The Power Of Art as a Social Architect


One year after the opening of Urban Nation Museum for Contemporary Art, September 27, 2018, sees the launch of the new exhibition entitled “UN- DERSTAND. THE POWER OF ART AS A SOCIAL ARCHITECT.” Interactively the show traces the development of one of contemporary art’s most successful forms: Urban Art. At the same time, eleven brand-new artist residences are being inaugurated, at which Stiftung Berliner Leben offers selected artists space to live and work.

What is in Urban Art’s DNA? The exhibition provides answers

Urban Art has left behind its niche existence. It is impossible to imagine the metropolis with it. Over time, however, particular works of the artform have become icons while artists have become stars. But what is it about Urban Art that fascinates us? What is the secret of its suc- cess? How much rebellion does it still carry and how will it develop further? The new exhibition at URBAN NATION museum explores these questions. The narrative of the show is that the social aspect emerges as part of Urban Art’s DNA and as an unpredictable force field. Urban Art activates neighborhoods, connects people, point to social ills, communicates inclusively and does not ostracize. That is attractive and sometimes intimidating. The exhibition with the title “UNDERSTAND. THE POWER OF ART AS A SOCIAL ARCHITECT” displays works by more than 50 artists from the URBAN NATION museum’s collection. A chronology explains the de- velopment of the museum as such, from the more concrete vision of 2013 through to the ope- ning of the second exhibition in 2018. “We nurture talent. We support the artist or working creative talent or the talent of kids living in the projects who normally would not get in contact with art. We support neighbourhoods and promote direct exchange—without cultural fears of contact. We are a connecting, creating and caring for a global community—kept together by art and its power as a social architect,” is how artistic director Yasha Young summarizes the central idea of URBAN NATION. The show, however, does not only look back at the birth of a museum but simultaneously conveys the history of contemporary urban art, tracing current tendencies in the face of digitalization and changing media consumption.

Black Box instead of White Cube

URBAN NATION abandons the White Cube by presenting the new show in a Black Box. Just like the Urban artists often work under cover of darkness or otherwise concealed, the show’s architecture presents its contents via specific points of light in black space. The visitors are thrown back on themselves under the impact of the art. The show is about taking a look at the here and now; it is a personal reflection. For all visitors are part of a society and as such an immanent part of contemporary urban art production. More than 50 artworks demonstrate the enormous diversity of this art movement. In on it are artists, who are well-known for their gigantic paintings on the walls of this world, such as Adele, DFACE, Herakut, James Bullough, The London Police, Mimi S, Shepard Fairey, Borondo among many others. The exhibition is set up to be interactive, challenging traditional viewing habits. Walking through the movie tunnel the flood of images and sounds accentuates the complexity of all URBAN NATION projects, exhibiting the multifacetedness of the artistic positions as well as the range of artisanal tech- niques for implementing them. That is also visible in the unique façade that carries the idea of the living museum into the neighborhood. It is already for the third time that it has completely changed its appearance. This time, the English artist duo Snik Art designs the exterior wall, their 3D-artwork appealing to young and to protect the environment. This punchy Urban Art Highlight is supplemented by the texts of two Berlin-based artists whose names will only be disclosed at the opening.

“FRESH A.I.R.”—the artist-in-residence program of the foundation Stiftung Berliner Leben connects creative people to Berlin

The eleven new artist residences also provide insights into the production processes. The work and living spaces are located across 1,100 square meters on the upper three floors of the museum building. With these residences URBAN NATION offers Urban artists the opportunity of free artistic development in a program that is the first of its kind in the world: emerging as well as established artists get the opportunity to focus exclusively on their creative process. The residences invite networking, entering into dialogues or debates on Urban Contemporary Art in the metropolis that is Berlin. The international artists are supported through professio- nal mentoring by artistic director Yasha Young. In future the appointment of residencies is conducted two to four times a year by a Kunstbeirat (art advisory board) including art experts, journalists and public figures. The residencies are subject to the condition of realizing a social project related to the immediate neighborhoods. In this way, works and projects emerge that are closely connected to the activities at the museum as well as the immediate neighborhood and the city at large. The interaction with local neighborhoods is the core of all these activities. The following artists are currently living and working in the residences at URBAN NATION Museum: Daniel van Nes (NL), Dot Dot Dot (NOR), Herakut (GER), Li Hill (USA), Louis Masai (UK), Ludo (FRA), Mia (GER), Nespoon (PL), Onur & Wes21 (CHE), Quintessenz (GER), Snik (UK).