Georg Baselitz: “Only in Art is the World Whole.”

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THE SPECTATOR – LONDON

Upside down and right on top: the power of George Baselitz

The British Museum’s immaculately presented ‘Germany Divided’ shows the strength of its headline act. Plus two more German shows – Renaissance Impressions at the Royal Academy and Strange Beauty at the National Gallery

‘Hercules Killing Cacus’, 1588, by Hendrik Goltzius

‘Hercules Killing Cacus’, 1588, by Hendrik Goltzius

Germany Divided: Baselitz and His Generation

British Museum, until 31 August

Renaissance Impressions: Chiaroscuro Woodcuts

Royal Academy, until 8 June

Strange Beauty: Masters of the German Renaissance

National Gallery, until 11 May

It’s German Season in London, and revealingly the best of three new shows is the one dealing with the most modern period: the post-second world war era of East and West Germany and the potent art that came out of that split nation. In Room 90 is another immaculately presented British Museum show of prints and drawings, focused this time around Georg Baselitz (born 1938). Of the 90 works on display, more than a third has been donated to the BM by Count Christian Duerckheim, the remainder lent by this assiduous collector.

The show begins with Baselitz’s contemporaries and I was surprised to find myself quite liking some things by Gerhard Richter, currently the most overrated artist in the world. Not his traced-from-photos Pop Art drawings but four watercolours, his first in the medium, together with his smudgy graphite drawings of a hotel and pedal-boat riders. A flat cabinet of Sigmar Polke’s drawings comes as light relief and a series of blue watercolours by A.R. Penck is more expressionist and direct than his usual cybernetic stick-figure language. Marcus Lüpertz comes across strongest here, with savage drawings of helmet heads and a richly structured gouache entitled ‘Monument — dithyrambic’ (1976), slightly reminiscent of John Walker. This is art with real bite.

On this showing, the only good thing about Blinky Palermo is his name, but the star of the show is Baselitz, who is given the whole of the second half of this large gallery. Whatever you think of his characteristic upside-down imagery (which he initiated in 1969, conceiving, composing and executing his work thus thereafter), his best work is deeply affecting and often uncomfortable. Baselitz was inspired by Renaissance chiaroscuro woodcuts, which he began to collect and emulate, and various of these — by Urs Graf, Ugo da Carpi and Hendrik Goltzius — are exhibited beside his own efforts. These are certainly worth studying but of greater import are the more abstract images, the eagles and upside-down landscapes from the Sixties and Seventies. A show to savour.

In the RA’s Sackler Wing are more of the chiaroscuro woodcuts that exerted such a powerful influence over Baselitz, including a number from his own collection, augmented by works from the Albertina Museum in Vienna. More than 100 prints are on display in what is a valuable, if rather dry, exhibition. Anyone interested in technique will find it fascinating, but for the non-specialist the variants and repetitions may become tedious. A film of the painter and printmaker Stephen Chambers (born 1960) making a contemporary chiaroscuro woodcut helps to explain the technique in very practical terms, and this is shown in a booth off the first room of the exhibition. Essentially, this revolutionary but short-lived technique of 16th-century colour printing is all about modelling through the interplay of light and dark, with unprinted areas of the paper used for highlights.

‘Man on a Tree Downwards’, 1968/69, by Georg Baselitz
Ein neuer Typ (‘A New Type’) by Georg Baselitz, 1965 

The exhibition has been thoughtfully designed with prints in the first and last rooms hung both on the wall and displayed on angled tables beneath, affording easy access for study. Here are woodcuts by Cranach and Hans Baldung Grien, as well as Hans Burgkmair and Hans Wechtlin. I particularly liked Cranach’s ‘St Christopher’ and Dürer’s ‘Rhinoceros’. Famous paintings are reprised, such as Raphael’s ‘Miraculous Draught of Fishes’, done in red by Ugo da Carpi. (The same artist’s ‘Nymphs Bathing’, after Parmigianino, is rather beguiling.) The print is a cheap way of disseminating sculpture as well as paintings: see the Giambologna versions of Andrea Andreani. There is a lot I didn’t respond to, but among my favourites are the two architectural woodcuts by Erasmus Loy, the landscapes by Hendrik Goltzius, and Beccafumi’s ‘Group of Men and Women’, an engraving with woodcut tone.

