Huge Crowds Attend the Opening of the URBAN NATION MUSEUM: Thousands of Art-Lovers Show Up for the Inauguration Festival in Bülowstrasse

Berlin has a new and unique platform for graffiti and street art: the URBAN NATION MUSEUM FOR URBAN CONTEMPORARY ART. After four years of planning and construction, the building in Bülowstrasse opened its doors to the public for the first time on Saturday evening. The surrounding area was transformed into a giant open-air art gallery with more than 50 artworks, including installations, murals and other interventions. In all, more than 13,000 people thronged to the streetside show and more than 7,000 had a look at the museum itself. Also in attendance were the State Minister for Cultural and Media Affairs, Prof. Monika Grütters, the Mayor of Berlin, Michael Müller, and other well-known guests.

“UNique. UNited. UNstoppable.” That was the motto of the exhibition, curated by Yasha Young, the executive creative director of the URBAN NATION MUSEUM FOR URBAN CONTEMPORARY ART. The exhibition attracted thousands of people on the opening weekend. Following a greeting by Dr. Christopher Vorwerk, commercial director of the museum, speeches by State Minister for Cultural and Media Affairts, Prof. Monika Grütters, the Mayor of Berlin, Michael Müller and director Yasha Young set the events of the opening evening, 16 September, in motion. Finally, at 7 pm, the museum doors opened to all-comers, who had already formed a long line along Bülowstrasse. In total, more than 13,000 people thronged to the temporary open-air gallery along Bülowstrasse on the weekend of 16 and 17 September and more than 7,000 had a look inside the new home for contemporary urban art itself.

The world-famous photographer, Martha Cooper was also at hand when the first visitors entered the museum. An entire room has been devoted to her work. The Martha Cooper Library contains a significant part of her extensive collection, which she has donated to URBAN NATION and will be available for use in future research projects. Her photographs were the first records of urban art and document its emergence and progress since the 1970s.

A Unique Collection

150 works by established and emerging new artists have been on show at the URBAN NATION MUSEUM since the weekend; all of them especially created for the exhibition. The first visitors to Bülowstrasse 7 were immediately drawn to the relief-like portrait of a man, sculpted into the original brickwork, by the Portuguese artist Vhils. Many art-lovers also stopped to admire the extremely colorful work by the Berlin-based artist Mimi S. and marveled at the complexity of the figures. Paintings by icons of the scene such as Shepard Fairey or The London Police were also on display at the URBAN NATION MUSEUM.
The team of ten curators, led by Yasha Young, aimed to demonstrate the range of styles and techniques used by street artists and how the scene has developed over the years.

The building, whose conversion was designed by a team of GRAFT architects, is an attraction in itself. Thanks to the bridge-like highline linking the floors, visitors can look at the artworks from a range of perspectives. The innovative design of the building also features an asphalt floor, emulating the street experience as visitors embark on their own journey of discovery inside the museum.

Visitors Throng the Open-Air Gallery in Bülowstrasse

There was plenty on offer for visitors outside the museum, too. Just before 7 pm, three abseilers unveiled an artwork on the gable of the museum by the French street art icon Invader, his first in Berlin. Immediately afterwards, the world-renowned breakdance group “Flying Steps” put on a show. The Spanish artist Gonzalo Borondo presented an installation, made of glas and light, showing a ghostly horse trotting around. In addition to sculptures and installations, including an ensemble of apes on a rock by the Berlin artist duo Herakut, numerous façades were creatively repainted by street artists. Visitors were also able to see some of the artists in action live. Sunday had its open-air attractions, too: unusual art performances such as that of the Polish crochet artist Olek or the well-known South African artist Faith 47.
A skateboard ramp, open-air yoga and graffiti workshops helped turn the weekend into a colorful and eclectic neighborhood festival, supported by the Berlin housing company Gewobag.

More than an Exhibition

In their speeches, Michael Müller and Monika Grütters expressed their enthusiasm for this latest addition to Berlin’s rich cultural landscape. Especially because the URBAN NATION MUSEUM will be more than just an exhibition space. As underlined by Yasha Young in her opening speech, this institution celebrating the history of urban contemporary art wants to tell stories and preserve artworks, too. Supporting up-and-coming artists is also a core priority for URBAN NATION. Furthermore, it’s hoped that the new museum will be actively involved in dialogue with the neighborhood and in promoting art and culture. The aim is for young people, especially, to be exposed to art and hence inspired by it.

The current exhibition will be on show for another nine months before a new set of works arrives. The façade of the museum, too, will be a changing display – this is made possible by mobile façade elements, which turn the museum into an artwork in its own right. A 100-page illustrated book on the vision behind UNITED NATION, its history and its most successful projects, entitled “The Making of URBAN NATION” is on sale in the museum shop. The URBAN NATION MUSEUM FOR URBAN CONTEMPORARY ART is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm.

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