Image: Camilo Godoy, AMIGXS (Self-portrait with Brendan, Carlos, and Jorge), 2017. Installation view at night of billboard produced by the International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP) at the Southeast corner of Ninth Avenue and 37th Street, Manhattan. Courtesy of the artist; PROXYCO Gallery, New York; and Dot Fiftyone Gallery, Miami.
“Kiss Protests – Queer Intimacy as Political Practice in Art” delves into the powerful role of art in showcasing queer intimacy as a form of political resistance.
Han Vogels essay highlights different examples of artistic exploration of queer tenderness and privacy, which has now transformed into a public political act. Artists use their work to make bold statements about queer realities and intimacy, commenting on political, cultural, and historical contexts that shape their experiences.
The significance of queer intimacy as a political practice is acknowledged to be intertwined with the artist’s unique perspective, influenced by race, gender, geography, and class. The diverse range of artworks and perspectives serve as a source of healing, courage, collective cohesion, and a potent political weapon on the path to queer emancipation.
What is a kiss? Two pairs of lips meeting. A collision of two people. “Kisses are the language of love,” the German poet Johann Georg Keil wrote. Nothing is as romantically embellished and loaded with different layers of meaning as a kiss.
Nevertheless, a kiss can also be resistive. Especially when the two bodies kissing do not conform to the heteronormative image of society. In the LGBTQIA+ community, the kiss has almost become a standardized political tool to make a statement at protests.
Showing queer intimacy in public spaces is often subject to risk. Homophobic and transphobic abuse, violence, arrests, and even death can result from a public kiss in some regions.
In 2017, the New York-based Colombian artist Camilo Godoy presented the work Self-portrait with Brendan, Carlos, and Jorge from AMIGXS, No. 1, on a larger-than-life billboard, depicting four men embracing in an intimate kiss. This caused a stir, serving as a protest against the (political) stigmatization and discrimination faced by gay men during the AIDS pandemic in the 1980s.
The representation of queer realities and intimacy was long confined to a select few, but today, artistic exploration of queer tenderness and privacy has evolved into a public political act. With the rise of queer liberation, which gained momentum globally from the 1970s onwards, visible examples have multiplied, wherein every kiss, every embrace, every revelation of one’s queer identity translated into artworks becomes a commentary, a form of resistance. This commentary is always intertwined with political, cultural, and historical contexts that may also reflect the artists’ own positioning within these spaces.
“Instead of a “mute” anonymized and objectified Bblack body, we see participants in the photographic process who are an active part of the process of creating the image.”
This political power is especially evident in the work of the South African photographer Zanele Muholi. Having grown up between apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa, Muholi’s photographs stand for the visualization of the Black queer community in South Africa.
In 2021/2022, Muholi’s entire body of work was exhibited at the Gropius Bau in Berlin. The exhibition opened with the series titled “Being.” One room showcased images of Muholi themselves, friends, lovers, and companions in moments of carefree togetherness. These photographs exuded radiance, a sense of freedom, and self-assuredness. For example, the photographs “Katlego Mashiloane and Nosipho Lavuta, Ext. 2, Lakeside, Johannesburg (2007)” depicted a lesbian couple in their home. They were shown together in a tub, washing each other, and in another moment, Muholi captured them sitting on the floor, arm in arm, laughing joyously.
Since 2006, Muholi has been working on the series “Being,” photographing queer Black individuals, predominantly lesbian couples, in their homes and private spaces. On one hand, this domestic context aims to highlight new forms of chosen kinship and care. On the other hand, private retreats within the queer community hold particular significance: the private space can be a safe haven where sexualities and gender identities can be expressed without the threat of discrimination and violence. However, what happens when this privacy becomes public, when a large audience bears witness to this everyday intimacy?
Muholi’s photographic works refer to a collaborative process between the photographer, the photographed persons, and the viewers:
Here, Muholi consciously breaks with patriarchal and colonized structures of the gaze. Instead of a “mute” anonymized and objectified Bblack body, we see participants in the photographic process who are an active part of the process of creating the image. Through this kind of participation in the photographic act, the participants experience healing: to see themselves, bring themselves into the picture, be courageous, and perceive themselves as something collective. This kind of self-definition is the only way to break free from fantasies of others that can eat you alive, according to Black and lesbian thinker Audre Lorde, who provided a seminal example of intersectional thinking with “Sister, Outsider” in the 1970s. Making oneself visible, Lorde argued, means showing one’s greatest vulnerability, but it is also the most important source of strength and courage.
These images of Black queer bodies presenting their affection without fear of the camera can also be equally healing for viewers. Depending on the position the viewing body takes, whether it is Black and/or queer, it can see itself in these images and build a sense of connection.
Muholi sees themselves more as a “visual activist” than merely a photographer. The act of making privacy and the everyday visible is intended as a political statement. In this regard, Muholi aligns with photographers like J.E.B. (Joan E. Biren), who consider their camera as a revolutionary tool. The photo book “Eye to Eye: Portraits of Lesbians,” first published in 1979, is a milestone on the path to lesbian visibility. With this book, J.E.B. provides a visual testament to everyday private lesbian lives. We see lesbians working, playing with their children, participating in demonstrations, alone, and with partners. However, J.E.B.’s depiction of lesbian everyday life often excludes intimacy and sexuality. In contrast, Muholi interweaves the private aspects, images of familial togetherness and mutual care, with depictions of intimate and sexual moments. The representation of sexual acts and queer tenderness is an integral part of Muholi’s visual activism. According to Muholi, “sensuality, when bodies are connected and come into contact, can shatter limited understandings of gender and sexuality.” The portrayal of sexual acts between queer bodies also derives its power from their everyday nature. It is the “normalcy” within queer intimacy that gives the images their political impact.
“[S]ensuality, when bodies are connected and come into contact, can shatter limited understandings of gender and sexuality.”
The everydayness of queer intimacy is also one of the main motifs of U.S. artist Jonathan Lyndon Chase. Like Muholi’s work Liza I (2017), in which we see Muholi lying naked on a bed in an intimate embrace with a partner, Chase’s work Two Men on Bed (2015) also depicts a sexual act between two queer bodies in a private setting. In paintings, drawings, video, and sound works, Jonathan Lyndon Chase engages Black, queer, and genderfluid bodies in intimate moments and moments of being. Almost floating, flowing into one another, the figures move in spaces that initially seem private to us: We see bedrooms, kitchens, and bathrooms. Chase’s works refer to doubling the intimate through the gesture of drawing. The figures are put on paper with delicate strokes. Yet the garish colors, flat backgrounds, and pop cultural references inscribed in the locations dissolve this privacy. Jonathan Lyndon Chase plays with the boundaries between the private and the public and with the self that moves within these spheres.
Queer intimacy as a political practice can never be seen independently of the artists’ point of view. It is always interwoven in a social web in which race, gender, geographic point of view, and class play an overriding role. The diversity of artworks and the different perspectives on queer intimacy can serve as a source of, healing, courage,collective cohesion and as a political weapon on the way to queer emancipation.
There is always a contemporary art show worth seeing in Europe. With innumerable exhibitions spread across the continent, the choice of programs can feel endless — and also slightly intimidating. Every city is a constellation of museums and instutitutions and, together, they make up a galaxy of options for art lovers looking to find their new favorite artist.
With summer in full swing and the year halfway finished, it’s time to look towards the exhibitions that will define the art calendar through the latter half of 2023. After extensive digging that took us from the major metropolitan locales of Paris and Munich and with Bilbao, for example, to the north of Spain, we’ve compiled eight exhibitions worth seeing. Wher its shows entering their final few weeks or major exhibitions that will open soon, the guide is essential for anyone looking to dive deep into the works of Yayoi Kusama, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Sarah Lucas, Yoshitomo Nara, and more.
Scroll through to see what exhibitions we recommended adding to your art calendar for the rest of the year.
A mix of cinema, art, and pop culture flows through Berlin-based artist Julian Rosefeldt’s new exhibition, “When We Are Gone.” Since opening at the Völklinger Hütte World Heritage Site, viewers have explored the sprawling space as they engage with new and old pieces from his oeuvre. A selection of seven works from the past two decades — plus the new film installations “EUPHORIA” and “PENUMBRA” — are spread across more than 6,000 square meters of the Blower Hall.
There is an intoxicating (and must-see) mix of film, dance, text, and music throughout the show that cements Rosefeldt as a key position in Germany’s contemporary art scene. With only weeks left until the exhibition is finished, there is still time for art lovers to add Völklingen to their itinerary.
Five years after staging the impressive “Jean-Michel Basquiat” exhibition, Fondation Louis Vuitton returns yet again to the artist’s oeuvre — this time exploring his collaboration with Andy Warhol. The two titans of contemporary art collaborated on around 160 paintings in the brief span between 1984 and 1985. It is this “à quatre mains” period that is on view for eager audiences; with more than three hundred works and documents on display, the exhibition also features some of the biggest paintings of their respective careers.
Alongside the many must-see pieces by Basquiat and Warhol, the exhibition also evokes the vibe of New York City’s 1980s art scene via a curated selection of works by such artists as Keith Haring, Futura 2000, Jenny Holzer, Michael Halsband, and Kenny Scharf.
“Basquiat x Warhol. Painting Four Hands” is on view until August 28. Fondation Louis Vuitton is open from 11 AM to 8 PM on Thursday, 11 AM to 9 PM on Friday, and 10 AM to 8 PM on Saturday. Click here for more info.
Sculpture lovers, get your walking shoes ready. The acclaimed ARTZUID has returned for its eighth edition. Sprawling across the, 50 sculptures curated by Jasper Krabbé can be found dotting the Apollolaan and Minervalaan streets of Amsterdam-Zuid. The works span decades (60s, 80s, and 2000s) and movements (Pop art, Nouveau Realisme, Arte Povera and Street art), uniting under the theme of “Transfer.”
The exhibition runs through September 22 and, alongside works by major artists of the past, also features ten artists who were commissioned to create new pieces, including famed Amsterdam artist Frankey.
Mark your calendars: Tate Britain is preparing an exhibition of the internationally renowned British artist Sarah Lucas. Beginning September 26 and running through January 14, the new show will celebrate her work in sculpture, installation, and photography.
For over four decades, Lucas has interrogated such themes as sex, class and gender through her work. In a city already packed with art, London promises to be a key destination through the rest of the year for fans of contemporary art.
As the most comprehensive survey to date of the Merdieth Monk, the massive exhibition presents works that span more than sixty years. The American born artist whose oeuvre is guided by an exploration of the human voice has worked tirelessly across media; experimenting with everything from installation and dance to music and video.
The show is a collaboration in two acts between the Haus der Kunst and Amsterdam’s Oude Kerk. Curated by Anna Schneider with assistance by Teresa Retzer, the exhibition gives art lovers more than enough to explore, including a number of multi-sensorial, innovative installations.
With over 1,200 square metres of exhibition space to work with, the Pinakothek der Moderne presents a monumental look at the rise of glitch art. The term “glitch” made its way into the popular lexicon with technical language used by radio and television engineers in the 1950s, as well as the world of computer games. However, these visual malfunctions have roots far deeper; dating back to the early days of photography.
With the focal point of the show centered around this modern movement, the exhibition unites a global array of artists that include Man Ray, Ryoichi Kurokawa, Nam June Paik, JODI, among other. Together, their work in glitch art serves to interrogates reality, media, and the modern world.
“Glitch. The Art of Interference” is on view from December 1, 2023 to March 17, 2024. The Pinakothek der Moderne is open Tuesday to Wednesday and Friday to Sunday from 10 AM to 6 PM, and Thursday from 10 AM to 8 PM. Click here for more info.
The “Angry Girls” that have populated Yoshitomo Nara’s oeuvre since the 1990s are instantly recongizable. Heavily stylized, their childlike faces contrast sharply against dour expressions, vampiric teeth, and the sharp knives that some hold in their hands.
With the exhibition “All My Little Words,” the Albertina Modern brings ample attention to the “Angry Girls” while expanding their scope to focus on over four decades of the artist’s work. Presented in the space in a Petersburg hanging arranged by the artist himself, the show features experimental works on paper, paintings, sculptures, and more.
There are few living artists as internationally celebrated as Yayoi Kusuma. The Japanese artist and writer’s work since bursting onto the scene has spanned multiple art movements; her avante-garde approach to art has become instantly recognizable no matter the medium.
Decades of work are on view in the major exhibition at Guggenheim Bilbao, with everything from drawings and sculptures to installation charting her path through the art world. Thematically, the show is split across six themes: Infinity, Accumulation, Radical Connectivity, Biocosmic, Death, and Force of Life. Taken together, they present a clear case for why the Japanese artist has become such a legend.
For the second edition of our essay series at Art Düsseldorf Magazine, we asked a selection of writers to investigate issues related to Diversity in the Art World. This essay by Mwinji Siame, a Lusaka, Zambia-based journalist, focuses on how digitization can make art more accessible to marginalized communities all around the world.
Edited by: Chris Erik Thomas, Digital Editor of Art Düsseldorf.
In an industry entangled in patriarchal and colonial worldviews, the Women’s History Museum Zambia (WHMZ) represents a major step forward. The stories of both African women and women of African descent are diverse, yet the role they’ve played as societal leaders is very rarely reflected in the mainstream art world. With the rich diversity of its programming, including the new “Shared Histories” program, the WHMZ is making major strides in changing this narrative through an embrace of the internet. Carried out in collaboration with various Swedish museums, “Shared Histories” focuses on the “digital repatriation” of various objects misappropriated during colonialism, with many objects playing a significant role in the everyday lives of women.
The mission, according to WHMZ co-founder Samba Yonga, is to “take this information to young people so that they can interact with it, they can utilize it, and they can consume it.” It’s a noble goal that not only presents a blueprint for creating a more diverse art world but also helps to bring a spotlight to Zambia. Although the country is small in size and population, Zambia has an indubitably interesting and diverse history where women have played a central role in shaping culture. Women have wielded great influence in their communities as political activists, entrepreneurs, conservationists, spiritual leaders, and leaders of royal establishments. In my own community, as part of the Namwanga tribe, both Nakambas (women) and Siames (men) are eligible for traditional leadership positions as descendants of the royal clan. Still, Namwanga people in northern Zambia have only been led by a woman since the drawing of borders.
The women who play a central leadership role in Zambia have always been artists. They create and utilize objects as works of art that can be used in everyday life, while also making art with profound significance in spiritual life. In Namwanga culture, for example, objects like a chief’s crown are an important part of preserving spiritual power, while in Bemba culture, art has been vital for sharing and utilizing African Indigenous knowledge systems for the development of the individual. The preservation of this art is key to ensuring that economic and social development continues, and by using the internet, the WHMZ is doing so in a way that is accessible.
This is a much-needed departure from how museums and galleries have treated the historical art created by African women. Enclosed in glass cases within large, sterile rooms, artworks and “artifacts” are presented as things of the past. If they are African objects, the art is often labeled as “primitive” or “useless,” only meaningful as curiosities to reinforce the “othering” of the non-hegemonic identities as African women. In traditional museums and galleries, historical African art created by women is divorced from its creators and from the diversity of experiences and humanity within each piece. At the WHMZ, this dehumanizing model is challenged by delving into the subjective experiences of the women who would have made and used these objects via visual podcasts, exhibits, and panel discussions.
The importance of creative women in the local culture is also reflected in the leadership of the museum. The co-founders are Ba [a Zambian honorific for an older or established person] Mulenga Kapwepwe and Samba Yonga. These women are not just cultural preservationists and historians; they are artists and creators who grew up in political families. It’s these childhood experiences that may have informed their decisive action to ensure that women’s roles in political life are recorded. Yonga experienced the intrigues of growing up with a parent in foreign service, while Mulenga Kapwepwe, born a generation or two before Yonga, is the daughter of activist Salome Kapwepwe and Zambia’s visionary second post-independence Vice President Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe.
Customary leadership in Zambian culture generally involves the custodianship of stable and productive social relationships, resistance to injustice, and ensuring cohesion between people and the environment. All of these elements have been present in the work of the museum, especially through its digital offerings. As the pandemic forced us into our homes, museums, galleries, and historical sites began to make their displays available through digital platforms. The accessibility has opened up conversations about why other museums and galleries have not made the same efforts to open up the experience to less able-bodied or financially-limited patrons. It has also opened up conversations about which forgotten histories can be made more visible because of these popular platforms.
The museum’s “Shared Histories” project serves as an example of how digitization can allow art to be accessible to marginalized communities all around the world. Removing the barriers to engaging with the art ensures that a diversity of people, particularly African and other historically invisibilized communities, can be included in discourse about it. Moreover, digital collaborations like “Shared Histories” allow for artists from all communities — irrespective of how privileged they are or are not — to take lessons and inspiration from one another’s cultures. When asked about the foundation of the WHMZ, Kapwepwe succinctly summed up the need to take action, saying: “If not you, then who?” Both Kapwepwe and Yonga have shown that it is necessary for African women to take ownership of sharing and preserving our own stories. Not just for ourselves but for future generations and for all communities. This is what a feminist museum does.
For the second edition of our essay series at Art Düsseldorf Magazine, we asked a selection of writers to investigate issues related to Diversity in the Art World. This essay by Delia Harrington, a Boston-based journalist, explores the fight to create more disability-friendly museum spaces.
Edited by: Chris Erik Thomas, Digital Editor of Art Düsseldorf.
About a year ago, I saw a photo online of a bright blue bench with the words: “This exhibition has asked me to stand for too long. Sit if you agree.” The piece turned out to be from the series “Do You Want Us Here or Not” by disabled artist Finnegan Shannon. Other benches say things like ”I would rather be sitting. Sit if you agree,” and “It was hard to get here. Rest here if you agree.” The one in my own backyard at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, says: “Museum visits are hard on my body. Rest here if you agree.”
I immediately felt a zing of recognition on seeing these pieces; a brilliant response suited to the setting. In a profoundly literal way, Shannon is able to offer solidarity and respite to fellow disabled folks (and others who simply need a rest!) in art spaces through their work. While Shannon’s art expands well beyond the bench to other furniture and objects like chairs, seats, and stair-transforming cushions — as well as creating disabled spaces that verge on performance art — there is a beautiful simplicity to the bench. As Shannon explains, the distinctive bright blue and white color scheme is partially in reference to the international symbol of access; it’s also because blue is vibrant and high contrast, meeting a different accessibility need. These works are not merely for awareness. They provide an immediate, albeit small-scale, solution to the problem they are pointing out.
The benches are a direct address to those who need them. A reminder of how ableist and unwelcoming to disabled and aging people art spaces can be: you can sit on this bench, even if there’s literally nowhere else to do so. That was very much intentional. As Shannon learned through conversations with curators, many museums have seating in storage but decline to use it as a curatorial choice — a deeply frustrating admission that tracks with my experience. When I come across seating, it isn’t always in logical places and is often high on aesthetics and low on practicality. It was this nugget of discovery, plus their own accessibility needs, that pushed Shannon to conceive of the series. “If I make an artwork that is also seating, that’s a way of working around that,” they explained. Shannon initially came up with the idea for the bench and other similar ideas in 2017 when they drew sketches and posted them on Instagram. The drawings were always meant to become tangible, functional pieces of furniture in the real world, and they had the first bench made in 2018.
Encountering Shannon’s work has made me hyper-aware of how many art spaces have no seating or, worse, have bench- and chair-like objects that are part of the interior design yet are forbidden to sit on by visitors. I find myself taking photos of these non-seating areas in museums and galleries, as well as the rare encounters with actual places to sit, and sharing them on social media in between works of art. One bench I came across recently in an Austin museum, though not explicitly forbidden as a seating option, had a metal bar protruding midway down the backrest, making it unusable in a practical sense. It was reminiscent of so-called “hostile architecture,” which is made to prevent “undesirable” groups like skateboarders and unhoused people from using it — like benches with dividers or bridges with spikes under them to prevent people from comfortably sleeping there. As with hostile architecture, this kind of design choice sends a message about who is and isn’t welcome in a particular space. Would it really be so bad if we sat?
Beyond feeling personal, Shannon’s work is visceral to me; I see it, and my sore body longs to rest while my frustrated mind wonders what took so long for seating to be allowed. My constellation of chronic illnesses kicked into high gear during the pandemic, often leaving my body sore, overheated, and weak. It can come on suddenly, and if I only went out when I felt my best, I wouldn’t get much of anything done. Often, when I first arrive somewhere, I need to sit, cool down, and collect myself. It’s not uncommon for me to need to sit at random times throughout the day and rest, drink water, take medication, or otherwise tend to my body’s needs. I also tend to take in art slowly. I circle a piece, seeing it from every vantage point and multiple distances, and when I lock in on a work that moves me, I appreciate a place to sit and consider it at length, maybe even write about it for a while.
Ever since I first saw a picture of Shannon’s work, I’ve found myself telling anyone and everyone about these functional works of art. As often happens when a disabled person speaks up to assert their needs, their work has made me feel more comfortable asserting my own needs and more aware of who else’s needs might not be met. Moreover, I’ve noticed that discussing the series has the effect of giving others permission to take whatever break they might need at that moment, even without Shannon’s bench being physically present — thus extending their work’s sphere of influence far beyond its physical location. Identifying as disabled is something of a journey, and the term is loaded. But the act of sitting on a bench, one that explicitly belongs in the space and people are encouraged to use, is simply taking part in the museum-going experience. Even for those sitting on a different bench in a different museum, knowing that others need benches just like they do, to the extent that there is functional art about it, provides a level of assurance that taking a seat is okay.
As the series passes the five-year mark, Shannon has been thinking about curation and longevity. They have been toying with the idea that the pieces never end, of each work being “continually in the process of being made by use and repair.” They’re creating clear documentation about their priorities and instructions for conservators for the works’ lifespan to ensure that the focus is on the functionality of the pieces before anything else. “I would much rather that the piece continue to be used and repainted than have it used less in order to conserve the specific original paint job.” As a result, as these works age, they will naturally diverge from one another due to wear and tear and maintenance, all of which are part of the work itself. I love the idea of the artwork being in service to people who need it; being a good, strong, usable place to sit is its highest function.
With Shannon’s curation notes focusing on functionality over preserving the original state of the work, it brings up a question: what is the true nature of the work itself? Is it a blue and white bench with a certain type of lettering or a certain color of paint? Or is it the lifespan of a bench acting in service to so many different people — the act of providing a place to sit while provoking important conversations and everything that happens on, around, and to that bench during its many years of existence? It reminds me of Walter de Maria’s “Calendar” (1961-1965), which takes a year to experience fully. Or Félix González-Torres’s series of “Candy Works,” each an endless supply of individually wrapped candies that replenish indefinitely, per the artist’s instruction. Regardless of whatever may happen to any of the benches in the short term, they will be repaired, per Shannon’s instructions, to continue to serve their functions.
Accessibility is not a one-size-fits-all set of needs, and there’s frankly plenty more room for improvement within the art world beyond this one issue. It’s not uncommon for art institutions, especially those in older buildings or alternative spaces, to simply not have any elevator access, cutting off access to those with mobility needs. Shannon points out that disability and fat liberation are deeply intertwined, which is one of the reasons their benches are so strong. What would it look like if art institutions were more welcoming to fat bodies across the board? I want to see art spaces become more accessible for all across many different accessibility needs. I want to see art spaces full of art from disabled artists, whether dealing directly with disability or not.
Unlike many artists, Shannon looks forward to a day when this particular series ends. “Part of my hope is really that the work becomes not needed.” They would love to see “a rich and varied set of [seating] options in museum spaces.” They explained, “The goal for me is not that every space needs one of these benches, but more that from the work, people are thinking more about what could happen in those spaces.” An easy answer is for museums and galleries to dust off some of that seating that so many of them apparently already keep in storage. Actively soliciting feedback from the public on the topic is one way to get recommendations tailored to the individual institution. Budgeting for accessibility and prioritizing it over aesthetics are both essential. Whatever solution they choose, the most important thing is that institutions include disabled people with a variety of access needs in these conversations so they hear directly from us — and then actually take action.
Words: Chris Erik Thomas.
With the sun finally bringing some warmth to Germany, it’s time to throw on an outfit and map a route around North Rhine-Westphalia for some must-see summer exhibitions. Contemporary art has been a key pillar of the region’s cultural sector for decades. It has attracted legendary artists to make homes here and provided endless material for the many museums and cultural institutions spread throughout the area.
The rich diversity of options throughout Cologne, Düsseldorf, Essen, and other cities offers ample opportunity for art lovers to find their next favorite artist. For the summer season, we’ve looked through the programs of notable institutions all around the region to find six shows that offer must-see experiences. From the massive “Die GROSSE Kunstausstellung NRW” in Düsseldorf and the major AI exhibition at Marta Herford to the must-see performance art exhibition curated by Marina Abramović and Billy Zhao at Essen’s Museum Folkswang, there is something for everyone.
Check out all of our highlights, and make sure to check out every city’s full exhibition program as you plan your next art tour
On June 3, the major art event “Die GROSSE Kunstausstellung NRW” returned to Düsseldorf. Since 1902, the association Verein zur Veranstaltung von Kunstausstellungen e.V. has organized the sprawling event that brings together a diversity of positions and launches many dialogues within the scene.
The exhibition takes place at the Kunstpalast, NRW-Forum, and the surrounding Ehrenhof area. This year’s edition includes everything from painting and photography to installation and video art, among other mediums. As the largest and longest-standing art exhibition in Germany, “DIE GROSSE” is a must for any art lover in the area.
“DIE GROSSE” is on view from June 3 to July 9. The Museum Kunstpalast is currently closed for renovations but will reopen for the exhibition. The NRW-Forum Düsseldorf and Kunstpalast are open Tuesday to Sunday from 11 AM to 6 PM (and until 9 PM on Thursdays). Visit the websites of the NRW-Forum and Kunstpalast for more info.
For the latest iteration of Museum Ludwig’s exhibition series “HERE AND NOW,” the focus turns to Ukrainian artists — elevating the program’s cultural significance and making the show a must-see. In “Modernism in Ukraine 1900–1930s & Daria Koltsova,” which opened on June 3, the concept of the “Russian Avante-Garde” is reexamined in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Around eighty paintings and works on paper spanning the 1900s through the 1930s are on display, alongside a monumental glass-based installation by contemporary Ukrainian artist Daria Koltsova that reflects on the country’s cultural heritage in the face of war.
“Modernism in Ukraine 1900–1930s & Daria Koltsova” is on view from June 3 to September 24. Museum Ludwig is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 AM to 6 PM, and from 10 AM to 10 PM every first Thursday of the month. Click here for more info.
After two successful exhibitions funded by Kunststiftung DZ Bank in 2019 and 2021, “RAW” returns to KIT on June 16 to present works by artists from the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf as part of the 250th anniversary of the school. With photography as a core focus of the foundation, this year’s exhibition will feature a diverse array of positions within the medium.
Splitting the original word, “photo-graphic,” the show will center upon the dichotomy of the word’s origins: the concept of light (phos) and drawing (graphein). Under the careful curation of Gertrud Peters, viewers can expect a strong range of works by the artists Ulrike Kazmaier, Dylan Maquet, Sabrina Podemski, Johannes Raimann, and Moritz Riesenbeck.
With the sudden rise of artificial intelligence in the cultural conversation, Herford’s Museum for Art, Architecture, Design (MARTA) has found fertile ground for its next contemporary exhibition, “SHIFT: AI and a Future Community.” Together, nine positions from around the world will interrogate the complexities of AI in modern life — specifically how humans, nature, and technology will further intertwine in the future.
The show will open on June 17 and feature works by such artists as Louisa Clement, Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Christoph Faulhaber, kennedy+swan, knowbotiq, Christian Kosmas Mayer, Philippe Parreno, Hito Steyerl, and Jenna Sutela.
Visitors will have the opportunity to wander through two strong new exhibitions starting on June 24. First, “The Inescapable Intertwining of All Lives” will present works by six notable young positions — Keltie Ferris, Ilse Henin, Hayv Kahraman, Gisela McDaniel, Soraya Sharghi, and Emma Talbot — whose work interrogates the “feminine” as a subject in contemporary art. The show finds its foundation in the works of Ilse Henin, who has been working steadily since the 1980s. It’s this oeuvre that acts as an anchor for the exhibition as it threads together the five additional female- and queer-identifying artists.
Alongside this powerful show, the Kunsthalle will also present “ANARCHIVE” by Cologned-based artist Béla Pablo Janssen. The project began a decade ago as Janseen began to collect and modify posters related to art (such as exhibition ads) that he found on the street. The collection now includes 103 cataloged and modified posters from the past decade and will be shown for the first time in the exhibition series “IM FOYER.”
“The Inescapable Intertwining of All Lives” and “ANARCHIVE” are on view from June 24 to September 17. Kunsthalle is open Tuesday to Sunday from 11 AM to 6 PM. The museum is free of charge from 6 PM to 8 PM on the last Thursday of every month, as well as every second Sunday of the month for Family Day. Click here for more info.
Beginning on June 30, the museum will host “54 Hour Performances,” a must-see program of performance art curated by Marina Abramović and Billy Zhao. Since the start of the 2022/23 winter semester, a group of international students at the Folkwang University of the Arts have worked with Abramović to create a series of long durational performances centered on showcasing the focus, perseverance, and concentration of the 24 artists. With an age range of 17 to 39, the group includes singers, dancers, photographers, actors, directors, and composers.
For 6 hours and 9 days, the students will take part in intensely personal pieces that transform personal narratives into performative actions — stories, memories, fears, desires, and realities will mix in the must-see, limited-time show. Participation is free of charge. However, the number of tickets is limited. You can book your time slot tickets here.
Chris Erik Thomas is the Digital Editor of Art Düsseldorf. They work as a freelance writer and editor in Berlin and focus primarily on culture, art, and media. Their work can also be seen in Highsnobiety, The Face Magazine, and other publications.
As part of our new series, Düsseldorf Talks, we talk to people from the arts and cultural scene who have a personal connection to Düsseldorf about their ties to the city, and together we take a look at inspiring, beloved, and frequently visited places in Düsseldorf.
For over a decade, the Deutsche Oper am Rhein has thrived under the guidance of its General Director, Christoph Meyer. After spending his childhood in Lüneburg, Meyer moved to Munich to pursue a degree in Theatre Studies and Music. It was during this early period that he began working for many notable opera houses; slowly (but steadily) building up a reputation for his deft artistic vision and solid leadership.
With a stacked resume that includes stints at such notable institutions as the Cologne Opera and Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu, his appointment as the General Director at the prestigious Düsseldorf opera starting in the 2009/10 season was met with great acclaim. With Meyer at the helm, the Deutsche Oper am Rhein has become a destination not just for fantastic programming, but also as an incubator for young talent.
Recently, we had the opportunity to talk with Meyer about his many achievements and the expansive youth program that he launched in the 2013/14 season — plus the impending decision by the city council on where the new opera house will be built. Read through to find out what his first impressions of Düsseldorf were many years ago, what his favorite spots in the city are, and much more.
Before joining the Deutsche Oper am Rhein as General Director at the start of the 2009/10 season, you worked extensively in Mannheim, Cologne, Berlin, Basel, Barcelona, and Leipzig, among other places. How did you first experience the city of Düsseldorf?
Düsseldorf was pretty much unknown to me beforehand, apart from a few brief visits during my time in Cologne. I was pleasantly surprised and delighted at how warmly and kindly I was welcomed here.
The city of Düsseldorf is currently in the middle of a competition for a new opera house. Seven designs have been shortlisted and in June, a decision will be made as to whether the new location will be on Heinrich-Heine-Allee or at the Wehrhahn. What does a new opera house mean for the city?
In many German cities, the topic of “conversion, renovation, or new construction” of theaters and opera houses is currently very dominant. In Düsseldorf, this process is very structured, transparent, and, above all, has strong political support. The new opera house is an excellent opportunity [to add to] the cultural life of the state capital. It stands for a broad acceptance of buildings and art forms in society and, as a cultural flagship and urban center, also has great relevance for tourism and the economy.
Thanks to the Kunstakademie, the many museums and collections, and many artists living and working in the city, Düsseldorf is an essential location for visual arts. How would you characterize the relationship between the visual and performing arts, and between the classical and other arts in the city? Are there overlaps, cooperations, or synergies?
The proximity of many cultural institutes, museums, and galleries is a unique characteristic of Düsseldorf. There are many contacts and collaborations among them, but certainly, more would be possible in this area.
How would you describe your personal relationship to contemporary visual art?
When my time permits, I enjoy catching up on the latest exhibitions and museums and seeing exciting new art. Also, through friendships with artists and gallery owners, opportunities to engage with visual art often arise. I enjoy those moments very much.
You are known in part for the substantial work you did for the youth. In the 2013/14 season, you initiated the Young Operas Rhine-Ruhr project. Oper am Rhein now brings together musical theater, dance, and a young audience with three projects: Junge Oper, UFO, and “Tanz mit!” Can you tell us more about that?
We could do a lengthy interview about that in its own right! From the beginning of my directorship in 2009, children’s and youth work has been an extraordinary concern of mine, and we have put on a children’s opera on the big stage every year from the very beginning. In this cooperation, Junge Opern Rhein-Ruhr, which is unique in Germany, three theaters — Deutsche Oper am Rhein Düsseldorf Duisburg, Oper Bonn, and Theater Dortmund — have jointly commissioned new children’s operas since 2013.
Before Corona, we had up to 30,000 children and young people per season in our events in Düsseldorf and Duisburg. The goal is to get back to those numbers and have an even more significant impact in the various districts. The Essen Opera will join us as a new partner in the following season. With the mobile venue UFO (Junge Oper Urban), we have created a sound space and performance venue that arouses curiosity about new creative music theater in various districts of Düsseldorf and Duisburg with pieces developed especially for the UFO. In ballet, we launched “Tanz Mit!” (Join the Dance) some time ago, a program for dance education that offers, among other projects, “Leichter getanzt als gesagt” (“Danced More Easily than Said”). [They are all] very successful interactive projects, especially for children and young people.
What is your favorite art place in Düsseldorf? What can you discover there?
I particularly like visiting the many individual galleries in Flingern during Gallery Weekend, for example. Of course, I also like going to the Kunstsammlung, the Kunsthalle, and the Kunstpalast, among others, depending on the program.
What are the highlights at your house this season, and what can we look forward to in the next season?
The current season is going very well and successfully after the severe restrictions of the Corona years. Highlights so far have been “Macbeth” and “The Flying Dutchman,” as well as “The Maid of Orleans” and “La Sonnambula;” the two latter operas never before performed at Deutsche Oper am Rhein. Furthermore, “Krabat” was an absolute highlight in ballet, and “Coppélia X Machina” was also very successful. In opera, we still have three premieres ahead of us: “Die tote Stadt” by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Massenet’s “Hérodiade” (also for the first time in the history of the DOR), and the world premiere of our new children’s opera “Das fliegende Klassenzimmer.” In ballet, we look forward to “SACRE” and Demis Volpi’s new “Giselle.” We present the program and our various projects for the next season in the new 2023/24 season booklet.
For the first edition of our new essay series at Art Düsseldorf Magazine, we asked a selection of writers to investigate issues related to Sustainability in the Art World. This essay by Aditya Iyer, a London-based journalist, focuses on the need to use digitization as a tool to confront both the climate crisis and the long history of colonialism in art institutions.
Edited by: Chris Erik Thomas, Digital Editor of Art Düsseldorf.
As the arts grapple with climate change and seek innovative ways to lower their carbon footprints, technology has become central to a sustainable future for museums. Lowering the emissions of these institutions may seem fairly low on the priority list while fossil fuel companies continue to belch fetid smog into the sky as they pursue oil profits, but museums are public cultural institutions. The ways they become greener can impart a public narrative as potent as the cultural one represented by the artifacts they house.
At the end of 2022, the director of digital technology at the UK’s National Gallery, Chris Michaels, said that the museum sector is “in a moment of positive momentum” in adapting to the climate crisis. The key to this momentum? Digitization and the disruptions in storytelling and curatorial practices that this process engenders. Michaels was referring to how technology like virtual reality, and programs like the Metaverse, could be used to change how audiences interact with museums.
The possibilities are exciting; The National Museum of African American History & Culture launched digital recreations of its museum floors in November 2021 to boost its outreach. Easily (and cheaply) accessible via smartphones and tablets, the “Searchable Museum” augments the traditional audience experience by recreating key exhibitions and interactive information displays and digitally enhancing a visitor’s experience in some cases. Physical visitors to the museum can see a replica of the Point of Pines Slave Cabin; this digital counterpart is a step ahead and offers access to a 360-degree virtual view inside the cabin. Still, we should not automatically assume that all digitization schemes are a panacea to climate change — or that they automatically constitute a disruption if they do little to change the status quo. Often, they are reminders of the increasingly predatory greed of the sector and represent a new way to make money using questionable technology like NFTs.
NFTs are unlikely to pave the way for a greener museum sector, but the principle of digitization and virtual collections still offer a route toward sustainability.
In the middle of 2021, the British Museum made the controversial move to begin using non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to digitize its collection. The institution, whose digital strategy was shaped in part by Michaels before his departure in 2017, justified its decision by saying that museums had to adapt to “new markets and find new ways of reaching people that we may not reach through traditional channels.”
The questionable financial networks behind NFTs have been extensively written about. One can argue that they devalue the art sector, but the environmental cost of minting them is more germane. The British Museum’s NFT partnership with LaCollection has resulted in its carbon footprint rising by 315 tonnes of CO2 in the first six months of the scheme, according to estimates by the Digiconomist of the carbon footprints of individual Ethereum transactions. The picture gets bleaker using the carbon tracking website Aerial, which estimates that the NFTs have generated an additional 995 tonnes of CO2 emissions since the scheme began. The Ethereum platform has changed its processes from a proof-of-work model to a proof-of-stake model in September 2022, which has led to a significant drop in its energy consumption.
The total carbon footprint may surprise those aware of the Museum’s ambitious new £1 billion “Rosetta Project,” which seeks to modernize the collections and site to make their carbon emissions net zero. But this initial shock should swiftly dwindle considering that its current environmental policy is a forlorn single page that has not been updated since 2007 — plus the Museum’s questionable relationship with British Petroleum.
NFTs are unlikely to pave the way for a greener museum sector, though the technology behind them continues to develop and improve in terms of energy efficiency following criticism of crypto platforms’ high carbon footprints. But the principle of digitization and virtual collections still offer a route toward sustainability. Not just in terms of climate action, but also in radically reimagining the museum anew and divested of its colonial origins.
This philosophy is present in Digital Benin. The virtual repository, launched at the end of 2022, tracks all artifacts looted by marauding British colonial forces from the Benin Kingdom at the end of the 19th Century. Soldiers sent to break the Benin Kingdom by slaughtering its inhabitants compounded their egregious violence by stealing cultural artifacts that eventually made their way to Western museums after being sold to private collectors.
Many of these artifacts are now being returned to where they rightfully belong. Berlin’s Humboldt Forum, for example, returned some of the Bronzes within its collection to Nigeria last year. Digital Benin acts as a tally of Western museums that still retain looted Bronzes, and it’s also an indispensable digital archive for scholars and visitors. Rather than the deracinated languages used by Western museums, Digital Benin displays the historical objects with their correct Edo designations and cultural contexts — skewering the idea that the expertise of the culture that produced these artifacts is somehow inferior to that of their Western counterparts.
As Aime Cesaire wrote in his seminal 1950 work Discourse on Colonialism, the hideous butcheries of imperialism were “based on contempt for the native and justified by the contempt.” The creation and evolution of the modern museum has been intrinsically tied to this legitimation by serving as receptacles for colonial power. Loot was displayed as “artifacts”; their violent translocation was as much a sign of Western martial prowess as the clinical placards accompanying their exhibitions of a purported racially superior intellect.
Museums housed more than just the spoils of colonial conquests; among other objects, some even included human remains. It was a practice that echoes the legacy of zoos using “living exhibitions” of those deemed racially inferior to present specific narratives to the public. Following the Second World War, this fell out of favor as the violent consequences of clearly defining groups of people as being “lesser” came home to Europe for the first time since colonization began. But mild discomfort took time to boil over to outright condemnation. The last human zoo in Europe shuttered in 1958, nearly a decade after The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognized the “equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family.”
There is little use for a net zero museum if it still serves the purposes fashioned for it by a crueler time.
To be truly sustainable, art institutions must do more than simply improve ventilation and find energy-efficient storage options to house looted artifacts, as per the Bizot Green Protocol. Digitizing collections must go hand-in-hand with returning colonial loot to make museums culturally sustainable for the 21st century. As the founder of the African Digital Heritage project and one of the consultants responsible for Digital Benin, Chao Tayiana Maina, has said: digitization should be viewed “as a curatorial [and] cultural process […] looking at the society, looking at the ethics and community to allow us to ask questions as oppose to just data.” The latter is impersonal and faceless, and can potentially lead to a different kind of exploitation by creating, in a sense, virtual “loot.” Calls to create digital representations of every artifact seem innocuous on the surface, but what if said objects were sacred and fundamental to the spiritual practices of a local community, one whose assent was most likely not sought before creating a 3D model for an online audience to view?
One of the most valuable aspects of the Digital Benin project is that it collects Edo experts’ knowledge about each artifact’s cultural context and functions. By breaking the fundamentally unequal power structures that traditional museum curatorial narratives represent, this disruption informs new discourse surrounding artifacts, the cultures they were taken from, and their roles and values. As Maina has also stated, technology breaks down the traditional gatekeeping “silos and systems of power” by acting as a tool for new narratives to articulate themselves and as a platform to access new audiences.
Attempts to make the art sector sustainable must focus on its own messy history as much as its carbon footprints. There is little use for a net zero museum if it still serves the purposes fashioned for it by a crueler time. Museums have the opportunity to do more than simply lower the carbon footprint of exhibitions that serve the same exploitative narratives of the past. By recognizing how they harmed the environment in the past, institutions have begun to take steps toward mitigating their ecological impact in the future. However, these tools should not be used to focus solely on climate change, but can and must be used to do the same with regard to human dignity. Only then can art institutions build a truly sustainable and equal future for all.
Aditya Iyer is a journalist and writer based in London who writes about the intersection between culture, identity, and public memory, with a focus on how colonial histories continue to shape the contemporary world.
Words: Chris Erik Thomas.
There’s a bit of everything awaiting art lovers at this year’s Gallery Weekend Berlin. Now in its 19th edition, the city-wide event once again sprawls out like a treasure map across the German capital, promising a fresh batch of exciting positions and new discoveries. This year, the breadth of options is a testament to the cultural force of Berlin’s art scene; there are 55 galleries on the official list that will be showing works by new and established artists. Of course, Gallery Weekend Berlin also comes packed with a constellation of unofficial events hosted at gallery spaces, museums, and institutions around the city. Together, the official and off-site events offer a full slate of must-see exhibitions (and must-attend openings).
Art has formed the backbone of Berlin’s creative scene for decades — from the stark divisions of the Berlin Wall to the creative renaissance of the city’s reunification. Since 2005, Gallery Weekend Berlin has brought out the city’s art crowd and attracted visitors from around the world to celebrate the more than 5,000 artists and hundreds of galleries and museums that call Berlin home.
Before the city launches into its annual May Day pandemonium on Monday, this year’s iteration runs from Friday, 28 April, through Sunday, 30 April. With over 50 galleries on the official list, we’ve compiled the key exhibitions to check out this weekend — or over the next several weeks as the shows continue into spring and summer. Scroll through to see our highlights and we’ll see you in your best walking shoes as we crisscross the capital for another year of Gallery Weekend.
For her third solo show with Soy Capitán, British artist Paloma Proudfoot returns to Berlin for an otherworldly show, “The Three Living and The Three Dead.” The exhibition features a series of large-scale ceramic friezes that depict scenes of imagined interactions between the living and the dead. Rather than a single final moment, death is shown as a slow unraveling. Both the living and dead hold an equal presence in the work as they journey through scenes of dissection, decomposition, and re-growth.
“The Three Living and The Three Dead” by Paloma Proudfoot is on view from 28 April to 10 June. The gallery is located at Prinzessinnenstr. 29 10969 Berlin-Kreuzberg. The opening hours are Wednesday to Saturday, from 12 PM to 6 PM, or by appointment. Please see their website for special Gallery Weekend opening hours.
Andrej Dubravsky has always sourced inspiration from his lush garden and studio in the countryside of southwest Slovakia. In a continuation of this inspiration, the artist’s fifth solo show at the gallery focuses on the “subimago” — a winged preadult life stage of the delicate mayfly. Touching on the unresolved tension between humanity and the natural world, “Anxiety of Subimago” will feature a new series of large-scale acrylic paintings.
“Anxiety of Subimago” by Andrej Dubravsky is on view from 28 April to 1 July. The gallery is located at Linienstrasse 23, 10178 Berlin, Germany. The opening hours are Monday to Saturday, from 11 AM to 6 PM. Please see their website for special Gallery Weekend opening hours.
British painter Jason Martin will present a collection of recent abstract pieces that showcase the movement and energy inherent in his oeuvre. As a performative act for the artist, his works seem to explode onto the canvas, with colors and forms swirling together. The exhibition, “New Titles,” will gravitate around two large-scale works: “Exile” and “The Whole Storm.”
“New Titles” by Jason Martin is on view from 28 April to 26 June. The gallery is located at Charlottenstraße 13, 10969 Berlin. The opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11 AM to 6 PM. Please see their website for special Gallery Weekend opening hours.
Two exhibitions of sculptural and works on paper — with one by an artist shrouded in mystery — await art lovers at Konrad Fischer Galerie. The first, “Wilde Leute” by Düsseldorf-based artist Paloma Varga Weisz, takes inspiration from the medieval description of “wild people” and features a series of pieces made of bronze and wood, plus a selection of watercolor drawings on paper. Alongside that show, a series of sculptures and works on paper will be shown by the anonymous artist stanley brouwn, who was a key figure in the 1960s conceptualism movement.
“Wilde Leute” by Paloma Varga Weisz and “stanley brouwn” are on view from 28 April to 29 July. The gallery is located at Neue Grünstraße 12 10179 Berlin. The opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday, from 11 AM to 6 PM. Please see their website for special Gallery Weekend opening hours.
For his solo exhibition at PSM for this year’s Gallery Weekend, Aziz Hazara crafted an exhibition centered around an Aimee Philips poem from 1977: “In a festival held to celebrate words they did not allow the ‘truth.’ Because it was not wearing formal clothes.” Using a selection of photographs, videos, and audio installations, the show will tackle the complex sociopolitical power struggles of his native Afghanistan.
“No Dress code” by Aziz Hazara is on view from 28 April to 10 June. The gallery is located at Schöneberger Ufer 61, 10785 Berlin. The opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday, from 12 PM to 6 PM, or by appointment. Please see their website for special Gallery Weekend opening hours.
For a special joint exhibition in the rooms on Niebuhrstraße and in Kunst Lager Haas, the gallery will present works from Louise Nevelson and George Rickey. The two American artists have made a sizeable impact on the German art scene through their participation in documenta III and IV and, for Gallery Weekend, the selection of pieces will a number of sculptures. The show will also inaugurate a series of exhibitions and events on George Rickey that will take place in and around Berlin throughout 2023.
“Louise Nevelson & George Rickey” is on view from 28 April to 5 August. The gallery is located at Niebuhrstraße 5, 10629 Berlin. The opening hours are Monday to Friday, from 9 AM to 6 PM. Please see their website for special Gallery Weekend opening hours.
In the first solo exhibition of her work at the gallery, Berlin-born artist Sophie Reinhold will present a new series of paintings made specifically for the show. The works will be shown on surfaces prepared with bitumen, ground marble, and graphite powder, acting as a juxtaposition for a site-specific installation in the gallery space. Together, the pieces touch on mythology, simulation, and reality.
“Träum Weiter” by Sophie Reinhold is on view from 28 April to 1 July. The gallery is located on Lindenstrasse 34, 10969 Berlin. The opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11 AM to 6 PM. Please see their website for special Gallery Weekend opening hours.
At both of Galerie Georg Nothelfer’s locations, art lovers will find two distinct exhibitions on view. In the space at Corneliusstraße, the solo show “copy paste” will present works by KRH Sonderborg on the occasion of his 100th birthday, showcasing why the artist was one of the most important representatives of the German Informel movement. On Sunday, 30 April, at 12 PM, there will be a special performance of the archiv SANDER I SCHAAL in the gallery. Meanwhile, the showroom at Grolmanstraße will play host to “The moment” by Britta Lumer. The exhibition will be the gallery’s first solo show of the German artist’s work and feature works on paper and a sculptural portrait.
“Copy paste” by KRH Sonderborg is on view from 28 April to 17 June, and “The moment” by Britta Lumer is on view from 22 April to 10 June. The gallery is located at Corneliusstrasse 3, 10787 Berlin, while the showroom is at Grolmanstraße 28, 10623 Berlin-Charlottenburg. The opening hours for both locations are Thursday and Friday, from 12 PM to 7 PM; Saturday, from 12 PM to 6 PM; and by arrangement. Please see their website for special Gallery Weekend opening hours.
For the fifth solo exhibition of artist Renaud Regnery at Klemm’s, a selection of large-scale paintings will present a new insight into the artist’s oeuvre. A mix of sketch-like motifs, pop references, tech industry image materials, and more collide to produce a visually gripping showcase of his talent.
“What Power Art Thou?” by Renaud Regnery is on view from 28 April to 10 June. The gallery is located at Prinzessinnenstraße 29, 10969 Berlin. The opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11 AM to 6 PM. Please see their website for special Gallery Weekend opening hours.
Art lovers will find two strong exhibitions at Galerie Friese this year. First, the gallery will show its third solo exhibition of works by Thomas Müller with “Drawings.” The show will feature both large-format and A4-sized abstract works created with a mix of materials, including pencil, chalk, ballpoint pen, ink, acrylic, oil, and shellac. Meanwhile, “Holy Shit — I Hear Voices” by German artist Achim Duchow will present 18 large-format paintings created between 1980 and 1992 in commemoration of the publication of the artist’s catalog raisonné.
“Drawings” by Thomas Muller and “Holy Shit — I Hear Voices” by Achim Duchow are on view from 28 April to 17 June. The gallery is located at Meierottostrasse 1, 10719 Berlin. The opening hours are Monday to Saturday, from 11 AM to 6 PM. Please see their website for special Gallery Weekend opening hours.
For Gallery Weekend, Kicken will present part five of its ongoing “Sheroes of Photography” series, which began in 2021. Derived from the English neologism “Shero,” the series highlights outstanding achievements by female artists in photography. “Sheroes of Photography Part V” will feature works by such artists as Lotte Jacobi, Lucia Moholy, Edith Buch, Alice Lex-Nerlinger, Barbara Klemm, and Charlotte Rudolph, among others.
“Sheroes of Photography Part V” is on view from 28 April to 1 September. The gallery is located at Kaiserdamm 118, 14057 Berlin. The opening hours are Tuesday to Friday, 2 PM to 6 PM, or by appointment. Please see their website for special Gallery Weekend opening hours.
With two locations spread across the city, Galerie EIGEN + ART enters Gallery Weekend with two major exhibitions. At their main gallery on Auguststraße, works by the German artist Olaf Nicolai will be shown in the exhibition “I never look at you from the place from which you see me.” The show will feature a series of photographs taken in June 2022 in Olympia, Greece, which were created using the type of mirror used to ignite the Olympic Flame via the sun’s powerful rays. Meanwhile, at EIGEN + ART Lab, its experimental space on Torstraße, two young and exciting positions — artists Elsay Rouy and Emil Urbanek — come together for a special joint exhibition featuring their distinct figurative paintings.
“I never look at you from the place from which you see me” by Olaf Nicolai is on view at the main Galerie EIGEN + ART space from 27 April to 27 May, while “Elsay Rouy & Emil Urbanek” is on view at the Lab space from 20 April to 3 June. The main gallery is located at Auguststraße 26, 10117 Berlin, and EIGEN + ART Lab is at Torstraße 220, 10115 Berlin. The opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday, from 11 AM to 6 PM, for the main space and Tuesday to Friday, from 2 PM to 6 PM, and Saturday, from 11 AM to 6 PM for the Lab space. Please see their website for special Gallery Weekend opening hours.
There is a powerful quote by artist Neda Saeedi that unifies Crone’s Gallery Weekend exhibition: “It is hard to understand the ocean from a dryland.” The show features a range of works by Yalda Afsah, Parastou Forouhar, Anahita Razmi, Neda Saeedi, Farkhondeh Shahroudi, Soheila Sokhanvari, Mona Kasra, Mehraneh Atashi, Nooshin Farhid, and Ramesch Daha. In the powerful new show — curated by Başak Şenova, professor of research at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna — the artists interrogate such issues as surveillance, identity politics, and economic and social changes.
“Simurgh. Ten Women Artists from Iran” is on view from 28 April to 17 June. The gallery is located at Fasanenstrasse 29, 10719 Berlin. The opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11 AM to 6 PM. Please see their website for special Gallery Weekend opening hours.
The German artist Bjørn Melhus returns to Ebensperger’s premises in the former Crematorium Wedding ten years after his first solo show at the gallery. With a sharp focus on such themes as dystopias, utopias, borders, and disease, [dramatic music continues]” will contain a variety of video works produced between 2020 and 2023, as well as a new series called “GATEKEEPERS” made specifically for Gallery Weekend.
“[dramatic music continues]” by Bjørn Melhus is on view from 28 April to 17 June. The gallery is located at Plantagenstraße 30, 13347 Berlin. The opening hours are Wednesday to Saturday, 12 PM to 6 PM. Please see their website for special Gallery Weekend opening hours.
With her “Mother Tongue” exhibition, American artist Marina Adams showcases her command of color through a series of recent paintings — including a large-scale canvas stretched across Galerie Thomas Schulte’s Corner Space. A poetic composition of symbols and shapes fuses through colored planes in the works; referencing everything from the female body and Nina Simone to the sea and Picasso.
“Mother Tongue” by Marina Adams is on view from 28 April to 10 June. The gallery is located at Charlottenstrasse 24, D-10117 Berlin. The opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 12 PM to 6 PM. Please see their website for special Gallery Weekend opening hours.
For his fifth solo exhibition at Société, Timur Si-Qin will present sculptures that touch on his interests in ecology and evolution. A selection of pieces will focus on the origins of the coronavirus, which he views as a planetary immune response. Since growing up in Beijing and America, the artist of German and Mongolian-Chinese heritage has settled in Berlin and drawn acclaim for incorporating the hectic, oversaturated digital world into his work.
“Natural Origin” by Timur Si-Qin is on view from 28 April to 26 May. The gallery is located at Wielandstraße 26, 10707 Berlin. The opening hours are Monday to Saturday, 10 AM to 6 PM. Please see their website for special Gallery Weekend opening hours.
For Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz, a core theme in his work is tapping into his Arabic-Jewish heritage. With his third solo exhibition at Barbara Wien, the artist examines the relationship between art and politics through a new iteration of his film project, “I‘m good at love, I‘m good at hate, it‘s in between I freeze,” which began with his deep interest in the work and life of Canadian singer and poet Leonard Cohen — particularly Cohen’s thoughts and experience with the Israeli-Palestine conflict.
“I‘m good at love, I‘m good at hate, it‘s in between I freeze” by Michael Rakowitz is on view from 28 April to 29 July. The gallery is located at Schöneberger Ufer 65, 3rd floor, 10785 Berlin. The opening hours are Tuesday to Friday, 11 AM to 6 PM, and Saturday, 11 AM to 4 PM. Please see their website for special Gallery Weekend opening hours.
Two powerful shows await art lovers at Alt-Moabit 110, the location of both LEVY Galerie and alexander levy. First, at LEVY, the show “Wanderung | Journey” offers a selection of works by Max Neumann, one of the foremost artists of German figuration. With carefully laid out compositions featuring silhouetted figures, the paintings bring a distinct abstraction to the human figure. Meanwhile, alexander levy will show “Worlds Away,” its first solo exhibition of artist Anne Duk Hee Jordan. Anchored on ideas of transformation and transience, the works fuse sociopolitical and ecological issues through a series of spatial, sensory experiences that demand to be seen.
“Wanderung | Journey” by Max Neumann is on view from 29 April to 24 June, while “Worlds Away” by Anne Duk Hee Jordan is on view from 28 April to 24 June. Both galleries are located at Alt-Moabit 110, 10559 Berlin. The opening hours for both galleries are Wednesday to Saturday, 11 AM to 6 PM. Please see their respective websites for special Gallery Weekend opening hours.
Situated in the east of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, the city of Sulaymaniyah becomes the focal point for Hiwa K’s new show, “Like a Good, Good, Good Boy.” A selection of works that span everything from backlit collages to sculptures is presented, with a three-part video installation by the Kurdish-Iraqi artist acting as the foundation. The film shows three places vital to his youth: his childhood home, his school, and the Amna Suraka prison — a notorious place where Saddam Hussein’s henchmen used to torture and murder Iraqis from 1979 through 1991. In the packed slate of art happenings around the city, this powerful show is not one to be missed.
“Like a Good, Good, Good Boy” by Hiwa K is on view from 28 April to 1 July. The gallery is located at Lindenstr. 35, 10969 Berlin. The opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday, from 12 PM to 6 PM. Please see their website for special Gallery Weekend opening hours.
For her third solo exhibition at Galerie Noah Link, the Berlin-based artist Josefine Reisch takes aim at the stark juxtapositions between such themes as royalism and socialism, glory and failure, and pomp and pretense. By using golden hues throughout the gallery — from heavy curtains to paintings — she invites viewers to question the contrast between celebrity and politics.
“Dowry” by Josefine Reisch is on view from 28 April to 10 June. The gallery is located at Kulmer Straße 17, 10783 Berlin. The opening hours are Thursday to Saturday, from 12 PM to 6 PM. Please see their website for special Gallery Weekend opening hours.
Chris Erik Thomas is the Digital Editor of Art Düsseldorf. They work as a freelance writer and editor in Berlin and focus primarily on culture, art, and media. Their work can also be seen in Highsnobiety, The Face Magazine, and other publications.
As part of our new series, Düsseldorf Talks, we talk to people from the arts and cultural scene who have a personal connection to Düsseldorf about their ties to the city, and together we take a look at inspiring, beloved, and frequently visited places in Düsseldorf.
Words: Annalena Roters and Chris Erik Thomas.
Swantje Lichtenstein cannot be tied down to a single practice. After a childhood spent in Tübingen, she jumped around the globe, practicing her craft as a poet, sound artist, performer, and coach in far-flung international locales. As a scholar, she completed her studies in German, philosophy, and sociology before receiving a doctorate in recent German poetry in Cologne. As a lecturer and professor, she has taught at various universities around the world, including the University of Applied Arts Vienna, the Academy of Media Arts Cologne, and the Universidad del Norte in Barranquilla, Colombia.
Since 2007, she has worked as a professor of Text & Aesthetic Practice at the Hochschule Düsseldorf — settling into the city and establishing deep roots within the art community. Beyond her outstanding career in academia, she’s also established herself in the art scene through a broad array of works, including poetry, essays, theory, translations, and sound works. She is particularly interested in transtextual and performative extensions of language, sound, and theory, as well as artistic explorations of electroacoustic and conceptual modes of recording from a transmedial and feminist perspective. Alongside the presentation of her work at international festivals, including the Sound Eye Festival in Cork and the International Poetry Festival in Bucharest and Istanbul, she is also co-founder of the cOsmOsmOse festival for performance poetry and verbophony.
For Düsseldorf Talks, we caught up with Lichtenstein to dive into parallels between the visual arts and the literary scenes, her favorite ramen spots, and more. Read through and take a look at all of our Talks in the digital magazine.
You are an artist, author, and professor of text and aesthetic practice at the Hochschule Düsseldorf and live here in the city. What makes Düsseldorf special for you?
Düsseldorf, with its Asian and international community, its geographical location close to Belgium and the Netherlands, and between the Ruhrpott and Cologne, is a mediator that brings people and worlds together. A city of fashion, music, and art, with quite a diverse history; a zoo without animals; a meandering Rhine; architecture that doesn’t really work together but nonetheless has many places to enjoy; [and] lakes and forests. It’s definitely more interesting than its reputation.
What kind of city is Düsseldorf when viewed through the lens of literature?
I don’t know exactly how to answer that [through] the “lens of literature,” perhaps because I don’t know how to put it on or take it off. I am very myopic and wish literature as a whole in Germany was more open, [and also wish there was more] acceptance of writing as an artistic practice that ventures a little outside the educational, entertainment, and knowledgeable corners. Since Heinrich Heine’s time, however, there have been (and still are) many writers and many institutions dedicated to literature, bookstores, publishing houses, and artistic projects.
In recent history, one can observe connections and synergies between the visual arts and the music scene in Düsseldorf. For example, with the action artists of the 1960s, but also in the heyday of punk in the 70s and 80s. Are there such connections to the literary scene as well?
I belong more to those who understand writing as an artistic practice and this has a long tradition in art, music, and literature — especially in the times that saw an overall change in society, in institutions, and in art as a social or extended art practice. In legendary places like Daniel Spoerri’s Restaurant am Burgplatz, the club Creamcheese, or the Ratinger Hof, artists met and worked with all kinds of materials, including language, sound, and literature.
The poet Thomas Kling, who unfortunately died much too early, is a good example of this. He regularly performed with various musicians at the Ratinger Hof and worked and lived together with his wife, the artist Ute Langanky, at the Raketenstation Hombroich. This historiography, unfortunately, still focuses on a very male and European perspective on art and literature, but the divisions between the arts were definitely less strong in this period than they are today.
What role does contemporary visual art play in your work?
I understand my work as an artistic practice, not only with my sound art, performance, and video works, but also with “language art” and the “making” ( or “poiesis”) with the material language. I have dedicated myself to this topic for a very long time and I consider working with language a transmedial, artistic work that also exists in space, in the body, as a written image and concept.
What are your favorite places for literature, art, or music in Düsseldorf?
K20/K21, Kunsthalle with the Kunstverein, Julia-Stoschek-Collection, Museumsinsel/ Raketenstation Hombroich, fft-Theater, Stadtbibliothek, Filmhaus, and Tonhalle, but also small event spaces, off-spaces, and galleries. I’m not good with names, but there are good websites collecting this [like The Dorf].
I try to take more breaks, listen to experimental and new music, and eat a lot of ramen.
After visiting a museum or attending a concert, where do you prefer to go for a coffee, have something to eat, or dance?
The best [thing to do] is to get ramen on Immermannstraße. Otherwise, I tend to just go around the corner.
Which place in Düsseldorf do you particularly recommend to visitors of the city and our readers? What makes this place special?
The botanical garden with its great dome, the organ in the Neanderkirche in the historical center, Aaper forest, and Unterbacher lake. I like to be outside.
What are your future plans and projects this year?
I am working on the production of audio works on tape cassettes and vinyl records, [and] sound installations and performances that explore vulnerability, connection, and healing. [Also] Artificial Intelligence translations of a handbook by English philosopher Sara Ahmed on feminist buzzkill, [and] an artistic research project on community arts that looks at challenging the classic white genius approach to art and advocating for a more inclusive, collective approach to the production of the arts.
[I am also] always working on poems, essays, workshops, and seminars. Otherwise, I try to take more breaks, listen to experimental and new music, and eat a lot of ramen.
Chris Erik Thomas is the Digital Editor of Art Düsseldorf. They work as a freelance writer and editor in Berlin and focus primarily on culture, art, and media. Their work can also be seen in Highsnobiety, The Face Magazine, and other publications.
Words: Chris Erik Thomas.
Outstanding sculptural works have always been a cornerstone of Art Düsseldorf. Throughout history, sculpting has been integral to humanity’s embrace of art — from the earliest known works from around 32,000 B.C. to the modern era. And within the contemporary art space, the practice has flourished through a diversity of positions and fresh experimentation.
For the fifth edition of Art Düsseldorf, we allowed galleries to apply for our coveted Sculpture Spaces for the first time ever. After many, many outstanding applications, we are proud to present eight sculptural works by seven artists that offer a diversity of positions on the art form.
As we open the doors to Areal Böhler for Art Düsseldorf 2023 from March 31 through April 2, visitors can look forward to everything from monumental sculptures and meditative ceramic vessels to repurposed antique sculptures transformed into grotesque, twisted shapes.
Whether you’re preparing to wander the halls of the fair or just want more insight as you tune into our live stream, get to know the works and artists we have on view at all of our Sculpture Spots this year.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that “DEEP AND HOT” was beamed into Areal Böhler from another planet or a future moon colony. The otherworldly sculpture by Thomas Feuerstein — brought to the fair by Galerie Elisabeth & Klaus Thoman — commands attention. Crafted from stainless steel and duroplast, its spheres dot a central base of a pressure reactor and reference the microscopic atoms and molecules that make up our world.
For those familiar with Austrian artist Feuerstein’s oeuvre, including his previous works at Art Düsseldorf, the sight of this scientifically-inspired piece may come as no surprise. The works he’s produced over his decades-long career have always found ways to bring the natural world into his practice through such unique materials as fossilized ammonite, ammonium chloride, rubber, and much more. With his latest work, he continues to showcase his talent for finding the balance between science and art.
There’s a foreboding presence to “SPIKED COLLAR I [fin]” and “SPIKED COLLAR III [attached],” two of three works from artist Eliza Ballesteros’ sculptural series. Featured in the final Sculpture Spot as part of gallery fiebach, minninger’s presence in the fair, the ominous, towering pieces are inspired by antique, original guard dog collars. There is a subtle differentiation to each work, with “Spiked Collar I” oxidized with red wine and “SPIKED COLLAR III” black burnished.
Based between Düsseldorf and Cologne, the young artist has already begun carving out a name for herself in the contemporary art space thanks to her conceptual use of objects, texts, and installation. By recontextualizing cultural signifiers in symbols and materials, her oeuvre offers a sharp critique of societal power structures.
A seemingly chaotic mash of polyester, plastic, polyurethane, and metal is held aloft by a singular steel beam in artist Peter Buggenhout’s 2001 work “On Hold #20.” Brought to the fair by the Düsseldorf-based Konrad Fischer Galerie, this hulking work feels like a found object from another era — unearthed and turned inside out to reveal the balanced disorder of its inner workings.
With his towering, abstract sculptures made of such materials as industrial waste, horsehair, and blood, the Belgian artist encourages a rethinking of the very nature of creation. By rooting his pieces in abstraction, he aims to bring the viewer back to the object. It’s this approach of avoiding the bog of symbolism that has captivated audiences and garnered praise throughout the art world.
As part of Buchmann Galerie’s presence at the fair, the Berlin-based gallery has chosen the sculptural piece “Vertical Highways A5” by Bettina Pousttchi, one of Germany’s most acclaimed contemporary artists. As the largest sculpture to date from her series of repurposed crash barriers, the work brings an anthropomorphic quality to the harsh steel that touches on the architectural references common in the artist’s work.
Since her breakout installation, “Echo,” at Berlin’s Temporäre Kunsthalle at Schlossplatz, Pousttchi has garnered international acclaim for her sculptural and photographic works. The artist’s impressive sculptural oeuvre has particularly drawn praise for the new life she breathes into structures taken from public spaces, including street bollards, crowd barriers, and bike racks.
There is a certain understated energy to German artist Katja Strunz’s recent work, “Gilded Palace of Sin.” Using painted, folded steel, the artist tackles such existential themes as the complexity of human existence in relation to the passage of time.
For the artist, who is represented at the fair by Vienna’s Galerie Krobath, inspiration for her work is rooted in dismantling the idea of historic trauma being a symptom situated in the past. The idea of modernity is thus translated and twisted to accompany her diachronic references to the past and present; specific discontinuities and disruption have become the key features of her oeuvre.
Choosing a work by up-and-coming artist Kavata Mbiti for their sculpture spot was a natural fit for the Berlin-based Galerie Jochen Hempel. Crafted from a mix of wooden sticks and strips, wax, and pigment, her piece commands attention as it seems to sink down and stretch skyward simultaneously. The result is what Mbiti calls a visual notation, which resembles a towering cardiogram measuring the space it inhabits.
For Mbiti, the question of “what remains” is central to her practice. The Swiss-born, Berlin-based artist has steadily built up her talents in sculpting, drawing, and performance over the past two decades — winning multiple prizes and grants for her work as a young contemporary artist.
For this year’s fair, Phillip von Rosen Galerie will present two unique sculptures by Dutch artist Bas de Wit. The painter and sculptor’s two works — “In funny memory of … Venus de Milo #1” (2021) and “Grow with the flow #13 & #14” (2022) — are a testament to his skill in the art form. Steeped in historical references to both the Hellenistic era and columns of antiquity, these contemporary works distort and rework art history to craft works that are firmly grounded in modernity.
The artist has spent decades honing his talents through the creation of his strange, surreal objects that have deep historical roots. Through a process of distortion that often turns his sculptures into grotesque, twisting shapes, the pieces that de Wit creates have captivated viewers and offered a unique insight into his imagination.