I’m all in favour of showing familiar paintings in new contexts to enable us to look at them afresh, but the current show in the Sainsbury Wing charges a hefty admission fee for an exhibition of works drawn mostly from the National Gallery’s own collection. Admittedly, it is beefed up by a number of loans from the V&A, the British Museum and other owners, but these are almost entirely works on paper. The public is actually being asked to pay to see works that are usually on display for free. Nevertheless, on the day I visited there was a pretty good attendance at the show. Perhaps this is because the NG is so mobbed by crowds these days, to pay for the privilege is the only way to see pictures in relative peace.

The thinking behind the show questions accepted notions of beauty in historical and contemporary terms, and the patterns of taste that dictated the NG’s own collecting. Much has been made of the reconstruction of the Liesborn altarpiece (c.1470), for instance, yet all we are shown here are the panels the NG owns and some poor photos of the other panels, which are scattered through the world’s museums. Better, if you do decide to visit this show, to trawl for great paintings and not worry about themes or curators’ justifications. There are plenty of wonderful pictures here, from the oddly dramatic Paulus Potter cattle in the first room to everything by Hans Baldung Grien (especially ‘Portrait of a Man’, 1514), the Holbeins, the Altdorfer landscapes, all the Cranachs, and of course the Dürers, but most particularly ‘St Jerome’ (c.1496). There is no catalogue, but the NG has published a handy little paperback (at £9.99), crisply written by Caroline Bugler, on the German Paintings in the National Gallery. But, however much I love and support the NG, the recent habit of charging for exhibitions largely drawn from the permanent collection is undeniably a diabolical liberty.

Meanwhile, Sotheby’s is selling a superb collection of 15 paintings by L.S. Lowry (1887–1976), assembled by A.J. Thompson over a 30-year period and sold now after their owner’s death last year. Subjects include a beautiful small painting of Peel Park in Salford, the trees and areas of grass reminiscent of Mark Gertler’s early landscapes, and two vivid renditions of Piccadilly Circus. There are plenty of hurrying figures and mill buildings (‘After the Fire’ is a particularly fine if bleak example), and the tall chimneys Lowry loved. The sophistication of this supposedly artless painter is everywhere apparent: viewing daily (except Saturday) until the sale on 25 March at 6 p.m.

This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated

 ABSTRACT CRITICAL
13 March 2014

Baselitz – Farewell Bill

Written by Dan Coombs

Willem raucht nicht mehr, 2013, Oil on canvas, 118 1/8 x 108 1/4 inches / 300 x 275 cm (unframed), © Georg Baselitz. Photo Jochen Littkemann. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

Originating in inarticulacy and failure and pushing themselves to the brink of collapse, the heroic gestures in Baselitz’s paintings become an absurdity. In their intermingling of creativity and destruction his paintings appear a big joke at the expense of positivistic ideals. With his new paintings at Gagosian, he tries to burst his own bubble with a series of mock-heroic, upside-down monumental self-portraits, that depict his head, topped (or rather, bottomed) by a white baseball cap emblazoned with the word ZERO – apparently the brand name of his paint manufacturer. His recent “remix” style resembles giant versions of pen, ink or watercolour, the drawing delineated in filigrees of broken, Pollock-like black inky lines, the colour sploshed in with the abandon of a monstrous toddler. Both the philistines and the formalists are right – the painting is absurdly incompetent yet highly sophisticated and nuanced. The repetition and emptying out of established motifs allows Baselitz to approach the formalist condition, the illusion of art created out of nothing, emptied of meaning and being about nothing but itself. He seems to be going for a kind of pure painting, but even in such a hallowed place a nauseating sense of chaos pervades even the most decorative elements.

