As I pointed out in my last post, the German cultural season has hit London with full force. Two major museums are showing big retrospectives of German artists. But of course there is a good amount of brilliant British and overseas art currently on display too. Bypassing the super blockbusters of Rembrandt, Turner, William Morris and co, I present to you the 9 must-see exhibitions of contemporary art this November.
2. Anselm Kiefer, Royal Academy of Arts, 27 September – 14 December 2014, Kiefer’s monumental work as to be seen in person. It is then that the effect of his massive canvases with thickly laid on, relief-like paint truly unfolds.
3. Mirrorcity, Hayward Gallery, 14 October 2014 – 4 January 2015, This exhibition brings together London-based contemporary artists which are united by a common reflection on what it means to live in the digital age. Although this show has had mixed reviews, it is the first major museum exhibition dedicated to this topic.
5. Lizzie Fitch/Ryan Trecartin, Zabludowicz Collection, 2 October – 21 December 2014, The two artist collaborate again to create a super-modern, hyper-digital immersive nightmare. Trecartin’s schizophrenic films are complimented by Fitch’s grotesque gallery environments.
9. Jane and Louise Wilson, IWM Contemporary, 15 October 2014 – Sun 11 January 2015, Produced to mark the centenary of the First World War Jane and Louise Wilson’s film explores the construction of narratives of the time.
Subconsciously and then consciously I have noticed, over the last few months, more and more articles about Germany, German culture and German leadership. Identified as a sign of German efficiency her ability to strip herself of unnecessary decision-making, articles regarding the latter often focus on Angela Merkel and her choice of jackets; in my eyes this women has perfected the concept of #normcore.
This is not a completely recent development. More or less frequently, all major English newspapers have had their bit to share on our chancellor, our country, our football. However, it seems that especially in the wake of recent economic developments, the UK has become more interested in exploring their (often ambivalent) relationship with Germany.
Now there is a major exhibition, as well as two massive retrospectives of seminal German artists picking up on cultural mouthpieces of German culture. They seem continue where Gerhard Richterand the major exhibition in 2011 at Tate Modern left of.
Popping up on the cultural landscape are numerous museum shows with a ‘German flavour.’ For instance, there is the British Museum exhibition “The Other Side of the Medal – How Germany saw the first World War,” which examins German history through a selection of medals and their engravings. In this context, both the Observer and the Guardian ran buzzfeed-style lists of things that ‘made modern Germany.’ The weight that is attributed to sausages’ contribution to the development of our country, however, seems rather questionable to me.
With Anselm Kiefer at the Royal Academy, which just opened this Saturday, and the Sigmar Polke retrospective at Tate Modern, scheduled to open next week on the 9th of October, two major London museums turn their full attention to German artists.
What these artists, have in common is that they reflect and are a reflection, if not magnification, of German history and historical developments. Kiefer, for example, is well-known for his work’s occupation with Hitler and the resulting collective silence in post-war German society.
Arguably, these exhibitions then come to surface in a process, wherein the British try to understand and come to grips with Germany’s political, social and economical development after the war. After all Germany, as a country, has made its way out of their (self-inflicted) misery like a well-plucked phoenix ascending from the ashes. In a time of Scottish referendum, terrorist threat and possible economical downfall, it seems the Empire is looking for an example or a backup-plan to follow, when and if they have to struggle to their feet again; Something they never had to do before.
failure or refusal to obey rules or someone in authority.
“disobedience to law is sometimes justified”
These are not only objects of disobedience, these are objects of defeat and of victory, of pain and of triumph, but most of all of struggle.
They are touching, story-telling objects. They move you to tears, as much as they make you smile, and they embody in every possible way the object agency argued for so vigorously by Bruno Latour.
The danger of objects larger then their physical mass is reflected in the fact, that the museum takes on a design perspective. Expectedly, this is a seemingly fitting stance, possibly pre-determined by the very purpose of its standing as a chronicler and harp-bringer of all things design-related.
Forgoing any kind of explicit political message, staying on the save side, obviously, the exhibition let’s the objects speak. At the same time, the very fact, that they are still moving you deeply and are perfectly capable of telling the story of the human struggle, negates this imposed design-focused a-politicalness.
Just off busy Oxford Street lies a not so hidden gem, The Photographers’ Gallery. I had been wanting to visit for a long time and finally made my way there this past weekend to view the current display of nominees for the Deutsche Boerse Price.
Annually (since 1996) The Photographers’ Gallery awards a photographer of any nationality for his or her outstanding contribution to the medium of photography in the previous year. The Deutsche Boerse has been sponsoring the £30 000 prize since 2005. This year’s nominees were Alberto Garcia-Alix (Spain), Jochen Lempert (Germany), Richard Mosse (Ireland) and Lorna Simpson (US). On May 12th 2014 the prize was awarded to Richard Mosse.
The nominees’ works are displayed over two of the four exhibition flours of the gallery. Upon entering the lower floor, I was greeted with the black and white works of Alberto Garcia-Alix. The works of Garcia-Alix, who was nominated for his publication Autorretrato/Self-portrait, consist of his self-exploratory portraits, documenting his experiences with drugs, prostitutes, and the Spanish punk-scene of the late 70s and 80s.
