An artistic exodus: Berlin's cultural scene in danger

Updated: Mar 30, 2020

By Alex Stuart

Gentrification as seen in London and New York has now well and truly swept over Berlin. A property boom combined with an oversaturation of art galleries is driving artists and art gallery owners out of the city. Gallery Gillmeier and Rech closed this summer after 5 years in the Schöneberg district of Berlin, citing “an unsustainable working environment” as the push factor. In an interview with Monopol magazine, the owners blame inadequate creative and cultural support from the government, e.g. public funding which is offered in other countries like Austria.

Christian Siekmeier’s Exile gallery is relocating from Berlin to Vienna, in order to benefit from the supportive arts community and commercial tenant rights. Siekmeier also blames art fairs such as Art Cologne, due to the great expense for smaller galleries to participate, and pressure to do so to remain competitive in an “increasingly high-stakes market”. Failure to attract business at these fairs could bankrupt a small gallery. Artists first drawn to Berlin in the 90s due to cheap rent, large vacant spaces for studios and a vibrant and liberal culture are finding themselves squeezed out as Berlin experiences the fastest-growing real estate prices in the world. Corporations investing in property, slow housing construction rates and gentrification are making living in Berlin unaffordable for artists, when only 10% can sustain themselves on art-generated income. But all is not lost: the BBK has proposed to build 2000 new studios by 2020 in ‘art campuses’ around Berlin.

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