Berlin Cultural Calendar 2014: 12 Must-See Art and Music Events

The Culture Trip

The size of Berlin and the scope of its cultural institutions mean that something creative is always happening on the city’s art and culture scene. Luckily, the ones responsible for all this creativity have diversified interests, and 2014’s cultural calendar includes opera, contemporary dance, light shows and photography. From art in museums to music on the squares, we explore the best events taking place every month in the German capital.

January | Franz Ackermann at the Berlinische Galerie

Until 24 March
This bright and colourful show by a leading name in contemporary art will make for a joyful visit to Berlinische Galerie. Franz Ackermann’s Hills and Doubts exhibition is on display specifically for Berlinische Galerie, and it is one to stand in wonder at. Bold colours, attention to detail and photographic touches have completely transformed the museum’s large entrance hall where Ackermann’s works have been placed. A mix of a mural, paintings and photography, this installation needs to be looked at from a distance to discover its whole, and up close to experience its multicoloured facets.
Berlinische Galerie, Alte Jakobstraße 124–128, Berlin, Germany, +49 30 78902600

February | Josef Beuys at the Hamburger Bahnhof

Until 21 April
The Nationalgalerie’s museum for contemporary art is showing an unusual series by Josef Beuys, The Secret Block for a Secret Person in Ireland. Beuys began selecting these drawings – which would eventually grow to 456 – in 1958, and it is believed the ‘secret person’ mentioned in the title is James Joyce, while the word ‘block’ suggests the drawings have an almost sculptural dimension. For Beuys fans, this is a wonderful chance to see this unusual work. Another reason to visit this exhibition is to get a closer look at the Hamburger Bahnhof museum’s building. It was originally one of the first stations of the German rail system, opening in December 1846 as the terminus of the railway line between Hamburg and Berlin. It is Berlin’s only remaining train station from that time.
Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Invalidenstraße 50-51, Berlin, Germany, +49 30 39783411

March | MarchMusic – Festival of Contemporary Music

14 – 23 March
The best of the contemporary music scene from around the world comes to Berlin during MarchMusic. Orchestral and chamber music, musical theatre and experimental works by both established artists and upcoming musicians will be presented with a goal to cross the boundaries between tradition and innovation. The 2014 theme, To Berlin! To Berlin!, intends to show the city as a global destination that gathers people from all over the world. Programme highlights include Einstein on the Beach, an opera in four acts by Philip Glass and Robert Wilson; Berlin PianoPercussion and a performance by Audrey Chen and Sven-Åke Johansson. With more than 30 events, including world premieres and new productions, these March days will be a musical discovery.
Haus der Berliner Festspiele and other venues throughout the city. For more information, please visit the festival’s website.

April | Festtage

11 – 20 April
The musical discoveries continue in April, this time with a focus on opera. Festtage (Festival Days), organised by the Staatsoper, celebrates two 200-year anniversaries this year: those of Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi. The highlight of the festival will surely be the rarely performed requiem of Max Reger by Plácido Domingo, Daniel Barenboim, Staatskapelle Berlin and Staatsopernchor in the Philharmonie building. There will also be a new production of Wagner’s Tannhäuser, numeroussymphony concerts by the Vienna Philharmonic and Daniel Barenboim’s duo piano recital, performed with fellow Argentinean Martha Argerich.
Staatsoper im Schiller Theater, Bismarckstraße 110, Berlin, Germany, +49 30 203540
Philharmonie Berlin, Herbert-von-Karajan-Straße 1, Berlin, Germany, +49 30 254880

May | Ai Weiwei – Evidence

3 April – 7 July
A major solo exhibition of the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is set to be held at Martin-Gropius-Bau, an institution known for its dedication to contemporary art and photography. The exhibition, developed specifically for this site, will be displayed in the building’s large atrium. Arguably China’s most important contemporary artist, Ai Weiwei uses concept art, performance, sculpture, photography and more to create statement-making, legendary pieces. His voice in social, political and cultural criticism makes him an artist worth seeing.
Martin-Gropius-Bau, Niederkirchnerstraße 7, Berlin, Germany, +49 30 254860

June | Berlin Biennale

29 May – 3 August
The 8th Berlin Biennale will bring together a range of local and international artists with the aim of exploring the intersection between historical narratives and individuals’ lives. The biennale has commissioned a piece by Norwegian-Greek artist Andreas Angelidakis entitled Crash Pad. For this, the front building of the KW Institute for Contemporary Art will be transformed into a multi-purpose room and library with an eye to recreating a 19th century salon. The Biennale team’s overall goal for this year’s event is to look at Berlin as a city – its present relationship with its history, its architectural landscape and how citizens relate to both.
Various venues throughout the city. For more information, please visit the Biennale’s website.

