13 April 2017

Things I Love in Berlin: The Feuerle Collection

Berlin has a different approach to things sometimes. When it comes to art, as much as it is a city that can deliver high-class art, there are also things that would make you reconsider your stance and make you do a double-take so to speak. In music for example, Berlin's offerings can definitely match Vienna's, but there are also plenty of contemporary artists that perform in the city. The same can be said of art galleries. As much as the world-class art museums are here, there are also contemporary avant-garde museums and galleries that continue to shock people sometimes. One of them is the Feuerle Collection.

The Feuerle Collection is a private art gallery that is located in a former telecommunications bunker (as a side note, this is actually the fourth bunker I have visited in Berlin) that was renovated by British architect John Pawson. The gallery houses the collection of Desiré Feuerle. The collection is mostly a juxtaposition of ancient Southeast Asian art and contemporary art. While I hated the exhibit, I actually love the fact that galleries like these exist in the city.

So the visit is only by a guided tour and lasts for an hour. You are told at the very beginning that this would be a different viewing experience. You start with a small chat with the guide, who tells you the rules, and that the tour is different. He tells you that there will be a dark room, there will be some piano music, and there will be no explanations.

After that, you do enter the dark room, and all light goes out. There is a 3-minute piano music, and your eyes slowly adjust to the darkness, and slowly you see the front of the room leading you to the exhibits. The guide tells us that the dark room is intended to cleanse you of outside elements so that you will be ready to view the art.

All of this makes you think that it will be some Zen experience, but instead, all I experienced was cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance due to the fact that there are juxtapositions of ancient Khmer art with photos of erotic fruit and objectified nude women displaying their hairy vaginas for clothed men. Cognitive dissonance because there are Asian furniture displayed side by side with modern contemporary artwork that have no explanation whatsoever. If I was supposed to have a Zen experience, it definitely did not happen.

Perhaps I was setting the bar too high. After all, I am a big fan of the Boros Collection, which is also housed in a bunker, but takes a very radically different approach. In the Boros Collection, the guides fully explain why the artwork is such, so you fully comprehend why there is a popcorn machine that constantly floods the room full of popcorn, or why there is a machine that perpetually grinds a rubber wheel against the wall. In contrast, in the Feuerle Collection, not only are there no guides explaining the art, there are also no labels providing some anchor to the art. So this whole "different viewing experience" just didn't work for me.

So what did I like? I like the fact that institutions like these exist because they provide intellectual fodder. As much as I didn't like what I saw, I learned a new thing about myself, such as my tastes about art. But if you ask me, if you want to visit an art gallery in a bunker, I say you should visit the Boros Collection rather than this one. You'll learn a lot more about art.


  1. That's a cool concept. I always picture Berlina s being very "avant-gardiste" about art, so it fits with my perception. And no matter what you think of the experience at the end, I believe it's great to explore various places, various art movement, etc.

    1. Zhu,

      Oh definitely! I might have hated the contents, but what I do like is the concept, and the fact that concepts like these are available.