Street art in a gallery - isn't that something of a paradox? Marc Scherer doesn't think so. In his ATM Gallery in Kreuzberg he provides a platform for art from the street - and also gets his own hands dirty.
In most cases, you won’t expect it: you’re just turning into a grubby little street when suddenly a space traveller looms up several metres high in front of you, sprayed onto a fire-wall. Or, in an inconspicuous tree at the edge of the road, you might discover shapeless balls of fur that look like sloths from a distance but that have in fact been hung up there by a group of artists. Or perhaps a disgruntled looking bear, sometimes grinning, sometimes fierce, follows you as a sprayed template figure around the whole city. “Street art has that great element of surprise” says Marc Scherer. “It shouts ‘over here!’ louder than art which is only on show in museums”.
Marc Scherer runs the ATM Gallery in Kreuzberg, a gallery for street art. Excuse me? Isn’t that a contradiction in terms? “The natural habitat of street art is, of course, the street”, admits the 41-year old. He is used to his project provoking questions from both art lovers and street artists. Some of them would never agree to exhibit in his gallery. “That moment of surprise that you experience in the street is naturally absent in the gallery. People are prepared to see these artworks here”. The majority of artists therefore create works for an exhibition in a different form to the one that they would show on the street.
In those days he worked in radio and had a small workshop in Kreuzberg where he produced, among other things, templates that he would then use to spray figures onto walls. In 2007, he opened the gallery on Brunnenstraße in a former hall of a bank. This also explains the name, ATM. When the gallery in Mitte closed, he hadn´t actually intended to open up a new one.
The gallery's other aim is, not least, to sell the artworks and allow the artists and those who run the gallery to have a form of income. Consumers of street art are often young and don't have much money, tending to be more interested in the smaller pictures that can be bought for 100 euros or less. Artists and gallery owners need to adapt to this. But there are exceptions, as Marc Scherer knows: "the exhibition by the New York street artist Futura 3000 in Münzstraße in Mitte six months ago was sold out within half an hour. The pieces cost upwards of 12,000 euros". Marc Scherer is often asked where one can find street art in Berlin outside of his gallery, but he finds this question harder to answer now than he did five years ago. Renovations in numerous areas mean that there now aren't nearly as many places where artists are able to express themselves. Illegal graffiti is generally removed the following day by the owners of the building.
"For the Backjumps exhibition, which was a street art exhibition in the Künstlerhaus Bethanien a number of fire-walls were painted on a large scale all around Skalitzer Straße", Marc Scherer explains. The district made the surfaces available to the artists because it had been agreed for some time that street art can add value to an area. "Then there are places such as the RAW-Tempel in Friedrichshain, but that's really a reserve for street art where 600 other people have already expressed themselves". Nobody would be shocked to see a colourful picture there. But Marc Scherer knows that street art can only thrive if it is allowed to roam free in its natural habitat. And that is neither in a gallery nor on legal surfaces, but in the street.
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Marcs favorite spots in Berlin are: