How Berlin influences Celebrity Artists from around the World

Nadja Sayej has interviewed them all: From Susan Sarandon, to Yoko Ono, Dita Von Teese and James Franco. In seven years she found her way into the worlds of the rich and famous, and listened to extravagant stories told at VIP parties over champagne glasses at pool bars. But, despite all these quirky talks about glamour, life philosophies, and bizarre scenarios some celebrities took their time to mention the German capital and what role it played in their life or for their work. Nadja Sayej’s new Celebrity Interview Book, a collection of 21 interviews of some of the world’s biggest stars, will be published on October 26th and we have already collected a few Berlin anecdotes for you…

Patti Smith

…about her photography work in Berlin

“I took one in Berlin in the cemetery of where Bertholt Brecht is buried, they have two huge guardian angels and I love statues and I often take photographs of them. I don’t like bothering people and it’s just nice to have a human form in a photograph. I find especially with certain light, they’re just so beautiful. Sometimes you get a statue and with a certain light, they feel as if they have an empathetic, human quality. I believe in guardian angels, too.”


Olafur Eliasson

…on his work as a professor in Berlin

“As an art professor at the Berlin University of the Arts, we have all kinds of people visiting the school. I don’t think that so unusual for an art school. We are excited and I am proud to be teaching. As an art school, I have an obligation to introduce different types of thinking, different power systems, from science, commerce, alternative thinkers and shamans.”


Jarvis Cocker

…on his work at Volksbühne

“When we’re onstage together [at the Volksbühne in Berlin], we [Chilly Gonzales] like to make each other laugh a bit. It’s strange because there’s a tendency to think people who make jokes are not serious about what they’re doing. We’re both realized humour can be a defence but also a form of attack. I don’t like art that doesn’t have an element of humour to it. If it’s devoid of humour, it’s devoid of humanity. Sometimes the way to deal with situations is to laugh at them because otherwise, they can crush you. We’re all learning that with certain events in the world. If you really let them get to you, they’d really destroy you.”


Jean Paul Gaultier

…on his inspirations for a Friedrichstadt Palast piece

“I had complete freedom, it was fabulous designing costumes for the Friedrichstadt Palast. There are hot fire lips with a romantic extravagance, love dolls, there is also a reference to Klaus Nomi and Berlin. There are also some punkettes in the show like Nina Hagen. She is very inspiring. She is the first punk, German punk, it was her. I saw her perform in 1979. History. I’ve been visiting Berlin since before the fall of the Wall. I love the mix of modernity and tradition; you can still dance tango here. There is a cabaret where people can dance, like Clarchens Ballhaus. The old Berlin, I love it when you can go through the history.”


Mario Testino

…about freedom of expression in Berlin

“Berlin has been very important for my creative process; I like Berlin because of its nature, it allows people with not a lot of money to live and produce their work. I’ve been lucky to see the artists in their studios but also to meet with the galleries who are the great minds who select their work. When I come to Berlin, I spend free time on a bicycle and go from gallery to gallery, studio to studio. I learned a lot about freedom of expression here – it’s something you give to yourself or take away from yourself. Nobody else is telling us we can’t do it. It’s on us.”

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