The Sammlung Boros private collection of contemporary art is a remarkable story of history, architecture and artistic curation housed in a former WWII bunker in Berlin-Mitte.
The word ‘bunker’ is not used lightly here. The entire building is a breathtaking architectural feat housing 130 artworks by 23 different artists under a 3 meter-thick concrete roof. The Bunker’s foundations stretch 7m deep and even the walls are 1.40m wide.
In past times the Bunker served as an air-raid shelter, a prison and a fetish club. Histories that are still evident in old pockets of paint found on the inside walls. Up to head height scraps of bright, fluorescent colours are left over from the club’s dancefloors. Above them, black blocks make clear the old fetish rooms’ locations. Higher still you'll find Soviet prisoners’ graffiti and Russian swear words scrawled into the walls.
Klara Lidén: Teenage Room
If renovated and curated badly, the intersection of war, art and sex found at the Bunker would have created the worst sort of cliched art space. But the lengthy four-year conversion process - overseen by owners Christian and Karen Boros - was clearly painstakingly undertaken. The 3000 m2 large exhibition space manages to be - paradoxically - both wonderfully pared-back and totally overwhelming in the same instance.
Michael Sailstorfer: Popcorn
Key to this conversion was knocking through the vast concrete walls to create open and intertwined rooms where artworks can be viewed from numerous directions and on more than one level. Pockets of sounds and smells from the various mixed-media installations echo throughout the building so that on every one of the Bunker’s five floors, the visitor is confronted with overlapping soundscapes. Alicja Kwade’s amplification of the sound of a clock’s ticking, for example, means the entire Bunker resonates with the passage of time. And as a result, the whole exhibition is suspended within an adventure that continually cross-references itself.
Ai Weiwei: Tree
All of the artworks on display come direct from Christian and Karen Boros’ personal collection. Many of the bigger items such as Ai Weiwei’s six-meter high Tree and Michael Sailstorfer’s Popcorn are so large they couldn’t reasonably be exhibited in a space any smaller. When asked about this, Christian Boros said: “Art is created to be noticed. It should not be allowed to disappear into boxes and storerooms; it should be put on display. Collecting brings with it certain obligations.”
Thomas Ruff: Stern
The current exhibition in the Bunker includes site-specific works by Klara Lidén, astronomical pictures by Thomas Ruff, photography by Turner prize winner Wolfgang Tillmans, and fragments of the Statue of Liberty reconstructed to scale by artist Danh Vo.
Danh Vo: We the people
But regardless of whether those names mean anything to you or not; the Sammlung Boros Bunker is a creative shelter so awe-inspiring that you simply have to see it for yourself. It will tear down any walls you might have erected between the art, architecture, curation and design worlds - even those that are 1.40m thick.