The emotionally charged narratives of Polish-French painter Balthus, an anti-modernist beloved by modernists, are poignant, loaded, somewhat cryptical and sensuous. Too often they serve as backdrops to foregrounding the provocative undertones of his infamous mise-en-scénes where young girls recline in between states of dream-like repose and enraptured reawakening. Balthus himself dismissed attributing any perceived eroticism to viewers with unclean minds. What makes his work actual and up-to-date is the way it reconfigures certain moral dilemmas in light of different cultural moments, and raises the question about the role of censorship in relation to artistic freedom. Born Balthasar Klossowski, he cultivated an air of mystery and myth, secluding himself in old-world country houses and castles in France, Italy, and Switzerland. A new retrospective at Fondation Beyeler reaffirms the artist’s long-standing relationship to Switzerland and seeks to expose a multifaceted legacy by bringing to light a broader picture. It seems as if Balthus, who lived through nearly the entire 20th century, delighted in perfecting a visual language that feels outside history, nurturing an eccentric detachment from modernism. Taking the little known and monumental work Passage du Commerce-Saint-Andréas a focal point, the exhibition manifests the artist’s intensive engagement with the dimensions of space and time, as a way of distilling and constructing the relationship between the figure and object. The ethos of our age aspires to respond with action to subjects we find unsettling, disturbing or troubling but the work of art cannot be tamed, only responses to it.
Berlin is a fascinating yet chaotic whirlwind of clashing architectural sites, with some of its most monumental and distinctive landmarks inherited from the German Democratic Republic era. Distinctively embodying the GDR’s engineering ambitions, Funkhaus is a colossal broadcasting centre and studio complex designed during the 1950s by the distinguished Bauhaus architect Franz Ehrlich. His job was to create the world’s largest and most sophisticated recording facility that promised to be an ideal marriage of German functionality and Eastern decadence. It was constructed to symbolize the virtues of equality, collectivity and openness by bringing a wide array of musical genres under one roof. Red Bull Music Academy is celebrating their 20th anniversary at the historic complex, which has been converted into a creative microcosm. 61 international musicians have been selected to participate in the Academy, they will have the opportunity to exchange ideas, learn new things and expand their musical vocabulary. Design studio New Tendency has created a bespoke furniture collection for the Academy, combining lounge modules, tables and sofas that bring back the essence of Bauhaus design principles and through a poetic and playful tone rejuvenate the functional and rational aesthetic of the interiors. Part of the transformation is an exhibition showcasing Berlin’s established and most promising emerging artists. Hailing from different generations, the artists have been carefully selected by Johann König. The exhibition takes central stage at the Lecture Hall with large-scale paintings by Karl Horst Hödicke, a pioneer of German neo-expressionism and a representative of the New Figuration, depicting Berlin in the decades before and after the fall of the wall.
What is the significance of writing about film, whether in print or online, to the constitution of artistic communities today? Taking Film Culture, the cult publication on avant-garde cinema, founded by Jonas and Adolfas Mekas in 1954, as the central point of reference, Edit Film Culture! curates a multi-faceted programme housed at silent green Kulturquartier. The historic space of the former Wedding crematorium will be activated by an independent yet correlated sequences of talks, screenings, exhibitions and installations. On this occasion a temporary library will be set up, making 79 issues of the magazine available first-hand, with special focus on the 80th issue honouring and bringing to light the fascinating and pioneering figure of feminist filmmaker Barbara Rubin. Drawing on the relevance and legacy of Film Culture as a key source for measuring the pulse of the American avant-garde film, there will be talks by scholars and filmmakers, investigating the historical and social context of its production. A film series at Kino Arsenal will highlight a diversity of artistic approaches to filmmaking associated with the magazine.
A monumental, 50-meter-long and 2.5-meter-high artwork sweeps along the Städel Garden in Frankfurt. The colossal outdoor sculpture was developed by Düsseldorf-based artist Manuel Franke for the freely accessible garden of the Städel Museum. The Städel Garden will receive a new, physically tangible border through this expansive gesture. Half sculpture and half painting, Colormaster F opposes a curved membrane in bright monochrome colors, delicately inclining over the grassy area that is encircled on three sides by buildings. As an insurmountable obstacle, Franke’s object obscures the usual view, but makes the lawn hill tangible in a completely new way. Colormaster F not only changes the garden in its spatial constellation, but also creates another, additional space within the garden, which is both open and closed. In addition, the artwork invites visitors to play, explore and drift, allowing them to take part in a completely new and interactive experience at the revived Städel Garden. Manuel Franke’s questions always deal with the limits of art and society. In his artistic practice, he frequently performs interventions in space that oscillate between sculpture, installation and image. In doing so, he always works in a site-specific way, incorporating the architectural and urban structures of the environment into his work as well as the political, historical and social context. Consequently, the architecture of the Städel Garden and the Städel Museum become an integral part of Colormaster F, with the sculpture playfully correlating to its architectonic counterpart.
By recognizing the movers and shakers of the creative landscape, Swiss Art Awards exhibition provides a representative overview and unique insight into contemporary art and architecture in Switzerland. A definitive index for art professionals and art lovers alike, Swiss Art Awards will honour 11 winners, while the laureates of this year’s Swiss Grand Award for Art / Prix Meret Oppenheim are the artists Sylvie Fleury and Thomas Hirschhorn, and influential architect Luigi Snozzi. During the course of the exhibition, regular performances and workshops will be held.