In a kind of nostalgic retrospective of cause and effect, these relics from his youth are juxtaposed in particular with his 2002 self-portrait My Feminine Side. I found the latter especially engrossing, as it captures the photographer’s body as an ultimate testament to his past and present. The body, covered in tattoos, is at the same time seemingly emaciated by past drug-abuse. This stands in opposition to his clenched fists, a posture of determinism and strength, again contrasting his facial expression, which displays a sense of defeat and, as the title suggests, an air of gentleness or femininity.
On the same floor are displayed the photographs by Jochen Lempert. These formed part of his solo-exhibition at Hamburger Kunsthalle in 2013. I found his photography to be equally as intimate as Garcia-Alix’s, although in quite a different way.
In his work, former biologist Lempert has occupied himself closely with nature. He seems to have done so in a way that is twofold – firstly, in his subject matter, composed of plants and animals, and secondly, in his inquiry into the medium of photography itself through the exploration of the properties of light. These interests are mirrored for instance, in his photograms Four Frogs from 2010.
From afar, pinned directly and unframed onto the wall, the series blurs to a set of greyish monochrome papers with a few white dots strewn across. However, viewed closely, the white dots disclose themselves to be tiny frogs, which have, whether by chance or not, rested on the light-sensitive paper to leave their contour.
The works of the two remaining artists are displayed one floor up. Here the large-scale and impressively coloured photographs by Richard Mosse are given a lot more breathing space then the tightly hung works of Garcia-Alix and Lempert on the level below. This way of displaying Mosse’s photographs seems to reflect their grandeur, while the close hang of Garcia-Alix and Lempert’s works mirrors their intimacy.
Mosse’s images are beautiful to look at with their vibrant tones of red, contrasting a foggy green and pale blue. However, their subject matter is that of a landscape infiltrated by human tragedy and war. These works, part of the exhibition The Enclave which was displayed at the Irish Pavillion at last year’s Venice Biennial, show the landscape of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The incredible colours are in fact the result of the use of military surveillance film, rendering the landscape in the vibrant spectrum of infrared light.
In a corner of the upper level, almost hidden, hangs Lorna Simpson’s work LA ‘57-NY ’09 (2009). It consists of numerous small square black and white photographs from the 1950s and 1960s in which a black women, performing household tasks or striking poses within her domestic environment, coyly poses in front of the camera. These photographs are almost indiscernible from a second set of photographs that intersperses the former. In these the artist herself can be seen imitating and re-staging the historic pictures.
By juxtaposing the black women’s past and present, Simpson comments on gender and memory and thus, goes on to explore her own identity. In this context, it appeared as a (unintentional) paradox to me that her work was given so little space in the exhibition.
Mosse, whose works without doubt are equally visually stunning, as well as, in regards to their content, fascinating and at the same time disturbing, was chosen as the recipient of the prize. Nevertheless, for myself I have to say, I was a lot more captivated by the intimacy of Garcia-Alix’s self-documentation, or even Lempert’s close encounter with nature. Simpson’s work, for some reason, left me rather untouched and indifferent. Then again, I imagine that it is precisely the fact, that all four artists are so different (and produce work so different from each other) that makes this year’s nominees and the display at the Photographer’s Gallery especially exciting.
The exhibition is still on until June 22nd.
Find the Photographers’ Gallery at 16 – 18 Ramillies St, London W1F 7LW. Nearest Tube: Oxford Circus
Mon – Sat 10.00 – 18.00, Thu 10.00 – 20.00, Sun 11.30 – 18.00
After a long hiatus from blogging, a year and a Master’s degree later, I am slowly settling into ‘real life,’ i.e. a full-time job. After a couple of interesting internships, I was lucky to snatch a great opportunity.
The exhibition is sponsored by Italian Fashion brand Bulgari, a fact that can’t be missed, as the visitor is informed of this through a highly visible branding on the wall opposite the entrance. My feelings about this corporate sponsorship are twofold – on the one hand, it attains to the increasing entanglement between the cultural and the consumer world (the latter is where the money is, isn’t it?). On the other hand, it is ultimately emblematic of the ‘glamour’ of fashion. This is, after all, a world of luxury and abundance, a ‘see and be seen’ display of wealth and beauty.
Keeping this in mind, I entered the exhibition, ready to suspend my disbelief in the necessity of glamour and prepared to be blown away by all its exuberance. Maybe this mindset was the reason why the exhibition eventually left me the slightest bit dissatisfied? Don’t get me wrong, the dresses and their presentation are beautiful!
The exhibition is arranged chronologically. The first room presents the beginning of the Italian fashion industry starting with the post-World War II establishment of the Sala Bianca, a fashion show and brand headed by Giovan Battista Giorgini in the 1950’s and still operating today. The evening gowns of the 1950’s and 60’s are stunning and I found myself staring at some of them for ages, having this indescribable feeling of experiencing something sublime.