For Art Düsseldorf 2023, the Munich- and Lisbon-based gallery Jahn und Jahn has chosen to show “Sieben Mal Sieben” (2022) by ceramicist Young-Jae Lee. The work continues her unique staging practice of placing bowls and vases directly on the floor and takes its name from the inclusion of seven “grief bowls,” or bowls that had their glazing fail during the second firing of the kiln.
After coming to Germany from Seoul in 1972, the artist’s exploration of ceramic art led her to study under such artists as Christine Tappermann, Margot Münster, and Erwin Schutzbach. She has managed the renowned Margaretenhöhe Ceramics Workshop in Essen since 1986 and, over the decades, Lee’s mastery of the form — and her personal admiration for the ceramics of the Goryeo (918-1392) and Joseon (1392-1910) dynasties — has brought her international recognition and countless awards for her impressive oeuvre.
As part of our new series, Düsseldorf Talks, we talk to people from the arts and cultural scene who have a personal connection to Düsseldorf about their ties to the city, and together we take a look at inspiring, beloved, and frequently visited places in Düsseldorf.
Words: Annalena Roters and Chris Erik Thomas.
Since being appointed as an artist in residence at the Düsseldorf Schauspielhaus, South African actor Bongile Mantsai has been a guest in the city for nearly a year. He opened the 2022/2023 season in the titular role in “Othello” as part of the production from South African director Lara Foot — reuniting with his longtime friend and colleague who he’d previously worked with in his home country. On view at the Schauspielhaus, the revamped version of “Othello” decolonizes the nearly 400-year-old Shakespearian classic, and is performed in German, English, and the South African language isiXhosha. This isn’t the only production keeping Mantsai occupied; he also appears as Walther Fürst in “William Tell.”
Off-stage, Mantsai has become one of South Africa’s best-known film and television actors, with roles in such works as the controversial film “Inxeba – the Wound,” which was shown at the Berlinale. When not busy in front of the screen, he’s also been active as a director and composer, and organized a theater festival called Zabalaza Theatre Festival in Cape Town.
We caught up with Mantsai for Art Düsseldorf Magazine to talk about his favorite spots in the city, the healing power of the stage, his role in giving young people access to acting and making their voices heard, and more.
You’ve been in the city working as an actor and artist in residence for a year at Schauspielhaus Düsseldorf. Can you tell us more about what you’re doing?
At the moment I’m doing “Othello” and I’m a part of “William Tell.” I was invited by the Schauspielhaus for “Othello,” which surprised me because I can only speak English, and the play is performed in German. I don’t understand the other people who speak German, so I need to read their body language.
Lara Foot, the director of “Othello,” staged the play so that German, English, and isiXhosa are spoken. Othello is about how the fear of otherness destroys love. In Lara Foot’s production, Shakespeare’s plot is linked to the colonial wars of the 19th and 20th centuries, such as German’s colonization of German South West Africa, now Namibia. Through the multilingual mise en scène, the director exposes a potential for conflict. What is it like for you as actors working in multiple languages?
One thing I’m happy about is that I can speak Xhosa in “Othello,” which is my native language. I feel free and happy that I can speak it here. There are many German actors, and we somehow understand each other despite of the different languages we speak – that is integration for me.
You and Lara Foot have a long-standing artistic friendship. How has it been working with her again?
It’s a big cycle for me because I’ve known Lara for years. When I moved from theater to television in South Africa, I didn’t see Lara for some time. Television changed my life. It’s like I became someone else — a celebrity. That’s not a very stable life. So when Lara asked me if I wanted to come to the Schauspielhaus, it felt like coming back to myself. When I came here, this grounded me. It’s just like therapy.
The Schauspielhaus … is where I can tell my stories the way I want to tell my stories without being judged.
Since you opened this season with “Othello,” you’ve been working as an artist in residence at the Schauspielhaus for an entire year. How long are you staying in Düsseldorf and do you feel comfortable here?
Yes, right now, I have three months left in Düsseldorf. It has been a very important time of self-development so far and feels like a healing process after being a television celebrity. It’s a calm and safe environment here. I can walk freely or take my bike, which I haven’t done for years. So to be able to work here with Lara means a lot to me.
Where do you like to go for a walk or ride? Which place in Düsseldorf do you like best so far?
I live in Golzheim, which I think is very bourgeois. I have the privilege of being close to the Rhine river there and it’s my favorite place in Düsseldorf. We have this system here at work where you skip two weeks and then do a play again. When I have time off I go to the Rhine, put on my headphones, pretend that I’m listening to someone, and I can just do my lines. It’s my space to be at peace.
I also learned a lot about Heinrich Heine, the German poet. I went to a restaurant close to the Heine museum. I’ve also discovered a place called Ghana Street, where I go get authentic African food. This particular food is so different from the food here, and sometimes I miss the taste.
My favorite place is The Schauspielhaus to be quite honest. This is where I can express myself; this is where I can tell my stories the way I want to tell my stories without being judged. I liberate myself in this place. When I go on stage, I can tell people what I want to tell, I can open my heart, and I can be vulnerable.
Acting isn’t your only artistic passion. Tell us about the other things you do here.
I am giving workshops where I’m helping actors and participants. The first one was about being vulnerable. One of the participants introduced me to a place called “Kabawil.” It’s a theater space where I did another workshop last week. This time, the topics were “feeling included and excluded” and “what makes us privileged or unprivileged.” One of the things that fascinated me the most was a young lady who took a picture of her hand and when I asked her what it meant, she said: “It’s the color of my skin. It makes me privileged.”
Another thing I do besides acting is directing. I did a festival back in South Africa with Lara because we wanted to give young people a platform and for their voices to be heard.
This year, in our new SOLO section, Art Düsseldorf is showing works with a thematic focus on diversity, among other things. What do you think the cultural sector needs to do to enable more diversity? Where do you currently see the greatest need?
I think we need spaces like this to allow young people to open up. It’s rare to find young people in the audience; if we’re talking about diversity, spaces like this need to be diverse, not only for older people or rich people. We should also be open for exchange of culture so that when I come into a space like this, I don’t think, “I’m black.” Instead, I can feel like, “I’m an artist.” I have seen plays where there is diversity, but I still feel like I am missing young people in spaces like this. “Othello” is written in an old language, but who are we inviting with that? I don’t say the writers should change the scripts, but maybe we should modernize it to include a younger audience.
If we’re talking about diversity, spaces like this need to be diverse, not only for older people or rich people.
What are your future plans and projects this year?
I’m here until July. It’s interesting that you asked me this because I was looking at the program a couple of days back. I have four shows left of “Othello” and maybe four “Wilhelm Tell” shows before summer, and then the summer program shifts outside to open-air shows. I don’t know what the theater has planned for me but at the same time, I miss my home. I haven’t been to South Africa since last summer. The funny thing is, I’ve fallen in love [with Düsseldorf] now over a couple of months since the beginning of my time here. I’m at peace again.
For the first edition of our new essay series at Art Düsseldorf Magazine, we asked a selection of writers to investigate issues related to Sustainability in the Art World. This essay by Leigh Biddlecome, an Italy-based writer, probes the way that the economic theory of “degrowth” can be adapted to the art world and redefined by artists as a means of moving beyond the current sustainability paradigm.
Edited by: Chris Erik Thomas, Digital Editor of Art Düsseldorf.
It seems fitting that when I started writing this piece, my computer immediately corrected “degrowth” to “regrowth.” It does not bode well that I’m compelled to teach the keyword to the spellcheck program. Yet, within the last decade, “degrowth” has gained traction within certain progressive economic and political circles as an alternative to classic models that depend on ever-increasing GDP figures to indicate progress.
Degrowth proponents argue for prioritizing social and ecological well-being — emphasizing hyper-local solutions while “reducing excess resource and energy throughput.” Specifically, they call for scaling down some sectors and enacting redistributive strategies to reduce global social inequality. In contrast to “sustainability” or “green growth” platforms, where growth can be decoupled from negative environmental impacts, the critique positions growth as “intrinsically not sustainable.”
To approach the implications of this theory for contemporary art and performance, one must first acknowledge how an artist might instinctively react to the term itself. Stripped of rationale and context, “degrowth” has the potential to alienate artists and culture workers. Its connotations might even pose an existential threat to those of us in the practice (and business) of generating ideas and creative output; “degrowth” could imply a stifling sameness, an exhortation against creation, or even aesthetic collapse.
But degrowth is not synonymous with stagnancy. The octogenarian American economist Herman Daly distinguishes between “growth” and “development,” explaining: “When something grows, it gets bigger physically by accretion or assimilation of material,” whereas “when something develops, it gets better in a qualitative sense.” Forms of development which encourage societal well-being are not antithetic to, but rather encouraged within, degrowth contexts. A reformulation of Daly’s metaphor for artists might attempt to reconcile the two; an artist may be just the right person to argue that certain forms of artistic accretion or assimilation are necessary and co-existent with qualitative development.
It is not enough to make art on “environmental themes.”
One of the most compelling arguments from degrowth economics that can be applied to the art world is redistribution. The writer John Cassidy, paraphrasing the 2019 Nobel in Economics winners Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, explains: “When the benefits of growth are mainly captured by an elite, […] social disaster can result”. Given the economic reality of the contemporary art world, where a tiny proportion of artists garner the vast majority of earnings, some form of a degrowth redistributive model should attract significant support.
This theory also has implications for museums, aside from the obvious need to distribute funding more equitably. The researcher and interdependent curator Alessandra Saviotti offers these shifts to the current exhibition model: focus on developing fewer shows per year as a means of reorienting the “art-show-as-consumer-product” system; encourage deeper engagement by the public; and free up funding to support better conditions for artists in their creation process.
What might artists uniquely contribute to these concepts? We must reimagine the theory not simply for the context of art, but by a collective, creative imagining of arts practitioners. There are many possible routes for how this process of appropriation and re-definition might continue to unfurl, but two stand out.
When describing Catalonian artist Lara Fluxà’s “LLIM,” a collateral event at the 2022 Venice Biennale, the curator Oriol Fontdevila proclaimed: “this is not a site-specific intervention.” The “organism” Fluxà created involved a complex sculptural infrastructure, with up to 800 liters of Venetian lagoon water moving through its snaking PVC tubes and ouroboros-like glass Klein bottles blown by Fluxà (supported by master glassworker Ferran Collado). By contesting its site-specificity, Fontdevila implied that the work might reveal a kind of universality. In this way, “LLIM” demonstrates how the “hyper-local” component of degrowth theory might be complicated by artists deeply invested in their immediate environments and transnational comparative work. By using the theme of “silt” (“llim” in Catalonian), Fluxà departed from the parallel environmental damages to her native Catalonian marshes and then anchored herself in a collaborative undertaking in Venice, with its own reality of silt, lagoons, dredging, and environmental precarity — thus reducing the potential insularity of a “hyper-local” orientation.
Working with environmental scientists, activists, archivists, and local and Catalonian glassblowers, Fluxà created, as Fontedevila calls it, a “situated manifestation.” Specifically, it shows the challenge of defining a “steady-state” system, depending on scale and perspective. On an immediate level, it might appear to be a closed system of cisterns and tubes within the warehouse space. But lagoon water flows in and out, propelled by the movement of the tides and subject to any of the inputs to the canals themselves — from boat fuel oil stains and algae to silt from upstream rivers. “LLIM,” in its very design, demonstrates porousness and transformation across ecosystems, and an oscillation from what can be understood as the source (“cause”) versus the product (“effect”) within these systems.
Artists and cultural mediators are vital to any paradigm shift.
If we want to move the discourse from sustainability towards an arts-led form of degrowth, it is not enough to make art on “environmental themes.” That approach risks complacency within the viewer, artist, and curator, and a numbing repetition of the same tropes that bombard us daily from corporate branding and marketing. Instead, we need art as a “catalyst for destabilization,” a phrase inspired by language from Decentralising Political Economies (DPE), an ongoing open-source research platform. DPE highlights the ways in which art has the potential to question and act upon systems of labor and power through the creation of new infrastructures and protocols.
In some cases, like one of DPE’s partners, Arte Útil, it can also look like a refusal of traditional institutional infrastructure in its decision to remain unregistered and keep its online tools user- and artist-generated. Cassie Thornton, one of the artists featured in the DPE library, created The Hologram, a peer-to-peer feminist health network. It began as a “toolkit to exit economic precarity by attempting to build human relationships instead of accumulating goods and capital” within artists’ communities in Oakland, California, according to Saviotti. From there, the network developed further following Thornton’s engagement with the Greek Solidarity Clinics movement. Operating outside the traditional financialised health system, it offers an example of how an artistic approach can contribute to the degrowth movement by inventing new infrastructure out of a context of deeply lived experience in a form that is both an artistic practice and a project operating within communities out “in the world.”
Usually, economists and politicians reference art as a generic category within degrowth discussions, despite existing work by artists such as Thornton and Fluxà, which already prompts reconsiderations for this theory. If art is mentioned at all, it is in reference to the early 20th-century economist John Maynard Keynes, who proposed that the public will naturally turn towards art and nature once their fundamental needs have been achieved. While this is enchanting as a future vision, there’s a friction to its logic: it implies that art is a result of an economic process, a kind of leisure prize to be awarded once pesky basic needs have been taken care of.
Instead of positing the arts as a kind of “product” to be consumed following the satisfaction of basic needs, what if artistic creation was a catalyst for this new economically-sufficient world? Artists and cultural mediators are vital to any paradigm shift because of their potential to destabilize our perspectives, reorient our current focus on sustainability, and even develop new societal models. They should be considered necessary actors in the creation of this new system, rather than providers of its rewards.
Leigh Biddlecome is an Italy-based writer, translator, and curator of performance and visual arts in heritage spaces. As an Erasmus Mundus scholar, she received a joint MA in Heritage Studies and Development from EHESS Paris and ELTE Budapest in 2021.
Words: Chris Erik Thomas.
In an era where trends and artists rise and fall in the blink of an eye, keeping on top of the next wave of talent can feel like dabbling in clairvoyance. Old rules that once seemed to govern the art world — like an artist’s price level rising over time as their careers became established — have been thrown out the window. Instead, working in the contemporary (and ultra-contemporary) art scene can feel like building a plane as you’re flying through the air. There’s a high risk to entering this market, especially for young galleries who have opened their doors and come of age in the past decade.
For Art Düsseldorf 2023, alongside our SOLO PROJECTS section, we are also introducing a new section called NEXT to highlight these new galleries that have been in business for less than ten years and are committed to showing current works by emerging artists.
In an industry known for the massive financial and systemic hurdles to establishing a new gallery, we want to support fresh positions by uplifting gallerists and artists that are challenging the status quo.
Ahead of the fifth edition of Art Düsseldorf, we invite you to get to know the galleries that will take part in the NEXT section. Scroll through for a sneak preview of what to expect at the fair, and we’ll see you very soon at Areal Böhler from March 31 through April 2.
This Berlin-based gallery has been a destination for fresh positions in contemporary art since 2017. For Art Düsseldorf, the young gallery will show a duo exhibition from artists Gerrit Frohne-Brinkmann and Josefine Reisch. Both artists have built up their respective oeuvres through explorations of the past and reflections on cultural heritage.
In the booth, the two artists will make use of everything from computer towers and Renaissance-inspired paintings to a particular shade of carpeting to create a unique experience for fairgoers. Through a melding of technology and camp, the pieces on view will offer a critique of masculinity, vanity, and other prescient topics through a distinctly modern lens.
Founded in 2016, Russi Klenner’s namesake gallery has become one of the most exciting art spaces in Berlin’s Kreuzberg neighborhood. Thanks to its mix of emerging and influential young artists (most of whom are based in Berlin), the gallery has helped usher in a new wave of artists in the German capital.
At this year’s fair, the gallery will dedicate its booth to a solo presentation of works by Ravensburg-born and Berlin-based artist Oska Gutheil. For over a decade, they have brought their experience as a queer, transgender artist to the canvas through their distinctive, figurative paintings. The booth will be a key destination for all art lovers on the lookout for a fresh contemporary vision as the mix of loud colors and fantastic, twisted characters ensure that their pieces are not soon forgotten.
This Berlin-based gallery was founded by Johanna Neuschäffer and Anne Schwanz in April 2018 with the goal of expanding the idea of what an art gallery can be. Through a mix of artist talks, tours, and joint projects, the duo has created a gallery program not solely defined by artistic positions.
As part of its dedication to experimentation, OFFICE IMPART will present pieces by a trio of artists — Pola Sieverding, Hannah Sophie Dunkelberg, and Jagoda Bednarsky — whose practice focuses on the physical body and its relationship to the world. Through a mix of mediums such as found imagery and poetry, the artists will interrogate everything from gender and femininity to the cultural influence of the film “Titanic.”
Since opening its doors in October 2018, the gallery has set itself apart in Düsseldorf’s crowded art scene through its focus on antique ceramics and international contemporary and pre-modern Asian art. The vision of co-founders Dunja Evers and Thomas Mass has led to an exciting program that brings a cross-cultural dialogue to each exhibition.
For Art Düsseldorf’s fifth edition, the gallery will present the works of two emerging artists from their program: Julie Oppermann and Joel Stevenett. By combining Oppermann’s abstract paintings with Stevenett’s street photography, the booth will offer an intriguing mix of media and sharply contrasting, yet coexistent, perspectives.
Although this London-based gallery only opened in October 2020, it has had an outsize influence on the city’s busy art scene. The gallery boasts over 1,250 square feet of exhibition space and also operates a project space situated on the lower level of the gallery called Projektraum London.
In line with its focus on new voices in the realm of international contemporary painting, the gallery will present a solo exhibition of works by Magnus Frederik Clausen from his conceptual “clock paintings” series. The Copenhagen-based artist has already established himself as a rising talent, and Art Düsseldorf will mark the first time his works are shown in a solo exhibition in Germany.
This Vienna-based gallery has been carving out a space for itself in the city’s art community since 2019. With a sharply curated selection of artists, the gallery has become a destination for fresh positions in the contemporary art scene.
As the gallery makes its return to Art Düsseldorf this year, its booth will feature works by the artists Luca Ilic and Richard Nikl, as well as Dan Vogt, who was the subject of a solo show at last year’s fair. The works on view will be united by the theme of sentimentality — including a number of Ilic’s signature paintings of Harry Potter characters — but will diverge to present distinctly different perspectives.
After opening in April 2018, this Berlin-Charlottenburg gallery has focused largely on artists born between 1984 and the early 1990s. By uplifting a generation who have grown up entwined in the internet and digital age, the resulting art has a cutting, modern edge.
At Art Düsseldorf, its booth will showcase a site-specific installation with sculptures and wall works by Munich-born artist Stefan Knauf. After recently transforming the Berlin gallery into an abstract landscape in the “Birds don’t cry” exhibition, the artist will adapt his steel sculptures and massive mounds of perlite for the fair.
From the moment it opened its doors in 2019, this gallery has put a spotlight on emerging artists. With a mix of positions — from painting and sculpture to video and conceptual art — it has presented a steady program of works that push contemporary art forward.
In a continuation of its mission to showcase new artists, the gallery will stage a double presentation of two artists: Rebekka Benzenberg and Monika Grabuschnigg. By contrasting the two artists’ work, a common focus on pop culture, philosophy, iconography, and psychology is revealed.
Situated far outside of the European bubble, this Kolkata-based gallery has become a key player in India’s contemporary art scene. Since 2017, founders R. S. Agarwal and R.S. Goenka and CEO Richa Agawrwal have uplifted a steady mix of emerging, mid-career, and established artists while taking on a future-forward, complex, and multi-dimensional approach to the gallery program.
As it makes the journey to Düsseldorf for this year’s fair, the gallery will present works by Arpita Akhanda, Debashish Paul, and Ujjal Dey. With each artist utilizing a diversity of media, the works on display will provide an engaging program for fairgoers.
For seven years, the gallery based in Düsseldorf has shown both regional and international positions from within the contemporary art world. At this year’s fair, the gallery will present a selection of works by Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė, as well as Kinke Kooi.
As a duo, Gawęda and Kulbokaitė will present a photographic series that falls within the scope of their performative project “Mouthless,” which tackles ecological anxiety. Meanwhile, Kooi’s pieces make use of acrylic, gouache, and colored pencil to create otherworldly scenes inspired by botany and anatomy.
Since opening in Lisbon in 2014, the gallery, founded by Alexander Caspari, has dedicated itself to academically rigorous and immersive exhibitions from a core group of emerging and established international contemporary artists. Last year, it launched a sprawling new space in a large 19th Century apartment that encompasses seven exhibition rooms, two viewing rooms, and a sculpture garden.
The gallery’s booth at Art Düsseldorf will comprise a selection of new “Imagined Landscape” works by Nicolas Feldmeyer. First presented in a solo show at its gallery space, the digitally constructed 3D models meld painting and architectural rendering techniques to create new worlds.
This gallery, based out of Zurich, Switzerland, has been cultivating a strong program of exhibitions since 2019. Under the leadership of Marie and Caspar Livie, the gallery has rooted itself in Swiss contemporary art while also holding space for historical and international art.
For its debut at Art Düsseldorf, the gallery will present new works by the New York-based artists Austin Eddy, Anya Kielar, and Johannes VanDerBeek, as well as a new sculpture by Michael Sailstorfer. With such a diverse range of materials used by the artists — from fabric and foam to oil and concrete — the booth promises to be a destination for discovering exciting new positions.
For the first edition of our new essay series at Art Düsseldorf Magazine, we asked a selection of writers to investigate issues related to Sustainability in the Art World. This essay by Glesni Williams, a Bologna-based journalist, focuses on the rich history of environmental activism in art as a path forward in the fight against climate fatigue.
Edited by: Chris Erik Thomas, Digital Editor of Art Düsseldorf.
In an era where the impact of the climate crisis is omnipresent in the media, artists and art institutions are key to fighting climate fatigue. Artists have long been interested in the versatility and strength of nature, its ever-changing forms, and its exploitation; as people continue to build and use resources, they give less in return. What was once an art of observance — calling out the rights of the natural world, and incorporating natural elements within the artwork itself — has turned towards more dire warnings. Calls to action and the need for sustainability in art have become common. Art can inform and influence action without the pessimism seen on the news or social media. As more people become desensitized to the topic, the art world must demand more from their own institutions and break habits that contribute to a geological era characterized by unsustainable consumption.
Eco-philosopher Timothy Morton, the author of “All Art is Ecological” (2021), has coined the term “hyperobjects” to describe examples of the ubiquitous use of oil and plastic in the context of climate change. As Morton describes in their 2013 book, “Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology After the End of the World,” a hyperobject is so overwhelmingly vast that it becomes impossible to comprehend its boundaries. A relentless torrent of data and images from natural disasters turned into clickbait contributes to a sense of hopelessness over the sheer size of the crisis. The result is a perfect storm for “climate fatigue,” or the state of mind wrought with anxiety and, often, desensitized to the overload of information.
Art can inform and influence action without the pessimism seen on the news or social media.
To find practical solutions for the future, one need only look back at the rich tradition of environmental activism in recent art history. Between 1978 and 1980, Canadian artist Betty Beaumont set the project “Ocean Landmark” in motion. The ambitious underwater installation transformed processed coal waste from a hydroelectric power plant into 17,000 blocks that were taken to sea and dropped onto the Atlantic Ocean floor. Decades later, the artist’s work paid off as nature took over. The recycled waste sculpture has become an abundant reef, contributing to the ocean’s ecosystem.
From the seabed to the sky above, artist Tomás Saraceno has made the power of the sun and wind currents the focal point of the Aerocene Foundation. Founded in 2015, the interdisciplinary artistic community seeks to “devise new modes of ecological sensitivity, reactivating a common imaginary towards an ethical collaboration with the atmosphere and the environment for a future free from borders and fossil fuels.” The scientifically-grounded aerosolar installations, inspired by solar energy advocate and inventor Dominic Michaelis’s 1970s research, hinge on the idea that the sun’s power is all that is needed to allow for aerosolar travel. Since creating the first Aerocene sculpture in 2006, his pieces have been exhibited in several institutions in recent years, including the Grand Palais during COP21 in 2015, Palais de Tokyo in 2018, Palazzo Strozzi in Florence in 2020, the Venice Biennale of Architecture in 2021, and the permanent installation “In Orbit” (2013) at K21 in Düsseldorf.
Another artist tapping into these themes is Nikola Uzunovski, whose work questions whether humans are capable of respecting natural resources — and what the future holds if they are not. With “My Sunshine,” a 2008 work shown as part of the Macedonian Pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009, the artist created multiple artificial suns. After several years of prototypes, Uzunovski’s suns were made from a transparent blimp with a rotating internal reflective disc that caught the sun’s rays. Uzunovski and Saraceno’s ongoing creative research demonstrates the possibility of moving away from non-renewable energy sources by creating light sources and air travel without burning fuels.
Natural elements, such as soil and water, have also been incorporated into artists’ practice in ways that interrogate the exploitation of the earth. In Delcy Morelos’ “Earthly Paradise” (2022) at the 59th Venice Biennale 2022, the artist packed soil into thick, one-meter-tall walls for the immersive installation. With an aroma of hay, cacao powder, and other spices emanating from the earth, the piece became a multisensory experience. Surrounding visitors with these walls reminded them of their connection to the natural world, which should not be taken for granted. Morelos’ work recalls “The New York Earth Room” (1977) by Walter De Maria, a long-term installation of soil packed into a Soho gallery space, which has been on view to the public since 1980. An intersection of avant-garde art practice for the late 70s, De Maria strove to strengthen the relationship between the viewer and nature.
Using singular natural elements in installations can also be a means of approaching more existential subjects. In Olafur Eliasson and geologist Minik Rosing’s 2014 piece “Ice Watch,” twelve large blocks of ice arranged in a clock formation were installed in three public locations. Over time, the ice melted and disappeared completely. The piece was reminiscent of both Allan Kaprow’s “Fluids” (1967) and Francis Alÿs’s “Sometimes Making Something Leads to Nothing” (1997) — with one notable difference. The discourse surrounding ice in these early works was linked to its obsoleteness and had less to do with the urgency of the modern climate crisis, as in Eliasson’s work. His dedication to fighting climate change isn’t solely limited to his art. Since introducing a no-fly rule into new contracts, Eliasson’s studio has used trains or ship freights to transport works, with the aim of becoming carbon-neutral in the next decade. Eliasson demonstrates that the creator, not just the work, can bring practical contributions to fighting climate change.
In addition to individual artists, institutions also play a key role in addressing climate fatigue. One of the three locations for “Ice Watch” was at the Tate Modern on London’s Southbank. In 2019, Tate directors declared a climate emergency alongside the opening of Eliasson’s exhibition “In Real Life,” which included “The glacier melt series 1999/2019.” The museum pledged to “shine a spotlight on this critical issue” through actions across all four galleries. Part of the commitment to change came through their new environmental policy that promised to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2023 from the baseline year of 2007 and to work towards net zero emissions by 2030.
From large-scale installations made from natural elements to ambitious long-term projects that evolve over time to research-driven utopian sculptures, artists throughout art history and in the present day continue to highlight the conversation surrounding climate change and how we can move towards a greener society. The art world has the means to provide new communication and education about sustainability, renewable energy use, and safeguarding natural resources. Confronting the hyperobject of the climate crisis through the work of artists and exhibition space can spur conversation and make fighting the climate crisis feel more manageable. By providing a platform for artists to raise awareness, start a conversation, and involve the public in bringing about active social change, art can become an essential tool in breaking through the fog of climate fatigue.
Glesni Williams is an art journalist and translator from North Wales, based in Bologna, Italy. Her writing focuses on the evolution of contemporary art practice, the makers, and the interlinked exhibition spaces. She writes for Lampoon Magazine, Sound of Life, and smART Magazine, and is an arts contributor for BBC Radio Cymru.
Words: Annalena Roters and Chris Erik Thomas.
For Düsseldorf-based composer, pianist, and producer Volker Bertelmann, music has always been a constant source of inspiration. After discovering the joy of playing piano at the age of eight during his church’s Christmas program, he began classical piano training. Decades later, the musician — who also works under the alias Hauschka — has become a prolific German composer with over a dozen albums and contributions to a steady stream of film scores.
Most recently, Bertelmann has come under the spotlight for his work on the score of the German anti-war drama “All Quiet on the Western Front,” the critically lauded adaptation of the famed 1929 novel by Erich Maria Remarque. Since its release last year, the film’s unique soundtrack — and, particularly, Bertelmann’s use of his grandmother’s old harmonium — has brought fresh acclaim to his work and major awards recognition. Just weeks after winning the British Academy Film Award (BAFTA) for Best Original Score, the composer may be on the verge of winning his first Oscar on Sunday, after previously being nominated for the 2017 film “Lion.”
Long before the composer rose to fame for his musical prowess, Bertelmann was born and raised in the Siegerland region. After spending some years in Cologne, he moved to Düsseldorf in the 90s and, after various music projects that included a hip-hop group, concentrated on the piano. In order to alienate and expand the sound of the instrument, he worked with everything from felt and adhesive tape to aluminum foil and bells. By interfering with the mechanics of the instrument, a percussive sound is created, which in part is reminiscent of electronic sounds. With such a mastery of the instrument, Bertelmann has integrated the action of preparing the piano into his concerts, turning it into a performative act that can be witnessed live by the audience.
In addition to his experiments with the piano, the composer has developed orchestral works, founded the Approximation Festival, and continues to produce film music. Working on his multifaceted oeuvre in his Düsseldorf studio, he often finds inspiration in his exchange with the local art scene and other artists. For our Düsseldorf Talks series, we caught up with the artist to discuss his connection to the city’s cultural scene and his favorite spots in the city for nature, art, and culinary delights.
What does Düsseldorf mean to you in terms of music? What inspiration have you found here?
For me, the exchange with other people is important. I have met inspiring musicians and artists here from the very beginning — musicians with the most diverse backgrounds. But also, the exchange with the art scene is a very big source of inspiration for me. I think we have to experience and feel versatility over and over again in order to actually put it into practice. Music alone is not enough. Inspiration from other genres and through other artists is essential.
Cities have very different sounds. How would you describe the sound of Düsseldorf?
The sound of Düsseldorf is very difficult for me to define because there is a lot of different music in Düsseldorf that is successful. Die Toten Hosen are from Düsseldorf, but also Kraftwerk or Kreidler, Stabile Elite, Stefan Schwander, etc. There are different individualists that make up the city’s sound for me.
Music alone is not enough. Inspiration from other genres and through other artists is essential.
There has always been a lot of overlap between the music and art scene in Düsseldorf. Many of the performance artists of the 1960s had a strong musical background, including Heinz Mack on the piano, but there were also synergies later on — like those between the artists and the punk scene in Ratinger Hof. Do you find such synergies and dynamics in the city today as well?
Absolutely! For me, the Salon des Amateurs has always been a great example of the exchange between art and music. It was founded by artists, is located in the Kunsthalle building, and at the same time, it is a club for live acts, avant-garde, and musical experimentation. But bands have also always emerged from the environment of the Kunstakademie, and there have been exciting and creative overlaps.
Do art and the work of visual artists, or the exchange with them, also play a role for you?
Yes, very much. I actually found access to abstract music through art and, at the same time, learned to distance myself from structures that are too top-heavy. Accessible art needs head and heart, as well as distance and warmth; this does not always have to happen in a creative phase but can also take place in the work as a whole. For me, this means that with art that is only abstract, formless, and cold, I cannot form a connection to my existence.
After visiting a museum or attending a concert, where do you prefer to go for a coffee or something to eat?
I love to eat at Bar Olio, Em Brass, or Oktopussy. I also like to go to Klosterstraße for Japanese food. There are several great restaurants there.
This year, within the Solo Projects section, Art Düsseldorf is focusing on artistic works on the subject of sustainability, among other things. Climate protection and sustainability are pressing questions and challenges of our time. For your last album, “A Different Forest,” you were inspired by the forest. How would you describe the relationship between nature and music?
The relationship of nature to music is defined, in my opinion, by the role that man takes on with nature. For me, nature is always a way to step out of my inner structure and obligations and just be. In the forest, I can restructure and rearrange in relation to myself, and I don’t have to do that in comparison to other people.
Which place in Düsseldorf do you particularly recommend to our readers and visitors of the city?
I find the Rhine an immensely important element, of course, but especially the Grafenberg Forest, around the Wildpark. For me, that’s a typical city forest, and I appreciate the cool atmosphere in the summer.
What can you discover there? What makes this place special?
It has a beautiful high tree population, and you can go on very nice walks, but also just short laps. This includes the chestnut avenue with its large old stands where, in the right season, edible chestnuts are collected. A really impressive atmosphere. You just have to find the right time of day.
What are your favorite places for art and music in Düsseldorf?
I like going to the Salon des Amateurs, the Tanzhaus NRW, the FFT, the Kunsthalle, and the K20/K21. But I also love the DC Open Weekends and the Flingern Gallery Weekends. I often find very nice small exhibitions there and can talk to the artists. [It’s] a nice exchange.
What are your further plans and projects this year?
I just finished my album, and it is currently being mastered. The release will most likely be in fall 2023.
I also have several film projects lined up until the end of the year that I’m looking forward to.
As part of our new series, Düsseldorf Talks, we talk to people from the arts and culture who have a personal connection to Düsseldorf about their ties to the city, and together we take a look at inspiring, beloved, and frequently visited places in Düsseldorf.
Words: Annalena Roters and Chris Erik Thomas.
When Ulrike Groos was appointed director of the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart over 12 years ago, she came to the position with a long list of professional achievements. Born in Hessen in 1963, she studied art history, musicology, and ethnology in Würzburg, New York, and Münster. After pursuing her doctorate from 1984 through 1994, Groos did a traineeship at the Westphalian State Museum of Art and Cultural History in Münster, solidifying her mastery of art history. Since 1995 she has supported and directed many projects, curated and taught in Luxembourg and Zurich, among other places, and worked on a variety of committees. From 2002 through 2007, she was director of the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf and curated such exhibitions as 2002’s “Back to Concrete. The Beginnings of Punk and New Wave in Germany 1977-1982 Dan Graham. Works 1965-2000.”
The fact that art mediation is close to her heart is evident not only from her extensive curriculum vitae but also in our conversation with the museum director. For our series on local insights, Groos reminisced about her personal connection to Düsseldorf, where she led the Kunsthalle for seven years, looked back on her time in the Rhine metropolis with joy, and revealed what culinary highlights the city has to offer. In addition, she gives us a preview of her busy year and reflected on the exhibition “SHIFT. AI and a Future Community,” which opened at the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart in February and focused on the dialogue between science and art in the field of artificial intelligence through the work of eight international artists.
