Ben Pundole’s Postcard From Berlin
Hotelier and design guru Ben Pundole recently hit Berlin with girlfriend Chelsea Leyland for the city’s epic Gallery Weekend. In between dancing on tables with Julian Schnabel, scouring flea markets for vintage Rolexes, and watching the sunrise at a “glamorous squat,” he found time to send back a few snaps.
A good friend of mine was showing as an artist at Berlin Gallery Weekend, Jonas Burgert. It’s like Art Basel without all the sponsors. We arrived Friday for Jonas’ show and Julian Schnabel’s show. The Schnabel show was great, followed by a fantastic dinner at Paris Bar, which despite its name is a really, truly authentic Berlin restaurant. By the end of the night, everyone was on the tables dancing. It’s like a really rowdy place, where all the artwork on the walls has been donated by artists over the years.
We stayed at the Michelberger in Berlin, which opened last year. It’s beloved by the music industry; Universal Records is a three-minute walk away, and the famous Berlin clubs are very nearby. All the DJs from around the world stay there. It’s a very community-spirited hotel. They’re partners with the local distillery and they make their own liquor, and they have their own music festival. They’re even launching their own coconut water next month. It’s very inspiring. I hope when King and Grove Williamsburg is renovated and open, people get as much inspiration as I did from The Michelberger.
Saturday we went to three or four food markets and flea markets—they’re absolutely amazing in Berlin. Stalls with the most incredible fur coats and vintage watches. Like a lot of places in Europe, there’s a real weekend market culture. And at night, we went to the clubs. They’re like nothing I’ve ever seen before—the best clubs in the world. Forget Ibiza. I’ve been to Ibiza many times. These clubs, they have an authentic grit, and the music is so progressive. And because there’s a no-photographs, no-phones rule, people are very present. These clubs are just beyond brilliant. They’re not the kind of clubs you can just walk up to; you need to know someone. Luckily we had a man on the ground who helped us out.
The final day was May 1st, May Day. Nobody works—it’s thousands and thousands and thousands of people hanging out in the park, listening to reggae, drinking, smoking. That turns into another massive techno rave. I’m talking 20, maybe 50 thousand people. Maybe more? I have no idea. Berlin is the most fantastic city. I’d like to say I’m happy to be home, but…
Left: Jonas Burgert’s exhibition at the Blain/Southern Gallery; right, Julian Schnabel and friends at Schnabel’s after-party at Paris Bar.
Left: The Oberbaum Bridge, that brings together boroughs formerly divided by the Berlin Wall; right, the Berlin Cathedral.
Left: The lobby of the Michelberger Hotel; right, afternoon tea at the hotel.
Left: Chelsea models a vintage Rolex found at the flea market; right, Chelsea’s club stamps from KaterHolzig and Berghaim’s Panorama Bar.