The Swiss art book fair I Never Read focus on the publication programs of around one hundred national and international, institutional and independent publishers, artists, and designers. The fair is committed to being a platform that facilitates connections between text, contemporary art production, artistic presentation, and the form of the book. This year’s thematic focus lies on book collections as well as the development of and various types of libraries. A process of reflection first turns an accumulation of things into a proper collection. The tasks of collecting, sorting, and transferring are among the working methods of the artist. In contrast, the tasks of collecting, editing, and distributing are among the working methods of the publisher. In the realization of an art publication or artist book, these functions are often interconnected. The importance of public and private libraries—whether physical or digital—is again playing a larger role in the debate surrounding a post-digital age. The amount of information and content that is being processed has neither diminished nor dissolved. On the contrary, consciously collecting is an expression of individualism, and it remains an important aspect of determining one’s own position.
Laszlo Glozer Analoges Paradies, photos by Malte Wandel, 2018
Outdoor pool season at Sommerbad Humboldthain kicks off with a varied artistic program, inviting you to combats the laziness of summer heat by tucking into a refreshing cultural calendar. Initiated by Nele Heinevetter in 2017, TROPEZ is a kiosk and platform for young international art that invites outstanding Berlin-based and international fine and performing artists, musicians, authors and curators to realize artworks for this unique setting. This year’s summer exhibition VOYAGE unfolds as a series of journeys to far-away and virtual places through sculptures, installations, computer games, video and sound pieces created at the intersection of poetry, technology, politics as well as fine and performing arts. Discover publishing house Broken Dimanche Press, curatorial collective for electronic music and queer content Creamcake, art magazine Starship, and art space Bob’s Pogo Bar among the boundary-pushing live events, bringing electronic music, contemporary literature, and film to Sommerbad Humboldthain. Find the comprehensive programme from June to September here.
Gallery Weekend Berlin is back with some 47 participating galleries, putting their best foot forward, and presenting emerging and established artists throughout the city. Berlin becomes a magnet for international collectors, curators and museum professionals, affording its visitors room to explore and discover new art across its districts. Not dictated by the fast pace of art fairs but having time to view large-scale gallery exhibitions, is very much in line with Berlin as a city of artists. Over decades many have flocked here to explore their creative outlook and this year’s special focus is on artists living in Berlin, who have helped shape the city as an art metropolis.
Late at night, emerging from the cavernous studio on 46 rue Hippolyte-Maindron, a lonesome figure would inhabit the streets of postwar Paris. In this famously chaotic space, consumed by inner doubts and obsessions, Alberto Giacometti worked relentlessly, with feverish urge to forge a new human; walking away from the rubble of destruction. In London, on the other side of Channel, the younger artist Francis Bacon admired Giacometti from afar, fascinated by the famous sculptor’s aura of intensity and compulsion. In the following years the two went to develop a personal relationship punctuated by both friendship and rivalry. The artist Isabel Rawsthorne was one such connection, a close friend, muse and model to both artists, whose stark portraits feature on several works on display. Special focus, at this exhibition at Fondation Beyeler, is given to investigating their distinct isolation of space; subjects enclosed by means of cage-like entities, foregrounded in key works such as Giacometti’s La Cage (1949-1950) and Bacon’s Study ofa Nude (1952). Like Giacometti, Bacon’s arrival to the ‘truth of his subject’ was rooted in failure and frequent moments of crisis; the artistic act an outcome of frenzied and conflicting struggle between artist and his creation. Beyond their obvious differences in terms of style and iconography, both absorbed so much of l’air du temps through which they lived, rendered in the immediacy and emotional charge of their work. Encompassing circa 100 works and numerous original plaster figures from Giacometti that have never been seen before, the exhibition seeks to untangle the complex layers of their relationship. Formulated across four main thematic sections, it reveals new strands of thought connecting the two masters of modern art.
Certain works of art are important historically but no longer offer us experiential quality. Louise Bourgeois, whose life spanned nearly the entire 20th century, used art as a way of understanding herself, inventing a distinctive visual world containing raw self-expression and emotion. Much like the maze-like structures of her famous Cells, which she invoked as visual expressions of memory, her mind was a complex puzzle. Schinkel Pavillon invites us to enter the last two decades of her life, through focussed selection of works in diverse media featuring the sack form. They first appeared in her writings and later sculptures, as empty and hollow structures, which she often confined with other personal objects inside the intensely psychological space of Cells. Spanning the entire octagonal room of Schinkel Pavillon the visitors encounter Peaux des lapins, chiffons ferrailles à vendre (2006), one of her largest Cells. Where surrealists focused on the more fantastic elements of the subconscious, Bourgeois played with more subtle ideas of the uncanny. Like other remarkable sculptures she created using fabrics, the sacks are made of delicate chiffon in various tones of pink, pushing the borders between seduction and repulsion. Inside her highly symbolic microcosm their incomplete anthropomorphic form suggests a dysfunctional architectural unit, an empty house, or an infertile woman’s body.