Berlin’s art scene is famously exclusive. Led by academics and the ferociously avant-garde, the city tends to keep outsiders at a distance. As always, connections and relationships are paramount, and at the moment, one would be hard-pressed to have a better friend than Maike Cruse.
The director of art berlin contemporary (abc) and Gallery Weekend Berlin, Cruse oversees production of the city’s most well-attended art events. She has helped grow these two independent initiatives that now anchor the city’s art market since taking office in 2012—having served as the former communications manager of Art Basel and press liaison at the influential Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art.
An antidote to the saturated art fair circuit, both events were started by a group of local dealers who wanted to draw attention to Berlin’s spaces, artists and the thoughtful programs that connect them. “The success of Gallery Weekend and abc has stabilized the city as one of the main locations for galleries,” Cruse says. “The program of the galleries is very much influenced by the artists living here. Most artists have their premier gallery in Berlin and therefore the quality of the shows is especially high.” Gallery Weekend occurs every spring as a multi-day crawl with top galleries like Sprüth Magers, Galerie Max Hetzler and König Galerie rolling out the big guns. Last June, new exhibitions from young talents like Ed Fornieles, Petra Cortright and Claudia Comte stole the show.
If Gallery Weekend is for the dealers, then abc is for the artists. Held in a 19th-century railway-station-turned-convention-center, abc gives galleries the opportunity to put forth a single artist or concept exhibition much like a biennial. Last year, the previously invite-only fair opened itself up to applicants, leading to a refreshing variation.
This year, abc opens on September 15. Cruse’s personal highlights include forthcoming work by Marcel Dzama, GCC and Berta Fischer. “abc keeps transforming every year,” she says. “This year, we will present a concentrated smaller show by Johanna Meyer-Grohbrügge. I am excited to see what it will look like.” As a platform geared toward the artist’s ability to inhabit an environment, abc has become the German capital’s leading fair in an increasingly competitive marketplace. “The Berlin art scene has professionalized,” Cruse says. “Many new galleries have started in the past 10 years, and many have been growing from the vital project spaces scene.” Looking around, it is not only project spaces—Cruse herself seems to be making quite an impact.