You were the director of the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf from 2002 to 2009. How did you experience the city back then?
[I was] lively, open, and curious, with a great interest in art and culture. Due to the fact that so many artists live in the city, there were constantly stimulating debates.
After seeing an art exhibition, where do you prefer to drink your coffee or go out for a meal?
Even during my time in Düsseldorf, I loved the many Japanese restaurants and visited them constantly. They are so different in ambiance and with their variety of dishes. I didn’t have a favorite Japanese restaurant, so I always went somewhere else.
For coffee and cake, [I recommend] Pure Freude. They have the best petit four, eclairs, and chocolates. Pure Freude used to be the name of Carmen Knoebel’s music label, with whom we worked closely on our first exhibition at the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf on punk and new wave. Her daughter Olga now runs this fine French patisserie.
Which art venue in Düsseldorf do you particularly recommend to our readers? What can you discover there? What makes this place special?
There are so many good and special art venues. I still think KIT – Kunst im Tunnel is wonderful, not only as an exhibition space because of its specific architecture being located in a tunnel and the location directly by the Rhine, but also because of the decidedly young program.
What are your plans and projects this year?
We have a lot going on this year. At the beginning of February, we opened the exhibition “SHIFT. AI and a Future Community” in collaboration with Marta Herford, which is dedicated to the dialog between science and art in the field of artificial intelligence through the work of eight international artists. This will be followed in the summer by a major overview exhibition of the work of the artist Wolfgang Laib, who lives in Baden-Württemberg — in addition to India and New York. We will show several of Laib’s characteristic works with natural materials such as beeswax, pollen, milk, and rice, [and we] are currently shooting a film about him and are producing a very special book together with him.
At the end of the year, we’re looking at the new Objectivity “type” portrait in the Weimar period in an exhibition called “Look at The People!” At about the same time, a year-long project on the Stuttgart artist Otto Herbert Hajek begins, involving the public space around the museum. And there will also be a new “Frischzelle,” [which is] our firmly established and popular public exhibition series of young artists. The 29th edition will run until September with works by the photo artist Hanna J. Kohler.
Düsseldorf is immensely important to me as an art hub.
You’re looking at Düsseldorf from Stuttgart today. What kind of appeal does Düsseldorf have as a city of art?
Düsseldorf is immensely important to me as an art hub. I try to see as many of the exhibitions in the city as possible, not only because I remain good friends with some of the people in Düsseldorf’s art scene. There is so much to discover; the diverse offerings are wide-ranging because the private museums have very different focuses, and Düsseldorf invites artists from all over the world to come to the city. I like this special flair and the many languages at the previews and openings. Düsseldorf’s galleries, too, are always worth a visit. I look forward to going there every September because of the art and because I meet many of my colleagues again.
Words: Chris Erik Thomas.
There is a subtle art to staging an art fair booth. Removed from the comfort of the gallery spaces they call home, gallerists must take on the herculean task of choosing which pieces by which artists to display for fairgoers. While sometimes, the answer may be to bring works by as many artists as possible, there is also a second route that we aim to celebrate at this year’s fair: the solo show.
For Art Düsseldorf 2023, we are introducing a new section called SOLO PROJECTS to highlight galleries that wish to present an outstanding solo presentation by a single artist. Not only does this allow for a strong statement from a singular position, but it also provides art lovers a chance to dive deep into the artist’s oeuvre.
Ahead of the fifth edition of Art Düsseldorf, we invite you to scroll through and get to know the artists who will take part in the SOLO PROJECTS section.
Though the gallery began in Cologne in 2000, it was in 2015 that co-founders Anja Minninger and Henning Fiebach reorientated their focus toward uplifting young artists. This focus continues through to their plans for Art Düsseldorf 2023. The artist Morgaine Schäfer will present a series of photographs on the difficulties of womanhood and migration, and a new interpretation of personal family photos from the 1970s and 1980s.
Schäfer also builds upon a strong connection to the Rhineland; she studied at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, receiving the Ehrenhof Prize in 2017 for her final presentation, “Westen-wschód,” and now works and lives in both Düsseldorf and Cologne. Across her range of work, there is a clear focus on origin and history, and roles in culture, religion, and family — all tied together by the core theme of womanhood.
Since 1983, the Leipzig- and Berlin-based Galerie EIGEN + ART has worked to highlight a range of positions from over 37 international artists. Among their roster is the Ulm-born artist Birgit Brenner, who will represent the gallery at Art Düsseldorf 2023 under the thematic focus of Sustainability.
For decades, the artist has used her oeuvre to investigate such topics as ecology, the economy, and social issues like injustice, digitalization, the environment, and dystopia. What seems beautiful and harmless at first glance turns into painful criticism a blink of an eye later. With the freedom to design the booth herself — plus a deepening concern with the destruction of the world — Brenner’s solo show at the fair promises to present an artistic position that deeply targets the most pressing topics facing the modern world.
Founded five years ago in 2018, Berlin-based Galerie kajetan is a key part of the new wave of galleries entering the German art scene. To further their mission of elevating underrepresented, mid-career artists, kajetan will present works by American sculptor and minimalist Harry Leigh. Marking the first time Leigh’s work will be shown at a European art fair, the solo presentation promises to introduce an entirely new audience to the airy, minimalist wood sculptures.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the American artist trained under both sculptor and ceramicist Peter Voulkos and painter Richard Pousette-Dart, before settling into sculpture as his primary medium. In the decades since his training, experiments in interacting artistically with space and its lines of movement have led to a strong body of work that deftly balances functionality and aestheticism.
Named after a small village in Texas on the way from El Paso to Marfa, the artist space-turned-gallery has spent over a decade bringing together young and mid-career artists with exciting new perspectives. For Art Düsseldorf’s new SOLO section, the gallery will present works by Bühl-born artist Manuel Graf.
Graf’s work will center upon the locomotive — specifically its status as a metaphor for progress from the past — while utilizing cutting-edge technology. Each sculpture’s form is based on text-to-image AI input that has been 3D printed, hand over-molded, and traditionally cast in metal. Together, this process and the resulting pieces are just one part of his ongoing interrogation of such themes as the development of human existence and humanity’s cultural achievements.
Far, far away in the small village of Yataity, Paraguay, a community of weavers have cultivated the tradition of Ao Poi. At Art Düsseldorf 2023, this technique will be on view for an entirely new audience thanks to the work of Mónica Millán. For her solo show with Buenos Aires-based W—Galería, the Argentinian artist will present works made as part of a collaboration with these weavers and embroiderers that began in 2002.
Alongside a series of small textile constructions designed by the artist and executed by the locals with the Ao Poi technique using Yu lac, the presentation will also include drawings, a video installation, and additional textile works.
Since opening their gallery in The Hague in 2015, co-owners Jaring Dürst Britt and Alexander Mayhew have brought diverse new positions to the contemporary art scene — including Swiss photographer Marwan Bassiouni. At this year’s fair, the gallery will present pieces from his New Western Views series taken from 2018 through 2019.
The photographs are a result of Bassiouni’s journey through polders, villages, inner cities, industrial estates, and suburbs in three different countries: The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland. By documenting the landscape from behind the windows of mosques, his series focuses on how Islam has been represented in the West, plus the melding of cultural backgrounds that comes with an emerging Western Islamic identity.
Since opening in 2017 as the project space of Christine König Galerie, KOENIG2 by_robbygreif has become a key incubator for young and experimental positions — like those of Cologne-based artist Alwin Lay. Using mediums spanning photography, video, sculpture, and print, his work offers a darkly humorous critique of how image production (especially photography) has influenced our perception and understanding of reality.
His challenging, reality-bending approach will be the focus of his first solo presentation at Art Düsseldorf. Utilizing pieces made between 2019 and 2022, the range of work on view promises to warp perception through materials like transparent acrylic sheets of Diasec — creating a must-see experience that will undoubtedly have guests doubling back for another look throughout the fair.
Fabian Herkenhoener has always had a special connection to the Rhineland. Born and raised in the region, he studied at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf — including under acclaimed artist Tal R — and has lived and worked in Cologne since 2021.
Throughout his career, the artist’s work has tackled abstraction and the malleability of language. As part of a new exhibition in the booth of Cologne-based gallery Priska Pasquer, Herkenhoener will present a series of works tackling sustainability and united by the color red. The selection of paintings will tackle social, socio-historical, and sociological issues, using red to convey everything from pain and passion to revolt and resurrection.
In the flower district of Ghent, Belgium, the namesake gallery of Tatjana Pieters has established itself as a hub for experimental and overlooked artists. One such name on the roster is Hans Vandekerckhove, a Belgian artist whose oeuvre has translated the natural world and philosophy into stirring paintings. In many pieces, tranquil scenes are undercut by a foreboding sense of tension and desolation.
In the gallery’s solo presentation of his work, a number of paintings will tap into the relationship between humanity and the environment — specifically, nature’s role in maintaining culture. A selection of paintings to be presented was part of the solo exhibition “Walking with Writers,” which was on view at the gallery earlier this year.
For Vienna-based gallery Zeller van Almsick, a commitment to younger positions in the art world has led them to the work of Austrian artist Charlotte Klobassa. For many years, Klobassa has used a range of mediums to create pieces that blur the boundaries between figurative and abstract art.
The artist translates scribbles into large-scale canvases with her “Scribbles” series, inspired by pieces of paper found in stationery shops. Blown up into such a large size, the works become a celebration of the tension between impulsiveness and compulsiveness.
Art Düsseldorf 2023 will take place at Areal Böhler from March 31 through April 2. For more information on the 95 participating galleries, see our Gallery List and stay tuned for more content on Art Düsseldorf Magazine.
In our new series, Düsseldorf Talks, we ask people living or working in Düsseldorf about their ties to the city and take a closer look at inspiring, beloved, and frequently visited places and locations in the city.
Words: Annalena Roters and Chris Erik Thomas.
When Susanne Gaensheimer arrived in Düsseldorf in 2017 to become the director of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, she brought a mountain of experience from her time in Munich, New York, Münster, and Frankfurt. Following her time in the Independent Study Programme (ISP) at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art from 1995 to 1996 and a traineeship at the Lenbachhaus in Munich from 1998 to 1999, she was appointed director of the Kunstverein Münster in 1999. After serving in that role until 2001, she became head of the collection of contemporary art at the Lenbachhaus (2002–2008), and finally director of the MMK in Frankfurt in 2009. It was during this time, in 2011, that she curated the German pavilion at the Venice Biennale — receiving the prestigious Golden Lion for her work.
It’s no surprise, given this impressive career, that Gaensheimer has made such an impact on Düsseldorf’s art scene. Her nearly six years at Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen have seen her open the houses of the art collection to other disciplines, attract a younger audience, and offer a broad spectrum of art experiences. One need only look at exhibitions from the last six years by artists such as Carmen Herrera, Maria Hassabi, Raqs Media Collective, Banu Cennetoğlu, Cao Fei, Lutz Bacher, Raqs Media Collective, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker to see how influential she has been. Dance, choreography, music, and new technologies have redefined the museum as an interdisciplinary space.
Gaensheimer has been a beacon of change, introducing the city to fresh positions and perspectives from a more international and diverse spectrum of artists. Her love for the city’s art community is clear in her work, but outside of the museum, she’s also fallen in love with the “vibrant, diverse, and eclectic” city of Düsseldorf.
You have been head of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein Westfalen since 2017, and before that, you worked in Frankfurt. What was it like for you to come to Düsseldorf back then? What did you expect? What surprised you?
Of course, I knew before I came to Düsseldorf that this city is one of Germany’s art centers. But then I was surprised to see how diverse and lively the scene is here, not only in the visual arts but also in contemporary music and theater. So I was still able to discover a lot – even to this day.
Which art venue in Düsseldorf do you particularly recommend to our readers? What can you discover there, and what makes this place special?
There are many exciting and interesting art venues in Düsseldorf, especially among the galleries and private collections. With my children, I particularly enjoy going to the Kunstpalast. But to my guests, I mainly show the large exhibitions and the collection displays in the K20 and K21 of the Kunstsammlung.
After seeing an exhibition, where do you most like to drink your coffee or go out for a meal?
From day one, “Die Röstmeister” on Belsenplatz in Oberkassel was my favorite café. They have excellent coffee there and a very nice team. At lunchtime, I prefer to go to one of the many Japanese restaurants on Klosterstraße.
The beauty of Düsseldorf is that many artists and cultural practitioners live here.
Düsseldorf has a very rich art history. The academy has produced very successful artists, some of whom still live in the region. How do you assess the situation for young artists, curators, and creatives? Is Düsseldorf still a place that inspires young people?
The beauty of Düsseldorf is that many artists and cultural practitioners live here, and many of the graduates of the Kunstakademie stay in the city after their studies. It is particularly important to me that the Kunstsammlung is also a place of exchange and encounter with young artists, curators, and creatives. Our talk series, “K21 Encounters,” is aimed primarily at young experts whom we invite to come to talks, but also, through our acquisitions of young, local artists for the collection, we promote the local scene.
Can you give us a preview of the 2023 art year at the Kunstsammlung? What will be exhibited?
We start the new year on a high note with a large exhibition of the New York artist Jenny Holzer at the K21. In time for the fair, we are opening the exhibition of the great Etel Adnan at the K20. The very poetic paintings of the painter and poet, who comes from Beirut and has spent her life in California and Paris, are among my first acquisitions for the Kunstsammlung, [and were] made to broaden the canon of the collection and our view of the world. In the fall, at K20, we will show Chaïm Soutine, one of the most dazzling figures of classical modernism, and at K21, in collaboration with the Tate, we will show the international award-winning filmmaker Isaac Julien who explores postcolonial themes in his films.
Words: Chris Erik Thomas.
The cultural history of Düsseldorf has always been intertwined with the contemporary art world. With the suffix “dorf” translating to “village”, the capital city of North Rhine-Westphalia has always felt like an art village. For over a half century, artists of both national and international origin have found a safe haven to experiment and showcase their work.
It was in the late 1950s that Heinz Mack and Otto Piene founded the ZERO artist group in Düsseldorf, with Günther Uecker joining in 1960. It was this movement focused on kinetic art using light and motion that would become one of the preeminent avant-garde movements of the contemporary art world and mark the city by the Rhine as a destination for artists. In the 1970s and 1980s, such art legends as Joseph Beuys, Gerhard Richter, Katharina Fritsch, and Thomas Schütte came to reside in Düsseldorf. Meanwhile, at institutions like the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf, a new generation of photographers studying under Bernd and Hilla Becher in the ‘70s became known as the Düsseldorf School of Photography as they rose to prominence in the subsequent decades.
Today, the city continues to act as a vital hub for artists and art lovers alike with dozens of museums offering a wealth of options for those looking to explore the contemporary art scene. Across the many, many institutions who call Düsseldorf home, there exist a wide swath of positions, as well as a diversity of young and established artists, which keeps Düsseldorf at the forefront of the modern art world.
To help both first-time visitors and hardened art aficionados navigate Düsseldorf’s many museums, we’ve picked eight institutions (sorted in no particular order or hierarchy) which offer a suitable entry point for examining both the legacy and future of contemporary art in the region.
Art has had a home in the Kunstpalast for more than 300 years. As early as the mid-19th century, the Society for the Establishment of an Art Gallery in Düsseldorf (Verein zur Errichtung einer Gemäldegalerie zu Düsseldorf) declared that forming a municipal art gallery was the “ultimate, vital issue for Düsseldorf.” Since then, this mission has served to educate and inspire generations of local and international guests.
Over the course of its long history, the museum, in collaboration with the NRW-Forum in the Ehrenhof, has undergone numerous transformations and hosted hundreds of exhibitions. The institution has over 100,000 objects, which eclipses most other German museums and serves as a testament to the unparalleled diversity of works in their collection. The varied exhibition program repeatedly sets new impulses, engages with contemporary themes, and enables new perspectives. Additionally, its broad definition of art allows for surprising changes of perspective.
The Kunstpalast is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 AM to 6 PM and is open until 9 PM on Thursdays. Click here for more info.
Since the signature concrete block housing Kunsthalle was finished in 1967, the museum has provided a home for experimental and explorative contemporary art from its home on Grabbeplatz. Split into two independent institutions — the Kunsthalle and the Art Association for the Rhineland and Westphalia — the Kunsthalle portion of the building has been at the forefront of contemporary art. Besides being an outlet for a number of international artists to enter the European art market, the space has dedicated itself to exploring the Asian art scene since 2011, offered a flexible project space through their Seitenlichtsaal exhibition format since 2012 and continually sought out other ways to bring diversity to their halls.
With no permanent collection, the museum has been free to host a regular stream of temporary exhibitions that give the space a chameleonic energy that adapts to the artists on view. Through their exhibition series Seitenlichtsaal and the presentation of recipients of the Karl Schmidt-Rottluff Scholarship, a diversity of younger and less well-known artists have been introduced to museum patrons over the years.
Kunsthalle is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 AM to 6 PM. The museum is free of charge from 6 PM to 8 PM on the last Thursday of every month, as well as every second Sunday of the month for Family Day. Click here for more info.
With a focus on photography, pop and digital culture, the NRW-Forum is a key destination for all things contemporary. The museum sits on part of the Ehrenhof ensemble, which was built in the 1920s and is now listed as a monument. Over the decades, the building was home to the Reich Museum for Social and Economic Sciences from 1928 to 1951 and then the State Museum for the Nation and the Economy until the start of the 1990s.
Since opening as the NRW-Forum for Culture and Economy on October 9, 1998, the museum has overcome funding cutoffs, staffing changes, and other challenges. The NRW Forum has organized over 28 exhibitions since 2015 and launched the Duesseldorf Photo festival and the digital festival META Marathon. With a strong mix of exhibitions, festivals, symposia, workshops, fairs, film screenings, and other cultural initiatives, it has been an incubator for modern, cutting-edge culture for years.
The NRW-Forum Düsseldorf is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 AM to 6 PM and until 9 PM on Thursdays. Click here for more info.
In 2003, German collector Julia Stoschek found herself deeply moved by Douglas Gordon’s video “Play Dead: Real Time”. It was that piece of time-based art that inspired her to begin a now-historic collection of time-based art that has grown to include over 870 artworks by over 290 artists. It is this massive collection that spurred her to open the Julia Stoschek Collection in Düsseldorf in 2007.
Not only is the Collection an integral piece of the city’s contemporary art scene, but it is also one of the most comprehensive private collections of time-based art in the world. Representing everything from video and virtual reality to sculpture and performance, focusing especially on moving image experiments from the 1960s and ’70s, the collection is a must-see for art lovers. Alongside the many exhibitions they have produced in Düsseldorf, the Collection has also operated a second space in Berlin since 2016.
The Julia Stoschek Foundation in Düsseldorf is open on Sundays from 11 AM to 6 PM, and admission is free of charge. Click here for more info.
For over a decade, the KAI 10 | ARTHENA FOUNDATION has occupied more than 600 square meters of space in a reclaimed warehouse from the 1950s. It’s this space, founded by Oldenburg entrepreneur Monika Schnetkamp, that has become an essential destination for contemporary artists.
Over 200 artists have exhibited at KAI 10 since opening their doors in September 2008, including both international stars as well as supra-regional talent from the local Rhineland art scene. Alongside its program of solo and group exhibitions, the institution also organizes artist talks and curates a list of publications that comprise more than 32 titles.
KAI 10 | ARTHENA FOUNDATION is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 AM to 5 PM, and admission is free of charge. Click here for more info.
In a city filled to the brim with impressive art institutions, it can be difficult to stand out — unless, of course, you’re situated directly beneath the Rhine Promenade. Though the space has been host to events since 1995, it was only in 2007 that an exhibition space opened its doors, quickly becoming a haven for experimental art from emerging artists.
With an elliptical arc of nearly 140 metres that runs parallel to the Rhine, the unique architecture of the KIT is as unforgettable as the alternating exhibitions that span everything from video and installation to sculpture and painting. With a strong focus on young artists from both the immediate region and international talent, this institution is a vital part of the city’s contemporary art scene.
KIT is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 AM to 6 PM and is free of charge every second Sunday of the month for Family Day. Click here for more info.
Since 1961, the official art collection of the German Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia has earned an international reputation for its commitment to contemporary art. With its sprawling selection of works, the collection occupies two distinct venues in Düsseldorf. The first is K20 at Grabbeplatz, a black granite-clad building that opened in 1986. The second is the K21 in the Ständehaus, which was inaugurated in 2002 and occupies a former parliament building overlooking the Kaiserteich.
Both spaces have been led by director Susanne Gaensheimer since 2017 and represent a comprehensive mix of established legends and new positions. At K20, a comprehensive group of works by Paul Klee and paintings from German Expressionism, Cubism, and Surrealism form the space’s core foundation. Meanwhile, at K21, a permanent collection of works starting from the late 1980s is balanced by temporary exhibitions showcasing a groundbreaking selection of contemporary artists.
K20 and K21 are open Tuesday through Friday from 10 AM to 6 PM and Saturday and Sunday from 11 AM to 6 PM. Every first Wednesday of the month, K20 and K21 are open until 10 PM as part of KPMG-Kunstabend, and admission is free of charge on that day from 6 PM. Click here for more info.
Since the mid-1990s, Düsseldorf native Gil Bronner has been curating a private collection of over 1,700 works that maintain strong ties to the Düsseldorf Art Academy. With a focus on the breadth of talent in the city’s contemporary art scene, the collection is both a window into the next generation of talent as well as a time capsule for major positions in the city’s artistic history.
Now housed in a former glass factory with a wealth of natural light, the museum melts away into the surrounding structures thanks to a unique design that submerges much of the 1,7000 square meters of space. With a strong permanent collection and a handful of temporary exhibitions, the space is an important part of the city’s art scene.
The Sammlung Philara is open Friday from 4 PM through 8 PM and Saturday and Sunday from 2 PM to 6 PM. Click here for more info.
Words: Chris Erik Thomas.
Art has always been a salve for the soul, but during winter, it’s especially important. As the temperature outside plummets and the skies grow dark by midday, a good exhibition is a perfect place to relax, wander through climate-controlled exhibitions, and maybe even have an espresso (or two).
As the holiday season ends and a new year begins, the wealth of great exhibitions around Europe offers plenty of options for art lovers looking to see shows from established and underrepresented talents. From the BDSM-inspired works of Monica Bonvincini in Berlin to a sprawling group show focused on Surrealism in Potsdam or the Wolfgang-Hahn-Prize-winning work of Frank Bowling in Cologne, there’s something for everyone. While some shows will stretch through the next few months, we’ve picked a few who deserve to be seen in their final few weeks, including the stunning portraits by Alice Neel and the stark drama of Anne Imhof’s site-specific installations in Paris and Amsterdam, respectively.
Across the continent, we’ve pinpointed ten must-see shows on view everywhere from Luxembourg to Stockholm that even the most casual admirers of contemporary art should add to their list. Scroll through to see what exhibitions we’ve picked out.
It’s been nearly a century since French writer André Breton published the Manifesto of Surrealism, yet its impact still reverberates through culture. This manifesto — and the literary and artistic movement of Surrealism that it birthed — forms the backbone of “Surrealism and Magic: Enchanted Modernity”, a sweeping group exhibition at Potsdam’s Museum Barberini. Organised in collaboration with the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, it was first shown from April to September 2022, parallel to the Venice Biennale.
The show is the first large-scale international loan exhibition to focus on the Surrealists’ interest in magic and myth, featuring ninety works by over twenty artists. Moving through the labyrinth of works, art lovers have a feast for the eyes. Pieces by artistic legends like Giorgio de Chirico, Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, and René Magritte can be seen alongside many women artists who have historically been overlooked — including Leonora Carrington, Jacqueline Lamba, Kay Sage, Remedios Varo, and more.
“Surrealism and Magic: Enchanted Modernity” is on view at Museum Barberini in Potsdam until January 29, 2023.
A woman lounges in a purple mid-century chair, lazily looking out at the viewer as her leg dangles off the side and an arm rises above her head to grip the back of the chair. She is the “Marxist Girl”, the subject of a visually arresting painting created by Alice Neel in 1972. A half-century later, this painting has become a powerful centrepiece in the Neel exhibition on view at Centre Pompidou.
Though the late North American painter went largely unnoticed in the art world during her lifetime, she produced a rich oeuvre marked by both militant feminism and intersectionality far ahead of the era. With over 75 paintings and drawings spread across the “Un regard engagé” exhibition, the pieces tackle everything from the prison system and antisemitism to interracial relationships and female sexuality. Together, the show is a valiant (and successful) attempt to honour her contribution to art history while providing a crash course in Neel’s striking meditations on class and gender for curious art lovers.
“Un regard engagé” by Alice Neel is on view at Centre Pompidou in Paris until January 16, 2023.
“The possibilities of colour are infinite.” That’s the core philosophy that guides Museum Ludwig’s new exhibition of Guyana-born artist Frank Bowling — this year’s recipient of the Wolfgang-Hahn-Prize. In celebrating his long career as a painter and writer, the show offers viewers a fresh insight into his unique style that fuses the British abstraction and American colour field painting movements.
With such a strong oeuvre, it’s fitting that the artist was chosen for the award by Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst and Museum Ludwig. To see his immense talent, one need only look to his 2020 work, “Flogging the Dead Donkey”, which is the first acquisition of one of his pieces for a public collection in Germany. Alongside that work, viewers will also find a print made from the dripping edge of the painting, archival materials from his writing work in the arts, and a film created by his son, Sacha Bowling, that combines both footage from throughout his career as well as an interview between Bowling and critic Mel Gooding.
The Frank Bowling exhibition will be on view at Museum Ludwig in Cologne until February 12, 2023.
Seshee Bopape’s work has a pulsing, earthy energy. Using soil and other materials sourced from the natural world, the South African artist has built a formidable reputation for her ability to draw upon the elements to create emotionally arresting works that tackle themes of memory, identity, and belonging. With “Born in the first light of the morning [moswara’marapo]”, her new show set against the stark, industrial interiors of Pirelli HangarBicocca’s Shed, the artist has weaved a piercing and poetic narrative that examines female-led myths and archetypes.
Using the phrase “moswara’marapo” from Sepedi (a language of Southern African BaNtu), which translates to “the holder of bones,” she has created an exhibition that tackles memories and tradition through a series of stirring pieces, including two site-specific wall drawings (“Untitled”, 2022) that are reminiscent of lines left on sand from the ocean’s tide. There is a range of mediums to pore over throughout the exhibition, but it is the two installations of earth compressed into towering dome structures — “and- in the light of this._ _ _ _ _”, 2017/2022 and “Mothabeng”, 2022 — that demand to be experienced.
“Born in the first light of the morning [moswara’marapo]” by Dineo Seshee Bopape is on view at Pirelli HangarBicocca in Milan until January 29, 2023.
The radical, refreshing artistry of Anne Imhof has always lit up whichever institution hosts her, but there’s an added layer of emotion present at the Stedelijk Museum this winter. For her first solo show in the Netherlands, the young artist transformed over 1,000 square metres of space in their lower-level gallery into a labyrinthine exploration of, ironically, emptiness.
As the first exhibition in nearly a decade not to feature a live performance element, it marks a bold new direction and an evolution in her chameleonic oeuvre. Through a mix of light, sound, and site-specific installations — including school lockers — she tackles everything from body dysmorphia to anxiety. Two particularly arresting pieces are “AI Winter” and “Fate”, two symbiotic video works that see the artist wandering the snowy industrial ruins of Moscow and riding atop a horse, respectively. Taken as a whole, the sprawling exhibition is another strong showcase for Imhof’s eye for the uncomfortable, seedy underbelly of youth angst.
“Youth” by Anne Imhof is on view at Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam until January 29, 2023.
Looming over the Neue Nationalgalerie, a giant mirrored sign is the striking entry point for the comprehensive new solo exhibition from acclaimed artist Monica Bonvicini. Reflecting the (usually) grey Berlin skies, massive black lettering reads “I do you” — literally mirroring the name of the exhibition that now occupies the museum’s ground floor. Acting as the central focal point, a site-specific installation constructed of scaffolding, wood, foil, and mirrors rises up to create a temporary second level. As viewers ascend the metal steps, the upper level opens to a selection of works that are at once both playful and foreboding.
Alongside the blistering brightness of “Light Me Black” (2009), two hammocks crafted from steel chains — “Chainswing Belts” and “Chainswing Leather Round” — offer a nod to the BDSM club scene and invite visitors to climb in, lay back, and relax into the surprisingly comfortable contraptions. Downstairs, the new work “You to Me” lines the perimeter, offering a set of 20 handcuffs that viewers can lock themselves into for 30 minutes.
It’s a testament to the power of Bonvicini’s craft that her piercing interrogations of masculinity and power aren’t just free of melodrama — they’re also quite fun to interact with. With such a strong range of works tackling everything from bondage to the uncontrollability of time to pour over, the exhibition is a welcome reprieve from the gloomy weather just outside the museum’s glass-paned facade.
“I do You” by Monica Bonvicini is on view at Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin until April 30, 2023.
The new exhibition by English artist Tacita Dean is a sensory journey — fitting given that its creative nucleus is Dante’s Inferno. Occupying the East Gallery at Mudam, the show is centred on ‘The Dante Project’ — a moving ballet that premiered at London’s Royal Opera House in October 2021. For that production, Dean designed not only the costumes but also the sprawling sets, which have now found a temporary home in Luxembourg for the exhibition’s duration.
Stripped of the context of the theatre, the incredible pieces that Dean produced from the play take on a new life ensconced within the modernist facade of Mudam, where a mix of photography and film accompanies them. Staged in three parts that mirror the three acts of the story (Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso), the pacing of the exhibition view feels fluid, ebbing and flowing as the pieces transition from monochrome to colour. In 2020’s “Purgatory (Threshold)”, a large-scale photo of Jacaranda trees nearly four metres by five metres has been pinned to the wall and intricately overlaid with white pencil marks — casting a veil over the urban setting around the tree.
In addition to the two other set pieces from the ballet, 2019’s “Inferno” and 2021’s “Paradise”, the exhibition also features smaller works that showcase her versatility as an artist, including an eight-part photogravure, films shot on 16mm, and small chalk drawings.
The Tacita Dean exhibition is on view at Mudam in Luxembourg until February 26, 2023.
Staged one year after her death at 96, a retrospective of Etel Adnan has captured the radiance of the Arab American artist’s oeuvre. There is a warmth emanating from the works as viewers wander through the famed Lenbachhaus Kunstbau. Comforting yellows, bright reds, suns, hills, broad strokes, and seeping lakes of colour are sectioned off by fine lines — a striking correspondence to the Kandinsky paintings just across the street at the permanent collection.
Born to Greek and Syrian parents, Adnan became a writer and poet before pivoting to painting and textile art. The confluence of her talents is on full view, with many of her paintings being accompanied by texts she’s written — including a selection of works inspired by the Japanese Leporello folding screen technique.
As her first major solo show in Germany, it represents a major achievement for the late artist while also showcasing the tight bonds within the country’s contemporary art scene. The show was produced in collaboration with Düsseldorf’s Kunstsammlung NRW, which will stage the exhibition at their museum on April 1.
The Etel Adnan retrospective is on view at Lenbachhaus in Munich until February 26.
When you’re as astronomically important to the art world as Nan Goldin, staging a retrospective takes a lot of space. In the case of “This Will Not End Well”, a retrospective at Stockholm’s Moderna Museet, it took six unique buildings. Designed by architect and frequent Goldin collaborator Hala Wardé and specifically staged to embrace her original vision for how her work should be experienced, the show is one of the most personal odes to the artist yet.
Anchored by both slideshows and video installations, the images she has captured across the last half century are given a new energy. Major works that tackle tough issues like drug addiction, suicide, and gender — including “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency” (1981–2022), “The Other Side” (1992– 2021), and “Sisters, Saints and Sibyls” (2004–2022) — are given an added layer of depth through a mix of images, voices, and archival material. For both devoted lovers of Goldin’s work and those new to her oeuvre, the village of rooms erected to house her works during the exhibition is necessary viewing.
“This Will Not End Well” by Nan Goldin is on view at Moderna Museet in Stockholm until February 26, 2023.
A dark atmosphere permeates the new Joan Jonas exhibition in Munich’s Haus Der Kunst. Serving as the first major comprehensive survey in Germany for the grande dame of video and performance art, it is a moving tribute to the 86-year-old provocateur.
Full of cinematic flickers and melodic soundscapes that transport viewers into her world, the show has an impressive range of both newer work and classic pieces from the 1960s, including a massive ode to her 1968 performance of “Wind.” With more recent works, including “Rivers to the Abyssal Plain” (2021) and “Out Takes. What The Storm Washed In” (2022), the artist explores the relationship between humans, animals, and nature — a recurring motif in her historic career.
The Joan Jonas exhibition is on view at Haus Der Kunst in Munich until February 26, 2023.
Words: Chris Erik Thomas.
There’s no introduction or hand-holding in the work of Finnish-Egyptian artist Samira Elagoz. Watching one of Elagoz’s films requires trust because the journey will be gripping, experimental, and, for some, uncomfortable. That’s the point.
The art he makes isn’t made to be easily digestible. It’s made to help Elagoz explore his own identity. During the early period of his career — from 2013 through 2019 — Elagoz identified as a female artist and created films documenting his exploration of gender. In 2014’s “Four Kings”, he sent out a simple ad on Craigslist seeking strangers to form a connection with on camera. “The concept is that I meet you at your place and film how we get to know each other,” his ad reads. The resulting film won acclaim and landed Elagoz a Blooom Award at that year’s Art.Fair Cologne. A follow-up theatrical work, “Cock, Cock… Who’s There”, tackled themes of rape, female bodies, online dating, feminism and the male gaze — leading the artist on a five-year tour around the world that garnered many awards for the work.
Eight years (and multiple equally-experimental works) later, Elagoz began 2022 with another award — the prestigious Silver Lion at the Venice Biennale Teatro — for entire body of work, including his most recent film, “Seek Bromance”. The sprawling, 220-minute film is a time capsule of his relationship with Brazilian artist Cade Moga during the pandemic, from the first meeting to the final breakup. “I consider that perhaps this could be the theme of our collaboration,” his initial email to Moga reads. “The relationship between 3 lovers, the camera being one of them.” As the work progressed, it became as much an ode to connection as it was a farewell to Elagoz’s femme identity.
It’s a gripping narrative journey that signals Elagoz as an important, rising force in the experimental art world. During a break from his busy schedule of touring “Seek Bromance”, we caught up with Elagoz about navigating the art world as a transmasculine artist and why the internet is key to creating his works.
