IN Berlin, autumn means art. Every year for the last 13 years, art hounds have descended on the city for Art Forum, the contemporary-art fair that showcases works from around the world.
The forum's popularity has spawned satellite fairs during the same week, like Preview Berlin and the brand-new DEF: Drafts Establishing Future. Galleries not participating in the official events will put on their best faces for collectors and curators attending the forum, which runs from Sept. 24 to 27.
This year, visitors drawn by the forum have yet another art district to scour in a city famous for them. More than 20 galleries now dot the Heidestrasse, a stretch with a decidedly industrial vibe (it was formerly the site of a freight-train yard) near both the main train station and the Hamburger Bahnhof, a contemporary art museum.
"It's that Berlin thing in which you have an absolutely central location that's still a wasteland," said Juerg Judin, who manages the Nolan Judin Berlin gallery (Heidestrasse 50; 49-30-394-048-40; www.nolan-judin.de), an airy courtyard space, in partnership with David Nolan, a New York-based dealer. "You've got highbrow galleries back to back with Turkish car mechanics."
On the same side of the street is the namesake gallery of the British dealer Hamish Morrison (No. 46-52; 49-30-280-405-77; www.hamishmorrison.com), a skylighted, 7,000-square-foot space that opened in 2006. A year later, a branch of Haunch of Venison (No. 46; 49-30-397-439-63; www.haunchofvenison.com), a chain of galleries, opened in a hangar-like exhibition hall.
But the area truly exploded in 2008, when several spaces opened in a warren of buildings at Heidestrasse 50, including Nolan Judin. Others are Tanas (49-30-895-646-10; www.tanasberlin.de), a project space dedicated to Turkish art; Plan B (49-30-398-052-36; www.plan-b.ro), a spinoff of an artist-run Romanian gallery; and the renowned Berlin collector and curator René Block's Edition Block (49-30-323-040-69; www.editionblock.de).
There is still more art nearby, across the street in a loading zone covered in cobblestone and dotted with funky outdoor sculptures. Six enormous galleries occupy a former warehouse at Invalidenstrasse 50/51, next to the Bahnhof, that has been dubbed the "Halle am Wasser" ("Hall on the Water"), after the Berlin-Spandau canal running behind the building. The hall opened in 2008 after being spiffed up with a slanted gray-fabric facade.
"This was a deserted area, almost forgotten," said Friedrich Loock, a local art-world fixture who runs the Loock and Wohnmaschine galleries there (49-30-308-720-15; www.loock-galerie.de). The space also includes the blue-chip gallery Arndt+Partner (49-30-280-81-23; www.arndt-partner.de), as well as Andersens Contemporary (49-30-302-087-60; www.andersen-s.de), a branch of a Danish gallery.
Though a few of the galleries are directly participating in the fairs — Plan B has a booth at Art Forum, and Arndt+Partner and Andersens will each feature one artist at the satellite DEF show — the owners are also hoping to attract visiting art tourists.
"We don't get people who are accidentally coming by," said Lisa Bosse, the managing director of Haunch of Venison. "We get dedicated visitors, who know there are galleries here."
What's next? Municipal authorities have drafted an extensive urban-renewal plan to transform Heidestrasse into a slick residential and commercial neighborhood. Even so, the art crowd is banking on spending a good decade, if not longer, in a location that is both central and off the beaten track. - By KIMBERLY BRADLEY