Untitled, 2013, India ink and watercolor on paper, 26 x 19 13/16 inches / 66.1 x 50.3 cm (unframed) © Georg Baselitz. Photo Jochen Littkemann. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

The show is entitled Farewell Bill in homage to Willem de Kooning, who Baselitz describes as a “mentor”. Baselitz was held largely in contempt by the international art world until 1981 when Norman Rosenthal hung Baselitz opposite de Kooning in “The New Spirit in Painting” show at the Royal Academy. Baselitz is an obvious correlative with de Kooning as de Kooning was responsible for extending the force of the gesture in post-war painting. Drawing on the work of Soutine, de Kooning found a way to hook up bodily energy to a Picassoid cubist structure, that extended the dynamic of gesture beyond anything in European painting. As gestures became more distant from the composed armature the overall structure seemed to melt. De Kooning talked about “slipping glimpses” as though little figurative references were woven into his compositions. There is a significant difference between de Kooning’s gestures and Baselitz’s. De Kooning’s fluid strokes always seem to turn on some spatial illusion, as though the edges of his marks define bodies and nature. Baselitz’s strokes are anti-illusionistic and his gestures function more like a form of carving; he treats his canvases as opaque fields that the figure has to be separated from, rather like a sculptor who removes the excess wood to reveal the figure inside.

Baselitz’s paintings are of a piece with his sculpture, and in many ways his work has moved forward through a dialogue between the two mediums, as though he is painting sculpture and sculpting paintings. Much is revealed about Baselitz’s approach to painting through his sculpture. In the eighties he really cracked open the language and found his own space as a sculptor by employing a chainsaw to carve wood. Often the brutal speed of the process gives way to a poignant delicacy, a good example being Dresdner Frauen / Women of Dresden,1989.The cuts of the chainsaw travel across the concave faces of the women with a subtlety analogous to actual facial expressions, though they seem frozen, stoical and scarred. Baselitz’s sculptures can be remarkably abrupt. Joseph Beuys thought his contribution to the 1981 Venice Biennale, Modell fur eine Skulptur / Model for a Sculpture, 1979 -1980, was not even worthy of a first year art student. Beuys may have been embarrassed by the image – a stranded pathetic seig-heiling golem whose lower half is still encased in its block of wood. Animating the surface of the sculptures with paint, the sculptures epitomise the tragi-comic; ludicrously awkward, abrasively physical and focusing solely on conditions of human failure , but with an animating spark that has translated recently into sculptural figures that are funnier than Jeff Koons. Koons’s art is a solemn affair compared to a work like Volk Ding Zero or Dunklung Nachtung Amung Ding (both 2009) or the earlier Meine neue Mütze / My New Cap, 2003. These monumental carved figures wear white caps, blue shorts and chunky shoes. The recent sculptures are absurd and hilarious and yawping, though there is the sense of him teetering over the abyss, fighting the urge to throw himself in.

Licht wil raum mecht hern, 2013, Oil on canvas, 118 1/8 x 108 1/4 inches / 300 x 275 cm (unframed), © Georg Baselitz. Photo Jochen Littkemann. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

It seems that he’s only achieved such energetic fluency in both painting and sculpture by tying himself to the things that consciousness would normally shove aside. His achievement is shadowed by the abject realities he has had to tie himself to. Baselitz is an artist who cannot avert his eyes. He forces himself to look when he wants to turn away, perhaps a way of dealing with the scenes of terror he must have witnessed as a boy when his family, like thousands of others, had to flee the Russian army who were closing in on the apocalyptic landscape of bombed-out Dresden.

Baselitz grew up in the ground zero of post war Germany, and from the get-go the demons refused to loosen their grip on his psyche. Rotting foetal dumplings , masturbating dwarves, hideously sprouting genitalia, the creatures of his early work exist within a dead black vacuum whose claustrophobic emptiness is matched only by David Lynch’s 1977 film Eraserhead. Later on he created the Heroes, with their action man heads and ridiculously encrusted leiderhosen – they seem to want to topple out of the painting, squashing the viewer. Baselitz through the late sixties pushed his paintings towards greater crudity, greater flatness. Even here he intuits that he has to push against pictorial illusion, toward the actual condition of the paintings’ flatness, not for aesthetic effect but to concretise the motif. The idea of painting images upside down came in 1969, a marvelously blunt rejection of pictorial coherence, like a rejection of rationality itself. The idea is absurd, and seemingly doomed to failure, yet he set about trying to master the idiom with initially quite realistic images, almost from the life room, of himself, his friends and family.

