Berlin is undergoing the same process of gentrification like numerous other major cities around the world. Consequently, more and more expensive housing and big retail chains are taking over in Germany’s capital, especially in districts like Mitte. When you look a little closer though, you’ll realize that it’s still possible to find subculture between all those nicely polished house fronts. One example for these safe havens clearly is Haus Schwarzenberg, a place that Pop-Art artist Jim Avignon therefore once compared to a gallic village.
As you’re facing the house at Rosenthaler Straße 39, you’ll first see Café Cinema, a bar that was first opened in 1990, just a glimpse after present-day Germany was officially proclaimed and the divided city of Berlin became one again. Up until now, the café is a favorite not only among tourists, but also Berliners that enjoy the cosy atmosphere between antique furniture, old movie posters and soothing candlelight. Now as you walk inside the backyard that’s all covered up in streetart, you’ll find works by internationally acclaimed artists as well as newcomers. Creative minds like El Bocho from Berlin, Morganico from London or wrdsmth from Los Angeles have left their marks here. A mural of Berlin-based artist Caro Pepe is the newest addition in this one-of-a-kind open air street art gallery.
However, behind the colorful walls, you‘ll also find two museums. Both are dedicated to educate about the darkest time in German history and the personal tragedies related to it. The first museum tells the story of Otto Weidt’s Workshop for the Blind which was located in Haus Schwarzenberg. During the Second World War, manufacturer Otto Weidt employed Jewish workers, most of them blind or deaf. Various life stories testify to how Mr. Weidt made efforts to protect his employees from deportation and later on also hid them in a secret room that is now part of the museum. The opposite side of the backyard is home to the permanent exhibition “Anne Frank. here & now” which remembers the girl and her diary that went down in history. Unlike Otto Weidt, Anne Frank didn’t have any direct relation to Haus Schwarzenberg though.
Going further to the next backyard, you’re not only going to find Eschloraque bar and Central cinema, but also Neurotitan gallery. Right now, the gallery is showing the exhibtion Current Habbits, featuring works of Quintessenz and Kera, amongst others. It’s worth noticing that these artists have also contributed to The Haus. The Haus was a temporary street art project in Berlin that has caused a lot of attention worldwide. Its successful concept of letting street artists take over a house before it’s getting demolished is rumored to be repeated in Texas soon (see write-up about The Haus here).
If you read until here and think it can’t get any more diverse than that at Haus Schwarzenberg, then there’s the Monsterkabinett. Hidden in a cellar, you’ll find this walk-through art space produced by the Berlin-based artist group Dead Chickens. A dramatic presentation by one of the international performers combined with original music set the stage for the kinetic, digitally driven and pneumatically powered mechanical monsters. These obscure creatures sing, dance and recite poetry in their natural habitat. Thereby, Monsterkabinett offers you an insight into an art form typical for the 80s and 90s, presented in an underground labyrinth, where eleven elderly, yet agile robot friends entertain the audience. Feel like you have no idea what I’m talking about? That’s because you have to see it with your own eyes, just like the rest of Haus Schwarzenberg! Thankfully, you have plenty of time to visit. For its 25th anniversary in 2015, the society of the house was able to renew its contract with the landlord, offering a home for alternative culture in the heart of Berlin for at least a decade longer.