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Berlin by GERRIT ENGEL

November 13, 2009

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Berlin, 1964, Café Moskau

Berlin – shaped by the political upheavals of the 20th century like no other city –. In the photographs of Gerrit Engel these cliché-laden city is to be seen in a new, completely unfamiliar light. He focuses on the buildings like a scientist researching exotic beings. Fascinated, yet at the same time with the distance of a scientist. With »vasculum-like dispassion«, but not without affection.

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Berlin, 1977, “Sozialpalast”.

Gerrit Engels photographs are portrait studies of houses, each with their own face, that join forces to create a portrait of the entire city – history of the city based on images of its striking, more or less attractive buildings, both large and small, spectacular or merely picturesque.

These works form what is, in fact, the very first typology of  – 20 years after the fall of the Wall – that of Berlin. Gerrit Engel, who was born in Essen in 1965 and trained as an architect and photographer in Munich and New York, now lives in Berlin. In 1997 he made his highly acclaimed debut with a series of photos of the Buffalo Grain Elevator – taking up a theme once pursued by Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier. In 1999 there followed the series of photographs on Marzahn, Berlin, a selection of which was shown by the Neue Sammlung in 2000 to mark the opening of the Neues Museum of Art and Design in Nuremberg. In 1997 and 1999 some works from both of the series were taken up by Die Neue Sammlung to become part of its permanent collection.

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Berlin, 1936, Trudelwindkanal, Deutsche Versuchsanstalt für Luftfahrt

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Berlin, 1988, Wohnanlage mit Atelierturm (IBA)

Now, ten years later, the Neue Sammlung has showed the photographer’s most recent works at the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich: his Manhattan and Berlin series. For their publication Gerrit Engel ordered the buildings chronologically according to when they were built – a novum in illustrated albums on architecture.

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Berlin, 1931, Großsiedlung Siemensstadt – “Ringsiedlung”

Uniting the two series [now we’re focused on Berlin, in a forthcoming post, we’re going to feature Manhattan] beyond the magical appeal of the theme itself are the characteristic, soft, milky grey and white shades of the sky. These allow all the details and nuances of colour to stand out in even greater clarity – supposedly secondary aspects such as treetops, letter boxes, billboards, cars or casual passers-by as well as, of course, the primary subjects themselves: the buildings with their physiognomies.

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Berlin, 2008, Galeriehaus Hinter dem Gießhaus

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