Untitled, 2013, Pen and ink, watercolor and ink on paper, 26 x 20 3/16 inches / 66.1 x 51.2 cm (unframed) © Georg Baselitz. Photo Jochen Littkemann. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

Turning images upside down makes them appear more complicated than they actually are. So for Baselitz, painting the motif upside down forces a greater simplicity and directness in order to compensate for what would normally induce a physical and perceptual confusion. In the eighties, the figures of his paintings, such as the terrifying Nachtessen in Dresden  / Supper in Dresden, 1983, which communicates directly the moment of a bomb’s impact – are pushed up against the surface of the painting, like creatures trapped beneath ice or frozen within the tableau of a medieval frieze. Baselitz dredges up motifs from Catholic Medieval Art, from Munch, from mannerism in a nightmarish mash-up of the human condition. Yet by the end of the decade, the space of his work has opened up even more, achieving even greater actuality- he starts to work on the floor, and the motifs no longer seem to have one particular orientation. Almost like a performative version of cubism, Baselitz is able to come at the painting from any angle, he can stomp and dance in his paint spattered trainers across the painting’s surface and paint his pictures by walking on them.His images from this period seem to want to stay close to the earth, like the squawking riot that is Where is the Yellow Milkjug Mrs Bird?, 1989, or Folkdance (Melancholia), 1989. These are pictures that barely want to rise above the earth, and one can feel the ground pressing through their surfaces. They were part of a highly memorable exhibition at Anthony D’Offay gallery in 1990, which still seems like a pinnacle of Baselitz’s career. It’s hard to define what makes the works from this period so special. They do not reach for the sublime, like a lot of American painting – they point in another direction, downwards. Even the folkdance which seems to take place on a blue sky is rooted to the floor. They seem not so much to create space as to give painting its own sense of place, measured by the foot.

Raum licht wiln echt mehr, 2013, Oil on canvas, 118 1/8 x 108 1/4 inches / 300 x 275 cm (unframed), © Georg Baselitz. Photo Jochen Littkemann. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

The recent paintings at Gagosian are, in keeping with the “remix” style, much lighter than earlier work. Baselitz likes to leave a lot of the canvas empty and draws on it as though its paper. In some ways it’s very appealing that Baselitz has lightened up so much but the paintings are still operating as they always did. Gesture’s function is to carve and separate the figure from its ground, and even here, where the figure seems on the brink of dissolution, colour function to pull the form forward out of the canvas towards us. One painting has dissolved entirely back into an all-over dirty white ground, but the other paintings seem to leer or wince or laugh or cry out at us. Where Baselitz’s art seems grounded is within matter itself. The paintings operate by holding pictorial space in tension with materiality, but always allowing material to threaten to overwhelm any coherence. The pictures themselves embody the self in the process of dissolving back in to matter. This acceptance of the inevitable downward pull of matter generates, in opposition, an exhilarating burst of gestural energy. Each painting is the result of a clash of these dramatically opposing forces, one that takes place in real space.

Farewell Bill is on at Gagosian, Britannia Street until the 29th of March

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Georg Baselitz “The Dark Side” at Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris

October 25~2013

Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac presents, in the Paris Pantin exhibition space inaugurated in October 2012, a comprehensive exhibition with new monumental sculptures and paintings by the German artist Georg Baselitz.

“What is Germany, really, in regard to traditional sculpture?” In a recent interview, Baselitz looked back to questions he asked himself in the 1970s: “The last thing I could think of in the way of pleasing or characteristic German sculpture after the Gothic period was the group Die Brücke, including Schmidt- Rottluff, Kirchner and Lehmbruck. When I finally arrived at this idea, I took a piece of wood and started work” (Georg Baselitz, 2011).

Baselitz’s first sculpture was shown in the German Pavilion at the 1980 Venice Biennale. Since then he has made only a few.

After Edgar Degas and Paul Gauguin, artists such as Umberto Boccioni, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Max Ernst chose a readily malleable material when they had reached the limits of painting. Baselitz stands in this tradition of painters who leave their medium. He finds sculpture “a shorter way than painting”, to tackle certain problems; it is “more primitive, brutal, not as reserved […] as painting can sometimes be”, and “less cryptic than pictures, far more direct, more legible” (Georg Baselitz, 1983). Besides this recourse to Expressionist sculpture, an important field of reference for Baselitz’s sculpture is the fundamental nature of African sculpture, where specific basic types have been developed over a long period.

