The big men have a break: a visit to Hannah Sophie Dunkelberg's studio

Artists look for their niches in the city. We want to visit some of them and see: Where is the art actually created, which is so often the focus of attention in Berlin? It is not created where it is talked about, where it is mediated and where it is sold. It is emerging on the outskirts of the city, in backyards and empty garages. But also in elaborately converted coach houses, warehouses and lofts. The places and areas are as different as the art itself. This series is dedicated to them.

Shortly after Tempelhofer Feld, when you have passed the swingers club “Zwiespalt” on Oberlandstrasse, Berlin ends. At least you could think so. From busy streets with their hip cafés you suddenly come to an area that has absolutely nothing to do with the chic, individualized life that is so often used as a symbol of city marketing. Residential blocks determine the picture here, which nestle together as charmingly as southern German semi-detached houses from the retort. The streets are wider, far and wide there is no Späti or other places to buy something.

Laura Schaeffer for Berliner Zeitung

The sculptures must be protected from the dog’s willingness to bite.

If you turn into the courtyard of the large building on Teilestraße, you would not suspect that almost the entire building is used by artists. The former chocolate factory was recently converted into studios that are now being awarded by the Professional Association of Visual Artists Berlin (bbk berlin). The huge halls, through which a sweet smell sometimes still wafts, are divided by thin walls. The corridors are long and dark, you can get lost if you’re not careful. The individual studios can only be distinguished by the small signs next to the doors, they could just as well refer to the offices of tax officials. Those who have a studio facing the street have a view of Tempelhofer Feld. From a distance it looks like Central Park.

The art market is unpredictable

Important contributions to Berlin’s cultural capital emerge behind these doors, for example by the sculptor Hannah Sophie Dunkelberg. She moved into her studio here a year and a half ago, not long after graduating from a master class at the Berlin University of the Arts in 2019, in Manfred Pernice’s class, which he called Bild-Object-Hauerei. Since then she has exhibited her large reliefs and fine curtain sculptures internationally. Currently, Dunkelberg works with two galleries that sell their work. But – as most independent artists know – these sales are not constant. Sometimes it goes very well, sometimes not so much. The market is unpredictable. The expenses for the studio, together with the material costs for their work, are the largest monthly cost item.

Laura Schaeffer for Berliner Zeitung

Studio and storage: Works of art are waiting to be sent to museums.

Today, a wooden horse sculpture sits on one of the many sofas in Dunkelberg’s studio. The work is not yet finished, but the artist has enough space in its almost 100 square meters to try out how the sculptures behave: What happens when you put the supporting figures of the equestrian monuments, which for decades the supposedly great men of this world on their Carry your back, just lie down? giving you a well-deserved break? It looks very comfortable with the wooden sculpture lying around there. The only danger she faces is the young dog who has been living with Dark Mountain for some time and who likes to gnaw on the wooden horseshoes.

Laura Schaeffer for Berliner Zeitung

Fragile masculinity

The artist is collecting the sofas and carving the sculptures for a solo exhibition taking place in September at her gallery Efremidis in Berlin. Now they are still somehow undecided, motley, like in a youth center. In a way, Dunkelberg’s works are objects of seduction. Their surfaces want to be touched, they are secretive, mysterious and, above all, often large. Since moving into the parts line, it has become easier for them to work large. Darkberg used to weld in the hallway, today she can do it in the quiet of her studio.

Dunkelberg does everything himself

For Dunkelberg, the studio is a workshop and warehouse in one. In the back there are large transport and beverage crates, packaging material and already packed works that will soon be on their way to galleries or collectors. In the front area there is a crafting bench, the desk, the waiting sofas. Dunkelberg hammers, welds, and carves all of her work herself. Unlike many artists who outsource production, Dunkelberg has mastered the skills she needs to do everything herself. It is important to her to be present at every step and every change that her sculptures experience.

Laura Schaeffer for Berliner Zeitung

With her relief works, Dunkelberg is represented at international exhibitions.

Although many artists have their studios here and one might think that the place could function as a kind of art dovecote, most tend to keep to themselves. For many artists who previously shared studios or – like Dunkelberg – had much less space available, networking is not the priority here, but they enjoy the luxury of a spacious retreat.

Despite its perceived seclusion, Teilestraße is actually quite centrally located, it takes less than half an hour by bike from Hermannplatz. But going out for a quick lunch or meeting up briefly with journalists or collectors is difficult here. Dunkelberg usually brings something to eat with him or drives home early. She says that a canteen would actually be good for networking. At the art school, that was always the place where everyone ran into each other at some point. Dunkelberg shows us the place behind the house, where she usually takes her lunch break. The Teltow Canal flows quietly along here, behind it is an empty house that is slowly rotting away. It’s almost idyllic. Behind us, a forklift driver makes his rounds – he belongs to the warehouse for Turkish groceries, which is housed in an outbuilding.

Laura Schaeffer for Berliner Zeitung

Here’s to good neighbors: the building complex also houses a grocery store.

When we go back inside, we remain standing on the one strip of sunshine that is just throwing itself down dramatically in the inner courtyard and look along the high window front. Behind each of these windows, a different artist is working on what he has to add to the world and to art. Fresh from the Tempelhof industrial area.

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