9:47am

Thu April 7, 2011
Life in Berlin

'Kunsthaus Tacheles' Auction Postponed At The Last Minute

In 2008, Onyx Ashanti moved from California to Berlin. A self-described conceptual inventor who mixes live looping, sound design and jazz improvisation, the alternative art space Tacheles was one of the first places the American visited in Berlin.

"It's a little bit anarchist. The thing I like about it- it's what art can be, everywhere, if you leave it to it's own devices," Ashanti says.

Tacheles became his playground, as it has for so many artists over the past 21 years. Ashanti says he likes going to Tacheles because of the freedom; he doesn't have to ask anyone's permission.

"I don't have to get on a list. I just go there, test some things, distribute a few CD's, and life is good," he says.

On April 4th, life got pretty confusing for the Tacheles artists. This past Monday, HSH Nordbank, owner of the Berlin landmark, was set to auction off the 25,000 square meter property, but the auction was postponed at the last minute.

A spokeswoman from the HSH Nordbank said that the process would continue soon. The court didn't rule out that a deal had already been made.

About 40 Tacheles artists demonstrated in front of the court in Mitte where the auction was to take place.

Roman Kroke says he noticed some activities at Tacheles before he headed over to the protest.

"There is the first change, that the gastronomy they closed today. And, well, they started to take down the backyard. You can call it a game or whatever. So many different entities are playing around with it. If you want to get into the details you can spend all your life with it," Kroke says.

After the auction was cancelled, "Gruppe Tacheles," who managed the gastronomy and the cinema at the art squat, accepted a one Million Euro offer to leave the property.

Also gone are the self-made studios in the backyard.

Others like Martin Reiter, spokesperson of the Kunsthaus Tacheles, don't want to leave the prime property that still houses 30 studios and a theater.

Reiter urges the city of Berlin to buy the former department store and turn Tacheles into a legitimate art foundation.

"Hi boys and girls of the government. You saved the banks, you saved the big companies. Maybe you should save your own life. Save the culture," Reiter says.

Reiter, who joined the Tacheles scene in 1994, is ready to fight for the unusual art house. He's used to it; the Tacheles artists have been campaigning to save their creative home for years.

"It's sort of a school. A lot of artists in the house have learned a lot about mankind, economies, and money. It would be a lie to say we suffer all day long, and in the evening we start to cry." Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.