Baselitz works exclusively with wood, negating both the idea of doing justice to the material and that of the stuffy, conservative reputation of wood sculpture. “Any appealing form [..] any arty- crafty elegance or deliberate construction is taboo” (Georg Baselitz, 1987). With great physical effort, he hacks, stabs and saws the block of wood, taking no account of the grain. “For a sculpture to take shape, the wood has to be forcibly opened” (Uwe Schneede, 1993).

For the past ten years, Baselitz has cast limited editions of his wood sculptures in bronze at the long-established Hermann Noack fine art foundry in Berlin. Here the finest details of the sculpted wood are reproduced and burnished in black by the artist. On Baselitz’s black, unreflective surfaces, John-Paul Stonard remarks in his exhibition catalogue essay: “They betray the light absorbing wood from which they were originally carved; memory falls into them, rather than drama out of them.”

Georg Baselitz’s new bronzes include Sing Sang Zero, a standing couple with arms interlinked, and three fetishistic sculptures – Marokkaner, Yellow Song, Louise Fuller – showing a humanoid figure enclosed in rings. Louise Fuller is a gentle parody of the American dancer famous for her act with veils.

The monumental BDM Gruppe revives his childhood memories of three parading girls in his native town of Deutschbaselitz. John-Paul Stonard writes: “These village beauties […] could not be further from the Three Graces of antiquity, shown most famously in smooth white marble by Canova, or with classical restraint by Raphael. So much has been lost or transfigured. What has survived, from a memory that must have been filtered a thousand times, is the motif of the linked arms. Not hands held, but arms linked; a rare motif in the history of art.”

In the past months Baselitz has been working on a new series titled Black Paintings. After Blackout (2009) and The Negative (2012), the series in black would seem to be a logical step. Expressive representations of birds and human figures may be discerned in these pictures, though the shades Baselitz uses render them almost invisible. The figuration is revealed more through the highly structured surface of the heavy layers of black, dark blue and brown. In his essay for the exhibition catalogue, Michael Semff writes: “The artist surprises us with a radically new pictorial concept which, in almost minimalist reduction, aims to eliminate all visible contrasts. […] Time seems to have stopped here – not in the sense of standstill, but of exhaustion, calming ‘after the battle’.” Semff points out that twenty years before he created these Black Paintings, Baselitz already described his approach to painting, which still holds today: “I try to work without experience, without training, in a way I myself don’t know. I don’t want continuity … I set great store by waking sleep.” For his new series, shown in Pantin for the first time, Baselitz goes beyond this idea, confessing: “I dream of painting an invisible picture”.

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at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris

until 31 October 2013

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Above – Louise Fuller, 2013

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Yellow Song, 2013

BDM Gruppe, 2012

Flunkler Deck, 2013

Feite dunzkeleit, 2013

Rikschornfabstein, 2013

Georg Baselitz “The Dark Side” installation view at Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris.

Courtesy: Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris/Salzburg. Photo: Charles Duprat; Jochen Littkemann.

   

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Sep 11, 2013

The Dark Side

The Dark Side

‘Le Côté Sombre’ (‘The Dark Side’) brings together Georg Baselitz’s latest painting and sculpture at Thaddaeus Ropac’s sprawling new space in Pantin, a couple of miles north east of Paris.The monumental sculptures, cast in bronze after wood carvings, are less violent than Baselitz’s previous works. His signature axe and chainsaw cuts are not softened – the rough surfaces reveal the creative process of angular hacking and gauging. But their black patina gives them a slick gloss, which befits their modish surroundings.BDM Gruppe is the most striking sculpture of the new series, three black faceless figures, androgynous but for some crudely sculpted high-heeled shoes. The inspiration (and title) come from Baselitz’s childhood memories of the parading Bund Deutscher Mädel, the girls’ section of the Hitler-Jugend (Hitler Youth), in his village of Deutschbaselitz, Saxony. As with much of his work, the grim spectre of Germany’s recent history is ever present. Baselitz’s primitive technique is testament to his roots, drawing on Volkskunst of Saxony, as well as art brut and African sculpture from his own private collection.The same sculpture was recently on display in the John Madejski Garden of the Victoria and Albert Museum and comparisons drawn with Antonio Canova’s Three Graces. BDM Gruppe is The Three Graces in negative. We recognise the three standing figures with arms intertwined, but instead of the graceful, smooth white marble of Canova’s sculpture, they are clunky, jet black textured giants.The idea of the negative, the inverted, is shot through Baselitz’s oeuvre since he first produced an upside-down canvas in 1969. In his new series, Black Paintings, the idea of the negative translates into the desire for an entirely black canvas: Baselitz claims to ‘dream of painting an invisible picture’.