For many artists, the pandemic allowed them to slow down and evaluate their artistic practice. For you, it led to a piece of art that was both professionally and personally transformative. What reflections have you gathered about that period?
Covid was a pretty devastating hit to most artists, while also [being] a collective burnout where everyone had to slow down. I had to cancel plenty of my projects; my plans to collaborate with several artists across the globe were squashed. My last project, “Seek Bromance”, took on a completely different form once I arrived in LA to film one of my collaborators on the exact week Covid hit. We met at the start of the lockdown, and spent the next few months together, filming and waiting around. I did not want to make a Covid work, but the backdrop of that is, of course, unavoidable. The effects it had on our interaction, on my transitioning, the cabin fever, have all shaped the work considerably. That’s why I call “Seek Bromance” a romance situated at the end of the world.
You grew up in the Finnish village of Karkkila. What was your introduction to the world of art? How did it evolve over your adolescence?
I’m a ’90s kid and spent half my youth in a dilapidated house in the middle of the forest brought up by a poor single mom. We didn’t have a car and there was pretty much nothing to do, which left a screaming desire to get out and taste the world — experience something giant and real. The only escape there was watching movies. My first touch [with] art making was dancing. Now, looking back, I think the only reason for such an endeavour was that that tool was free; my body was available at all times. But films were the art form I appreciated the most, and I’m happy that I eventually did end up working with film.
You have been quite strict about not using actors or scripts and not working in studios. Why are these restrictions important to you and your artistic practice?
The moment I started working with the camera changed everything. Coming from a technical dance background and having a lot of experience in watching “talented performers”, I got bored with it and the idea that I would train people to be as I’d like them to be. I’d much rather pick people and allow them to be as they are and capture that and my relation to them. So I made the conscious choice not to be an artist that works in a studio with colleagues, but rather, make work that is unrehearsed and co-starring people I have never met before. In all my work, life has to happen first, and then I make something out of it. That’s why I work without a script; there is unpredictability. I always set out to gather up real-life events.
Much of the art world is ruled by a narrow scope that favours the cisgender, white, male archetype. What has your experience been like in navigating the industry first as a high femme-presenting and now transmasculine artist?
While it has been exciting and meaningful to get to show work, I’m not going to lie. It has often been frustrating and saddening. Throughout my whole career, I’ve faced a lot of simplification and [been] stripped of complexity. Most of my works also speak on topics that are not spoken of[ muhc], such as the effects of rape on your sexuality or transmasculinity. That sets up a whole bunch of pressure on you as you become a sort of voice for your community, which is something no artist should be expected to do.
One should not and even cannot represent the whole “community”. While I have been thanked for being a “rebel and progressive”, the more pertinent question is: who are the rebels and progressives among the establishment? Who are the radical curators, festival directors, and funding decision-makers? Without those people recognising the merit or need of a rebel artist, you don’t really do anything with the radicality of the artist.
Continuing on from the previous question, what positive and hopeful experiences have you had as an artist within the art world?
My works talk about topics like sexual violence, gender roles, and transition, so I often get to see how behind people are with their thinking. The most positive experiences have been when I sensed that I evoked a change in the audience. My last work was about sexual trauma, so for me, it’s most touching when other victims said it empowered them. With “Seek Bromance”, I’ve heard so often it was “life-changing” not only for trans but cis people. Hearing comments like that is one of the best rewards you can have as an artist.
A lot of your oeuvre is focused on researching men through the lens of intimacy and masculinity. What are some of the most impactful insights you’ve gathered from this research?
I always try to construct my work in a way that I won’t give ready-made answers. I want the mic to turn towards the audience in the end. They should be left with a desire to articulate what they think about these things. From what I’ve heard, this happens more often than not. I spent 10 years of my life filming men on and off, and there is a soft place in my heart for them. Hopeful and amused. I have often felt like a confidant to men. Cis men are usually bad examples of masculinity; they’ll appear a bit hopeless and unwilling to progress at times. As a transmasculine, I feel the burden is on me to be better while their crisis awaits its revolution.
The internet, particularly online advertisements, has formed the basis for many of your works. Before the start of your art career, what was your early experience with the internet and online ads? How has this experience evolved as you’ve incorporated it into your art?
All my works start online. I have found most of the people I’ve filmed through online platforms. Or often, they have found me. I’ve always been a digital romanticist; I think online platforms give you a chance to redefine yourself. And there is an instinct to be less private with online strangers and more honest. I used to be an extremely socially anxious person and also lived in the middle of the forest, so [being] online was everything. I started chatting immediately as a kid when we got our first home computer 20 years ago. I think that sexuality and romanticism online are as real as they can be [in real life]. In fact, I believe that online, we get to connect in a more honest way, or at least honest to ourselves.
You’ve spoken about the “multiple realities” that are present in before-and-after images of trans people. Can you speak more on this idea of multiple realities, especially in regard to art and gender?
In a patriarchy where women, trans, and marginalised people have not had the right to be large, contradictory, blurry, and abstract, but are rather pigeonholed, stereotyped, and simplified, art became the place to explore. A place where you can be expansive. I felt that by showing my “former versions” with my “current version”, I could make real the fact I exist in multitudes and encourage the exploration of multiple selves. The construction of a self, creative or otherwise, is complex, and claiming multiple selves pushes back against the flattened reading of othered bodies.
Looking towards the future, what themes or ideas are you hoping to explore or are actively involved in exploring?
I will continue with the concept of strangers. For almost ten years I’ve been researching gender dynamics, visiting men’s houses with my camera, investigating the female and queer gaze and touring the world with [four] works about them, so I’d also want to write a memoir eventually. I find it endlessly fascinating to work without a script and with people I’ve never met before. The thrill I get from not knowing what I will film, who I will film, and what the dynamic will be, keeps me going.
Words: Chris Erik Thomas.
A black-and-white photo by artist Carol Shadford started it all. Presenting as an optical illusion, the photo is abstract when viewed from afar. Step closer, however, and glimpses of a face, half-bust, or full body of a woman can be seen in each individual bubble. For Napoleone, it was fascinating and a worthy first purchase that set off a decades-long commitment to amassing art made exclusively by female artists.
Born to a wealthy Italian industrialist and raised in a small town outside of Milan, the Italian collector wasn’t always attracted to the art world. Studying journalism at NYU in the mid-eighties, her years were spent exploring the city. It wasn’t until she left and married her husband Gregorio, an Italian-born financier, that a path toward the art world began to fall into place. “My husband is in investment banking, so we moved [back] to New York and I started a [master’s degree] program on art gallery administration at the Fashion Institute of Technology,” she recalls. It was this two-year program that helped lead her to Pierogi 2000 (now simply called Pierogi), the Williamsburg gallery that became a hub for a melting pot of both artists and art lovers in the mid-nineties.
“Joe Amrhein was the director and I was spending a lot of time in [Pierogi 2000] meeting artists who were represented and shown,” she recalls. “While navigating and exploring Pierogi and the community of artists, I realized how much I enjoy being surrounded by artists.” It is this foundational urge to be around artists that has helped the collector maintain a steady focus in her work as a patron. Besides her famed private collection of works exclusively made by female artists, Napoleone has also engaged in philanthropic work through her Valeria Napoleone XX platform, which is split into two initiatives: one with New York’s SculptureCenter and NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts and one with the UK-based Contemporary Art Society.
With a private collection of hundreds of artworks plus her philanthropy, Valeria keeps a full schedule, seeking out fresh and established female artists to support. During a recent vacation to Italy, we got on a video call with the collector to talk about her process for finding artists, the XX initiative, and why maintaining a personal connection is key in an era of rapid digitization.
Could you talk more about your philanthropic initiative, Valeria Napoleone XX?
The project officially started in 2015, but is a formalization of my activity as a patron for the previous 18 years. I [have always] supported women artists and female creativity, but I wanted to formalize it and scream it out loud. XX [references] female chromosomes but also partnership because my life as a patron and collector has never been a journey alone. It’s a journey with institutions, with curators. Partnership has always been a very important element in my life and XX has many different partners.
In the UK, I work with [the Contemporary Art Society]. For over a hundred years, the organization has been raising private funds to buy artworks and donate to regional museums all over the UK. When I became a trustee, I said, “Let’s do a project that goes beyond my activity as a trustee. Something exciting and more creative.” We started [Valeria Napoleone XX Contemporary Art Society (VN XX CAS)], which gives a donation of a major piece by a contemporary artist to one of the regional museums every year. They need to do an application which asks how many women artists are in their collection and what they’re doing to address this imbalance. It’s this testimony to how little balance there is in the UK. There are no women in regional museums because there is no money to collect [works by female artists].
In the US, XX exists in partnership with the SculptureCenter and fully funds a major commission by an artist in the context of a solo show at the SculptureCenter. Anthea Hamilton was the very first one we commissioned. I really love to be involved in the process. I could give the funds and say, “You choose, you do exactly what you want.” Instead, I see the project, I see the plans, I discuss it with the artist. We have made really ambitious commissions happen with Anthea Hamilton, Carissa Rodriguez, Rindon Johnson, [and] Fiona Connor. We also partner with the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University. XX funds two exhibitions curated by a team of students and of a female artist every year.
I’ve read that, unlike many collectors, you don’t have an art advisor.
No. I never use any art advisor or consultant. If there are ever consultants or advisors in my community, it’s artists who highlight or flag other artists, or its gallerists and curators. I have such an active community around me that has been supporting me for 20 years and it’s growing and growing as I navigate the art world and I meet new people. I would never give this up. It’s very [important] for me. The research, the exploration of new ideas, and the surprise of discovering new artists is part of an exciting journey — and I have the time and the energy. Why give up something so special?
This reminds me of the saying: “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.”
Yes, that’s absolutely true. Since the very beginning, I’ve understood how important it is for me to be part of the community. So many journeys with artists start when I see a show and I meet the work. The work is a starting point, but it doesn’t stop there; for many collectors, it stops there. They see the work, they buy it, and that’s it. For me, I see the work and I am really excited and want to learn more. Sometimes I don’t buy right away. I want to wait and understand and possibly meet the artist if it is geographically possible. That really opens up a new journey as a patron.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the art industry since you began collecting?
When I started collecting, I was in the right place at the right time. It was a very small art world. You would go to the Armory Show, which was in [the Gramercy Hotel]. It was one of the most exciting art fairs I navigated. The biggest change is probably technology [and] social media, but also the fact that the contemporary art world has expanded enormously. People collect but, more than collect, they buy art. There is a big difference. When I started my journey, I knew very well the difference between the two of them and I told myself, from the very first piece that I bought, that I’m going to create a collection. I’m a collector. I’m not an occasional art buyer.
It seems that a lot of art now is just about making money and not about having a deeper message.
Everything is about [being] sellable on social media. This is why, more than ever, it’s important for me to meet the artist — to understand if she’s there for the right reason. I see so much speculation into very young artists who do not have the maturity, or they’re not interesting conceptually. They don’t have an interesting story to tell, but they look good on social media. I’m looking for authenticity and there is little of that nowadays.
Do you have a favorite piece of art in your collection?
It’s very difficult to say because I don’t collect in bulk. I collect very specifically what I want, so every piece counts in [feeding] this choir of female voices. The pieces I’m very attached to are the pieces that I bought at the beginning of my journey in 1997, ‘98, and ‘99. I go back to them because they remind me of family pictures of the best moments in my life. They always remind me of an incredible discovery that totally changed the way I look at the world. We’re talking about Margherita Manzelli, Ghada Amer, Lisa Yuskavage, Shirin Neshat, Andrea Zittel. These are all artists that are very important in the collection. They set the tone.
Do you have any advice for people who might want to get into art collecting but feel there’s a financial barrier to entering?
I started a collection with very little budget. You could buy a major piece of art for $4,000 back then. Now the entry price of a piece from a young artist is $40,000. It’s absurd and it can go into triple digits. So, I would say — and I say to all my friends who want to start collecting — take your time. [Spend] at least one year navigating the art world. Go see shows in the right places, meaning in the galleries, commercial galleries, museums, not-for-profit organizations, and art fairs. Use them as a tool, but don’t buy. Just research within yourself what you like.
If you want to become a private collector, by definition, it’s about your taste. It’s not about ticking the boxes, but many collectors do this. They tick the boxes. They need to have the latest names. But I believe that a private collection is about your own taste. Understand what moves you and what excites you and then set yourself a budget. I always have a budget. Of course, this has grown over the years not just [because of] my possibility to invest more, but also because the entry-level price for emerging artists has gone up. I still keep a cap on how much I spend on a single work. Also, I buy artists who nobody looks at at the moment. I support artists that are not on everybody’s list and not on everybody’s lips.
Do you want to say what the cap is?
It’s grown a little bit, but for me, the cap is $70,000-$80,000. That’s cap. But for so many years, it was $40,000. It’s grown because now I prefer to buy less, but to also buy [from] artists who are 50, 55, 60 years old; artists that I’ve known all my life but I never got the chance to buy their work. Instead of buying two artworks, I buy one major piece by these artists — and I generally only buy pieces that contribute massively to contemporary discourse.
In terms of your legacy, have you ever considered opening a gallery or museum to showcase your collection?
This is a question I’ve been asked for 25 years and I always say that I see so much need to support institutions. Now more than ever. Even though there is massive attention given to contemporary art, there are very [few] patrons so institutions need the money. My collection is exhibited in my homes. I have a place in New York, a place in London, and I soon have a place in Milan where the collection will be exhibited. They are open to visits from museums and patrons and groups that come by appointment. Eventually, I will have a bigger space, but I’m not interested in building a museum for the collection at the moment. I like the partnerships with museums and smaller institutions. I don’t function [well] with big institutions where you lose personal connections. My journey has always been about personal connections. I want to keep it personal.
Words: Chris Erik Thomas.
Two things are immediately clear about Anna Ehrenstein: she is incredibly brilliant and incredibly busy. Once described by a critic as a hybrid of “petit bourgeois” and “hoodrat”, the artist has spent years showcasing her ability to blend so-called “high” and “low” culture through a mix of video, installation, sculpture, writing and other mediums.
In the years before she began to produce her challenging, highly aesthetic art, Ehrenstein grew up experiencing firsthand the kinds of sociopolitical power imbalances that impacted her parents. “Who has the power to live and who has to die through a visa system is something that was super central [for me], but was something that took me a while to understand,” she explained on a recent video chat. As she bounced between German and Albanian society, the concepts of geopolitics began to take root — eventually making their way into her artistic practice.
Her work has allowed her to teach viewers about the kinds of experiences and issues that molded her own upbringing, while also helping her to collaborate with fellow creatives around the world. She has worked with everyone from the Columbian voguing group House of Tupamaras (“Tupamaras Technophallus”, 2020) to the Senegalese fashion collective DONKAFELE (“Tools for Conviviality”, 2018) — the latter of which won her the C / O Berlin Talent Award in 2020. More recently, she teamed with 4DHD on “Coffee Ground Imaginaries” (2022) as part of the Screen City Biennal, which was one of eight exhibitions that opened this past September. For Ehrenstein, the work is all part of her overarching goal to “use beauty and awe to make great projects, speak truth to power, and have fun with friends.”
As the Office Impart- and KOW-represented artist took a short break to breathe between her many ongoing projects, we sat down for a video call with Ehrenstein to talk about her new exhibitions, balancing research with art-making, and why collaboration is key to her artistic practice.
With the Screen City Biennale exhibition, what is the focus of the work?
The Screen City Biennial asked me for a commission and I told them that I had this piece that I would like to continue developing. I did a performance work [in 2019] that was called “Coffee Ground Imaginaries”. Usually, in my culture or a lot of Middle Eastern cultures, there’s this tradition of reading an individual’s future in the coffee grounds; my mom sits down with her friends on Fridays and looks for their future. Since a couple of years, we are in a continuous crisis, so I thought one could use this methodology to also look for collective futures. [We made] six AR filters spread in a stroll through Berlin and then through Oslo afterward.
Many artists are afraid to work with new technology like AR. For you, it’s a natural next step.
It’s been super fun because I’ve also been doing 360 video works for a couple of years, but my education really comes more from a 2D than a 3D space. When I was painting in 3D for the first time, I had a feeling like people who were in the cinema a hundred years ago — like, “Oh my God, I’m seeing something that brings the future.” I’m a little tech geek so I love playing with technology, but the thing that sometimes keeps me from using certain new technologies is that there is a fetishization of like, “Okay, we’re going to do NFTs now and it doesn’t matter what the fuck and why we are using this medium.” It’s just hyping technological progress. It’s also tied to very heteropatriarchal ideas of progress and of fetishizing the new without actually trying to put things into a bigger social context.
Collaboration is a big part of your artistic practice. When you first started creating art, did you start with collaboration or has that aspect worked its way into your practice?
No, that definitely has worked its way in. I studied photography by coincidence. I just wanted to do something with art and my mom was like, “You’re only allowed to move out if you have a place to study.” I came in with an idea that I want to do something creative and stumbled upon documentary photography. That had my inner social justice warrior completely excited and then I actually realized what a neocolonial tool journalism actually is. I was quite shocked about the power imbalances within photography. I started looking more at curatorial methodologies and all of these things came together. I was like, “Okay, if I want to continue working with photography, I have to break this binary of me looking at people.”
Collaboration is such a big trend in the art world and quite often people are like, “Oh, I collaborated with someone,” and then this other person has no agency. There are always power imbalances with collaboration. In every human interaction, there are power imbalances, but it gave me a chance to try to disrupt the colonial legacy of photography and the power imbalance inherent in gazing at somebody.
How do you find the people to collaborate with? Or does it just come naturally in your research?
It’s always a hybrid. Every project is different. For example, with House of Tupamaras, I applied to do a residency in Colombia with a completely different research focus, and then friends of mine were like, “Yo bitch, you’ve been part of a queer scene in Berlin for a while. You’re going to Bogota. There’s some friends that have other friends.” You see their work and you’re just like, “Oh my God, I just want to work with you.” It was a completely natural project. [It can be] really difficult because I do not come from a lot of privilege, but I’ve inherited a lot of privilege by now. Sometimes I am the only person in the Global North that can represent a bigger collective of people that work in the Global South, but it’s usually always worth the battles.
How much of your artistic practice is research versus creation?
Research plays a big part. It’s probably 50/50. I’m waiting for the point when administration is going to become zero and I won’t have to take care of that shit; nobody told me before becoming an artist that administration is bigger than anything else. It will be really hard for me to ever leave the art world [because] it’s the only place where you can do emotional and associative research combined with scientific research to create something pseudoscientific that makes sense for yourself.
For example, the show that [opened] with Office Impart in September, [“The Balkanization Of The Cloud”, 2022], looks at the nation-state through Instagram influencers and how digital propaganda and the deep states have changed our political landscape. For the work, I [collaborated] with two great artists: Lux Venérea, who’s a Brazilian performance artist based in Berlin, and Jonathan Omer Mizrahi, who is an Israeli filmmaker and also a performance artist. Lux has been looking at [Jair] Bolsonaro’s distribution of fake news in the Brazilian context, and Jonathan has been looking at greenwashing and agriculture as a settler colonial practice in the occupied West Bank and Palestinian lands.
I [got an] education in hypnosis for the second part to hypnotize the internet. I have a diploma now as a hypnosis educator. This was the first time I was doing an actual education for something. Everybody else [in the course] was a therapist or psychosomatic doctor, and I was like, “I’m an artist and I want to hypnotize the internet for a video work.” That’s a fucking intense privilege to be able to create works that work like this. Academia wouldn’t give it to you. Filmmaking alone wouldn’t give it to you. But the art world gives this space to create these types of synergies.
You are so incredibly busy. Do you ever get overwhelmed?
I’m definitely a workaholic but I just love my practice and I love the encounters it gives me. It doesn’t always feel like work, but sometimes it is rough. I don’t come from economic capital, so there have been five years of a lot of labor. I’ve come to the point now where, for the first time in my life, I live over the poverty risk line so I can take a fucking month off. I had a feeling last year where I was like, “Fuck. I don’t know what I’m doing.” I’m just producing concept, concept, concept. I need a free month to actually absorb where this world is going.
Have you run into any difficulties getting your art recognized in the German art scene?
I did actually have my first successes in France rather than in Germany, which is funny. I had a lot of shit from old white feminists telling me that I was reproducing objectification of Albanian women when I was doing my first works, [“Tales of Lipstick and Virtue”, 2013-2018]. It’s funny that [we have] this image of the old white man gatekeeping, but sometimes the old white feminist is much worse than the old white man. At the same time, Berlin is a really open place as a Western capital for artists. At a very young age, I found great gallery representation because people are actually open to listening and open to seeing what’s happening.
It’s a global phenomenon that there is a big gap between who the people in power are and who the people are that make work. I was lucky to work with great people, but I’ve also been in situations where a jury is telling me that I’m too confident for my life story. People want you to cry in black and white and victimize yourself, and then you can have success in their institution. It’s a balancing act between acknowledging that, yes, we do have a lot of visible change, but we still have a lot of work to do in regard to structural change.
I’m trying to collaborate and invite, because I know that in many places in this world, I’m considered to be white. I live in Germany, which is one of the most industrialized places, and I do have a lot of access to spaces my collaborators don’t have. I profit from the suffering of my collaborators through the structures that maintain us, so I can also share the cultural capital that I have. I love collaborating as a practice but also, I have access to a space. I can invite somebody in. I might not come from money, but I can still have little hacks of fucking the system from within.
Words: Chris Erik Thomas.
Tiina Itkonen’s lens has always been focused on Greenland. Since 1995, the Finnish artist has journeyed to the country’s remote lands to photograph the vistas and its diverse inhabitants. In this time, she has traveled over 1,500 kilometers by way of everything from dog sleds and sailboats to helicopters and oil tankers — capturing the sights and stories of the Greenlandic people.
With an anthropological eye, Itkonen has not only captured snapshots of its residents but also documented shifts and changes to the natural environment over a span of nearly 20 years. Thus, her works not only document personal experiences in ice and snow but have also presented a powerful and striking case for climate protection. The many series she’s produced have captured viewers at the 54th Biennale de Venezia, Danish National Museum of Photography, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, and many other venues.
Beyond just her photographic work, Itkonen has also bridged the barrier between art and science. For years, she has partnered with polar explorer Dr. Kristin Laidre and writer Susan McGrath on the “Piniartoq (Hunter)” series, which explores the relationships and interconnections between polar bears, people, communities, and climate change. Their goal is, simply, to show what we are fighting for in the battle to slow climate catastrophe.
Recently, we spoke with the artist about what inspired her photographic relationship with Greenland, the lessons she’s learned from the Inuit people, and the dire consequences of climate change.
What have you learned about the people and the environments you’ve photographed?
I have a respect for the Inuit way of life. They live in harmony with nature and they know how to exist in cold climates. They take what they need to survive from the land and sea and share it with others. Their relationship with their environment gives them a wide understanding of animals and nature.
I have spent a lot of time with Inuit people in Northwest Greenland. Inuit live according to the weather and the seasons. If the weather permits, the men set out to hunt or fish or families may travel to a neighbouring village to visit relatives. During the bad weather everybody stays at home — helicopters and planes remain grounded and the boats stay in port. People say “Immaqa aqagu…” or “maybe tomorrow”. Once I waited for the flight from Qaanaaq to Ilulissat for one week because of the bad weather.
You once said that slowness is important to your work. Can you talk more about that?
I used to photograph for Finnish magazines and always had a feeling of being rushed. Now when working on my own, I can have as much time as I want. In small settlements, nobody is in any hurry anywhere. There is as much time to do things as they require. There is also time for other people. I easily adapt to this kind of slow rhythm. I do not always take photographs on my first visit to someone; we drink tea and I like to hear who is related to whom. The Inuit are like a big family, they are all related to each other.
Can you walk through your working process?
Nowadays I use a digital camera so I can look through the files after shooting. When I am back at home, I look through the files several times and make A4 size prints before selecting the final ones for the exhibition. Earlier when using analog cameras, I developed the film when I got back home. It was always an exciting moment to see the film for the first time.
When do you like to shoot the most? Are there any specific times in the day (or year) you prefer?
My favourite time to travel to Greenland is in April. The sea is still frozen in North Greenland. There is more light then, but it’s not so cold anymore. I like when it is cloudy, as the sun can sometimes be too bright. In summer, I like to shoot in the middle of the night as it is light for 24 hours.
From September 25, 2022, through February 12, 2023, the Museum Sinclair-Haus in Bad Homburg, Germany, is hosting the group exhibition “Eternal Ice”, which includes works by Tiina Itkonen and many other artists.
Words: Chris Erik Thomas.
For the last five years, whenever Milja Laurila sat down at her desk to work, one massive book has been within arm’s reach. Aptly titled Woman: An Historical Gynæcological and Anthropological Compendium, the relic was first released in Germany in 1885 before receiving a major update in its eleventh version in 1927 that added a wealth of supplementary material and photographs. Spread across three volumes and totalling 2092 pages, the tome attempted to explain the mystery of women within a scientific context. Unfortunately (but unsurprisingly) the result was a sexist, racially-tinged look at women through a leering, predatory gaze. Around 100 photographs are contained within its pages that depict “native people” standing nude and staring into the lens of the white, colonialist photographer.
For Laurila, it has been a revelatory discovery. After stumbling upon the book by accident while deep in research for another project in 2017, she has come back to it again and again; most recently, using it as the basis for her “Untitled Women” series, which was exhibited at Persons Project during Gallery Weekend Berlin in June. The magnetic draw that the book has had on Laurila should come as no surprise to those familiar with her oeuvre. For decades, the Finnish artist has looked to old photographs for inspiration, especially those found in old scientific books and encyclopedias; pulling from the past, she often recontextualizes images mired in the racism, sexism, and bigotry of their eras by filtering them through a modern lens.
The practice has also allowed the artist to navigate her own history, as well. In her first series, (“To Remember”, 2004), she focused on her early childhood in Tanzania where she lived from ten weeks old until she was four years old. With no real memory of this period, she sourced images taken by her father, an amateur photographer, and combined them with new ones using double exposure. The result was a series that melted the divide between past and present, providing an early throughline that has united her works in the years since.
Laurila’s piercing interrogations of found photographs have formed the basis for series’ on everything from femininity and the scientific gaze (“In Their Own Voice”, 2016) to the reevaluation of mental disease and what defines normality (“Atlas und Grundriss der Psychiatrie”, 2013). With over a decade of experience trawling through history, she has produced a captivating body of work that digs into the ethics and power dynamics of photographic history.
As the artist continues her search for inspiration and prepares to develop new work, we called up Laurila for a video chat to discuss the “Untitled Women” series, reclaiming the gaze, and the violence women still face within the medical field.
The relationship between women’s bodies and the medical field doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Just look at the abortion restrictions in the US. What do you think of these modern developments?
That’s a really good question because what I want to say with my work is that it’s not just history. Maybe it’s easy for some people to look at the pictures and think, “Oh, but this is 100 years old.” Actually, the same thing is still going on. It’s relevant today. Of course, I’ve been appalled at what’s happening in the United States, but there’s also a global phenomenon of this hatred towards women. Always trying to control their bodies and sexuality.
One thing that I’m interested in — which is not in the “Untitled Women” series particularly — is how we don’t know that much about women and women’s diseases. If women go to a doctor, then they can easily get prescribed some antidepressants because the doctors don’t know what’s going on. Women get easily misdiagnosed or underdiagnosed. I recently read an article in The Guardian about a study that found that when there is an operation, if the patient is a woman and the surgeon is a man, the woman is more likely to die.
One of the themes of your work is reclaiming the photographic “gaze” and tapping into how it feels to be looked at. In the “Untitled Women” series, only the eyes of the subjects can be seen. How did you come up with this concept?
I can’t say that it’s one thing. I’ve always been interested in the gaze. Before I went to study photography, I studied at the University of Helsinki and studied communication and film, so I read about the gaze like 20 years ago. In my previous work, I’ve used a lot of images of the backs of women so you don’t see the face or the eyes. In these medical books, if the woman is facing the camera, there’s usually this black or white box over their eyes so in this book, “Women”, it was really surprising that they were looking back at you. I was really, really taken by this. They were actually looking at me, and they had a really strong, powerful gaze.
That drew me to this book, and I wanted to focus on this — that they are looking back at you and how it makes you feel. In these medical books, you would think that the eyes are blackened to protect the anonymity of the patients, but then I thought that it’s also done for the viewer — for the male who is looking. He doesn’t have to face the woman and doesn’t have to look at her and see who she is. It’s the opposite in the “Untitled Women” series. She is actually looking at you.
Words: Chris Erik Thomas.
As an only child growing up in the 1980s, Schmitten was drawn to both the act of making small-scale models and to the wonders of the Abteiberg Museum in Mönchengladbach, as he wandered its halls and took in the sight of the sculptures it housed. It was this combination of influences that would eventually lead him to pursue a career in art that has brought his work to institutions in Germany and abroad.
Seeing Schmitten’s work, it’s immediately clear why he has become such a beloved artist. He is capable of crafting everything from darkly comedic storyboards that strike at the existential fear of inclusion and emptiness (“First there is a house, then there is no house, then there is,” 2018) to sculptures of hypersmooth, almost alien vessels that merge humans with basins and other objects (the “SESSHAFT” exhibition, 2021). Throughout his entire oeuvre, there is a playful element that blunts the edges of even the darkest subject matter as he confronts themes of religion, history, and humanity. The end result offers the illusion of simplicity in the final pieces that belies an intricacy of form; a nearly artificial sheen masks the incredible scope of labor involved as he saws, sews, and casts the materials that make up his sculptures.
With representation by both König Galerie and SCHÖNEWALD, Schmitten has established himself as an essential artist in the contemporary art world of the Rheinland and beyond. On Friday, July 29 at 6 PM CEST, he will be part of König Galerie’s limited-time, 72-hour-only drop of part of the edition “Chimera Electrified”, based on drawings from a book of the same name. As he prepares for this drop, we spoke to the artist via email about his enduring love for models, learning about culture and time through sculpture, and the lessons he learned from the writing of French philosopher Gilles Deleuze.
As a child you began to make models quite obsessively and, decades later, they are still a part of your artistic practice. What is it about creating these miniature scenes and spaces that draws you in?
My first works are models of spaces, but it was important to me to see these as independent and completed works; they were not reproductions of something but an exploration of the idea of making a model and of space as a form of expression.
It was important to me to question and explore where the practice of model making and miniatures comes from and what approaches there are to it — particularly outside of an art context. My affinity for models and miniatures corresponds to children’s play because all stuffed animals, Lego, Playmobil, building blocks, and action figures are always models of an adult world. But with them, spaces of their own are created that develop a pull effect and in which this adult world becomes irrelevant for the children who are playing. I see this not only in children, but also in model trains, in model-making hobbies. With my grandmother, for example, it’s the porcelain elephants.
This is where my thoughts about the specifics of the model come from. My work attempts to explore the materials and procedures of model building. What fascinates me is the pull of the model space, which becomes so strong that it no longer matters where and in which real space I am. Similar to a film scene, a miniature space is created, but in contrast to the film, this space is real, even if it is too small. I see retreat or escape from reality in the love for the model, inherent in the dream of a submissive and controllable world.
For many artists, there was an exhibition or museum they attended in their adolescence that sparked the desire to become an artist. You’ve talked about going to the Abteiberg Museum in Mönchengladbach as a child, but I’m curious if there was any specific exhibition that you saw which inspired you?
No, there was no specific exhibition that was the deciding factor in wanting to become an artist. Instead, it was the place itself that had an impact on me — especially the architecture of Hans Hollein. In my childhood imagination, the museum and the exhibited sculptures were an indoor playground or labyrinth with special rules and objects. This led me to the Abteiberg again and again.
Your work often interrogates the functional, everyday objects that humans create — particularly the culture and mythos built up around these objects. Where did this fascination with these seemingly mundane objects begin? What continues to draw you to them?
You can learn a great deal about the contemporary [world] and all its facets through how these mundane things are created. This is actually like a classical sculpture; you can learn a lot about culture and time from the form [of the sculpture].
One facet of the art world that is still in its infancy is NFTs and the concept of the “metaverse.” As a sculptural artist, does this new virtual frontier attract you?
I am observing it, but so far, I can explore the ideas I am pursuing with my current techniques and materials.
Your 2018 work, “First there is a house, then there is no house, then there is”, feels eerily prescient coming before the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic initially seemed to offer the world a refresh, but now things seem back to normal (or worse). How did the pandemic shift your mindset? Did it alter your artistic practice at all?
Yes, definitely. For me, it was similar to being confronted with a war or other drastic global events. As a result, I couldn’t continue with the pieces I was working on at the time.
The beginning of the pandemic was the occasion for me to find an answer to the question of how history is constructed. How does something become part of the history of art or architecture? History is always something made; everything that is not conserved disappears, falls out, and does not become part of history. History is based on constructed causal chains. Through the pandemic, we are part of a global event and can witness how this event will be historicized. I wonder how we could narrate history differently? There is also the question of what role our bodies play in this. This becomes particularly clear in a pandemic that affects people’s bodies.
For example, one of my sculptures from 2018 is titled “1986.” This is the year we were confronted with the Chernobyl disaster. Others are titled “Fragile Construction”, which is a reference to our model of life. When Corona came, it undoubtedly changed these works — especially the view of them.
The writing of French philosopher Gilles Deleuze attracted you during your studies of philosophy. He believed that the task of art is to create “signs” that push us out of our habits of perception and inspire creation. How does the work of Deleuze inspire you and your art?
Important for me was his idea of the impossibility to express the most important things with language and his powerlessness facing art, even though he was such a great thinker. That made a deep impression on me. .
When were you first introduced to König Galerie? How has the working relationship been?
That was probably in 2015 or 2016. Since then, we have realized many projects together and I very much appreciate the commitment on the part of the gallery. Above all, I am fortunate to work with a gallery owner who is of the same age and yet very experienced.
The material you create works with is often a bit of an optical illusion. For example, sculptures that look like porcelain are bronze sprayed white. How do you go about picking the materials you work with?
Shrouding and surface always come to mind when I think about a sculpture and there is the requirement of durable material. But, in principle, the idea dictates the material.
Words: Chris Erik Thomas.
To understand the state of the industry’s gender inequality, it helps to know a few numbers. According to a January 2020 report, self-employed female artists and publicists in Germany faced a 26 percent pay gap from men. One year earlier, at Gallery Weekend 2019 for example, only 30 percent of artists represented by gallery shows were women. Across the ocean, from 2008 through 2018, leading museums in the United States purchased only a paltry 11 percent of art by women artists.
