Published 27 MAR 2024

Bird-watching is enjoying increasing popularity in Germany. During the coronavirus years, there was an enormous surge of interest in this nerdy hobby from the USA and the UK. Just how popular bird-watching is in New York was demonstrated in February 2023, when an owl that escaped from an aviary in Central Park to live above the rooftops of Manhattan became a feathered celebrity virtually overnight. When Flaco the eagle owl died after colliding with a window in late February 2024, even the New York Times reported on the incident and people gathered under his favorite tree in Central Park to remember him. Bird Watching, the title of Rachel Harrison’s first solo show at Konrad Fischer Galerie, which opens on Gallery Weekend, also gives us a little taste of the big city. Born in New York in 1966, the artist last showed her work in a major survey exhibition at the Astrup Fearnley Museum in Oslo 2022/2023 and before at the Whitney Museum in New York in 2019; now, in Berlin, she presents six new sculptures and a series of new photographs. Since the mid-nineties, the artist has always managed to surprise her audience with her humor, eclecticism and artistic radicalism. Harrison’s sculptural installations combine concrete and abstract forms with found objects and references to art and cultural history, resulting in disconcertingly contemporary, sometimes beguilingly colorful arrangements. It will be interesting to see what role birding will play in Berlin.

With her gift for surprises, her predilection for radical artistic gestures and her spatial precision, Harrison aligns perfectly with the philosophy of Konrad Fischer Galerie, which can now look back on almost sixty years of exhibition history. Originally founded by the artist couple Dorothee and Konrad Fischer in Düsseldorf in 1967, the gallery became highly successful as an avant-garde venue for conceptual art, minimal art and arte povera—and soon became a place of pilgrimage for the international art scene. Artists such as Carl Andre, Sol LeWitt, Bruce Nauman, On Kawara, Mario Merz, Hanne Darboven, Bernd & Hilla Becher, Lawrence Weiner, Richard Long, Thomas Schütte, Manfred Pernice and Gregor Schneider have all had a significant influence on the gallery’s program. Additionally, it is an impressive feat in itself that the business has not mutated into a museum of its own achievements over the decades, but instead remains solidly connected to the present.

With locations in Berlin and Düsseldorf, the gallery is now run by the second generation of the family, namely Berta Fischer, who is also an artist. Unlike her parents, however, Fischer, who was born in Düsseldorf in 1973, has not given up art in favor of running the gallery, instead balancing both tasks with great elegance and ease. Fischer took over the management of the gallery from her mother in 2015 and is internationally successful as both a gallery owner and an artist. This dual role has its advantages, as Fischer explains on the phone: “I am familiar with gallery work from both an artist’s and a gallerist’s perspective, and I understand all the processes involved.” Dividing her duties as an artist and gallery owner also works well because she can rely on her very good and experienced team in Düsseldorf and Berlin, Fischer adds.

Since 2018, the gallery has presented its exhibitions in the German capital in the impressive industrial architecture of a historic electrical substation. This centrally located and historically listed brick building with its distinctive window facade was originally built by BEWAG’s in-house architect Hans Heinrich Müller in 1928. Between 2016 and 2020, it was sensitively renovated by Berlin architects Heide & von Beckerath and converted into an exhibition space. Today, the building is undoubtedly one of the most impressive art venues in the capital. “Every artist immediately wants to have an exhibition here,” says Fischer, who originally discovered the building and secured it for her gallery through her perseverance and negotiating skills. “This is an interesting space for any artist due to its proportions and the variety of different perspectives.” In recent years, several new artists have been added to the program, including the British sculptor Alice Channer, the German-Polish painter Paul Czerlitzki, the Belgian installation artist Edith Dekyndt and the Scottish sound artist Susan Philipsz. The artists and their ideas have always been at the heart of the gallery. Everything else is the result of this trust in art.

KONRAD FISCHER GALERIE
Neue Grünstraße 12, 10179 Berlin
https://www.konradfischergalerie.de/