The Dark Side

Black Paintings give us more than opacity. In some, colour is mixed into the black, which might recall a child’s experiment to see what colour you get when you mix all the colours together (answer: blackish). In certain lights the form of an eagle emerges, perhaps turned upside down, perhaps nose-diving into gloom. The contrast between eagle and surroundings is an almost imperceptible change of texture, a glossy shape emerging from a matt canvas of broad, sweeping strokes. In places, touches and streaks of white pierce the canvas. Between figurative and abstract, the paintings are reduced to subtle shifts in colour and texture. They are sombre, but meditative rather than anguished.

September’s first wave of vernissages in Paris revealed the traditional slew of medium sized oeuvres packed into small white cubes. Baselitz’s new works would not fit through the door. But in Ropac’s new, 2000 square-metre space they are strangely diminished, dwarfed by the new trend for über-galleries on the city peripheries, designed to showcase large-scale trophy art.

‘Georg Baselitz: The Dark Side’ is at the Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac: Paris Pantin until 31 October 2013.

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Q&A wtih GEORG BASELITZ : Portrait of an Artist Still Trying to Grow

October 14, 1995|KRISTINE McKENNA | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The exhibition of work by Georg Baselitz opening Sunday at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art offers Angelenos a comprehensive look at one of the most influential artists to emerge from post World War II Germany.

Best known, perhaps, for making paintings with images that appear upside down–a strategy he began using in 1969 to drain objects of their meaning and transform them into shapes–Baselitz has hammered out a consistently experimental and distinctive melding of abstraction and figuration. The show, which comes here from New York’s Guggenheim Museum, draws from 30 years of Baselitz’s career.

Interviewing the 57-year-old artist through a translator in one of the LACMA galleries where his work is hung, one encounters a beautifully dressed man who’s remarkably amiable considering that he just completed a long plane ride that left him with a severe headache. An in-depth conversation about various brands of aspirin preceded the following discussion of his work.

Question: In a recent interview you made a point of identifying yourself as a specifically German artist. What about your sensibility is recognizably German?

Answer: For years people said that about me, so I finally thought about it and realized it’s true. With artists there really are differences that have to do with nationality and I am German–I have no sense of myself as a citizen of the world.

Q: How did growing up in the shadow of World War II shape your sensibility?

A: I was 7 years old when the war ended, so my childhood took place in a climate of fear. The primary thing then was survival–how do you get some soup? Now that I’m older, I’m beginning to look at the larger implications of that war–and Germany itself finally seems ready to address its past. The German people feel great shame about the war, and as to whether that wound of shame will ever heal, I think what will happen is that it will be replaced. Events in the world and another peoples’ shame will supersede it. The human race seems to be evolving in not a good direction.

Q: What drove you as a young artist that no longer seems so important?

A: Early on, I felt it necessary to be explicit, crass and dramatic in trying to make clear what I wanted to do. I was also intent on rejecting the dominant styles of that period–Social Realism and Abstract Expressionism–but that’s part of the coming-of-age of every young artist. In this kind of rejection you make mistakes, but you must make them to find your freedom. I no longer feel required to work that way, and my work is less and less a reaction to the outside and to what other artists are doing. Rather, I find myself looking to my own past, repeating, correcting, deepening. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to wander through my past, and I find myself developing a more responsible attitude toward my work. I want to work more consciously.

Q: The American art world has an image of you as something of an aristocrat. How do you feel about that?

