German photographer Sven Marquardt opens first Australian exhibition

His images are confronting – dark and industrial.


A window into Berlin’s anarchist subculture.

The man himself is the same. His face is tattooed, and heavy metal earrings hang from his ears. His lips and nose also adorned in jewellery.

Sven Marquardt is as well-known for his photographs as he is for his position as the unforgiving bouncer of the infamous Berghain nightclub in Berlin.

“He is an artwork in and of himself, he is a cultural icon,” said Brad Spalding, the director of The Substation Gallery in Newport west of Melbourne where Marquardt’s work will be exhibited from Thursday until the end of May.

But icon isn’t a word Marquardt is comfortable with.

“It would be stupid to say that about yourself, it wasn’t planned,” Marquardt said.

“It just eventuates if, for many years, you do what you believe in.”

His unique vision is a product of a childhood in East Berlin, when the wall still separated the Communist region from West Germany. 

The Berlin Wall’s destruction brought about a new era of German culture.

“There was this grey area where there was no regulation and no rules yet and that led to extreme chaos but also extreme creativity,” said Gabriele Urban of the German culture society the Goethe-Institut.

She said this chaos and creativity was evident in Marquardt’s work.

“Everybody sees something different in Sven but it is all Berlin and the Berlin experience,” Ms Urban said.

Marquardt said his first hand experience as the gate keeper of the most exclusive techno venue in Berlin helped him find inspiration.

“Through my work as a bouncer I get to see the new the next generation of people and I get to feel the next zeitgeist,” he said.

Photographer and bouncer aren’t typically associated professions, but Marquardt said he couldn’t give up one for the other.

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“Both of my jobs are linked through this focus on people,” he said.

“I need to focus on people when I am a photographer and also when I am a bouncer.”  

He may be a cultural icon in Germany but the appeal of Sven Marquardt extends far beyond Europe, with tickets to a ‘talk with the artist’ session in Melbourne selling out in two hours.

“His identity and the identity of his work is closely link and I think that’s why people are so interested in him,” Mr Spalding said.

One question Marquardt said people were always interested in asking was: ‘just how do you get past the nightclub bouncer?’

“Just be yourself,” he said “It’s that simple.”

The works will be on display in Melbourne until May 31 before heading to Sydney.

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