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Seven-year-old ‘mini-Picasso’ shakes up German art world

Mikail Akar doesn't flinch as the cameras click around him. Born in 2012, the German artistic prodigy has spent half his life in the limelight.

Seven-year-old 'mini-Picasso' shakes up German art world
The then 6-year-old Akar at an exhibition for his paintings in Hamburg in February 2019. Photo: DPA

With his striped jumper, goofy grin and dreams of becoming a professional footballer, Akar seems just like any other seven-year-old boy.

Yet the Cologne-born youngster is actually an expressionist whizz kid who has taken the international art scene by storm.

Dubbed the “pre-school Picasso” by German media, Akar's paintings now sell for thousands of euros to buyers from across the world.

'Enough action figures'

“At just seven years old, he is established in the art world. There is interest from Germany, France and the USA,” his father and manager, Kerem Akar, told AFP.

READ ALSO: Art in Germany: 10 critically-acclaimed galleries you can't miss

Akar senior discovered Mikail's precocious talent by chance several years ago, when he gifted his son a canvas and some handprint paints for his fourth birthday.

“We had already bought him enough cars and action figures, so we had the idea of getting him a canvas,” Kerem Akar said.

“The first picture looked fantastic, and I thought at first that my wife had painted it.”

“I thought maybe it was just coincidence, but by the second and third pictures it was clear he had talent.”

Akar with his parents Kerem (l) und Elvan at a Hamburg gallery in February 2019. Photo: DPA

Boxing gloves

Akar's talent is visible in his latest collection, a collaboration with Germany and Bayern Munich football star Manuel Neuer.

One work in the collection was recently sold for 11,000 euros, with proceeds going to Neuer's children's charity.

An explosion of colour reminiscent of Jackson Pollock, the piece is typical of Akar's abstract expressionist style.

The seven-year-old tells AFP that his idols include Pollock, Michael Jackson and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

He has also developed his own techniques, which include applying paint by punching the canvas with his father's boxing gloves.

At a presentation of Akar's new work at a private gallery in Berlin last month, one visitor said she was “speechless” upon discovering that the artist was a child who was just starting primary school.

“The balance and harmony of the composition — I wouldn't expect that from a child,” Arina Daehnick, a photographer from Berlin, told AFP.

Diana Achtzig, director of the Achtzig Gallery for Contemporary Art in Berlin, said she was impressed by Akar's “imagination and variation”.

“As long as he has someone supporting him and not exploiting him, then he has a great future ahead of him,” she said.

Football dreams

Akar himself says his dreams for when he has grown up lie elsewhere.

“When I'm older I want to be a football player,” he said, launching into an excited account of a recent 8-0 victory with his school team.

“Painting is quite tiring for me. Sometimes it can take a long time…especially with boxing gloves,” he said.

His father insists that he and his wife are careful not to push their son too hard and to protect him from the trappings of fame.

“If it gets too much for him, we will intervene. We turn down a lot of requests,” said the elder Akar.

“He only paints when he wants to. Sometimes that is once a week, sometimes
once a month.”

Successful brand

Yet Akar senior also admits that his life has changed dramatically since discovering his son's talent, and that he and his wife now “live for art”.

A former salesman and recruitment agent, the 38-year-old has since switched
to managing Mikail full time.

He has founded his own agency, and helped to establish his son as a successful brand.

At the event in Berlin, young Mikail rummages through a box of freshly ordered baseball caps adorned with his official logo.

He now has more than 40,000 followers on Instagram, and will exhibit his work abroad for the first time in the spring.

“Our next exhibition is in Cologne,” said the boy's father. “After that, we are going to Paris!”

By Kit Holden

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ART

Eight online events in Germany not to miss in February 2021

With tougher Covid-19 restrictions now in place in Germany, travelling and socialising have become increasingly limited. So we’ve compiled a list of fun events for you to enjoy from the comfort of your own home!

Eight online events in Germany not to miss in February 2021
The entrance to Berlin's Alte Nationalgallerie. Photo: DPA

Here are some events and ongoing activities to look out for in February.

Berlin Philharmonic returns to the 1920s, Saturday, February 13th 2021 at 6:45pm

Berliner Philharmoniker is streaming the 1920s First Symphony Opera, one of German composer Kurt Weill’s early performances. 

As described by the orchestra, this piece’s music is “captivating and triumphant”. The music was composed in 1927 and its story takes place in ancient Greece. 

Final Girls Film Festival, February 4th at 1pm to February 8th at 11:59pm

Final Girls Berlin Film Festival showcases horror cinema that’s directed, written, or produced by women and non-binary filmmakers. 

The festival is committed to creating space for female voices and visions, whether monstrous, heroic or some messy combination of the two, in the horror genre.

Berliner Festspiele, Strong Pieces Stream, Until March 

Berliner Festspiele is showing two of their top picks.

“The Misanthrope” is a Molière’s classic staged by Anne Lenk, and translated by Jürgen Gosch and Wolfgang Wiens. It’s been called a straightforward delight with an exceptional concentration of language and wit. 

And “Man appears in the Holocene” is staged by Alexander Giesches after Max Frisch’s novella about mankind’s Sisyphus-struggle against their own doom.

König Gallerie, 'Dreaming of Alligator Head' by Claudia Comte, January 21st 2021- January 12th 2022

With her digital solo exhibition Dreaming of Alligator Head, Comte creates a scenario that is impossible in reality: She plants her underwater sculpture park in the König Gallerie app. The digital visitors inside experience a fascinating underwater world without having to go on a physical journey. 

Comte also seeks to raise awareness of marine environments and ask how an artistic object can change the world. Check out the exhibition on the König Gallerie app. 

Galerie Tanja Wagner, How to be human, until February 13th 2021 

Celebrating 10 years of the opening of her contemporary art gallery, Tanja Wagner’s exhibition, How to Be Human showcases her personal favourite works of artists she has collaborated with.

It includes Grit Richter’s famous work, Das Letzte Wort, as well as other works that in Wagner’s opinion, seek to explore the question ’How to Be Human’. 

Alte Nationalgalerie Online, until further notice

The Alte Nationalgalerie was set up as a “sanctuary for art and science”. The idea for a national gallery was realised after the donation of a collection of paintings by Caspar David Friedrich to the Prussian state. 

Since Covid-19 has made it difficult to visit the otherwise very popular museum, the gallery has made its collection available online until further notice. 

Naturkundemuseum Berlin, Beats and Bones Podcast and Livestream, Mondays at 7pm, until further notice 

Berlin’s Naturkundemuseum is offering a podcast series where nature experts from the museum answer questions about the diversity of nature, evolution, the formation of the earth, climate change and insect death.

They explore questions such as “Who knows our earliest ancestors were 480 million-year-old jawless fish?” Or, ‘What is the Achilles heel of Tyrannosaurus rex’? 

Catch new episodes every Monday on Instagram, along with a live stream through the museum with experts accompanying you through the collection and exhibition. The previous episodes are available on Spotify as well as Youtube. 

Anne Frank Zentrum, All about Anne, until further notice 

The Anne Frank Zentrum's exhibition “All about Anne” is normally presented at Hackescher Markt in Berlin-Mitte. Since lockdown, the exhibition has been made available online. 

Its exhibition tells the story of Anne Frank's life and the time in which she lived. It also explains why her diary is so well-known today and shows that her thoughts are still relevant. 

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