The stats on the art world’s inequality could keep flowing, but the point is clear: female artists have to fight hard for recognition and visibility in the male-dominated art industry. From the art market through to representation at museums and galleries, the divide between male artists and everyone else — those that identify as female, gender non-conforming, transgender, and other identities — is striking.
At Art Düsseldorf, we are committed to fighting for more equality within the art industry. To help ease the gap in representation, we created the Female Artists Drop at the end of July in our Online Shop to highlight the incredible array of works by both established and emerging female artists, including Candice Breitz, Ulrike Rosenbach, Sylvie Fleury, Nadira Husain, Anna Virnich, Isabella Fürnkäs, and many more.
To celebrate the wide range of art by contemporary female artists, we invite you to get to know these 10 artists whose work we highlighted in our Online Shop.
For this Moldovan-born painter and sculptor, translating emotion into linear and geometric shapes and forms are key to her artistic practice. Now based in Germany between Düsseldorf and Munich, Ojovan’s minimalist works have oscillated between vibrant color and muted blacks as she infuses stillness into each piece.
Reclamation is integral in the Helsinki-based artist’s work. Using old medical books and other imagery as the foundation, she transforms old material into new work. For example, in her recent “Untitled Women” series, the artist took images from the book Woman. An Historical Gynæcological and Anthropological Compendium, which was written by three German men in 1885, and interrogates the colonial and sexual gaze through her new pieces. A selection of pieces from her “Untitled Women” series were recently shown during Gallery Weekend Berlin 2022.
The male gaze has no place in the works of this Belgian artist. After a childhood spent around women unhappy with their bodies because of societal pressure, Dubois has worked to fight for body positivity with entrancing artworks that show the human form in all of its shapes and sizes. Since her art world debut in a handful of shows in 2015, she has become known for her fun and playful paintings — creating scenes that show the weird, messy beauty of bodies. You can read our interview with the artist in our digital magazine.
Born in Slovakia and now based between Corpus Christi, Texas and New York City, the artist has become known for her amusing and socially critical works. Using traditional “female” spaces like kitchens and bedrooms as backdrops, her work infuses fantasy with cutting critiques of sexuality, identity, and history. Nude women carry out tasks, bears become stand-ins for men, and phallic cacti make guest appearances on her canvases.
For this Berlin-based artist, the subjects in her paintings feel almost alive — as if they have been frozen in mid-response to the gaze of the viewer. Using a special painting process, the artist applies a thin layer of oil paint that allows for color to dissolve into the canvas and merge with other surfaces. Additionally, her work touches on both music and performance, which sometimes involves piano pieces composed and played by the artist to be used in exhibitions.
There are few contemporary female artists in German as popular as Pousttchi. Since breaking out internationally in 2009 with her massive photographic installation “Echo”, the artist has used photography, sculpture, video, and other mediums to develop a broad range of work that is constantly surprising viewers both in Germany and internationally — including at two editions of the Venice Biennale.
Born in 2000 in Genoa, the young, Berlin-based artist has turned a childhood passion for drawing into a promising artistic career. With an unmistakable style and ability to use anything as a canvas (including cardboard, shopping bags, and shooting cards), Durante has quickly garnered acclaim. Her first-ever exhibition at Galerie Friese (“Lack of sleep is my eye shadow”, 2021) and her first institutional solo exhibition as part of the illust_ratio 10 in Rüsselsheim (“What if my thoughts will never stop talking”, 2022) have cemented her status as one of the rising talents in Germany’s art community.
This Albanian-German artist is no stranger to pushing boundaries through her work. Whether she is taking on themes of pseudo luxury and gender representation (“Tales of Lipstick and Virtue”, 2013-2018) or post-colonial politics (“Home is Where the Hatred is”, 2021), she has a flair for creating dramatic works that challenge viewers’ perceptions. This expert melding of high and low culture through print, video, sculpture, installations, and other mediums has attracted art lovers from Germany and around the world.
For the Jerusalem-born painter, motifs from art history, Jewish legends, Disneyland, and “ideal world” aesthetics of the 1950s act as a solid foundation for her work — especially in her portrayal of women. Using a casual yet ludic stylization, she interrogates the unrealistic expectations that society puts on female characters; leaving some level of interpretation up to the viewer, while nevertheless holding up a mirror to ourselves.
Within the Rhineland art scene, the Essen-born artist has established herself as a rising talent. Using a mix of sculpture, video, and other mediums, she has focused on everything from the breakneck pace of social media in our lives and the glacial pace of changing societal norms to the manufacturing process and politicization of domestic labor.
Words: Chris Erik Thomas.
The gradual disintegration of manmade objects can be just as captivating as the etchings of seaside cliffs worn down by the spray of the sea. For decades, the Stommeln-born artist Birgit Werres has turned her keen eye towards the rusted patina that settles on steel and the discarded scraps of plastic that lie disused on factory floors. It’s here, amongst the leftovers or forgotten about industrial objects that litter the world, that she has created magic. Transforming junkyard debris into art that has been shown across Germany and beyond.
Long before recycling and the reuse of material became en vogue within not just the art world, but across industries of all types, Werres was giving new life to objects she sourced from her trips to factories and material depots around the world. With even the most seemingly mundane piece of pipe or chain or film or packaging, she has sculpted dazzling works that burst with color and energy.
Back in April, Galerie Anke Schmidt’s booth at Art Düsseldorf played host to some of Werres’ sculptures, introducing the artist to new art lovers and reintroducing her to established collectors. This summer, the artist has two exhibitions on view at Kunstmuseum Bonn and Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, and we have two unforgettable works by Werres now available in our Online Shop: “Untitled 36/21” and “Untitled 7/22”. We caught up with the artist to learn more about her artistic process, the impact of recycling on her work, and the story behind her first sculpture.
Much of your work revolves around how technical objects change over time. How did this interest begin?
During my studies, I was already interested in the surface texture and associated colorfulness of a wide variety of materials. The respective origin or purpose plays no role, but the appearance does. This was (and still is) often precisely the change to the material — by wear or weather conditions, for example.
Around 1986, I went again and again to the site of a disused freight station in Duisburg. There was a lot to discover there; this was the beginning of finding such places to inspire my work.
How did the COVID-19 pandemic shift or alter your artistic practice?
I focused on concentrated work in the studio. Using what is there. Instead of going to other places, I searched through my stock of materials, rediscovered them, and reused some of them with a different perspective.
At the same time, I remembered materials I discovered at fairs — fairs for plastics or metal, for example — and tried to find them on the internet. Of course, online shopping was tedious but, against all expectations, it was also a place for discoveries.
Prospective art collectors can find two of your works, “Untitled 36/21” and “Untitled 7/22”, on our Online Shop. What is the background behind each of these works? What inspired them and how were they made?
“Untitled # 36/21” is a plastic material that had been stored in my studio for many, many years. I was interested in the deformations and the extreme color. Over the years I have brought it out again and again and tried different ways of handling it. Until last year, when I very spontaneously pierced it and impaled it. I was immediately convinced by the attachment to the wall, the projecting into the room.
“Untitled # 7/22” is copper-plated sheet metal, fresh from production. Here I was particularly interested in the indentations and protrusions that were created during my working process in the studio. Through an unwinding – and rewinding has finally resulted in the form of the two roles.
You’ve worked with various materials, including chains, pipes, plastic, package film, and more. Are there any materials you prefer more than others? If so, what is it about these specific materials that inspire you?
No, there are no preferred materials. The desire to discover new things prevails.
Do you remember the first sculpture you ever created? If so, please talk about it.
I created my first sculpture in collaboration with Heinz Breloh. He had a guest professorship at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf at the beginning of my studies and provided a room and plaster for experimental work.
We students brought in different materials, including oversized, roughly splintered pieces of wood, which I used in conjunction with plaster. I developed a sculpture out of sheer action corresponding to my body dimensions.
You live and work in Dusseldorf, a city where art is granted a lot of importance and respect. How does the city inspire your creativity?
The remains of the harbor and the exchange with the artists living here inspire me.
You were born in the village of Stommeln. In your childhood, did you have any interaction with art? What led you to become an artist?
No. Initially, I saw all my interests bundled in the field of stage design. Studying at the Academy of Arts and discovering sculpture then changed my direction.
You have works included in the Kunst Museum Bonn’s new exhibition, “Space For Imaginative Actions”. What are the works and what inspired them?
In this new presentation of its collection, the Kunstmuseum shows a work from 1999. It is a black and white plastic material that I have wound in a circle. It is three meters in diameter and 30 cm high. It was the first newly produced material from which I developed a sculpture.
You were recently featured in the booth of Galerie Anke Schmidt at Art Düsseldorf. How did you first get involved with the gallery? How has your relationship evolved since then?
Iris Maczollek and Anke Schmidt took over the gallery from my previous gallerist, Rolf Ricke, in 2005 and continued to work with some artists, as well as with me. Since 2014, Anke Schmidt has continued to run the gallery independently. An extremely fruitful relationship has developed, from which numerous exhibitions and projects have evolved. I appreciate the regular exchange about my work in the studio and other artistic positions and joint exhibition visits.
How does the more modern trend of recycling materials play into your work? In the beginning of your career, what were the attitudes towards recycling and conservation?
One the one hand, the recycling process causes the materials that are interesting to me to disappear. They are usually no longer visible since leftovers from the production process are generally already recycled at the factory itself.
On the other hand, the constant further development creates completely new recycled products that are also interesting for me in their texture or colorfulness. These processes were just beginning to develop in the early 1990s.
What is it about production facilities like warehouses and factories that attracts you?
Material discoveries and the insight into the production and work processes.
Are there any overarching lessons or themes that you hope viewers take from your work?
Lessons, no. It can change the way you look at things.
Words: Chris Erik Thomas.
Since 1895’s very first edition, art lovers have flocked to Venice every two years for the Biennale Arte. Spread across Italy’s famed floating city, the International Art Exhibition began as a means of connecting artists from countries around the world, which earned it the moniker of the “Olympics of the art world.” It was immediately a massive success in the early years — attracting more than 200,000 visitors in 1895 and more than 300,000 by 1899. It has now been 127 years since this experiment in bridging borders between art communities began, and its success and grandeur has only grown with age as modern iterations regularly attract over 500,000 visitors.
Throughout its long history, the Biennale has acted as an incubator for new art movements and emerging positions in contemporary art, as well as surviving world wars and plagues. As the world attempts to shake free of the darkness of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Biennale has returned after being delayed last year — bringing both artists and art lovers back to the city for the first time since 2019.
With the 59th International Art Exhibition, curatorial duties were handed over to Cecilia Alemani, who became the first Italian woman to hold the position in its history. Titled “The Milk of Dreams” (a reference to a book by Leonora Carrington), the show is spread across multiple locations and heavily features work by both women and non-binary artists. In the main exhibition spaces of the Central Pavilion (Giardini) and in the Arsenale, 213 artists from 58 countries have works on view. With 180 of the artists having never participated before and 80 of 1,433 works and objects made specifically for the event, it has become both an unforgettable edition of the Biennale Arte and a triumphant return to form after being delayed due to the pandemic.
Among the many artists whose works have found temporary homes in Venice for the next few months, many are represented by galleries that took part in Art Düsseldorf 2022. Even the most seasoned art lovers can get overwhelmed by the selection, so to help sort out the winding routes through Venice’s famed canals, we’ve made a travel guide that puts the spotlight on these artists.
Before you head to Venice to soak up the massive amount of art on display, slide through and mark down all of our must-see spots at the Biennale Arte 2022.
The most obvious starting point is, of course, the Central Pavilion in the east of the city. As the main hub for the Biennale Arte, it is split into two sections: the sprawling public gardens of the Giardini and the cavernous former dockyards of the Arsenale. Both sites also host a satellite array of smaller pavilions for each respective country. To begin, we’ll highlight one artist whose work is part of the main exhibition, as well as two artists at country pavilions for France and Switzerland.
In the “La Culla Della Strega / The Witch’s Cradle” exhibition, we draw attention to the print “Der Spiegel der Genoveva” (1967) by Surrealist artist Meret Oppenheim (Galerie Knoell and Galerie Krinzinger). The work features a strange and slightly disturbing woman transforming into an animal with a long hairy leg that ends in a beastly hoof. In the country pavilions, two artists represented by Kamel Mennour, the Paris and London-based gallery, have made a splash among both visitors and critics.
First, at the French Pavilion, an immersive installation by Zineb Sedira packs a powerful punch. The show, “Dreams Have No Titles,” is monumental in part because this is the first time an artist of Algerian descent has represented the country, but also because of its nod to the Algerian independence movement of the 1960s — specifically the drive to create militant films in the 60s and 70s. Nearby, at the Swiss Pavilion, the artist Latifa Echakch’s immersive installation, “The Concert,” features large-scale sculptures inspired by the folk statues and is set to a composition by percussionist Alexandre Babel. Together, it is an ethereal, otherworldly experience that demands to be seen.
Moving slightly over from the Giardini, we now go to the cavernous former dockyards of the Arsenale. Among the hundreds of artists participating this year across the Central Pavilion, we recommend nine captivating artists whose work can be found in the massive industrial space, including three representing country pavilions.
First is a new work by Emma Talbot (Petra Rinck Galerie), “Where Do We Come From, What Are We, Where Are We Going?” (2021). The title is taken from Paul Gauguin’s famed painting of the same name, while the subject matter is a spiked critique of Gauguin’s self-exile to Tahiti while the nation was under French colonial rule. There is also the powerful 1989 piece, “Kiss of the Rhinoceros,” by Rebecca Horn (Galerie Thomas Schulte). The sculptural work imbues metal rhinoceros horns and huge metal arms with a tension that steadily increases as the horns move towards one another.
Two artists from Berlin-based gallery Société are essential viewing. First is a new video installation by Marianna Simnett called “The Severed Tail,” which is a 20-minute journey of a piglet through a multilayered world of fetish. The second, LuYang’s “DOKU – Digital Descending,” is a continuation of his anime series that began in 2020. This iteration takes viewers on a journey that includes everything from a revenge shaman and anxious plane passengers to six different reincarnations.
Rounding out the selection as part of the main exhibition, there is Polish photographer Joanna Piotrowska (Galeria Thomas Zander), who has a selection of pieces from both her “Untitled” (2017) and “Self-Defense” (2014-15) series. And finally, we steer you towards Chilean artist Sandra Vásquez de la Horra (Galerie Michael Haas), who grew up during the 17-year military regime of Augusto Pinochet. Housed in a wooden structure made by the artist, her works include “Der Tod und das Mädchen” (2015), “América sin Fronteras” 2017), “Erupciones” (2019), “La Voz de un Pueblo que lucha” (2019, “Flotante y su genealogía” (2020), and “Saludo a Olorun” (2021), as well as new pieces created for the Biennale.
Within the numerous country pavilions, three artists are particularly worth a view. First is the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg Pavilion, located in the Sale D’Armi, where Tina Gillen (Nosbaum Reding) presents “Faraway So Close.” The large-scale installation is punctuated by a suite of new paintings made for the show and is inspired by the Sale D’Armi’s original use as a military storage space. At the Malta Pavilion, “Diplomazija Astuta” by Arcangelo Sassolino (Philipp von Rosen Galerie) takes inspiration from Caravaggio’s “The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist.” Using molten steel droplets, the sculptural installation was created in collaboration with curators Keith Sciberras and Jeffrey Uslip, artist Giuseppe Schembri Bonaci, composer Brian Schembri, and project managers Nikki Petroni and Esther Flury.
Finally, in the first-ever national pavilion for the Sultanate of Oman, five artists have converged for “Destined Imaginaries,” a sprawling exhibition curated by Aisha Stoby and featuring works by Radhika Khimji (Galerie Krinzinger), as well as Anwar Sonja, Hassan Meer, Budoor Al Riyami, and Raiya Al Rawahi. Situated at the conclusion of the exhibition, Khimji’s site-specific work, “Under, Inner, Under,” includes seven painted textiles, two interlocking tile structures, two paintings on wood, one wooden sculpture, and one wooden panel. The complex array of works are inspired by the Al Hoota Caves, a two-million-year-old cave system in Dakhiliyah, Oman.
As if the 213 artists from 58 countries included in the main exhibition program this year weren’t enough, the Biennale Arte also includes a number of must-see Collateral Events. These additional exhibitions, organized by non-profit international and national institutions, form a constellation around the Central Pavilion. With dozens of official and unofficial pop-up exhibitions dotting Venice, it guarantees that art lovers will never run out of excuses to wander the city’s famed streets. Among the official list of Collateral Events, we want to highlight six that we’re checking out this year.
First, we direct your attention to a solo show by Heinz Mack (Beck & Eggeling) organized by the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana. In “Vibrations of Light” at the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana (Entrance through the Museo Correr), a towering spacial installation featuring both large-scale paintings, rotating steles, and a four-meter-high mirror sculpture combine for an unforgettable show that’s on view until July 17. Just next door, Espace Louis Vuitton has organized and staged the exhibition “Apollo, Apollo” by Katharina Grosse (König Galerie). The show explores the dialogue between self and form, using both metallic mesh fabric and the artist’s own body.
A short walk away, two exhibitions in close proximity present a compelling duet of contemporary positions. The first is a group show organized by the Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art and takes place at the Conservatorio di Musica Benedetto Marcello. The exhibition, “Uncombed, Unforeseen, Unconstrained,” connects works by eleven artists, including Julian Charriere (Dittrich & Schlechtriem and Sies + Hoke), under the common theme of entropy, or the measure of disorder, randomness, and unpredictability within a system. The second exhibition is “Times Reimaged” by Chun Kwang Young (Beck & Eggeling), which can be found at the Palazzo Contarini Polignac. The exhibition, organized by the Boghossian Foundation, continues the theme of interconnectedness between living beings that the artist has explored for decades. The exhibition features a range of works crafted in hanji (Korean mulberry paper) that are as powerful as they are fragile.
The final recommendations for official Collateral Events feature two artists drawing inspiration from the natural world to craft unforgettable pieces. At Palazzo Vendramin Grimani, Fondazione dell’Albero d’Oro has organized an art residency by Mexican artist Bosco Sodi (König Galerie) titled “What Goes Around Comes Around.” The residency includes a solo exhibition dedicated to works of painting and sculpture crafted with raw, natural materials that play off of the mercantile history of the space. A walk away, Danish conceptual artist Tue Greenfort (König Galerie) has found solace in the biodiversity of Venice’s lagoon. Organized by the ERES Foundation and staged at Castello 1228, the exhibition continues themes that began in his 2021 project, “Algae in Munich,” by focusing on the complex beauty of marine life that include both algae and jellyfish.
Rounding out our guide, we’ve found a selection of six exhibitions happening outside of the official Biennale Arte program worth checking out. We begin with “burn shine fly,” a special exhibition by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone (Galerie Krobath + kamel mennour) that is on view until September 24. Mixing both previously created and entirely new bronze sculptural elements, the exhibition contrasts perfectly with the rich history of the Scuola Grande San Giovanni Evangelista, which was founded in 1261. Meanwhile, a short walk away, OGR Torino has organized a site-responsive project, “ALLUVIUM,” in the Complesso dell’Ospedaletto. The exhibition brings together the Iranian artist trio of Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh, and Hesam Rahmanian (Galerie Krinzinger) for a series of iron sculptures and terracotta plates imbued with deep cultural ties to Dubia and the Middle East.
Be sure to check out the limited-run exhibition “KUB in Venice,” which ends on July 4. Situated in Venice’s historic Scuola di San Pasquale, the show features site-specific work by Anna Boghiguian (KOW), as well as Otobong Nkanga. On the upper floor, Boghiguian presents “The Chess Game,” a large-scale installation that interrogates themes of power and conflict through the board game. Another must-see exhibition is an expansive group show put on by the Venice branch of Galerie Dr. Dorothea van der Koelen titled “In The Change Of Time.” The show brings together eight artists from six different countries — including Lore Bert, Daniel Buren, Hans Jörg Glattfelder, Mohammed Kazem, Joseph Kosuth, Fabrizio Plessi, Turi Simeti and Günther Uecker — for a multifaceted exploration of the power of culture during a time of great sociopolitical upheaval.
To cap off the guide, we end with two superstars of the art world. First, we direct you to a massive, two-art exhibition by Anish Kapoor (Kamel Menour) aptly titled “Anish Kapoor in Venice.” The show sees the artist take over both the Gallerie dell’Accademia and Palazzo Manfrin. Retrospective works — including the bloody “Shooting into the Corner” (2008-2009) — mesh with new pieces like “Mount Moriah at the Gate of the Ghetto” (2022) and “Split In Two Like a Fish For Frying” (2022). With over 60 works on view, it marks the first time a British artist has ever had a major exhibition at the Gallerie dell’Accademia, and is on view until September 24.
Finally, in the cavernous Oficine 800 on Venice’s Giudecca island, “20th Painting Action” by Hermann Nitsch (Galerie Kandlhofer + Galerie Thoman) has taken on a new significance after the famed artist passed away on April 18. The artist’s death now makes this the final major exhibition of work, and is the first time that the works from this series are on view in Italy since their original creation and exhibition. This monumental ode to the artist is on view until July 20 and serves as a perfect capstone on our guide to the 59th Venice Biennale.
Words: Chris Erik Thomas.
For over a century, artists of all backgrounds have used printmaking and other techniques to create multiple versions of a piece as part of an edition. To celebrate this integral part of the art world, we’ve teamed up with a number of galleries who showed works at Art Düsseldorf 2022 to launch our first-ever drop of limited-run Artist Editions.
On Monday, May 23, our Online Store will debut a new section of Editions that offer works by a number of artists, including Joseph Beuys (Philipp von Rosen Galerie), Laura Schawelka (fiebach, minninger), Tilman Hornig (Galerie Gebr. Lehmann), Albrecht Dürer (Dittrich & Schlechtriem), Marina Abramović (Galerie Krinzinger), and many more. Whether you’re the most seasoned art lover around or entering the art market for the first time, we’ve created the ultimate buyer’s guide to help you understand the ins and outs of Artist Editions.
Printing was first invented in China and, hundreds of years later in 1276, made its way to Europe. Two hundred years later, in 1450, Johannes Gutenberg refined the method that made book and pamphlet printing widely accessible via his Gutenberg press.
In the art world, printmaking encompasses a broad range of mediums. A print can be a lithograph, screen print, word carving, engraving, and so much more. One of the first prints ever made by an artist was Pablo Picasso’s 1904 work, “The Frugal Repast”, which was republished by art dealer Ambroise Vollard in 1913 in an edition of 250. And of course, it was Andy Warhol who helped printmaking — especially screen printing — burst beyond the art world and enter the public sphere thanks to his work in the medium.
Thanks to the work of Gutenberg, printmaking has opened up the possibility for artists to make multiple versions of the same work. Unlike a single piece of art, an edition is a work that has been duplicated into either a fixed number of prints (Limited Edition) or an ongoing, unlimited reproduction (Open Edition). An open edition tends to be the sort of mass-produced reproductions that can be found within museum gift shops, while editions are original works produced under the supervision of the artist who designed them.
In recent years, it has been artists like Banksy who have dominated the world of editions. The artist produced 150 signed and 600 unsigned editions of his famed piece “Girl With Balloon” in 2014, with a signed edition selling for £150. That same signed edition can fetch nearly £500,000 today. For Art Düsseldorf’s Artist Edition drop, our participating galleries have all carefully selected pieces by artists that are sold in limited edition batches to ensure both quality and value.
In the wild world of editions, the cost of a print is determined by a range of factors. The most obvious one, of course, comes from the artist’s signature. With limited editions, the artist often signs each print for authenticity. To further establish the limited nature of an edition, each work often includes both the print number and the total number of batches as a fraction (i.e. 23/50). While the rule of “the smaller the size of the print run, the higher the value” applies, always take note that editions are not always numbered in the order they were printed. For example, this means that if you buy a piece numbered 1/30, it isn’t worth more than the piece numbered 30/30.
Another important factor determining the price is the material and size. For something like an etching, which tends to be more difficult to create, smaller editions are made. Whereas with methods like screen printing or lithographs, larger editions are possible without sacrificing quality. In terms of size, the larger the print, the harder it tends to be to produce because large canvases require more complex printmaking procedures.
The obvious answer is that if you see a piece you love, why not invest in it? We believe that art collecting should always come from a place of passion. Editions offer a lower priced entry into the world of collecting without sacrificing on quality.
To help ensure that art lovers can find the perfect piece, we are launching a drop of Artist Editions that come in a range of price points. Head to our Online Store and search #Edition on Monday, May 23 to see everything we have to offer.
Words: Chris Erik Thomas.
It’s this sentence, written by Nicholas Korody, that forms the glue holding together the new exhibition at Berlin-based gallery Dittrich & Schlechtriem, yet it could also apply to Jonas Wendelin. Under his careful curation, the Düsseldorf-born artist pieced together the gallery’s new group show, aptly titled “Othering”, which features works by Yalda Afsah, Julian Charrière, Albrecht Dürer, Francisco de Goya, Andreas Greiner, Jenna Sutela, Analisa Teachworth, Jol Thoms, Sung Tieu, and Wendelin himself.
Focused around the exploration of “how certain lives — human and nonhuman — are designated as alien”, a version of the group show first debuted in the industrial halls of Areal Böhler for Art Düsseldorf, before making its way back to Berlin for its Gallery Weekend debut. Now staged at Dittrich & Schlechtriem with some new works, the exhibition is a full sensory experience filled with art that spans media. Situated at the entrance, a massive 206 x 206 cm video screen adorned to a stripped-down wooden frame displays serene, shifting landscapes digitally created by an artificial intelligence algorithm (Andreas Greiner’s “Traum (vom Walde)”). Meanwhile, in one corner on the lower floor, 49 screens stacked high display found underwater footage (Julian Charrière’s “The Gods Must Be Crazy”), while two otherworldly ceramic sculptures glow with faint light like a strange new species dredged up from deep under the ocean waves (Wendelin’s “Involution I and II”).
It’s a sprawling exhibition that signals an enticing and more experimental direction for the gallery that was founded by Lars Dittrich and André Schlechtriem in 2011. It also showcases Wendelin’s strength as a curator — a result of years spent running community-focused art spaces, including NAVEL in Los Angeles and FRAGILE in Berlin. For Wendelin, the same ethos from “Othering” applies: “Without the other, there is no self.” His practice is intrinsically tied to the world, and people, around him.
As Wendelin spent some time in Berlin to oversee exhibitions at both FRAGILE and Dittrich & Schlechtriem, we caught up with the artist to discuss the importance of collaboration, the stark differences between the US and German art scenes, and the pre-internet and pre-Chernobyl food and drinks that formed the basis for his first-ever curated show.
“Othering” is on view from 29 April through 25 June 2022. The gallery is located on Linienstrasse 23, 10178 Berlin. The opening hours are Monday through Saturday, from 11 AM to 6 PM.
You grew up in Dusseldorf. How was your interaction with art?
My dad is an artist and architect, so it’s in the family. There’s a lot of resources for the arts in the Rheinland. It’s just inevitable really to be around it, but it was important for me to leave.
Did you want to do anything other than art growing up?
I started doing photography for a little while. Photography is nice because it shows you what you’re interested in. The medium itself wasn’t so much interesting to me anymore, so I just got away from it. For a while, I did some set design and I thought architecture was a thing for me, but eventually it became pretty clear that I really wanted to study art. I actually applied for the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf but they didn’t take me.
You just curated the new group exhibition for Dittrich & Schlechtriem. How did you get involved with the gallery?
When we got hold of a studio on Leipziger Straße, I pretty quickly started to curate little shows and we established a residency program in which we invited different artists. But the very first resident was an animal; it was the most language-sophisticated bird on the planet. We tried to teach it. Eventually, we took in a refugee from Somalia and he stayed with us for a little while, but it was always this idea of including people in the practice. Then I studied for a little bit in California and started a nonprofit there called NAVEL, which is still running. I’m not so involved anymore but this practice of inclusion continued. Eventually, FRAGILE [in Berlin] became a thing.
The gallerist, André [Schlechtriem], didn’t really know much of what I was doing but I was on the radar because I was pretty present in Berlin for the programming we were doing. He just came to one of the openings and said, “Jonas I have no idea what you’re going to do, but I’m kind of intrigued. Do you want to do a show for Gallery Weekend?” And I was like, “Yeah, sure. Let’s give it a try.” And then we just started working together. André really wants to open up the format of the gallery a bit and experiment a little bit more. It’s also partially to give me the space to make clear that this collaborative sphere is part of my practice. Being an artist, it’s not like you’re just making work. It’s a practice. It’s life.
Being an artist, it’s not like you’re just making work. It’s a practice. It’s life.
Do you remember the first show that you curated?
Before it was FRAGILE, we just had our studio and there was a show where I made a big dinner. It was a huge spread, like a buffet, but the food was all preservatives. It was honey from the DDR, Coca-Cola from 1970, wine and drinks from a long time ago, and bread from a sourdough culture from the 1980s. All the food on the table was dated pre-internet and pre- Chernobyl, and pre every single person at the opening. The whole show was called “Pre”. It was a spread of ancient food and all around there were artworks which projected the future. It became very dystopic. That was the first successful attempt to really do something and it was really chaotic. There were performances and all the studios were open. It just ended up being a huge party in the end, which was very fun.
How did you find all that food?
I had a conversation with a really old friend of mine, and he told me about going to his grandma’s house every Sunday. She would make food, but some of the food his grandma’s mom had preserved. He was eating it every Sunday. I was like, “Oh, this is a really interesting idea.” So we started digging and then even in my family, we found old basements with stuff. You go into the internet and there’s a post-war generation with a different idea of scarcity and resource. There’s a deep rooted fear. In the beginning, you talk to all these people and you’re like, “Oh yeah, we’re going to come pick up some stuff.” They’re like, “Yeah, please take everything.” And then the moment you’re in their basement clearing out, they’re like, “No, no, no, you can’t have that.” They’re anxious. It was a really interesting experience but this is how we survived for a long time. How do we preserve our resources in order to prolong our chances of survival?
What themes or concepts do you like to explore in your art?
For the last couple years, I’ve been doing a lot of ceramics. Ceramics is one of the most ancient technologies. Prometheus gave us fire and then we started making little bowls, right? And then eating together is very ceremonial. In the beginning, the works were very performative. I would make these performances with the ceramics included. They became a little bit more like objects but they are still somewhat like vessels. I would say a vessel is a theme I go back to. You could call anything a vessel but, in the end, it’s something which holds information and you can pass it along.
With your nonprofit spaces, you started NAVEL in LA first and then FRAGILE in Berlin?
It was kind of at the same time. The studio in Berlin already existed, which is where we would do all these experimental things. The plan was always to enhance this idea. Then I studied in California for a little bit at the California Institute of Arts in Santa Clarita, just outside of Los Angeles. I met these two other people and we realized we’d known each other for a little while. They had just gotten this empty warehouse space in downtown LA and we basically slept on the floor for a year and didn’t have a shower. We would go to the Standard Hotel and jump in the pool.
We renovated the whole space and then slowly started to include the community and put other people in charge, and then slowly faded out. The idea was that we really just do the basis for it, and then see what happens by itself if people get the opportunity to do something. I think it actually became quite a successful thing in LA, which is very different than FRAGILE. My partners, Maurin Dietrich and Cathrin Mayer, are more like traditional curators in that sense.
I was looking at the website for the space in LA and it looks really nice.
There’s an educational program. People can take classes and the classes are self-run by people offering their knowledge. America is a very different economic situation. There’s very little funding for the arts. Everything is going through private hands and education is very expensive, so offering a place where knowledge is accessible is very important. For us, it was really important that if we invite somebody, we actually pay the people. If everything is based on this free intern economy, where whoever has the time to do something can do it, it’s very exclusive.
What are some of the biggest differences in working out of LA versus working in Germany?
Maybe it’s too cheesy to say, but we are in a very privileged place being able to travel between the two. We have the time to do certain things. We have the means.
I was talking to someone about New York versus Berlin, and they were asking what the biggest difference is.
Yeah. Having the time to not worry about making rent, and being able to have resources to make art.
Right. It creates a whole different culture because you’re not in competition. You can actually work on something together.
America is a very different economic situation. There’s very little funding for the arts.
Now that you’re mainly based out of LA, do you prefer the working environment in LA or Berlin? Or do you go back and forth?
I couldn’t do one without the other. If I stay too long in America, it also fucks with your head. It’s good to have a foot in the door in Berlin – being engaged in the community here with a project like FRAGILE. At the same time, in LA, you’re mostly by yourself. I work with the American Museum for Ceramic Art, and I have all my facilities. I produce most of my work there. Some of the techniques I’m doing, I wouldn’t even be able to do here. The ceramic culture, for example, is very advanced in LA and I’m learning a lot. The technicians I work with assist me in a way, but they’re also a teacher figure for me at the same time.
You can just endlessly learn. You work the elements. There’s very little control you can infuse into the whole process. These are things that got a little lost in Germany or Europe in general. Within cities, you’re not even allowed to use fire in the gas kilns. When I’m there, I really have the time to concentrate. With the nonprofit, I’m in more of an advisory role at this point, and I have another studio at the museum. I jump between the three. I can really focus more on me and my work.
It seems that the common trend in your work and what you do is making things community-oriented, and giving opportunities to people who don’t have those opportunities generally.
It doesn’t feel so different to me from working on a show with an artist together and seeing the world out of their head – really engaging into their work and producing it with them together, rather than doing it for myself. With the practice of exhibition-making, for example, or performance, these boundaries we have set and the name attached to something is not so important.
It’s about creating a connection.
And being aware of the audience coming in. They are as much a part of it as the person doing it. It’s funny, in the text we just wrote about the show at Dittrich & Schlechtriem, which is called Othering, we talk about this. “Without the other, there is no self.” The view looking at something is already incorporated in the process of making anything.
Words: Chris Erik Thomas.
That is one of the principles that guide Susanne Breidenbach, who has owned the Galerie m since 2003. “Art attracts our attention,” she explains. “[It] questions our usual perception, enables new perspectives, shows unusual contexts, and has an inspiring effect.” For nearly two decades, this attraction has been at the forefront of her journey as the leader of the contemporary art gallery in the city of Bochum.
Founded in 1969 by Alexander von Berswordt-Wallrabe and situated since 1972 in spacious, light-filled galleries on the grounds of Haus Weitmar, the gallery initially found acclaim for its focus on New Concrete Art. However, under the leadership of Breidenbach — who worked at the gallery since 1985 — it has now staked out a reputation for its symbiotic relationship with the artists it represents, as well as its approach to fresh perspectives in the art world.
