Urban Nation, the Museum for Urban Contemporary Art opened it’s doors a few weeks ago on 16th September and I managed to squeeze in a visit after language class today!
With Berlin having an extremely important relationship with contemporary forms of art, such as graffiti/street art, the opening of a museum here that celebrates artwork like this is very exciting. I’m going to say now that Urban Nation is 100% worth a visit- and it’s free to enter!
Unlike other art exhibitions I’ve visited whilst here (a Willem de Rooij exhibiton at KW), the whole museum was varied and enjoyable to walk around. Displayed were a variety of different pieces using canvas, wood, acrylic paint and spray paint to create their effects, and showcased were pieces from all over the world! Funnily enough I found myself drawn to certain pieces, only to see that the artist was from the UK- says something about cultural/regional influences doesn’t it! Although the message of the museum is very clear; painted on the front of the building it reads: ‘Urban Nation is You – Me – Us – Is a message in a universal language we all speak: Art.’ This is an example of how art can bring countries and cultures together in a form of expression.
I thought I’d share some of my favourites from my visit- there are lots more so definitely pay Urban Nation a visit!
Throughout the exhibition it was clear that certain artists had political agendas/ commentary which fits accordingly with the accepted fact that art, particularly street art, is a form of activism. The museum points this out by stating that ‘artivism’ has been adopted by street artists, founded on the premises that public spaces are places for public discourse; allowing people to ‘voice their ideas and opinions no matter how marginal they be’. I think it’s fantastic that even in an age where social media allows many of us to voice our own opinions, artists have continued to use their space (may this be street corners, pavements or canvas) to engage others in ‘artivism’. The most wonderful thing about Urban Nation is that only the artist name, title, detail of materials and country is displayed, leaving every single piece to be interpreted uniquely by an individual.
The piece above titled Migration caught my eye due to the country of the artist: France. In a time when migrants are receiving unfavourable news coverage and unsympathetic political backlash, it is interesting that a French artist is recognising and drawing attention to what migrants will be entering countries, like France, with (or without). As art, particularly contemporary art, is subjective and an individual experience I took this to show how migrants enter countries with nothing; the rocks a symbol for emotional baggage, destroyed homes and the remains of memories from home. I thought it was powerful in the way that it forced you to re-remember the refugee crises that are ongoing today, proving that turning off the TV or avoiding reading the News doesn’t mean these people’s lives aren’t a daily suffering.
Another piece of art that caught my eye was this classically ‘pop art’ painting. Drawing on Lichtenstein’s ‘girl’, the Australian artist, Ben Frost made what I thought to be a simple yet bold statement. Again, art is subjective and this could mean that people are addicted to love etc, but the statement I read in it was that we are too quick to ask for and accept antibiotics; and that Frost is challenging this activity by proposing a view of the future: that any issue will be responded to and fed with antibiotics or pills. I saw this as a subtle yet bold move, especially considering the controversy of the current use of antibiotics…either way the piece is colour popping, thus aesthetically pleasing to me!
Moving on from debating the tragedies of our world, this unique and rather interactive piece of art by Ben Eine cast a fresh feeling of appreciation around the museum. A colourful lit up stairway encouraging people to imagine a world without colour, where you only see grey, asking us to describe the world with other senses and telling us not to take this colourful world for granted. I saw this physically, as a lighthearted piece of art, but with a powerful message; no one thinks about the ability to see colour, and so we take it as a given. However, for those less fortunate who can’t see colour or at all, they miss part of this world we live in, and so we need to celebrate small joys in life like the ability to see colour!
I do realise that I am not, and never will be an expert on art, and have simply written this in hope that it encourages others to visit Urban Nation and seek out their own favourite pieces! So I’ll stop rambling now and just leave a few more photos of some other delights that are on display at the museum.
p.s one piece was named ‘It’s a Target on a Sheet of Glass, There is No Concept Behind It’ , which really sums up the great thing about art; sometimes it is meant to be meaningful, other times it’s just meant to be seen.