Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Berlin and on

A wonderful swelteringly hot week in Berlin a month ago. Our artist friends' flat in Friedrichshain, in the former East, overlooks a big tree-lined square, on which there are two huge markets every week. Cafés, bars and excellent small restaurants surround the square itself, the streets are cobbled, and there are more bikes, tattoos and original outfits to be seen than anywhere else I've been in the last twenty years. Art galleries, craft shops, studios abound – mostly friendly and unpretentious: in the best sense, its a cheap and cheerful area, as is the city as a whole (about half the price of living in London, and the UK generally!) As for the exhibitions and museums, these were wonderful, and given our limited time and energy, we had to pick and choose carefully. No question about our two top favourites, however: the largest show of Frida Kahlo's work ever assembled, on at the Martin-Gropius-Bau, and well worth an hour's queuing to get in. And the Käthe Kollwitz house and museum. Wonderful gutsy leftwing women and great artists both, by any standards. Also, elsewhere, in a couple of mixed exhibitions of well-known 2oth century names (Gabo, Dix, Beckmann, Grosz, Heartfield etc) we discovered a third terrific woman artist, whose life-span was almost exactly the same as dear Jean Rhys's: this was Jeanne Mammen (1890-1976), well worth checking out.

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