Every year, at least one new artistic position is offered an exhibition at the gallery so that the diversity of media is given equal footing with more established positions. It is this embrace of the most contemporary blend of artists that has allowed Galerie m to step to the forefront of contemporary art while keeping one foot firmly entrenched in its more than 50 years of history.
This strong mix of both young and established artists was on full view in early April as Galerie m attended Art Düsseldorf. As we opened the industrial halls of Areal Böhler, the Bochum gallery’s booth became a focal point for visitors. We caught up with Breidenbach for a discussion on the history of the gallery, adapting to the pandemic, and the importance of art fairs.
What is the key element to a good piece of art?
We believe in the “irreplaceability of the image”, allowing us to better understand processes, experiences, and contexts that elude other formulations, such as language. We can reflect on life, one’s own point of view, and existence in and with art.
What sets your gallery apart?
The gallery was founded in 1969 and, since then, has developed a diverse program. We have always been committed to young artistic positions, such as Zoe Dittrich-Wamser, and we accompany and show the current work developments of our artists. Personal contact and an intensive exchange with artists, collectors, and curators are essential. We take our time and work closely with Lucinda Devlin, Thomas Florschutz, Simone Nieweg, Franka Hörnschemeyer, Evelina Cajacob, Antje Dorn, Caroline von Grone, Lena von Goedeke, Peter Wegner, and Melanie Manchot, among others, as well as with the estates of Evelyn Hofer, Barbara Köhler, Kuno Gonschior, and Dirk Reinartz.
With our exhibitions, we create experiential spaces, establish dialog situations, and advocate sustainable mediation. For collectors, this means that they are able to make informed decisions. The gallery’s rooms were planned as exhibition spaces and opened in 1974. They offer ideal conditions for a wide variety of exhibition projects and unusual installations and continue to have an inspiring effect on artists and our guests alike.
Personal contact is, and remains, essential for us, as is the immediate viewing of works of art.
How did you pick the selection of art you showed at Art Dusseldorf?
On the one hand, we wanted to give an insight into the latest developments in the work of our artists. On the other hand, we wanted to honor current events – such as the 100th birthday of the photographer Evelyn Hofer. In addition, we focused on the sculptural work of Franka Hörnschemeyer, a sculptor who teaches in Düsseldorf.
The merciless war in Ukraine moved us personally just as much as the threatened reintroduction of the death penalty in Russia, or the 81 executions in one day in Saudi Arabia. The photographs from Dirk Reinartz’s series, “Totenstill”, and Lucinda Devlin’s series, “The Omega Suites”, refer emblematically to the gruesome inhumanity our civilization is capable of in both historical and contemporary contexts. At Galerie m, we have always conveyed and shown artistic formulations of the abysses of our history and present. The current world situation shows more than ever how important this commitment is.
How did your gallery adapt to the pandemic?
We took the situation very seriously, constantly adapting flexibly to, for example, postponement of museum exhibitions and extensions of loans, thus giving our exhibition partners more freedom. With its spacious rooms and garden area, the gallery offers ideal opportunities for casual encounters despite the necessary protective measures. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have been able to regularly welcome visitors to our exhibitions and delve into specific areas of work with collectors and curators. The importance of this is being consciously cultivated now more than ever.
Despite all the intensified efforts to digitize the mediation of art, such as documentation of the exhibitions by filming them, the irreplaceability of the direct experience of the work of art is evident. Personal contact is, and remains, essential for us, as is the immediate viewing of works of art – on-site, in the original.
The gallery has been around for over 50 years, but the art world is still working to diversity itself in terms of gender, race, sexual orientation, and other factors. How do representation and inequality within the art world factor into your decision-making process as a gallery?
Galerie m has a long tradition of addressing crises and upheavals in its exhibitions and commitment. Numerous exhibitions have been evidence of this — and each was also shown intensively in museums. These exhibitions have included “Hiroshima” by Arnulf Rainer (today at Lenbachhaus, Munich); “Totenstill” by Dirk Reinartz (today at Situation Kunst, Bochum); “The Omega Suites” by Lucinda Devlin (today at Kunststiftung DZ Bank, among others); and “Kreuzweg” by Stephan Schenk (today in the art collection of the German Bundestag, among others).
We also show humanitarian commitment in association with our artists, including with 1994’s “Susret” (engagement for refugee women from the Balkan war) and 2001’s “Shelter” (Art against trafficking in women and sexual exploitation). Gender issues are addressed in Nan Goldin’s “Ballad of Sexual Dependency”. That work focuses on AIDS and drugs and was first shown as an exhibition at Galerie m in 1992, which today is Kunsthalle Hamburg. Also, in her paintings, Caroline von Grone continuously deals with drug addicts and homeless people she portrays, while in 2015, Melanie Manchot developed the film series “Twelve” with drug addicts in withdrawal.
Climate change forces an engagement with nature uniquely. Artists like Tanya Poole take this up with her large-scale Tuschelavur paintings, as well as Lena von Goedeke with her works created in the Arctic Circle. In photography, Lucinda Devlin reports on industrialized agriculture in the USA in “Field Culture”, while Anja Bohnhof’s “The Last Drop” focuses on the omnipresent water shortage worldwide and its severe consequences on women’s lives in particular.
What do you expect from art fairs in the post-pandemic landscape?
Despite increasing digitalization, we believe that direct viewing, the experience of art, and personal contact on-site remain essential for mediation. In this respect, we assume that art fairs will continue to be a necessary factor because a great variety [of art] can be perceived quickly, combined with personal contact.
Words: Chris Erik Thomas.
Unique traits stick like glue in the double-helix of every family’s genealogy. In the case of the Levy family, it’s clear that their DNA is imbued with a passion for art. It was in 1970, now over half a century ago, that Thomas Levy opened a gallery in the heart of Hamburg. For decades, he steered the gallery through an ever-shifting array of positions on contemporary art – from Surrealism and Pop Art to Nouveau Réalisme. It was this environment and, more specifically, the array of artists who befriended Thomas and his wife, Traute, that served as the backdrop for his son Alexander’s upbringing. While Thomas and his wife hosted dozens of exhibitions at the gallery, their home became host to the likes of Meret Oppenheim, Man Ray, and Daniel Spoerri.
It’s no wonder that 42 years after his father opened LEVY Galerie, Alexander would open his own namesake gallery in Berlin in 2012. As the old idiom goes: Like father, like son. For the last decade, artists from around the world – including Spain, Israel, and Russia – have shown stunning works of contemporary art at both LEVY Galerie and alexander levy, resulting in a steady stream of positions unique to their respective galleries.
As Thomas and Alexander navigated issues both sociopolitical and artistic in nature, including a global pandemic that has irrevocably transformed the art world, it became time for the natural next step in their respective journeys as art curators: opening a shared gallery space. In a historic moment for the family, as well as the wider German art scene, LEVY Galerie and alexander levy have finally united in Berlin’s Moabit district at Alt Moabit 110. The new space will kick off with an inaugural exhibition of works by Meret Oppenheim, Man Ray, and Daniel Spoerri from LEVY Galerie, as well as a politically-charged video installation by Russian-Austrian artist Egor Kraft titled “Lies, Half-Truths & Propaganda [The Bad, the Worse, and the Worst]”.
After participating in Art Düsseldorf and ahead of their opening for Gallery Weekend Berlin (read our guide here), Thomas and Alexander Levy sat down with Chris Erik Thomas for a wide-ranging and generation-spanning discussion on the role of art in their family, the contrasting art scenes in Berlin and Hamburg, and how their new shared gallery space was formed.
LEVY Galerie has been open since 1970, while Alexander Levy was founded in 2012. For Alex, what lessons were passed down from your father? And for Thomas, what have you learned from your son?
AL (Alexander Levy, *1984): I learned from my father, above all, the importance of personal and private relationships with the artists you want to work with successfully. That is, to understand that successful collaboration needs human, friendly roots. I observed how he surrounded himself with personalities and artists with whom he was also friends. After all, it’s not just about goods and objects being traded, but about people and ideas being exchanged.
TL (Thomas Levy, *1947): I’m still learning from my son that you have to hang exhibitions differently, i.e., that the visual presentation, the exhibition design, has a direct influence on the narrative of the works and that you consciously create a dialog context.
Alex, your mother, [Traute] also played a key role in your family’s gallery business. What qualities did she pass on to you that help you today as a gallery owner?
AL: My mother was primarily involved in the personal relationships within the gallery business, and with her warmth, she helped shape the atmosphere at the openings and events. She also took care of the order and structure in the preparations and the day-to-day business and kept an eye on the big picture – also economically.
Meret Oppenheim, Man Ray, Daniel Spoerri – are these names you grew up with, Alex? You might have known Oppenheim but probably don’t remember her yourself; nevertheless, with Daniel Spoerri you indeed have a close connection like your father?
AL: I always say that Meret Oppenheim used to read to me, but that’s not true at all, so I’ve got that wrong in my memory. I know Daniel Spoerri closely, of course, and enjoy spending time with him. He is incredibly charming and funny, and my parents are very attached to him.
In Berlin, there is [an art scene]; in Hamburg, there is none.
Art is obviously a core foundational element for your family, but can you speak on how art and the art world impacted both of you?
AL: Because I grew up in art, it was elementary for me to do something else that was creative, so I first immersed myself in the world of music and was abroad. But then I returned to art because it is a direct filter of society and current issues. Here, ideas are implemented to significantly impact our understanding of our environment and human structures.
TL: For me, art has always been part of life, and I can’t imagine my everyday life without it.
What is the key element to a good piece of art?
AL: Art must ask questions and abandon new perspectives.
TL: Art must be innovative and reflect the time in which it was created.
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen within the art world since opening your respective galleries?
TL: When I first opened my gallery, the social resonance for art felt much less [important]. Today it is enormous.
AL: …whether that’s just because of the artistic-creative output or the investigative interest?
How has the gallery business changed over the last decades? What are new challenges – especially in terms of online presence?
TL: When I started in 1970, this digital presence didn’t exist. That meant that customers mainly came by the gallery space in the past, and personal encounters were crucial for buying art. Nowadays, internet sales have become very important and [have been] boosted even more by the pandemic and limited mobility.
AL: Visibility and reach have increased significantly due to the digitalization of the art market. Online presence as mediation has become essential for a gallery. In addition, it has made communication about art easier and the barrier to buying art lower.
In your opinion, what distinguishes the younger generation of collectors from your older generation?
TL: In the past, collectors were much more closely tied to a gallery, were advised and accompanied by their gallery owners in building up their art collection, and remained loyal to them. Nowadays, buying art has become a social phenomenon: according to trends and hypes, people buy more with their ears and eyes.
Isn’t that every father’s dream – a son who will follow in your footsteps and take over your business one day?
The new space in Moabit is a joint venture for both of you. How did this come about? Have you always planned to start a space that ties together both of your galleries?
TL: Of course, we have always planned a future joint space together. For years, we have been looking for suitable rooms to ultimately pass on the future of my gallery – which has existed for over 50 years – to the new generation and to continue the long-standing collaboration with the important artists of both galleries as well as the care of the estates – also with economic success.
AL: We had already heralded the meshing of the two galleries in exhibition collaborations, for example, when we juxtaposed Dieter Roth from my father’s program with young artists here in our spaces. Or with the solo exhibition of Daniel Spoerri and also Meret Oppenheim at our gallery in Berlin, where we wanted to look at their oeuvre from a new perspective. My father’s artists have hardly ever been represented in Berlin.
TL: And Berlin is one of the art centers in Germany and is simply more international. In Hamburg, there are simply too few people who can see that.
What distinguishes the Berlin art scene from that in Hamburg?
AL + TL: Provocatively speaking: In Berlin, there is one, in Hamburg, there is none.
Art filters our everyday life and reality, and it isn’t easy to get rid of its socio-political dimensions
Was there ever any rivalry or tension between the two of you when it comes to curating art and artists for your respective galleries?
TL: My son and I have different gallery programs, which means that we each work for ourselves and have our own focus – that’s how it should remain overall.
AL: I always could implement my ideas and those of my artists – even if they were not immediately obvious to my father. But he always gave me every opportunity to do so.
Concerning the gallery program, which is very different in terms of content, where do father and son nevertheless meet in artistic discourse or approach?
TL: The artists I represent – especially Meret Oppenheim, Man Ray, Dieter Roth, and Daniel Spoerri – are equally loved by my son. They, too, are so-called “idea artists” or conceptual artists.
AL: Yes, with Meret Oppenheim and Daniel Spoerri, it’s less about the craft than about the artistic movement, the ideas, and views they embody.
Both galleries are known for showing works that interrogate social and political themes. Beyond art, what place did politics and social issues have in your personal lives that has transferred over to how you run your galleries?
TL: Art filters our everyday life and reality, and it isn’t easy to get rid of its socio-political dimensions. Even if, at first, the purely sensual-aesthetic perception can be something very personal.
AL: There are certainly issues today that can no longer be ignored, such as gender equality, BIPOC empowerment, and the digitalization of art.
As we saw in parts during Art Düsseldorf, there are many vital positions in contemporary art coming out of Germany. How does this heritage and cultural history inspire your work as gallerists?
TL: Most of the artists I represent don’t come from Germany – I don’t think this point of view is crucial. Nevertheless, there are, of course, national discourses in which artists are also rediscovered. Take Werner Berges for an example – a pioneer of German Pop Art who achieved his fame in the 1960s and 70s, then fell out of sight. Today he is once again the focus of the rediscovery and recognition of the so-called “German Pop.”
AL: The national context is not relevant for me as a gallery owner, yet it can become an artistic discourse for the artist.
How did your respective galleries adapt to the pandemic?
AL: During the Corona-related closure of galleries, we concentrated on the fundamental structures of our gallery: the (digital) mediation of art to our collectors and cultivating our contacts – and many collectors also had time and bought art. So we were lucky to survive these years well.
Can you walk me through the artists you chose for the inaugural exhibition in your new shared space? Were there any conflicts or disagreements about the artists?
TL: I chose Meret Oppenheim, Man Ray, and Daniel Spoerri because they are the foundation of my gallery, and I have a long-standing collaboration with them. Through them, I came to art, and they have influenced many artists to this day. I worked with Oppenheim from as early as 1978 until her death, and with Spoerri since 2000. And in 1969, as a 20-year-old, I met the then 79-year-old Man Ray in Paris – an encounter that significantly influenced my decision to open a gallery a year later.
AL: We didn’t choose a specific artistic position for the opening exhibition; We had already selected Egor Kraft for some time. However, due to the current war situation in Ukraine, the Russian-Austrian artist has completely redeveloped his concept.
Isn’t it very brave to open new big spaces in these times – especially with the post-COVID situation and the war?
TL: We waited five years for the new spaces. And now they have come to us, and we said yes. So it just goes on and on.
And can we expect at some point that a LEVY/alexander levy gallery may open in a completely different place?
TL: I have already had a gallery in Paris and Madrid in parallel. It depends mainly on the local partners. In my experience, it isn’t easy because being a successful gallery owner is essentially a personal business.
AL: So I think it’s a wonderful idea; I’d be attracted to have another gallery somewhere else.
Words: Chris Erik Thomas.
In Berlin, art forms the heart of Germany’s sprawling capital city. Decades after the likes of Keith Haring painted murals onto the Berlin Wall, the reunified city has become home to more than 5,000 artists and hundreds of galleries and museums. Throughout the year, artists of every background, nationality, and style show works in the city, but it is Gallery Weekend Berlin that has held a special place in the cultural conversation since 2005.
This year, 18 of the Berlin-based galleries that attended Art Düsseldorf will have shows on view during the three-day event. Taking place from 29 April through 1 May, Gallery Weekend presents a smorgasbord of contemporary art spread across dozens of the city’s leading galleries – attracting over 1,000 international and national guests. For even the most seasoned art aficionado, it can be difficult to keep track of what’s on view where, or which openings are happening when.
To ease the art overload, we’ve compiled a guide to what’s on view for Gallery Weekend Berlin at the galleries that attended Art Düsseldorf. It’s the Berlin art scene’s biggest weekend of the year, so take note of every gallery you want to see, put on some comfortable shoes, and prepare to journey across the city’s many districts to see what Berlin’s contemporary art scene has to offer.
Gallery Weekend Berlin takes place on the following dates and times: Friday, 29 April from 6 PM to 9 PM; Saturday, 30 April from 11 AM to 7 PM; Sunday, 1 May from 11 AM to 7 PM. Please note that opening hours outside of Gallery Weekend vary depending on the gallery.
In a major moment for the German art community, the father-son duo of Thomas and Alex Levy are joining their galleries for a new gallery space in the Moabit district. For Thomas, whose LEVY gallery has existed in Hamburg for more than 50 years, it is a long-overdue return to Berlin; for Alex, it marks an end to a 10-year stint in Kreuzberg. To celebrate the historic opening of their shared space, Thomas will show a range of works by the artists Meret Oppenheim, Man Ray, and Daniel Spoerri, while Alex will show new works by the Russian-Austrian artist Egor Kraft, which are a reaction to the war in Ukraine.
For more on Thomas and Alex Levy, please read our wide-ranging and generation-spanning discussion on the role of art in their family, the contrasting art scenes in Berlin and Hamburg, and how their new shared gallery space was formed.
“Lies, Half-Truths & Propaganda [The Bad, the Worse, and the Worst]” by Egor Kraft and “Meret Oppenheim, Man Ray, and Daniel Spoerri” are on view from 29 April to 11 June 2022. The gallery is located on Alt Moabit 110, 10559 Berlin. The opening hours are Wednesday through Saturday, from 11 AM to 6 PM.
A visit to see the solo show of German artist Wolfgang Laib is a necessity in the oft-hectic swirl of Gallery Weekend. For his 18th solo show with the gallery (his first beginning in 1987), the focus is on a series of sculptures from his “Rice Houses” series. Miniscule grains of rice sit enclosed within vessels of wood that have been covered in a range of materials – from sealing wax and silver to Burmese lacquer and aluminum. The effect is a powerful and meditative take on Eastern – and particularly Indian – philosophy, aesthetics, and religion.
“Wolfgang Laib” is on view from 29 April through 25 June 2022. The gallery is located on Charlottenstraße 13 10969 Berlin. The opening hours are Tuesday through Saturday, from 11 AM to 6 PM.
Expanding on themes introduced in its booth at Art Düsseldorf, the gallery is presenting a group show centered on the theme of “othering.” By exploring what happens when certain lives, both human and nonhuman, are labeled as alien, the exhibition interrogates the tension between the self and the other. Curated by artist Jonas Wendelin, the group show is accompanied by an essay from Nicholas Korody, “Alterity and Its Other,” and features a range of works by Yalda Afsah, Julian Charrière, Albrecht Dürer, Francisco de Goya, Andreas Greiner, Jenna Sutela, Analisa Teachworth, Jol Thoms, Sung Tieu, and Jonas Wendelin.
“Othering” is on view from 29 April through 25 June 2022. The gallery is located on Linienstrasse 23, 10178 Berlin. The opening hours are Monday through Saturday, from 11 AM to 6 PM.
In its fourth solo exhibition of works by Jürgen Klauke, the gallery will present a mix of photography and drawings. In “Bodysounds”, four massive C-prints anchor the show and depict an eerie, Cronenbergesque scene of a man dressed in black partly concealed by an alien sculptural form made of nylon tights stretched across balloons. With “Kreuz&Queer”, his drawings of bodies and body parts of different sexes meld together to create an abstract scene connected by tubes, strings, and thread. Together, these contrasting parts form a must-see show that pokes at and questions the bodily form.
“Bodysounds / Kreuz&Queer” is on view from 29 April to 11 June 2022. The gallery is located on Pohlstraße 67, 10785 Berlin. The opening hours are Tuesday through Saturday, from 11 AM to 6 PM.
For decades, the artist Horst Antes has developed a reputation for his paintings of dark, minimalist houses. Devoid of people in reaction to the Falklands War between Argentina and the United Kingdom in 1982, these foreboding, monumental houses urge viewers into reflection. For the new solo exhibition of his work that is curated by the artist himself, seven of these massive paintings will be on view – including recently executed pieces that will be shown for the first time.
“7 Houses” is on view from 29 April to 11 June 2022. The gallery is located on Meierottostraße 1, 10719 Berlin. The opening hours are Monday through Saturday, from 11 AM to 6 PM.
Painting, sculpture, and furniture crash into one another for an intriguing solo show from artist Anton Henning. In an exhibition that has been specifically tailored to the rooms of the gallery, the modernist artist presents a layered, sensory experience that builds on autopoietic systems – systems that reproduce themselves within themselves like plants – that he has been developing since the early 1990s.
“Future and Grace, No. 1” is on view from 29 April to 25 June 2022. The gallery is located on Niebuhrstr. 5, 10629 Berlin. The opening hours are Monday through Friday, from 9 AM to 6 PM, and Saturday from 12 to 6 PM.
For Gallery Weekend Berlin, the gallery is presenting two collections. The first is a series of early paintings by the acclaimed American artist Allan McCollum from his Constructed Paintings and Bleach Paintings series, which began in 1969. In addition, Matt Mullican presents continuation of his collaborative project with McCollum. The project, called “YOUR FATE,” began in 2004 and is a fortune-telling dice game that can be played by visitors at the gallery.
“Works 1970-1973” and “YOUR FATE” are on view from 23 April through 4 June 2022. The gallery is located on Charlottenstraße 24, 10117 Berlin. The opening hours are Tuesday through Saturday, from 12 to 6 PM.
Split into two equally arresting solo shows, the gallery dedicates the massive upper floor of its space to a solo presentation by Austrian painter Xenia Hausner. Twelve massive paintings explore themes of beauty and dread, which takes inspiration from a famed quote from Rilke’s Duino Elegies: “Every angel is terrifying. For beauty is nothing but the start of terror, that we are still able to bear, and we revere it so, because it calmly disdains to destroy us.”
Meanwhile, on the lower floor of the gallery, a politically powerful show from Ukrainian artist Zhanna Kadyrova is on view. After fleeing her home of Kyiv for the western part of Ukraine in the midst of the Russian invasion, the artist began work on what has become her new project, “PALIANYTSIA”, which is co-authored by Denis Ruban. Named after a Ukrainian round wheat bread that has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance, the show offers a mix of stone sculptures and drawings imbued with political resonance, as well as a short film documenting her work in Transcarpathia during the ongoing war.
“Unintended Beauty” by Xenia Hausner is on view from 29 April to 19 June 2022. “PALIANYTSIA” by Zhanna Kadyrova is on view from 29 April to 20 May 2022. The gallery is located on Alexandrinenstraße 118-121, 10969 Berlin. The opening hours are Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 AM to 6 PM, and Sunday from 12 to 6 PM.
For the gallery, it was only fitting to return to the works of Bruce Nauman for Gallery Weekend Berlin. Since presenting his first solo exhibition in Europe in 1968, “Six Sound Problems for Konrad Fischer,” the gallery has played host to 18 solo shows of the famed artist’s work. With the new video installation, the New Mexico-based artist’s hands become the art in a meditative interrogation of the repetition of training. Accompanying the video is a range of pieces that explore his forays into printmaking, which he has spent decades honing his skills with.
“Practice” is on view from 29 April through 27 August 2022. The gallery is located on Neue Grünstraße 12, 10179 Berlin. The opening hours are Tuesday through Saturday, from 11 AM to 6 PM.
Anna Boghiguian takes over the main exhibition space for a must-see solo show. Taking inspiration from her studies of political science and sociology in Cairo, plus art and music in Montreal, the Egyptian artist’s two sprawling installations were inspired by tin mines in the English town of Cornwall, as well the silk road that connected Japan and Egypt – focusing especially on the invisible labor of the girls and women who toiled in the garment factories.
Meanwhile, in the showroom, the exhibition on view offers a melding of the minds of Boghiguian and German theorist Alice Creischer. At the heart of this contrasting show are two major works by each artist. First is a 2015 poem by Creischer, “His Master’s Voice”, which responded to German President Joachim Gauck’s speech at the 2014 Munich Security Conference calling for an expansion of Germany’s military actions abroad. Meanwhile, a series of drawings by Boghiguian depicts two groups of people being watched by an oppressive military in a sinister and dystopic tableau.
“Anna Boghiguian / Alice Creischer” is on view from 29 April to 25 June 2022. The gallery is located on Lindenstr. 35, 10969 Berlin. The opening hours are Tuesday through Saturday, from 12 to 6 PM.
In the third exhibition by Brazilian artist Marilia Furman, the government of her country becomes the focal point for a striking query into themes of social disintegration, cultural destruction, technological domination, and overproduction. Visitors to this must-see exhibition will step into the “womb of a beast”, exploring a visually fractured space filled with repetitive GIFs in an infinite loop, power extensions pumping out energy, mirrored pyramids, and metal plaques inscribed with ominous messages.
“Monstrous” is on view from 28 April to 25 June 2022. The gallery is located on Schöneberger Ufer 61, 10785 Berlin. The opening hours are Tuesday through Saturday, from 12 to 6 PM, and by appointment.
With an expansive list of references (from Jean-Paul Sartre to Jean Tinguely) packed into their sculptures, this solo exhibition of works by Rachel Youn is a must-see. Freed of the pressures of utility and authenticity, the St. Louis, MO-based artist’s mesmerizing works combine plants, speakers, and other objects to create forces of kinetic energy that move, shake, and stand bathed in kaleidoscopic color.
“Revival” is on view from 29 April through 25 June 2022. The gallery is located on Prinzessinnenstr. 29, 10969 Berlin-Kreuzberg. The opening hours are Wednesday through Saturday, from 12 to 6 PM, and by appointment.
In its first solo exhibition of the German artist Conny Maier, a series of hallucinogenic paintings question everything from dominance and control to ecology and human nature. Taking cues from Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing’s concept of the “ambivalence of salvage,” the works show that even the most damaged worlds – and the people in them – can contain elements of life, beauty, and resilience.
“Feels Like Rabies” is on view from 30 April to 4 June 2022. The gallery is located on Wielandstraße 26, 10707 Berlin. The opening hours are Monday through Saturday, from 10 AM to 6 PM.
A decade-long journey to embrace and deepen his relationship with natural materials and spaces forms the basis of artist Olaf Holzapfel’s solo show. Finding inspiration in both the rural and urban landscapes he’s come in his travels, the works on view take care to incorporate such materials as cactus fibers made by northern Argentinian weavers, straw from Brandenburg, and hay in Lusatia. It is an ode to the natural world filtered through his artistic lens; a celebration of the coexistence of both social and ecological factors found around the world.
“In Vielem und Einem” is on view from 27 April to 18 June 2022. The gallery is located on Marienstraße 10, D–10117 Berlin. The opening hours are Thursday through Friday, from 11 AM to 6 PM, and Saturday from 12 to 6 PM.
The Mitte-based gallery currently has a solo exhibition of works by the Berlin-based artist Noi Fuhrer on view. Born in Tel Aviv, the artist has developed a reputation for her charcoal on paper sketches. The large-scale drawings have a haunting quality that stays with viewers long after they leave the gallery, particularly because of the tension and oddity bubbling beneath the surface of the paper.
“A Flash at Midday” is on view from 23 April through 4 June 2022. The gallery is located on Mulackstr. 14, 10119 Berlin. The opening hours are Thursday through Saturday, from 12 to 6 PM, and by appointment.
With two spaces at its disposal, it’s fitting that the gallery opted for a solo show in each of its spaces. First, at Lindenstraße 34, the Finnish artist Milja Laurila will present a selection of works from her “Untitled Women” series. Using translucent paper to obscure all but the eyes of found photographs of women, the artist flips the male gaze through her own searing feminist lens.
Next door, at Lindenstraße 35, is a solo show of previously unseen color photographs by Grey Crawford dating from 1978 to 1984, which capture the energy and spirit of the Southern California art scene during that era. For seven years, the artist created over 200 works that play with the tension of nature and geometry through precise darkroom alterations. Alongside his works will be a book release of Grey Crawford: Chroma, 1978–85, Vol 1, 2022, which includes a book signing on Saturday, 30 April, at 3 PM.
“Untitled Women” by Milja Laurila is on view at Lindenstr 34, 10969 Berlin. “Chroma Figura 1978-84” by Grey Crawford is on view at Lindenstr 35, 10969 Berlin. Both exhibitions are on view from 28 April to 25 June 2022. The opening hours are Tuesday through Saturday, from 11 AM to 6 PM.
Gregor Gleiwitz is a world builder. Inside each painting, the artist has utilized an array of colors to create snapshots of both his inner world and the larger environment around him. Often created in a single sitting, the selection of works on view during his solo show feels somehow alive, imbued with an organic texture. United by the exhibition’s name, “Xyleten,” a made-up word, the entire show is at once both alien and familiar, like bits of nature thrown through a blender and thrust onto massive canvases.
“Xyleten” is on view from 29 April to 18 June 2022. The gallery is located on Schöneberger Ufer 71, 10785 Berlin. The opening hours are Monday through Friday, from 10 AM to 6 PM, and Saturday from 11 AM to 6 PM.
We’ve come a long way from the beginnings of Cubism when Pablo Picasso produced over 800 sketches that would form the foundation of the famed art movement. A century later, the question of what cubism is today must be answered by looking at our rapidly shifting technological age. Cubism forms the foundation for the gallery’s unforgettable group show curated by Philipp Bollman, which features works by Armin Boehm, Johannes Daniel, Zohar Fraiman, Anton Henning, Pieter Schoolwerth, and Kristina Schuldt.
“SHATTERED – transformations of cubism” is on view from 27 April through 25 June 2022. The gallery is located on Streustraße 90, 13086 Berlin. The opening hours are Wednesday through Friday, from 12 to 6 PM; Saturday, from 1 to 5 PM; or by appointment.
It all begins in 1839 with the first known photograph taken on the African continent. This is the starting point that guides the entirety of Heba Y. Amin’s new solo show, which is curated by Anthony Downey. As a continuation of the pair’s 2020 exhibition at London’s Mosaic Rooms, the new show presents a range of works that explore the politics of colonialist technologies through a research-based lens. Individually, the works touch on everything from the territorialization of space and the subjugation of North African women by France to the French nuclear experiments, and their horrific radioactive fallout, in Algeria.
“When I see the future, I close my eyes: Chapter II” is on view from 1 May to 30 July 2022. The gallery is located on Goethestraße 82, 10623 Berlin. The opening hours are Tuesday through Saturday, from 11 AM to 6 PM.
As part of the offerings in our digital magazine, we’ve launched Dispatches From the Art World, a series of guest essays that investigate the latest and most fascinating opinions and trends shaping the industry. This essay by Anika Meier, the Kunstforum columnist, art historian, and expert on digital art and NFTs, focuses on the changing landscape of the NFT art scene.
Edited by: Chris Erik Thomas, Digital Editor of Art Düsseldorf.
Ever since the hype surrounding NFTs began, artists have had to answer one question over and over again: Why pay money for it? And then so much. 69 million for an image file that you can download with one click on the Internet? It has been explained over and over again that NFTs are digital certificates of authenticity. While 69 million people can download an image file and share it on social media, only one person, if it’s a 1/1, can own and resell that image file.
The excitement was great, the lack of understanding even greater, because this was supposed to be the great revolution in art. And, no matter how irritated one is by the three letters NFT, it can no longer be ignored or denied that, just under a year after the hype began, a new online art world has emerged that has little to do with what the old offline art world has to offer. New artists: Beeple, Pak, XCopy, Fewocious, Justin Aversano. New Marketplaces: Nifty Gateway, SuperRare, Foundation, Quantum, OpenSea. New magazines: Right Click Save, Outland.
And of course, it seems a bit whimsical, the new online art world that doesn’t care much about the old offline art world. Beeple’s auction record at Christie’s should make it clear that something is moving. It was a bang that couldn’t be ignored. And then, a little over a year after the historic event, Beeple, aka Mike Winkelmann, is delighted on Twitter that he’s been able to “add value to NFTs through physical art and airdrops” and make something like a subscription to a single work of art out of it.
To me being able to add additional utility to NFTs through both physical art and airdrops that allow them to almost act as a subscription to a single work of art that can continue to evolve over time is something very exciting and unique to this new medium. 🙏🙏🙏
— beeple (@beeple) March 26, 2022
Wait, there was something. The story goes like this: NFTs enable digital art to finally be sold in the same way as the classic media of painting and sculpture, because the blockchain regulates who owns such an NFT. Among other things, Beeple said in interviews: “I do view this as the next chapter of art history. Now there is a way to collect digital art.”
The market exploded. For months we heard about record sales: Nyan Cat ($590,000), Fewocious ($19 million), CryptoPunks ($23 million), Ix Shells ($2 million), XCopy ($7 million), etc. etc. Then the setback. In December 2021, the online magazine Hyperallergic summarized the results of a study that took a closer look at the NFT market.
Democratization? Revolution? The numbers say otherwise: the NFT market reproduces the dynamics of the art market: 10% of collectors are responsible for as many transactions as the remaining 90%. The average selling price of 75% of NFTs is only US $15. Only 1% of NFTs sell for more than US $1594. Another study was published in February 2022 that looked at networks in the NFT scene using the example of the NFT platform Foundation. If you want to sell NFTs on Foundation, you need an invitation from an artist who has already sold on Foundation. This study also shows that the NFT art market works in a similar way to the traditional art market: a large number of artists offer works, but only a small number actually sell, including artists who were early on the platform. So it’s again about the right network and standing out, be it with a story or with innovation.
NFTs have become better stamp cards, like those you know from the supermarket or the coffee shop on the corner.
Even Jeff Koons, who probably still feels (like everyone else) that he’s a bit late with NFTs, had to come up with something. Ai Weiwei launched a virtual currency with Irish conceptual artist Kevin Abosch back in 2018 to spark a discussion about the value of human life. With his NFT drop “Currency” in 2021, Damien Hirst also pursued the goal of promoting the debate about values, albeit with an eye on art. Collectors must decide whether they want to keep the NFT or have the physical version of the currency.
Tom Sachs turned his NFT drop into a rocket factory. The three rocket parts (nose, body, and tail) were randomly sold as NFTs. If you wanted, you could combine the individual parts that did not belong together into a “Frankenrocket” or trade three matching individual parts on the secondary market to get a “Perfect Rocket”. The individual NFTs were then burned and the rocket was minted as a new NFT. And it goes even further: if you want, you can get the right physical rocket and a launch date for the rocket. Well, since it’s not a real rocket, such a launch can only fail: the physical individual parts are then put together again and sent to the owner together with video documentation. Together with the digital rocket, these three components form the Holy Trinity, as can be seen on the project website. Or in other words, “a singular transdimensional NFT, and it is yours to keep.”
