11 Aug, 2009

Conceptual art checks in

Posted by: admin In: Guardian

A five-star hotel in Berlin has opened its doors to cash-strapped artists, asking them to pay for bed and board not with money but with a work of art.

The offer from the Hotel Marienbad in Auguststrasse is open to painters, sculptors or conceptual artists willing to “subject the hotel to permanent change” with their efforts.

Susanne Pfeffer, curator of the Kunst-Werke Institute of Contemporary Art, which set up the project, said: “As long as they come from outside Berlin and need a bed for the night, everyone is welcome, though we’ve got such a long waiting list that we are very careful about picking and choosing our guests.”

Film buffs will recognise the hotel’s name as a nod to Last Year at Marienbad, Alain Resnais’s 1961 film about a chance encounter between a couple at a social gathering in a chateau. The hotel’s name also refers to Cinema Marienbad from Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s film Berlin Alexanderplatz.

The first artist to participate was Turner Prize winner Douglas Gordon, from Glasgow, who designed the red neon sign that juts out from the facade.

Next came a couple from Frankfurt, Helga and Hartmut Rausch, caretakers at the Städelschule art school, who adorned a room with more than 400 works by its students and teachers and then opened their room to the public.

Anna Jandt, of the Bremen female artists’ collective Fort, helped create the current installation, a beady-eyed horse’s head mounted above a lacquered black bed. “It was both really strange and inspiring to live in the hotel at the same time as redesigning the interior,” she said.

“The horse’s head gives the room quite a sterile atmosphere and the room is overly replete with patterns – it’s a … comment on the anonymity and overpowering nature of posh hotel rooms.”

Marienbad is open to a variety of artists and ideas. Wolfgang Breuer sealed the windows with metal panels used to protect empty properties from squatters in a sinister comment on the credit crunch. He was followed by the US science fiction writer and cultural critic Mark von Schlegell, who occupied the room for just one night. He gave a reading of his novel Mercury Station from a double bed while listeners sat on everything from the glass drinks cabinet to the wardrobe to hear him.

Film screenings, poetry readings and a concert by an electropunk group have helped contribute to Hotel Marienbad’s salon-style atmosphere, which has invited comparisons with the courtly soirees of the 18th century.

The next guest, Frankfurt artist Sarah Ortmeyer, due to check in this month, plans to remove the horse’s head and transform her room into an “area of comfort and contemplation” in a tribute to the Eiffel Tower.

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