pioneer in incorporating sound into visual art, make of Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller’s sound installation currently residing in the main area of the Bahnhof?

98 black speakers are hung, stood and seated on chairs in the colossal space.


Unmoving and ominous, they churn out a symphony of sounds on rotation from the soothing tones of Janet Cardiff reciting three harrowing dreams in her soft Canadian lilt with complimenting background noises to a cacophony of crows and classical beats. It is a heart-rush of an experience, impending and unrelenting. The audience is invited to sit in an orchestra formation, facing these black boxes sitting on identical chairs on a mirroring curve. It has a confusing visual impact, watching rows of black boxes shout at you but remain otherwise motionless. Together, they provide the most basic function of an orchestra: the noise. You are also invited to walk between the rows of speakers that stand around the room in military formation. A unique show – don’t miss it.

The next exhibition “Art Collective: System Relevance Or this is no rehearsal” runs at Dada Post, Berlin through May 23

Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller “The Murder of crows”
Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin
Through May 17

Old Masters Picture Gallery, Dresden
Permanent exhibition

The Old Masters Picture Gallery holds outstanding masterpieces from the history of European art. These include such famous Italian Renaissance works as Raphael’s "Sistine Madonna," Giorgione’s "Sleeping Venus," Titian’s "Tribute Money" and Correggio’s "Nativity." There are also impressive works of the Italian Baroque. The gallery’s outstanding 18th-century works include paintings by Tiepolo, Canaletto and Rosalba Carriera.

Other photos of the Dada Post exhibition:


Swedish artist Christina Tivemark is one of eleven artists featured in the Dada Post's inaugural exhibition.

Rebecca F. Miller/Expatica


 A wooden path leads out of a bomb shelter located on the Dada Post campus in Berlin-Reinickendorf.  The shelter's current life takes the shape of an installation by the FMSW collective of four German and Swiss sculptors, as part of the gallery's Youth Cult exhibit.
Rebecca F. Miller/Expatica


Work by the artist Felix Schneeweiß, shown at the Dada Post gallery in Berlin-Reinickendorf.  
Rebecca F. Miller/Expatica


Work by German artist Elisabeth Rosenthal shown at the Dada Post, a new gallery in Berlin-Reinickendorf.

Rebecca F. Miller/Expatica


 Dada Post was started by Howard McCalebb, a sculptor who fled New York City's overpriced real estate to start an international studio space in Berlin.
Rebecca F. Miller/Expatica


Water seeps out of a bomb shelter's roof as part of an installation by the Swiss/German collective FMSW.  The installation appears as part of Dada Post's Youth Cult exhibition of emerging international artists. 
Rebecca F. Miller/Expatica
Work by Swedish artist Maria Bajt, being shown at the Dada Post gallery in Berlin-Reinickendorf. 
Rebecca F. Miller/Expatica


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