Scholar/author David Jelavich has said the study of cultural history-especially that of modernism in Europe, and especially Germany-is most rewarding when it applies to cities and the interaction of their particular elite and popular cultures. Two new titles about Berlin deliver extraordinary visual pleasure while managing to say something appropriate about a well-delineated subject: the urban culture of Germany's capital in times of hopeful uncertainty. British art historian Gisbourne and photographer Rakete present a look at 19 established contemporary artists and their work in the city via interviews, biographical summaries, and some 170 mostly color photographs. The varied creations of these artists, most born in the 1960s and 1970s, often employ stunning materials to comment on consumer culture. Rakete's images show us the artists both inside their studios and outdoors in the Berlin they are keen to represent.
Metzger (Art Acad. of Karlsruhe, Germany; Gustav Klimt: Drawings and Watercolors), meanwhile, records a Berlin very different from Gisbourne and Rakete's "unfinished" city, one decades younger. The book is a delight to pore through: a plethora of wonderful but as-yet-unfamiliar black-and-white photographs chosen by Brandstätter, the Viennese editor, overwhelms the text, much as our consciousness of what was to come after these intermezzo years overlays all. Youthfulness and the scale of the city engendered a self-consciously modern metropolis, expressed not only in painting, literature, theater, film, and dance, but also in journalism, radio, advertising, and propaganda. In all this, Metzger finds a local definition of modernity-one that required"distraction" and offered "the aesthetic answer to the Weimar Republic." The Twentieswill be welcome in every public library; Berlin Art Now is suited for specialized collections.