Spring in Berlin brings wind, rain, hail and storms — sometimes all on the same day. But the skies cleared Wednesday evening just in time for the performative installation of Michael Sailstorfer’s Silver Cloud. The German artist teamed with COS, the H&M-owned fashion chain known for its minimalist designs, to realize the artwork, which includes a sculpture, a performance and a video.

Sailstorfer, whose works can be found in the collections of the Georges Pompidou Center, Walker Art Center and the Boros Collection, to name a few, certainly knows how to make an impact.

His Silver Cloud plays with references to Andy Warhol’s 1966 Silver Clouds, a buoyant sea of helium-filled mylar balloons, and Michael Heizer’s 1969 Bern Depression, which saw the Austrian artist crush a museum sidewalk with a wrecking ball.  The new work takes one of Sailstorfer’s existing ideas, looped cloud sculptures formed from rubber truck tire inner tubes, and casts it in iron.  The resulting two-ton silver piece was suspended several meters up from a crane on Wednesday, and bashed repeatedly into the concrete yard of Sailstorfer’s studio.

“It’s not about dropping from the biggest height, it’s about dropping it from several heights to create more of a dance, more like a choreography,” Sailstorfer explained. “I think this piece is really about the balance — something between lightness and heaviness, floating and destruction.”

As the concrete buckled and disintegrated, an arty crowd, their black and denim accessorized with safety glasses, cheered the loudest kabooms and deepest impacts. But it wasn’t just an eve of destruction — guests could flee the intemperate weather for the warmth of Sailstorfer’s studio, which played host to a private party.

The Silver Cloud performance marked one of the early events of the city’s Gallery Weekend, which brings art, fashion and the in-crowd together and officially runs from April 29 to May 1.

The resulting video will be transformed into a slow-motion film. That will in turn appear in the window of the COS store on Berlin’s Neue Schönhauser Strasse, as well as on the brand’s Web site. The store will also host Sailstorfer on Thursday night for an artist’s talk.

It’s part of a continuing relationship between contemporary art and COS. COS head of women’s wear design Karin Gustafsson said she saw affinities between the modernist brand’s creative process and Michael Sailstorfer’s work, which often elevates the status of everyday items like popcorn, trees and truck tires.

“There are similarities in the way that we also tend to sort of focus around the ordinary styles and the recognizable pieces that we all know,” said Gustafsson. “We offer them in different ways, but we also like to rework them and deconstruct them sometimes, and recreate them in new ways.”

The commission from COS was Michael Sailstorfer’s first time working with a fashion brand, but he too found common ground after first meeting with the company two years ago.

“I knew COS already beforehand and I liked the brand, and that’s why it was a very positive thing for me to collaborate with COS, because there are similar ideas there,” said Sailstorfer.  “I think COS tends also to break [design] down to the very necessary things, and that is something which is familiar when I start a process as well.”

The Silver Cloud sculpture and the crater it created will remain on display at Sailstorfer’s studio until May 1st. After that, the concrete will be repaired and the space made ready for more mundane uses, like parking.


Silver Cloud hangs from a crane in this artist’s rendering.