Maybe this is the very problem, not only of the exhibition at the V&A, but more so of Italian fashion as such – moving along, the next rooms outline the history of the Italian dressmaker, the fashion of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Great brands of the time, such as Emilio Pucci, Valentino Couture and Elio Fiorucci are introduced, but the styles never really change. The next room is decorated with a canopy of flowing white fabric and a catwalk that presents the Italian dress creations of the present. However, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had encountered all this before, and that the highlight of the show for me really had been the ‘Red Dress with Flaring Waist Panels’ designed by Germana Maruceli in 1950, that I had seen in the first room.
As a result, I couldn’t help but feel that there is a slight stuffiness about the Italian fashion of the famous brands displayed. This aspect is reflected by the V&A’s focus on history and chronological build-up. The dresses themselves are visually stunning and beautiful to look at and the exhibition comes as a great historical insight into what once must have been incredibly glamorous. However, one does sense a thin layer of dust settling on this very glamour.
The last room shows a film dedicated to the future. One of the interviewees alludes to what seems to be one of the reasons why Italian fashion has remained inherently conservative, while more innovative styles are presently created in Paris, New York, London and Berlin. He points out that several of the established brands are headed by patriarchs in their 70s who do not want to give up their position to fresher minds.
In this context, for me the title of the exhibition speaks of a certain nostalgia, and seems reminiscent of the brighter days of this industry. Nevertheless, the V&A did succeed in selecting the most astonishing relics of the Italian fashion’s history and united them to a most beautiful display that is well worth seeing.
What is ‘Outsider Art’? The term is used to describe art that is ‘raw,’ ‘primitive’ and uncontaminated by culture, work by artists that create for the sake of creation alone. The artists included in the exhibition at the Wellcome Collection have been diagnosed with cognitive or mental illnesses. This disposition is mirrored in the often naive and impulsive qualities of their works. However, when viewing the exhibition the “disadvantages” of the artists translate into artworks with an aesthetic quality that is highly appealing to the senses, evoking a feeling of connectedness to the creators’ subconscious. Subsequently, the show is populated by strange creatures in bright colours, full of patterns and decor, and works that often contain an element of obsessive and even manic repetition and detail. I definitely recommend you to go check it out! You can still do so until the 30th of June.
Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE
Open Tues, Wed, Fri and Sat 10:00-18:00; Thurs 10:00-22:00 and Sun 11:00-18:00
Hikaru Fuji’s films ‘Project Fukushima!’ and ‘3.11 Art Documentation’ which are included in this group installation are concerned with the aftermath of the triple catastrophe of the Tohaku earthquake, the tsunami and the partial meltdown of the Fukushima Daichii power plant in March 2011. While ‘Project Fukushima!’ focuses on the artistic activities, such as the FUKUSHIMA! music festival, undertaken by tsunami survivors to come to terms with the disaster, ‘311 Art Documentation’ shows what happened to artists, staff of art NPOs, art and cultural institutions in the affected areas, documenting their efforts to clean up and pick up the routine of a normal life while still living in the state of exception of contemporary housing settlements, exposed to an invisible background noise of continuous radiation exposure. Films also included in the installation and continuing a concern with nature and landscape are Katie Goldwin’s Silent Landscape’ and Owen Daily’s ‘Restoration.’ While, in my opinion, the juxtaposition of Goldwin and Daily with Fuji is not quite successful, the show and especially Fuji’s films are well worth seeing! They are on show until the 28th of May.
Husk | Gallery & Project Space at DEPARTURE, 649-651 Commerical Road, Limehouse, London, E14 7LW
Open Tues 11:00- 17:00; Wed-Fri 11:00- 18:00 and Sat 10:00 -17:00
Have you seen either of the exhibitions? What did you think?
The Bride and the Bachelors was the first exhibition I have seen at the Barbican. The distinct make up of the exhibition space seems to be a rather difficult layout to curate exhibitions in (unfortunately I have not comparison yet). However, I felt that the show which provided a refreshing outlook onto the master of the art historical canon, was integrated quite well in, and even supported by, the dimmed atmosphere of the eighties architecture. Through combining the Duchampian paintings, readymades and objects with the works of Cunningham, Rauschenberg and Jones new life is breathed into artworks with have been chewed over many times before. The whole exhibition is filled with a soundtrack consisting of compositions by Duchamp and Cage. As I was walking through the rooms, I found the eerie voices and melodies strangely relaxing, and at the same time invigorating to my perception of the works on display. Several benches throughout the exhibition invite you to sit down and just listen.
Starting out with Duchamp’s famous Nude descending a Staircase, no.2 (1912) the exhibition tour leads past an impressive reproduction of The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) and paintings and stage requisites designed by Jones, who had been inspired by The Large Glass, for a dance performance by Cunningham. On the second level there are smaller works on display. Again artworks by Rauschenberg and Jones are juxtaposed with Duchamp’s readymades and small objects to reflect on mutual influences and similarities. The rooms are arranged thematically according to themes such as ‘Between Art and Life,’ ‘Chance’ and ‘Presence and Absence.’
The exhibition is still running until the 9th of June 2013 and also includes dance performances of Cunningham’s piece, dates for which can be found on the website.
Did you have a chance to see this exhibition yet ?