Kevin Berlin’s works are found in the collections of Kim Basinger, Luciano Pavarotti, Bill and Hillary Clinton, HRH Princesse Antonella de Orleans-Bourbon, Howard Lorber, and Henry Buhl. Berlin. A Yale University alumnus, he studied at the Slade School of Fine Art and has been featured in The New York Times, Shanghai Daily, BBC Radio, and over 40 television stations across the United States. Kevin Berlin’s recent solo exhibitions include shows in London, New York, and The Hague. Berlin is represented by RJD Gallery in Bridgehampton.
Kevin Berlin and ballet: Berlin has worked with some of the most famous dancers and theaters in the world, including the Kirov Ballet, Saint Petersburg, and the National Opera and Ballet in Kiev, Ukraine.
His monumental portraits in cast bronze and glass have been posed for by Anastasia Volochkova, Maestro Luciano Pavarotti, and Maestro Valery Gergiev. Berlin’s most recent ballet exhibition, The End of the World, took place this January at the Florence Dance Center in Italy.
Kevin Berlin lives and works in Southampton and Florence, Italy.
Baronesse Louise von DüsterLohe: In the Hamptons, you might be best known as the guy who wears a top hat but in the art world you’re known for painting, sculpture, and performance art.
Kevin Berlin: I love working in every medium. If I like the color, I paint it.
If I like the form or movement, I sculpt it. Maybe the message re- quires music, green body paint, laser guns, or the drama of a live audience. In every case, the message comes first. Artists have a responsibility to draw attention to important social issues, whether it’s saving the tigers from extinction or the misuse of smartphones.
BLD: Your sculpture at first impression seems traditional.
KB: That’s on purpose, to draw you in. Once you’re paying attention, I hope to start a con- temporary conversation. All of my sculpture is narrative. Every sculpture tells a story. This basic premise of communicating your ideas or feelings with sculpture has been done for a long time. In ancient Egypt, pharaohs built over-sized monuments and obelisks to tell their story. The Poseidons and Venuses of the Greco-Roman period and the religious sculptures of the Renaissance all strongly reflected important issues of their time.
BLD: You’ve been working with the theme of classical ballet for more than fifteen years. How did you get started?
KB: It started in Montana in 1989. I was working on some figure drawings and I happened to have found a classical ballerina to pose. I wanted her to do something that a ballerina would never do. So I asked her to fall down. The results were inspiring because they were completely outside of a dancer’s repertoire of movement. In fact, if a ballerina falls down, she generally loses her job.
BLD: You spent a whole year backstage in 2003 with the legendary Kirov Ballet in Saint Petersburg.
KB: Yes, I woke up in Italy one morning, and decided to move to Russia and paint ballerinas. It happened to be the 300th Anniversary of the founding of Saint Petersburg and my theater of choice, the Mariinsky, was a true mecca for ballet as Tchaikovsky composed the music for Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and The Nut- cracker, which were first performed at this theater. By some small miracle, mostly because I knew nothing about ballet, I was invited backstage. It was a sink or swim situation. In the end, I got an education about ballet not available in any school and ended up working personally with over 40 dancers, many who have since left an important mark on classical ballet.
BLD: Your first themes were about private moments for the dancers backstage and between acts.
KB: I focused on the interior and secret life of a dancer, not those mo- ments on stage, but rather private moments, such as rehearsing and about to go on stage. My first important ballet works had titles such as The Last Thing That Dies Is Hope, The Happy Ending, and Fear of Falling.
BLD: So you’ve been sculpting figures and large-scale outdoor pieces in bronze for almost thirty years. When did you start sculpting ballet?
KB: Actually, last year. I started my new series, The End of the World, which features the secret and hidden thoughts of classical dancers. In the works, the dancers do pretty much everything their mother told them not to. There are dancers doing everything from eating Nutella to jumping off bridges. The first major exhibition opened in Florence, Italy, this past January, and I am very pleased to be presenting new works at RJD Gallery’s new space in Bridgehampton this summer.
BLD: Tell us about some of the new works.
KB: All of the new sculptures are based on stories that dancers have told me in private. I have discovered that many of these stories have a universal element to them that applies not just to the ballet world but also to the hopes, dreams, and fears of all people. The F*** You Ballerina, for example, asks a question: When is the right time to express yourself and when is it better to remain silent?