Since its explosion of pigment and hue on subway cars and in the streets of New York and Philadelphia a half century ago to its spread to the hundreds of cities worldwide, the truly grassroots movement of Urban Art refuses to be owned by any one city or one people, insisting upon making its own rules and traveling wherever the creative spirit leads.
As if to underscore that global nature of the Graffiti/Street Art/ Urban Art movements, Urban Nation (UN) Director Yasha Young named the origins of the guests who were attending last weeks “Secret Dinner” at the under-construction site of the museum that opens this fall.
Yasha Young, Director of Urban Nation Museum For Urban Contemporary Art (UN) delivers her welcoming remarks to the invited guests. A painting by Word To Mother hangs in the background. The painting was originally created for Project M/8 and curated by Stolen Space Gallery in 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
“You came from Spain, England, Los Angeles, New York City, China, France, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Iceland, Italy, Mexico, every neighborhood in Berlin, from Leipzig, Munich, all across Germany, France, Switzerland, the UK, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, and last but not least, Russia,” she said as she stood before a large canvas by the London-based artist Word To Mother and next to Hendrik Jellema, the Chairman of Berliner Leben.
After recounting the three years of accomplishments and aspirations of the new museum to date, Young showed an animated video tour, a somewhat flying birds-eye view of the new museum projected on the wall.
Yasha Young, Director of Urban Nation Museum For Urban Contemporary Art being introduced by Mr. Hendrik Jellema Chairman at Berliner Leben. (photo © Steven P. Harrington)
In two dimly lit street-level raw and cavernous rooms were mounted a number of selected canvasses from the 10 Project M shows that have been curated in the last 3 years announcing the coming museum, each directed and refined by gallerists and cultural experts of various stripes and featuring the work of over 200 artists.
Across the street and Bülowstraße here in the Schöneberg district at the temporary UN headquarters was the grand opening of PM/11. Featuring 16 German artists curated by 3 experts in their respective scenes from Berlin, Munich, and Hamburg, “Radius” points to the vast and diverse urban art community here in a this famous street scene and artists and fans overflowed onto the sidewalk swelling even further when post-dinner guests arrived.
Celebrated photographer and ethnographer Martha Cooper attended the dinner. The library at Urban Nation Museum For Urban Contemporary Art will bear Ms. Cooper’s name and will house items and books from Ms. Cooper’s personal collection. In this photo Ms. Cooper is wearing a skirt created by the American Street Artist Buff Monster. (photo © Steven P. Harrington)
With graffiti artists and street artists spread among the 4 long dinner tables a colorful mix of politicians, cultural ministers, academics, collectors, press, curators, ambassadors, philosophers, photographers, and friends shared dinner, drinks, opinions, and their respective knowledge about the scene and the aspirations of the nascent institution.
We don’t know what everybody said to each other, but we did talk about cooking for a family of five with one guest and the trade routes between South Africa and Cairo during the last century and the importance of fish in the Icelandic diet with another.
Case Maclaim dinner plate. Each invited guest went back home with a gift of a special edition of one plate created exclusively for the occasion by an impressive roster of international artists. One hundred plates were created by almost one hundred artists. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Young burst in the room mid-dinner, as she’s wont to do, with a microphone to show a video series of 4 street art projects showcasing artists engaged with community projects, rather dispersing the often-indulged perception that all graffiti and Street Art is transgressive and illegal. Of course a lot of the good stuff is, but most artists possess additional dimensions outside these stereotypical descriptors, including an interest in helping others.
Artists featured included Norwegian Martin Watson, the German duo Herakut, the Polish crochet artist OLEK, and the German born Brooklyn-based twins HowNosm. The projects highlighted were not necessarily UN sponsored but instead drew attention to overall goals of the museum to be engaged with communities outside the typical art-going crowd.
A Daleast dinner plate. Each invited guest went back home with a gift of a special edition of one plate created exclusively for the occasion by an impressive rooster of international artists. One hundred plates were created by almost one hundred artists. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
And so now the UN buzz has begun in earnest, with a steady run toward the opening doors of the Museum and significant involvement of international and local contingents of participants in the new institution. If anyone pretends to know how it will all look inside and outside on opening day or the months that follow, they are brave and fantastic in their willingness to prophesy. We say that because despite the much-heralded organizational skills of this land, and they are amazing, you can be sure that a vibrant and alive contemporary scene like this will continue to surprise us.
During the dinner a few films were presented to introduce a new series still under development. (photo © Steven P. Harrington)