Of course, Jeff Koons didn’t have much left. He actually has to go to the moon with his art and the NFTs because all other attention-grabbing and conceptually strong topics seem to have already been occupied: soul on the blockchain (Rhea Myers), DNA on the blockchain (Rachel Rossin), and shared artistic practice on the blockchain (Jonas Lund). Has anyone actually been waiting for Jeff Koons’ NFTs?
While artists from the traditional art world seem keen to get involved when it comes to NFTs, $69 million for Beeple and $91.8 million for Pak (“The Merge”) probably sound attractive, artists from the new online art world have already arrived in the post-NFT era. What does that mean?
From the early beginnings of computer art (including Herbert W. Franke, Vera Molnar, Frieder Nake, and Manfred Mohr) to the NFT hype. If you’re less generous with the timing, from the beginnings of the blockchain to the introduction of the Non-Fungible Token Standard in early 2018.
From the launch of the Non-Fungible Token Standard in early 2018 to the end of the NFT hype year of 2021, with Pak’s NFT drop “The Merge” on Nifty Gateway.
With Beeple’s tweet at the end of March 2022, answering the question about the utility has become a matter of course.
What is an NFT besides an NFT? A ticket to the Metaverse (Clone X, Fewoworld), a membership card for a community (Bored Ape), and an entitlement to future mints and airdrops (e.g., Refik Anadol). Basically, NFTs have become better stamp cards, like those you know from the supermarket or the coffee shop on the corner. And of course, it’s about more than a free broccoli cuddly toy or a few euros saved when buying a pan.
Above all, post-NFT also means that NFTs and thus the interest in digital art have become so commonplace that NFTs and digital art also want to be experienced in physical space. This sometimes gets a bit spectacular: the NFT platform Aorist set up a huge screen by Refik Anadol right on the beach for Art Basel Miami Beach. For three weeks in April, Bright Moments presents the NFT Art Berlin event in Berlin at the Kraftwerk. The numerous names listed on the poster probably mean nothing to regular visitors to the Gallery Weekend and Berlin Art Week. The new online art world shows itself there, with immersive experiences and live minting, with CryptoBerliners and Crypto Artists. Vellum LA and Superchief Gallery NFT like to display NFTs on large screens in public spaces.
Artblocks now has a location in Marfa, Texas, a house showcasing generative art, and Quantum will soon be opening its first location in Los Angeles. Nagel Draxler has opened another gallery location for NFTs in Berlin with the Crypto Kiosk, and Priska Pasquer is showing NFTs at Art Düsseldorf. And Beeple, yes, he is showing an exhibition of paintings and prints at the Jack Hanley Gallery in New York entitled “Uncertain Futures”.
The Art Basel and USB Global Art Market Report has just been published, and for the first time, NFTs were also comprehensively taken into account. 74% of high net worth collectors bought art NFTs in 2021. And while almost all high net worth collectors, 88% of those surveyed, would like to buy NFTs in the future, not even half of the galleries are interested in selling NFTs. Of the high net worth collectors who have already bought NFTs, only 8% use an NFT platform, the vast majority trusting galleries and auction houses.
This finally answers the question of what you still need galleries for. For the presentation of (digital) art at fairs and in galleries. For the mediation and contextualization of the work. And for selling NFTs to traditional art collectors.
Ulrike Rosenbach. “Art is a Criminal Action 4”, 1969. Collage. 30 x 43 cm. Courtesy Priska Pasquer Gallerie.
As part of the offerings in our digital magazine, we’ve launched Dispatches From the Art World, a series of guest essays that investigate the latest and most fascinating opinions and trends shaping the industry. This essay by the Los Angeles-based writer Daniel Spielberger focuses on the artifice of manufacturing an art scene in the era of social media.
Edited by: Chris Erik Thomas, Digital Editor of Art Düsseldorf.
Sunglasses. Faded denim. Prada sweaters. White tanktops. They splatter paint on a canvas, venture into the neighborhood, and tag a fire hydrant as they irreverently smile and laugh. Back to the rooftop. Lanky models add finishing flourishes to the artwork — dashes of red, hazy gray fills a ghostly face.
Now, onto the next TikTok.
Aidan, a TikTok micro-influencer, has curated a feed of downtown cool. He and his friends wreak havoc at New York City Fashion Week and pay homage to Jean-Michel Basquiat with their subway graffiti. But the comments in the aforementioned video tell another story. “Fascinating to see art this passionless,” the user kiilerwhales writes.“Art where the goal is not in the piece itself, but in how one looks while creating it.”
With its seamless editing and filters, TikTok is perfect for crafting mini-narratives of our daily lives. Last year, the New York Times reported that there was a wave of artists on the app who have made thousands selling paintings for their followers by bypassing the gallery system for online stores. They use the platform to turn their work into an interactive experience, letting their audience in on how a painting goes from a sketch to a fully realized product. However, the Times also noted that more established types — such as Cindy Sherman — were wary of the platform, labeling it as “too gimmicky.”
This skepticism may stem from the platform’s inability to produce anything “cool.” As the aggressive commenter on Aidan’s TikTok noted, the performance element can come across as heavy-handed. Just as there is a customer base ready to buy a pop art rendering of Spider-Man, an army of skeptics are also eagerly waiting to attack any hint of artificiality.
Netflix’s new docuseries The Andy Warhol Diaries, which was released on the streamer in early March, chronicles how an artist’s “looks” became as important as their creations. Voiced by an AI-rendering of Warhol reading his own journal, the series shows how in the years leading to his death, Warhol used his clout as an artist to maneuver into the mainstream culture of the 1980s. He launched an MTV program; starred in an episode of The Love Boat as himself; did a Japanese videotape commercial. Even if his descent into commercialism earned him some scorn from the art world, his brand remained highly revered because he signified the Factory — an anarchic fantasy of creativity that reached its peak in the 1960s.
Within the span of three decades, his scene brought in the likes of Lou Reed, Candy Darling, Jean-Michel Basquait, and countless others. The Warholian mystique was a product both of the gallery system (he had close relationships with Uptown’s art dealers who bought and sold all this work) as well as his control of the means of communication. With the launch of his publication, Interview Magazine, in 1969, Warhol announced who was in and out — sidestepping the more established press outlets that were dismissive of the avant-garde.
Social media fame tends to be contextualized as the logical next step to Warhol’s obsession with image. The acclaimed pop artist loved manufacturing the self. Now, decades later, we’re all narcissists publishing selfies to get our own fifteen minutes of fame, but there’s a fundamental difference. While Warhol was otherworldly, the new star aims to be familiar. With live-streaming, vlogging, and the steady trickle of posts, the new star renders themselves an interactive product. Even if they are just as manufactured as before, the democratized nature of social media makes it so that the dynamic can be shifted at a moment’s notice. A random person on the internet can slice a new meme out of you, turning your embarrassing moment into a viral catchphrase. In return, you can throw it back at the masses and hawk overpriced merch. But the dynamic rests on you being willing to open up and let others in — announce engagements and breakups; posting messy hair days and waxing journeys; participating in dance challenges and then smiling when you fall flat on your face.
Warhol’s goal was to copy and paste his artifice forever. He was always in control. When he cameoed in a cheesy TV show, he was performing an amplified idea of himself. It was overexposure but it was never confessional and that’s why his Diaries are so appealing decades after his death. An influencer swaps perfection for accessibility, so trying to emulate Warhol’s canonical, detached definition of “cool” is bound to be clumsy.
An influencer swaps perfection for accessibility, so trying to emulate Warhol’s canonical, detached definition of “cool” is bound to be clumsy.
In Allegra Hobbs’ 2019 essay, “The Journalist As Influencer,” she analyzed how social media has pushed writers to perform a “self-conscious authenticity.” According to Hobbs, in order to accrue readership, writers now need to craft a social media personality that’s self-aware and also act “performatively, romantically messy” online. But art scenes are afforded less flexibility. The Warholian mystique was based on a power dynamic that consumers of celebrity are programmed to crave.
GQ recently published a write-up of Art Basel Miami titled “The Art Week All-Stars.” The header image is a group of vaguely underground models, artists, actors, and writers – all posing in front of boisterously colorful paintings, sporting serious facial expressions. The subheader reads: “We spent a few days with the insiders, outsiders, and party animals at the center of the scene.” But there’s no scene to start with. All these insiders probably spent the better part of the night crafting a glamorous narrative online with varying degrees of success.
An ironic acknowledgment of what’s been lost is a logical next step. In May, Rizzoli will publish a retrospective book by Mark Hunter (aka the Cobrasnake) – a party photographer who documented events throughout the 2000s where alternative icons like Cory Kennedy mingled with mainstream tastemakers like Steve Aoki. The Cobrasnake: Y2Ks Archive is described as a tribute to a time before the “live streaming of culture.” Compiling these moments begs us to buy into a myth.
In the lead-up to his glossy book, the Cobrasnake has been hired to simulate a hazy memory of the Myspace era and photograph the latest crop of downtown parties. His resurgence is an interactive performance, relying on both the artist and spectator to be in on the joke. Put away your phone for a night and let this guy decide what’s hip. Instead of uploading a selfie on your Instagram story, you’ll have to wait for the magazine write-up later this week to see if you made the cut. But this is a power play. You give up control in hopes of getting back. For a night, you relinquish any ability to control the narrative, and maybe if you’re lucky, you succeed on someone else’s terms. Now that anyone can easily crash the Factory, live a fantasy, and have fun at the expense of those who are trying way too hard, there’s an allure to acting as if nothing has changed. It’s not nostalgia, it’s an admission of defeat.
Our Art Guides will be back tomorrow during opening hours to take you on our live virtual tour through Art Düsseldorf.
SUNDAY APRIL 10
11 am – 7 pm
Words: Chris Erik Thomas.
This is the mantra that guides the work of Franka Hörnschemeyer. Since entering the art scene in 1989, the artist has made a name for herself with both her sculptural works and her massive, room-filling installations in which visitors wind their way through a labyrinthine maze of visual sensations. Her 2001 work “BFD – bündig fluchtend dicht,” a spatial sculpture constructed of red and yellow iron rods that occupied one of the northern courtyards of the German Bundestag, caused a particular stir on the international art scene.
For Hörnschemeyer, the key to unforgettable art lies not only in the concept, but also in the materials. Her work is in constant dialogue with an idea of Franz Kafka’s, that every person has a space within them. “Sculpture for me is about exploring unexpected relationships between materials,” she says. “In fact, I consider myself a material as well.” Sculpture is a medium that explores unexpected relationships between materials.
As Galerie m presents work by Hörnschemeyer in booth A-03 at this year’s Art Düsseldorf, we spoke with the artist about her work as a professor of sculpture at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, the importance of misunderstandings, and her lifelong passion for exploring bodies and space.
What message do you want viewers to take away from the art you’re showing at Art Dusseldorf?
At the moment, I don’t think anyone can escape the geopolitical situation, the war, the environmental crisis, and the pandemic. My work, like the work here at the fair, explores boundaries and revolves around the question of the relationship between body and space and the relationships between things and people. I think that information is much more crucial to the world’s appearance than matter. Information is what’s in-between, the relative space between matter.
You can explore where the material comes from, what it’s made of, how old it is and how it will evolve, and what psychological and social aspects it has. And I deal with the conditions of space in the same way. I believe that there is no difference between body and space. Body is space and space is body. That is my tool for perceiving the world, and that is what I want to pass on.
What inspired the works you have on view at Art Dusseldorf
Our view is culturally shaped and we experience our environment through our body. In my works, I give directions, directions of movement, and directions of vision. Spaces are seemingly separated or connected by a channel that simultaneously transmits and receives. Their texture is related to our location and at the same time to our sensations and memories, our reality. That certainly has to do with form; the boundary is the form. I am concerned with questions like: What is in front and what is behind? How do I get from here to there, and how can I change sides? It’s been my experience that many people are content to focus on the surface. I’m more curious about what lies beneath or behind the surface.
Information is what’s in-between, the relative space between matter.
How has your artistic practice adapted to the pandemic?
I am fortunate to be able to continue working in my studio. The retreat from the public to the private sphere and postponements of exhibitions due to the pandemic has not significantly affected my artistic activity. I see the pandemic as an effect of a deeper cause, rooted in human behavior, in our interactions with each other and with nature. As I explore questions about relationships in space, the pandemic has also changed my work. When spaces are abandoned, traces of presence remain; they store time and are constantly changing in the process.
How important are art fairs for you as an artist? Has that changed at all because of the pandemic?
Art fairs are a place where art is traded, a place that follows certain rules. While I am interested in rules, systems, and structures, I tend to go to museums, art institutions, and galleries to experience art. Being unable to experience these places, because they were closed so often due to the pandemic, was regrettable.
How did you get involved with Galerie M?
In 2019, I showed the room-sized work “Opak 519” during an exhibition at the Museum unter Tage in Bochum, where I met the gallery owner Susanne Breidenbach. Since then, an intensive and constructive collaboration has developed.
When spaces are abandoned, traces of presence remain.
What initially attracted you to the medium of sculpture?
I have been interested in space since I was a child and was curious about how spaces can change me and how I can change them. In doing so, I never distinguished between body and space, and I still use these experiences in my sculptural work today.
You also work as a professor of Sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts Düsseldorf. What is the most important lesson you try to teach young artists?
In the Academy, we talk about expanding the possibilities of our means, everything can be important for this, and there is no certainty. We do not know beforehand where we are going and prefer to stay in unknown territory, because we recognize only what we know.
Also, what is one of the biggest misconceptions about the art world that you try to dispel with your students?
For me, artistic exploration is communication, and gaps in knowledge are the basis for this, they are the factor for the exchange and supplementation of information. Gaps in knowledge give rise to misunderstandings, which can be placed side by side – even in a perspective shift. So I consider misunderstandings and misconceptions, big and small, even if they are unpleasant at the moment, as a condition for movement.
The meaning of a material lies in its origin, its history, its production, and its function.
Your work tackles the use of space and its relation to the human body. What is it about these themes that continues to attract you?
Essential to the development of my work are dialogues with the material, often materials such as formwork elements, plasterboard, or aluminum honeycomb, which are used for the precipitous construction of buildings. I converse with spaces, exploring idiosyncrasies such as the former identity of a place, operating not only on a spatial axis but also on a temporal one. The meaning of a material lies in its origin, its history, its production, and its function, and if you listen carefully, you learn a lot.
Kafka once said: ” Everyone carries a room about inside them. This fact can be proved by means of the sense of hearing. If someone walks fast and one pricks up one’s ears and listens, say at night, when everything round about is quiet, one hears, for instance, the rattling of a mirror not quite firmly fastened to the wall.”
I see sculpture as exploring unexpected relationships between materials. In fact, I also think of myself as a material. The relationship between materials oscillates, hence you can also be a piece of aluminum honeycomb looking at the world.
Words: Chris Erik Thomas.
Prof. Dr. Susanne Gaensheimer isn’t afraid to take on art’s toughest questions. On the contrary, it’s what inspires her work as director of Düsseldorf’s North Rhine-Westphalia Art Collection. It’s now been nearly five years since she joined the museum and, in that time, she has been at the forefront of diversifying the works on view; successfully bringing more internationally-oriented positions on contemporary art to the stylishly curved building in the city’s old town district.
The shift in focus under her directorship is hardly a surprise given Gaensheimer’s background and accolades. After studying art history in Munich and Hamburg, she graduated from an independent study program at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art and secured her Ph.D. After some time spent as a freelance curator, a series of stints at museums around Germany followed, including the Westphalian Fine Arts Society in Münster and the Municipal Gallery in the Lenbachhaus in Munich. At the 2011 Venice Biennale, she was awarded the Golden Lion for Best National Participation for her curation of the German Pavilion and before taking her current position in Düsseldorf, she managed Frankfurt’s MMK Museum for Modern Art for eight years.
Now, with two distinct exhibition buildings in the state gallery (K20 and K21), Gaenesheimer has had plenty of space to expand the palate of both the museum and its patrons. Nowhere is that more apparent than with the bold new exhibition, Shifting Dialogues: Photography from The Walther Collection, which runs from April 9 through September 25. Curated by Artur Walther with advisement by the late Okwui Enwezor, the collection features more than 500 photographic works from Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Cameroon, Angola, the African diaspora, and Europe.
Ahead of the opening of the exhibition on April 9, we talked to Gaensheimer about the importance of confronting postcolonialism, the changing state of photography, and why the museum experience can never be replaced.
Museums are not only places of documentation and archiving. They are also dynamic actors that map, initiate, and shape contemporary discourses. To what extent does postcolonial criticism inform the exhibition?
In building the collection, Artur Walther was significantly advised by Okwui Enwezor, a pioneering curator and founder of postcolonial criticism in exhibition work. The two began acquiring their first works on joint trips to different countries in Africa. In 2010, the first large collection presentation in Neu-Ulm emerged from this. Many of the themes and artistic intentions that became visible in the first exhibition have been pursued by Enwezor and Walther while building up the collection. Thus, the exhibition at K21 where the collection is now on view has also been significantly influenced by Enwezor’s post- and decolonial thinking and actions.
How has the Black Lives Matter movement shaped the art and cultural landscape? Is decolonization primarily an issue or is it also a practice that affects acquisitions, target groups, or, for example, the reevaluation of collections?
The exhibition emerged from the discussions we had at the museum also (but not only) under the sign of the Black Lives Matter movement. What was particularly important to us with the exhibition was to make visible the historical developments of artistic activism that have produced groundbreaking photographic image projects since the 1940s. We present works by Seydou Keïta, Malick Sidibé, and Zanele Muholi, and show decolonial processes in their historical depth. At the same time, for several years, we have been in the process of expanding the museum step by step through new acquisitions and a polyphonic exhibition program, and Shifting Dialogues is a central component of the opening.
How has the collaboration with The Walther Collection been?
We value our collaboration very much. Artur Walther and I have been familiar with each other for some time, so working on a joint exhibition has mutually enriched us.
Photographs can become an agent for developing, shaping, confirming, and disseminating notions of the self and self-images.
How are historical and cultural transformation processes reflected in the medium of photography?
Photography is in a constant state of change. The exhibition shows how photographs can become an agent for developing, shaping, confirming, and disseminating notions of the self and self-images.
Okwui Enwezor stated in a conversation with Artur Walther in 2017 that: “I think that right now, photography – whether it’s in Africa, Europe, or elsewhere – is at a turning point. Photography is embattled. […] It’s embattled because photography is being overtaken, as a medium; it is being overtaken by technology and different forms of distribution.” This development has come to a head in recent years. How do you assess this?
Enwezor hits it right on the nose. Numerous new technological innovations have emerged in recent years. The concept of the image has continued to change. New technical [and] staging possibilities for artists are emerging. We are pleased to present in the exhibition works that have entered The Walther Collection only in recent years, including Mimi Cherono Ng’ok, Kudzanai Chiurai, Lebohang Kganye, and Sabelo Mlangeni. Their works show the facets of these processes of change.
Düsseldorf is a formative location for photography. How do works by Bernd and Hilla Becher, for example, which are also part of the Walther Collection, relate to the African works shown here?
We are showing the Bechers’ “Anonymous Sculptures” – as Enwezor did in 2010 – together in a room with works by Malick Sidibé and J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere. The juxtaposition reveals the importance of typological, taxonomic, and serial structures to global photography. It also reveals the complex and shifting interrelationships between social change, social identity processes, and artistic image production.
The museum visit is not replaceable, but can be expanded and experienced in new or different ways.
How do you think the experiences of the last two years will be reflected in artistic works?
That remains to be seen. Hito Steyerl has, after all, developed new major work in her exhibition at K21 – “SocialSim (2020)” – in which she has already addressed the pandemic from a sociopolitical perspective. This work has been acquired by the Kunstsammlung and will be on view in the K21 collection.
The pandemic has shown how important it is for cultural institutions to interact with their audiences in various ways. How has the art collection dealt with the situation over the past two years? What have you learned, and what are your plans for the future?
Before the pandemic, we developed a new website to serve as a platform for multimedia formats. At the beginning of the first lockdown, we launched this new website with a new moving image series, podcast seasons, and our multimedia storytelling tool, “K+ Digital Guide,” for current exhibitions. The experiences of the last two years have shown us that the museum visit is not replaceable, but can be expanded and experienced in new or different ways by thinking of the art experience in analog terms and digitally. We want to stick with that.
What do you hope the audience takes away from the exhibition?
A diverse and reflective view of the world.
Words: Chris Erik Thomas.
While a few hundred kilometers may separate the cities of Munich, Hamburg, and Frankfurt, it is their bustling contemporary art markets that unite them. For decades, the German cities have been incubators for both new talent and established positions within the scene. Building up unique webs of galleries that stretch across their respective neighborhoods.
Some, like Max Goelitz in Munich and PPC Philipp Pflug Contemporary, have existed for less than a decade, while others have existed for decades. In Hamburg, renowned spaces have staked out a space in the scene since the 1970s, including Levy Galerie since 1970 and Produzentengalerie Hamburg since 1973.
In total, Art Düsseldorf will welcome 12 galleries from these three renowned cities to this year’s art fair — including four galleries who will join us at Areal Böhler for the first time. Scroll through to get all the important info you need to know about each of the dozen galleries.
Please note the booth numbers for each gallery are presented in brackets.
Two became one in 2017 as Fred Jahn and Matthias Jahn merged their separate galleries to form their Munich-based gallery. For Fred, the merger came after running Gaerlie Fred Jahn alongside Heiner Friedrich beginning in 1978. Meanwhile, Matthias brought nearly a decade of experience from running the gallery he founded in 2008. A year after opening Jahn und Jahn, the addition of Tim Geissler as a partner created the foundation for what has become a tight collaborative space dedicated to advancing the most relevant positions in contemporary art — including through a number of publications.
As the gallery makes its return to Art Düsseldorf, it will show work by the artists Hermann Nitsch, Imi Knoebel, Hedwig Eberle, Julius Heinemann, and Heinz Butz.
After originally opening its doors in 1982 as Galerie Sabine Knust, the gallery added Matthias Kunz as a partner in 1998, which led to its current name. During these four decades, the gallery has nurtured collaborations with a range of regional and international artists. Alongside its space near Munich’s Odeonsplatz, the gallery has expanded twice. First, in 2010, it opened KNUSTxKUNZ+ in the city’s Museums quarter to showcase emerging artists, as well as new projects and publications. Finally, in 2021, the gallery expanded past Munich to open a temporary third space in Belgium’s seaside Knokke-Heist region.
From April 8-10 at Areal Böhler, the gallery will offer works by the famed German artist Olaf Nicolai.
Although the namesake gallery began only two years ago, in March 2020, its founder brought a wealth of experience with him. Formerly acting as the director of Häusler Contemporary, Zurich for over a decade, his new gallery is built upon support from both Häusler Contemporary and Mexico City’s Gallery OMR. With a focus on international and intergenerational talent, the young gallery offers fresh positions on works of abstract, concept-based, and other contemporary mediums.
For its debut at the fair the gallery will show works by Niko Abramidis &NE, Brigitte Kowanz, Haroon Mirze, and Troika presented in a special multimedia installation.
After initially beginning as a project space in 2014, the gallery founded by Johannes Sperling began to represent artists in 2016. For eight years, it has gained recognition for its embrace of experimental positions from young artists, often interrogating themes found in post-internet art.
The gallery will mark its return to the fair with a special shared booth with the Lima, Peru-based gallery, Crisis. Spirling will present new works by Anna Vogel, as well as ceramics by Veronika Hilger.
Elena and Heiner Conradi opened the doors of their namesake gallery in Hamburg in 2008. For nearly a decade and a half, the duo has cultivated a range of programming that spans mediums — from installation and performance to photography and painting. With a special emphasis on works of time-based art such as video works, the gallery has established itself as a premier art destination for positions on issues impacting the modern world.
Inside the halls of Areal Böhler from April 8-10, the gallery is showcasing a range of works by the artists Andrzej Steinbach, Katja Aufleger, and Thomas Baldischwyler.
At the end of 1999, before the world entered a new millennium, Karin Guenther marked her own beginning with the opening of her namesake gallery in Hamburg. The opening came after many years of freelance curation for different institutions and began with a show of works by artist Jeanne Faust. Now, with over two decades in the city’s art scene, it has become known for its focus on fresh positions on conceptual art.
During this year’s edition of Art Düsseldorf, it will showcase works by Michael Bauch, Edith Dekyndt, Ellen Gronemeyer, Stefan Marx, and Berta Fischer in a shared booth with Vienna-based gallery, Krobath.
A lot can happen in 50 years — especially if you’re a contemporary art gallery. Since 1970, Thomas Levy’s namesake gallery has accrued a broad range of positions on contemporary art, with pillars of Surrealism, Nouveau Réalisme, and Pop Art forming its foundation. The artists it represents include the likes of Richard Lindner, Annette Streyl, and Marc Lüders, as well as the estates of both Meret Oppenheim and Friedrich Einhoff.
This year, the gallery will show recent work from Wainer Vaccari, as well as works by acclaimed artists C.O. Paeffgen, Friedrich Einhoff, and Mel Ramos.
After opening its doors in 1973, the contemporary art gallery took on a leading role in Hamburg’s art scene in the 1980s. As it approaches its 50-year anniversary, the gallery has built a reputation as a vanguard for new aesthetic positions from both international and regional artists. In addition to the five exhibitions it organizes per year, the gallery also produces a regular stream of books for its represented artists.
A selection of pieces by Monika Michalko, Christoph Blawert, Dasha Shishkin, Jonas Burgert, and Bernhard Brungs will be shown at its booth during this year’s edition of Art Düsseldorf.
Initially beginning in Darmstadt in 1995, the gallery made the move to Frankfurt in 1998. Now, for over two decades, it has put a special emphasis on finding and nurturing new talent in the contemporary art scene. It is through a dialogue between young artists and contemporary positions that the gallery has established itself as a destination for contemporary takes on video and new media art.
The gallery will present a group exhibition of works by Armin Boehm, Daniel Canogar, and Kota Ezawa.
Since the early 2000s, the gallery has produced both solo and group exhibitions featuring both regional and international talent. With an emphasis on painting and a focus on works of the Munich School movement, it has steadily built up a profile in Frankfurt’s contemporary art scene.
During its debut presentation at Art Düsseldorf, the gallery will present a mix of works by Lin May Saeed, Lea von Wintzingerode, Max Brand, and Markus Ebner.
Since 2006, the Frankfurt-based gallery located in the city center has produced a regular rotation of solo and group exhibitions. By fostering a close personal connection to the artists she represents, Kind has built up a solid reputation as a purveyor of contemporary art — as well as a solid relationship with her husband, artist Mike Bouchet, who she met at a vernissage. The mix of regional and international artists offers fresh contemporary perspectives, and a special emphasis on U.S. artists has led the gallery to show works by such artists as Paul McCarthy.
For this edition of the fair, artists Benjamin Echevarria, Hannes Michanek, and Emilia Neumann will be represented.
Established in 2014 when Pflug was just 24-years-old, the gallery began after he worked for fellow Frankfurt-based galleries Anita Beckers and Jacky Strenz, who are also exhibiting at the fair. Now, for eight years, the young collector with a love for fresh perspectives has built up a roster of fresh talent and established positions within the contemporary art scene.
For its debut at Art Düsseldorf, the gallery will showcase work by Jagoda Bednarsky, Stehn Raupach, Michael Pfrommer, and Bettina von Arnim.
Words: Annalena Roters and Chris Erik Thomas.
Sabine Oelze and Marion Ritter never meant to start Audioarchiv Kunst. It was the eve of the 25th anniversary of the Museum Island Hombroich, the sprawling cultural center in Neuss, Germany situated on over 60 acres of meadowland, and the duo had sat down to interview the artist Gotthard Graubner. At the time, the painter was living and working from a residence on-site. “Graubner got to chatting and knew many anecdotes from the beginnings of his artistic career,” recalls Oelze. “He noted names that today only insiders know.”
He told stories about Gallery 22, the contemporary art space founded by Jean-Pierre Wilhelm and Manfred de la Motte in Düsseldorf in 1957, which was where Fluxus and Informel were exhibited, and also discussed the major differences between the scene then and now. “It was fascinating to listen to him, to be able to ask questions, and through his vivid recollection, to better understand the spirit of the scene at that time,” explains Ritter. “We felt that this way of directly experiencing art history had been lacking until now.”
For both Oelze and Ritter, it was this interview with Graubner that provided the spark and it was his unfortunate passing a short time later that year that fanned the flame that would lead to the founding of Audioarchiv Kunst. As Oelze explains: “After the interview, we thought, ‘These are voices that should be captured!’ [When] Graubner died a little later, we realized that these stories had disappeared with the last contemporary witnesses.”
Now, since 2017, the pair have carefully cultivated an oral history of Rhineland’s contemporary art scene. Through their work, a broad swath of stories from these early days has been unearthed, including voices that had been overlooked or overheard until now. As we celebrate their contribution to the region’s rich art history, we sat down to talk to Oelze and Ritter to discuss the reliability of memory, the uniqueness of the art scene, and what comes next for Audioarchiv Kunst.
Please note that all audio interviews are in German.
The journalist Jürgen Tempel has collected voices on the punk scene in Düsseldorf, among other places, in his book, Verschwende deine Jugend. He speaks of “a hundred different truths” that he has collected. Are you also often told the same stories from entirely different perspectives? What does that say about the reliability of the sources? And what does that mean for the oral history method?
SO: The beginnings of the contemporary art market in the Rhineland are well documented, as in the great book Die 60er Jahre. In the many conversations we had, however, a much broader picture of those early years emerged for us. In addition to the art market, there were also many movements that worked against commercialism. Fritz Heubach, who published the magazine Interfunktionen starting in 1967, comes to mind. Or Gabor Altorjay, Chris Reinecke, and Erinna König, whose art was extremely activist and politically motivated.
Sometimes the facts become blurred in retrospect. When people today remember something that happened back then, it happens that something is misrepresented. That is a basic problem of the method we use, but it must also be said that if you had held the microphone under people’s noses back then, it would have also been highly subjective. On the other hand, many of our interviewees only get their memories back when they talk to us. If we weren’t there, they might not even exist. We also try to establish connections between the eyewitnesses. When Rudolf Zwirner recounts his journey, Benjamin Buchloh and Kasper König, who both apprenticed with him, also have their say. We try to approach them from as many sides as possible so that the interviews complement each other.
MR: The remarkable thing about oral history is that it allows people to have their say who were previously overlooked or overheard because they were, for example, marginal figures or because, depending on the time, some perspectives are simply more present than others. It is important that this narrative also finds its way into research.
How do you proceed when you plan an interview and in the interview situation itself?
SO: We try to prepare as best we can, going to libraries such as the Cologne Museum Library in the Museum Ludwig, researching in digital archives, or listening again to conversations that have already taken place to confront the contemporary witnesses with what others have said about certain events. In the interview itself, we take a lot of time and listen carefully. Since we prepare ourselves well, we can sometimes fill in gaps in the data or with people’s names, which then helps [the subjects] to remember.
The remarkable thing about oral history is that it allows people to have their say who were previously overlooked or overheard.
How many contemporary witnesses have you interviewed in the meantime?
MR: We have conducted almost 60 interviews so far, including interviews with artists, gallery owners, collectors, critics, publishers, filmmakers, musicians, and companions — some of whom experienced the events of the time from the margins of the art context. We select our protagonists specifically to present as broad a picture of the scene as possible. Thus, well-known names such as Konrad Klapheck, Daniel Spoerri, and Ulrike Rosenbach are among them, but also lesser-known ones such as Gábor Altorjay, Henning Brandis, or Erinna König. Klaus Honnef speaks from the perspective of a critic and exhibition organizer; Rudolf Zwirner recalls the beginnings of Documenta and the art fair. Renate Gruber collected artistic photography with her husband throughout her life and tells us about their shared passion; Benjamin Buchloh stood in the 1960s with one foot in Cologne and the other in the USA and can tell us about these two perspectives.
SO: After concentrating on the 50s to the 70s in the first phase, we are now also increasingly talking to representatives of the 80s.
Do you know if the archive is used for scientific research or other projects?
SO: We have already received several letters from students who are using our archive for their research. We were also asked whether we would like to create a similar archive for sound art, but we declined because we are still busy with our interviews for the Audioarchiv Kunst.
MR: Many art historians and disciplines like art market research appreciate our work. But we also know that our offer appeals to many people who are simply interested in art or the history of the Rhineland. The audio files are freely available on the web, and many people enjoy listening to these memories.
What makes the Rhineland special are the high standards that have been set here from the very beginning.
Women describe in great detail how much they had to fight because they were not taken seriously by the official squad.
Which protagonists and which artistic works have particularly impressed you and why?
SO: That’s where the women come in, who have always had a tougher stand. For example, Rissa — the artist and wife of K.O. Goetz — or Ulrike Rosenbach and Birgit Hein still had to struggle with many stereotypes. Hein was accused of having to earn the money to support her future husband, Wilhelm Hein, an experimental filmmaker. She became an artist anyway, against the resistance of her parents. It was also impressive to meet Chris Reinecke in her apartment in Düsseldorf, how she got politically involved at that time and organized demonstrations against rent-seeking and for gender justice! The whole thing culminated in a spectacular happening at the press conference of [4. documenta] in Kassel, where she kissed the then-director Arnold Bode.
Women describe in great detail how much they had to fight because they were not taken seriously by the official squad.
MR: I can say that all the interviewees impressed me with their stories at one point or another. It is also exciting to hear the memories of contemporary witnesses who have so far only very rarely spoken about it publicly. For example, Ursula Reppin – the wife of Rudolf Zwirner — talked about her experiences from the time when she ran the Zwirner Gallery with her husband. Walter König also talked for the first time in great detail about the beginnings of his career.
Back then, there was a Cologne-New York axis; today, the whole world wants access.
Your interview partners often talk about the conditions under which they worked. How has the situation changed for artists in the region? And do the predecessors play a role for today’s young artists?
MR: A career was certainly not the main focus back then. It was more about advancing art, breaking down rigid boundaries, challenging the public, rethinking the exhibition format, and even the sale of art. I think that a lot was achieved during this time, from which the art business also benefits today.
SO: The biggest difference is the number of artists, galleries, and curators, which has significantly increased over the years. In the beginning, there was a sworn community; people met in the relevant pubs and fought for the same cause. Everything was done through personal contacts. Now everyone fights for [themselves]; sales have grown to gigantic proportions and are in the foreground. In 1967, [when] 18 galleries participated in the first art market in the Gürzenich, a total of one million German marks was turned over, which was a sensation at the time. Today, more than 200 galleries take part in Art Cologne, and the price of a single work of art can exceed one million euros. Back then, there was a Cologne-New York axis; today, the whole world wants access.