Arts Festival In Neukölln Showcases 'Berlin Beauty'

Jul 9, 2013

On a recent June weekend, a number of galleries, cafes, private residences, and even one church opened their doors for the annual cultural festival 48 Stunden Neukölln (48 Hours Neukölln) .

This cultural safari explores the different parts of Neukölln, with its diverse art, music, theater, and dance scenes. The neighborhood has become increasingly popular in recent years, and while most of the hype is in the northern part,  Christoph Boehm's gallery, Bauchhund, lies between Sonnenallee and Karl-Marx-Straße in an area known as Rixdorf.

"If someone wants to move to Rixdorf," Boehm says, "he has to ask the old inhabitants whether he is nice or not."

Art at 48 Stunden Neukoelln
Credit Monika Müller-Kroll

Boehm, a co-founder of the festival, says his neighborhood is still like a little village, but the festival, now in it's fifteenth year, proves that Neukölln attracts a lot of artists. 

"We had so much beautiful art in Neukölln," Boehm says. "It's one of the biggest art festivals of this kind I've ever seen." 

For 48 Stunden Neukölln, Bauchhund Gallery featured 50 portraits by photographer Petrov Ahner, whose series "Berlin Beauty" features portraits of various people from the neighborhood: a designer, a baker, a family. 

"I am coming from fashion photography. I was a fashion photographer in Paris for a long time," says Ahner.

"I am trying to define in a way the beauty of Berlin, what makes the city so attractive for people to come. Who are the people coming."

In Paris, Ahner found that " recognize right away where someone is coming from, and in Berlin there is a totally different way of presenting yourself. Plus, I realize in Paris the fashion happens on the fashion shows. In Berlin, I saw right away it definitely doesn't happen in the fashion shows- it happens on the street."

"Live" TV at 48 Stunden Neukoelln
Credit Monika Müller-Kroll

Over the years, Petrov Ahner has taken 120 portraits of Berliners. He usually spends two hours with his models and asks them to write something about the city, or themselves.

Ahner finds his Berliners through social networks, word of mouth, and, lately, people who reach out to him. The project is also a good way for the 48-year-old to discover the city. 

"Everyone knows the feeling," says Ahner. "You go out, you look at Berlin, the sky is ugly, the buildings are ugly, the people are ugly, you are probably ugly too, and the next moment you think, 'Wow, Berlin is such a beautiful town.' It's so exciting what happened to me."

"Berlin Beauty" is a long-term project that Ahner wants to continue for 10 more years. He says the series  has become part of his personal universe and has given him some magical moments, like when he got to sip whiskey on a 100 square meter terrace overlooking the city. 

"Yesterday, the first time in my life, I spent three or four hours on this terrace talking with a magician about being a magician, and about life," Ahner says. "It was beautiful."