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Brooklyn Street Art

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“Inundated!” Scenes from the Opening: UN – Urban Nation Museum For Urban Contemporary Art in Berlin

Posted on September 18, 2017

“This week is Art Week in Berlin, and you just stole Art Week,” said a handsome and intensely opinionated German to us as we leaned on the arm rail of the M.C. Escher-inspired walkway before a Carlos Mare139 sculpture and above the capacity crowd on Saturday night at the Urban Nation Museum of Urban Contemporary Art (UN).

Urban Nation Museum For Urban Contemporary Art. Berlin, September 16, 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Not sure if that was the exact goal, but we get his larger point; the UN has just made a massive entry into a number of societally and culturally influential minds when it comes to the relevancy of Street Art and graffiti to visual culture and art history. This movement into so-called Contemporary began as early as the 1970s and has overcome and weathered cultural and market ebbs and flows – persisted, if you will – yet somehow institutions have been wary of this work and these artists and unable to fully embrace their importance, you decide why.

Artistic Director Yasha Young delivering her opening speech. Urban Nation Museum For Urban Contemporary Art. Berlin, September 16, 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

While stakeholders in street culture, the art world, the gallery system, auction houses, and a burgeoning body of academia will continue to litigate the right of a Street Art/graffiti/Contemporary Art museum to exist or the correct form it should take, it is no longer a distant theoretical event. For those who have averred in the negative over the past few years about the potentiality of Urban Nation, the museum is now fact.

As were the crowds.

Long lines to get in on Saturday. Urban Nation Museum For Urban Contemporary Art. Berlin, September 16, 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The crowds were there, the Mayor was there, a few hundred graffiti /street /contemporary artists inside and outside the house were there, the directors and curators were there (except Andrew Hosner, who was taken ill), the Flying Steps and three rappellers scaling down the façade to unveil a new Invader plate were there, the architects were there, Martha Cooper and her new library were there, 1UP was there, the overwhelming enthusiasm to be a part of this milestone where fifty years of Street culture adds a museum in its name by its own insistence – they were there too.

Urban Nation Museum For Urban Contemporary Art. Berlin, September 16, 2017. (photo © Steven P. Harrington)

With alchemists at the fore who are bold and determined to invite non-Art World people into the discussion about how a museum should be formed, the route here has been a challenge – as it frequently is for those who make the road by walking. We’re waxing a little poetically in the haze of a cloud of jet lag and too little sleep so allow us to say what John Ahearn told us in an email and a number of folks said to our faces all during this previous week, “This is a first.”  What follows is up to all of us.

With such a diverse number of tributaries flowing into this river of creativity and global street culture one must accede the point that this is not an encyclopedic collection representing all of graffiti, Street Art, Urban Art history. Short of staging the exhibition in the former Tempelhof Airport any all inclusive narrative would simply not fit. Instead we opted for a group show of some of the strongest players and influential talents and minds across the last few decades. This inaugural show is meant to bust the doors open and show off the new space, hopefully inspiring more minds to come in and help steer the ship forward.

Urban Nation Museum For Urban Contemporary Art. Berlin, September 16, 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Urban Nation Museum For Urban Contemporary Art. Berlin, September 16, 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Urban Nation Museum For Urban Contemporary Art. Berlin, September 16, 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Urban Nation Museum For Urban Contemporary Art. Berlin, September 16, 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Urban Nation Museum For Urban Contemporary Art. Berlin, September 16, 2017. (photo © Steven P. Harrington)

Urban Nation Museum For Urban Contemporary Art. Berlin, September 16, 2017. (photo © Steven P. Harrington)

Urban Nation Museum For Urban Contemporary Art. Berlin, September 16, 2017. (photo © Steven P. Harrington)

Urban Nation Museum For Urban Contemporary Art. Berlin, September 16, 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Urban Nation Museum For Urban Contemporary Art. Berlin, September 16, 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Urban Nation Museum For Urban Contemporary Art. Berlin, September 16, 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Urban Nation Museum For Urban Contemporary Art. Berlin, September 16, 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Urban Nation Museum For Urban Contemporary Art. Berlin, September 16, 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Group photo of the Flying Steps right after their performance. Urban Nation Museum For Urban Contemporary Art. Berlin, September 16, 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 

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