vrijdag 31 oktober 2014

Trees trees trees

Trees in the Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin? The installation Sticks and Stones by David Chipperfield (1953) fills the upper hall of the Neue National with stripped down tree trunks. The refer to the radically new design by the famous architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969).

Mies van der Rohes designs where radical because they looked so totally different, fresh and new for his time. For example the outer glass walls of the Neue Nationalgalerie seem to float. They don't bear the weight of the roof because that weight is being supported by two massive concrete rectangles, covered with beautiful green marble plates, in the middle of the hall and eight steel columns on the outside.

The trees by Chipperfield, who is also an architect, symbolically support the weight of the ceiling as well. They refer to the upcoming renovation of the building, executed by (the same) Chipperfield. The stripped down tree trunks point to this inherent closure for approximately two years. So visit it now whiles you still can!

maandag 6 oktober 2014

Meschac Gaba - Contempary Global Art

In 1996, African artist Meschac Gaba (1961) came to the Netherlands to study art at the post-graduate program at the prestige Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. It was his first visit to Europe and during his stay he visited a museum of contemporary art, probably the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Wandering through the halls, Gaba wondered where the contemporary African art was. Did they hide it somewhere? Later, he visited the Tropenmuseum, an ethnographic museum in Amsterdam, and there he found some. Not much, but some. 

Being from Amsterdam myself, I felt ashamed. His story shows that even in what I thought to be an open-minded country, in the nineties (only twenty years ago!) the reality still was this elite point of view that contemporary art is a) western (whatever this still means)  b) mainly white and c) predominantly male. 

Gaba transformed his experiences into the ongoing project the Museum of Contemporary African Art. It is not so much a commentary on the western exhibiting practice but more like a display window. It consists of 'rooms' without walls that each exhibit an idea. 

The rooms, now twelve in total, are linked to spaces generally found in museums, like the library, the restaurant and the museum shop. Gaba uses the function of the rooms to pose questions related to their purpose and expose different points of view. For example the Museum Shop, in which Gaba sells the one thing the shop has got to get, it's raison d'être; money.

Gaba presents the strange relation between art and money in multiple rooms. For example the work Artist Bank, where Gaba shows a collection of banknotes who have cultural figures like artists or writers on them. Or the work Money Tree, which contains banknotes with on them pictures of artists who claim to have been inspired by African Art (by which they meant African 'religious' art) like Picasso, Brancusi and Giacometti.

This focus on the old instead of the new can also be seen in the Art and Religion Room, a more philosophical room, in which Gaba presents objects from different religions. Maria candles meet menorah's, a prayer mat and a voodoo doll sit happely next to one another. This is the cateory where religious African art belongs. Gaba points to the Western focus on the latter whiles totally ignoring the contemporary art of the continent.

Gaba's Museum of Contemporary African Art is a twelve room installation which represents ideas about the identity, function and core-business of a museum (for contemporary art). In the installation Gaba also solves the in former times often absent exhibition space for his work. If not available, built your own.

At the moment, the Museum of Contemporay African Art is on tour. The exhibition just left the Tate Modern and is now on show in Berlin in the art space of the biggest bank (!) in Germany: Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle.

donderdag 2 oktober 2014

Positions Berlin- thumbs down


Positions Berlin, the new art fair, held in the former Kaufhaus Jandorf as part of Berlin Art Week, didn't like it at all. I thought it was conservative, reserved, and quite frankly; boring. There was a lot of painting, and not of the interesting sort. The media did like it, I left within half an hour. 

The only booth I really liked was the one from the Muthesius Hochschule (Kiel) in a coop with Umtrieb Gallery. They show drawings by Olrick Kohlhoff; one on the wall, two on the floor. I really liked this installation way of presenting his work. Turned out it was the gallery's doing, trying to show the variety in his drawings....

L'Oiseau présente... @ Berlin Art Week

Did you visit "l´oiseau présente..." , selected by Berlin Art Week, already?
'Rip, cut-grow' is an exhibition about de-constructivism, which basically means; take things apart in order to study the fragments. It creates new meaning, tells you something about their relation to the thing as a whole and confronts the viewer with pre-existing ideas about the whole. If you have missed the very enlightening talk by Magrit im Schlaa, the wall/floor piece by Nadja Schöllhammer shows you how it's done.

Die Raum @ Berlin Art Week


During Berlin Art Week, I visited die raum, with 5m2 probably the smallest project space in town (although I recently heard about a space which consists of one display window only, I will report back when I find it). The space, selected by Berlin Art Week, shows yet again an excellent presentation; a work by Otavio Schipper called elevator music. While their is none of the latter, it is interesting how much associations an elevator stool can bring, for example about an apparent desire to move vertical.

Why this work of art is SO FREAKING COOL!

#1: The mixed media installation from Donna Hanca @ abc


 My favourite work of art BY FAR at abc: The tableau vivant by Donna Huanca at the booth from Brand New Gallery, Milan. Check out more of her installations at her website.

In my new category 'Why this work of art is SO FREAKING COOL', I'm going to explain to you why I think this work of art is SO FREAKING COOL!
1) it contains paintings, sculptural objects and people, PEOPLE!
2) It is somewhat undefinable, which is great in an over defined world. Using people who stand before paintings and sculptures shifts this work somewhere in between an installation, a performance and a theatre play.
3) Which brings back to life the in the 19th century popular phenomenon of the tableau vivant; the living picture, an early form of performance or maybe even film-still one might say. Except this work doesn't represent another, so no feeling of deja-vu.
4) It uses the human body as a canvas and thus as a medium, hence the title; mixed media installation. The nudes hereby become objects, which brings to mind thoughts about the objectifying of the (female) body
5) It is unsellable, which is interesting because it is presented by a commercial gallery at an art fair

Opening abc 2014 - Picture report