July | Classic Open Air

3 – 7 July
The Classic Open Air Festival is a music lover’s summer dream. One of Berlin’ most beautiful squares in the historical centre becomes the scene for wonderful musical concerts on warm summer evenings. For a span of five nights, classic and modern melodies are played as concertgoers enjoy the music surrounded by classical architecture. Organisers have planned something for everyone from a crossover concert featuring classical, film and rock music to an Italian evening of Neapolitan and Sicilian folk music and traditional serenades. The week begins with a firework show after the first concert, and the final night features German musicians.
Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin, Germany. For more information, please visit the festival’s website.

August | Dance in August

15 – 30 August
Considered one of the most important dance festivals in Europe, Dance in August features the freshest and best in contemporary dance. Productions and performers from about a dozen different countries, world premieres and the chance to see experimental choreography and new formats all mean that the festival gets bigger and better every year. Because of organisers’ eagerness to experiment, attendees are regularly treated to new dance experiences, which may include a mix of dance and performance, music, still and moving images and unusual staging. The festival director for this, the platform’s 26th edition, will be Finnish curator Virve Sutinen.
Various venues throughout the city. For more information, please visit the festival’s website.

September | Berlin Art Week

16 – 21 September
Berlin as a city for making art is the vision of the organisers of Berlin Art Week, where galleries, artists, curators and institutions all come together for six days of collaboration. This is the time of year when contemporary art galleries pull out all the stops, showcasing their artists, creating new group and solo shows and putting on some magnificent exhibitions for an art-hungry public. The week’s programme includes performances, exhibitions, receptions and talks. Another special feature is the collaboration that goes on between institutions. In 2013, Berlinische Galerie, Deutsche Bank KunstHalle, KW Institute for Contemporary Art and Nationalgalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin joined forces to create Painting Forever!, an exhibition examining contemporary painting in Berlin.
Various venues throughout the city. For more information, please visit the event’s website.

October | Festival of Lights

10 – 19 October
Enjoy Berlin’s brisk autumn evenings and some spectacular light projections in October when the Festival of Lights sets Berlin aglow. The Brandenburg Gate, TV Tower, Berliner Dom Cathedral, Funkturm Radio Tower and many other buildings and squares will be dazzling with colourful light projections every night. Light installation artists from Germany and abroad will be charged with creating this glittering masterpiece. In addition to special tours, organisers prepare a side programme of cultural events including jazz concerts, Open Door evenings and sound and light shows.
Public buildings throughout the city. For more information, please visit the festival’s website

November | European Month of Photography

17 October – 16 November
Held every two years, the European Month of Photography transforms its host city into a massive photography exhibition. Numerous organisations and artists get involved in this city-wide show, from museums, cultural institutions and galleries to embassies, German government offices, photography schools and project spaces, all of which pull out the picture albums to see how they can get creative with this wonderful medium. Photography is a universal art form, and the European Month of Photography does its best to showcase it. From black and white photography to contemporary video art, visitors have the opportunity to see how the genre has evolved and how it has been used to make a statement on historic, political and contemporary issues. Organisers have planned more than 100 exhibitions and invited 500 participating artists.
Various venues throughout the city. For more information, please visit the event’s website.

December | Zeughausmesse – Decorative Arts Fair

Dates tbc
Contemporary art isn’t just to look at in a museum – it’s useful in everyday life and that’s the reason Berlin’s Zeughausmesse for Decorative Arts and Design launched a Decorative Arts Fair. Between 80 and 90 international and German designers chosen by an expert jury present their products for sale, from jewellery and fashion to home design products. But it’s not just about the sales – artist talks, design competition and honours awards make this an important event for product designers worldwide and the interested public.
Locations tbc. For more information, please visit the event’s website.