The ninth Positions Berlin Art Fair will see 88 galleries from 20 countries fill the hangars of former Tempelhof Airport. Dealers from the Baltic states and eastern Europe are especially well-represented among the international exhibitors. These include Meno Niša Gallery from Lithuania, Anca Poterasu Gallery from Romania, Ravnikar Gallery Space from Slovenia, TSEKH Art Gallery from Ukraine, Krupa Gallery from Poland, and Gallery Māksla XO from Latvia.
With photographs by late Natalia LL, the Warsaw gallery Lokal_30 has a true example of art history in its locker, even if it might not be known to all. In 1977, the conceptual/actionist avant-garde icon—something of a Polish Valie Export—traveled to New York to take part in a demonstration for the rights of sexual minorities. She was equipped with photographs from her sexually provocative work cycles "Consumer Art" and "Post-Consumer Art" (1972–75). As a result, she is known today as Poland’s first queer-arts lady—and rightly so. Behind the Iron Curtain, she made many surprising works about gender, identity, desire, and self-optimization, all in a prophetic pre-Instagram aesthetic.
The Budapest-born French artist Vera Molnár is nearly a century old. Her work can be seen at DAM Projects in Berlin and is also currently on show at the Venice Biennale. The artist is known as a pioneer of computer art and back in the 1960s she used one of the first mainframe computers as a tool for her constructivist/concrete art.
The Bucharest-based Ivan Gallery is showing established artists such as Geta Brătescu, but is betting on the potential of Adriana Preda, born in 1997. The young Romanian artist concentrates on her body and her associated fears in drawings, paintings, and photographic self-portraits. Violence meets porn fantasy meets horror. A "bad girl" who stages herself as the Devil himself—or as someone fresh from plastic surgery, with bandages on her face—makes the desire to break taboos ever-present.
One could take her for a distant relative of veteran shocker Paul McCarthy, shown by Akim Monet Fine Arts from Dallas. He too works with trauma, but rather born out of the American way of life. Disney, sitcoms, cowboys, and other US pop-culture phenomena are the recipients of mockery and torment. Drawings, made in collaboration with his artist friends Benjamin Weissman and Naotaka Hiro, carry much weight at the fair.
Works by painter Yannick Ackah, born in the Ivory Coast in 1992, are less overwrought. Melbye-Konan from Hamburg presents at their booth his expressive "poetry of an existence", to use the artist’s term, into which flow emotional chasms, but also topics such as racism and the wounds left by colonialism.
In contrast, there are two female artists who were active in Germany in the 1920s. A late work by the extraordinary painter Lotte Laserstein, forced into exile in Sweden by the Nazis in 1937, is shown by Dr. Nöth Kunsthandel + Galerie from Ansbach and Potsdam. "Mädchen aus der Provence" (1951) has childish features but at the same time lost in thought, also appears quite grown up.
Zellermayer Galerie from Berlin recalls Swiss Bauhaus artist Petra Petitpierre. A student of Paul Klee, she died in 1959, aged 54. Her chalk drawing "Nature morte" (1952) is an exuberant and colorful geometrical composition that appears to show the contours of fish on the water’s surface. After studying in Dessau, Petitpierre worked with Fernand Léger in Paris in 1932. One year later, she returned to Switzerland. As a shy solo artist, she fell into oblivion despite her potential.