A: Me? An aristocrat? I don’t understand that at all because in Germany I’m a farmer! During the war my father had to go through the family records in order to prove his lineage to the Nazis, and believe me, there were no aristocrats in the family. My ancestors were all middle-class, bourgeoise priests and teachers.

Q: You’re not an aristocrat, yet you live in a castle with 120 rooms?

A: Well, that’s what is available in Germany. Nobody really wants to live in them, so artists often end up with them.

Q: In the catalogue for this show, when you discuss artists you consider your peers, writers you admire and artists who’ve influenced you, you don’t mention a single woman. Even all your dealers are men. Do you consider yourself a sexist?

A: If you have a specific example, I can respond–actually, I have a very good example. When I was a student I saw work by an artist named Joan Mitchell and I loved him a lot. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered Mitchell was a woman–and I thought nevertheless, the work is good!

Q: How old were you when you began to have a sense of yourself as an artist?

A: Fourteen. My parents were both teachers and my father spoke several languages, so I was raised in a fairly intellectual environment. In Germany, when you turn 14, you must decide whether to go to a trade school or go on to university, and it was then I decided to be a painter.

Another change took place then too. My uncle was a priest and I was raised a Protestant. As a child there’s no way to reflect on what you’re being taught because it’s all you know. But at 14 I began to wrestle with the question: Should I run away from the church, or should I embrace it? I found the milieu of the church frightening, and so I escaped. Another problem was that I don’t believe in God.

Q: In a recent interview you made the comment: “I don’t understand Christian paintings–people flying around in fairy-tale clothes. I don’t know what it means and it has no importance for me.” Why have millions of people over several centuries chosen to embrace this belief system?

A: There are powerful religions, and there are less powerful religions that fail. There is a conflict between Germans–particularly Germans north of the Alps–and Christianity because Germanic folklore revolves around pagan things that emanate from under the earth. In Christianity, things come from above. I’ve always felt that if there really is such a thing as freedom–which is what people are looking for in religion–that it won’t come from the sky. I believe it will come from the earth, and that is where my work is rooted.

Of course, every imperial religion has denounced the pagans because they had other gods, and unfortunately, the pagans disappeared and everyone became Christian. But this is where artists come in–they bring all things of the past to light again. Every artist functions as a medium, and it’s not something they’re in control of because it’s too valuable and sensitive to be controlled.

* Georg Baselitz’s paintings will be on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Sunday through Jan. 7. (213) 857-6000.

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Georg Baselitz “The Dark Side” at Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris

October 25~2013

Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac presents, in the Paris Pantin exhibition space inaugurated in October 2012, a comprehensive exhibition with new monumental sculptures and paintings by the German artist Georg Baselitz.

“What is Germany, really, in regard to traditional sculpture?” In a recent interview, Baselitz looked back to questions he asked himself in the 1970s: “The last thing I could think of in the way of pleasing or characteristic German sculpture after the Gothic period was the group Die Brücke, including Schmidt- Rottluff, Kirchner and Lehmbruck. When I finally arrived at this idea, I took a piece of wood and started work” (Georg Baselitz, 2011).

Baselitz’s first sculpture was shown in the German Pavilion at the 1980 Venice Biennale. Since then he has made only a few.

After Edgar Degas and Paul Gauguin, artists such as Umberto Boccioni, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Max Ernst chose a readily malleable material when they had reached the limits of painting. Baselitz stands in this tradition of painters who leave their medium. He finds sculpture “a shorter way than painting”, to tackle certain problems; it is “more primitive, brutal, not as reserved […] as painting can sometimes be”, and “less cryptic than pictures, far more direct, more legible” (Georg Baselitz, 1983). Besides this recourse to Expressionist sculpture, an important field of reference for Baselitz’s sculpture is the fundamental nature of African sculpture, where specific basic types have been developed over a long period.

Baselitz works exclusively with wood, negating both the idea of doing justice to the material and that of the stuffy, conservative reputation of wood sculpture. “Any appealing form [..] any arty- crafty elegance or deliberate construction is taboo” (Georg Baselitz, 1987). With great physical effort, he hacks, stabs and saws the block of wood, taking no account of the grain. “For a sculpture to take shape, the wood has to be forcibly opened” (Uwe Schneede, 1993).

For the past ten years, Baselitz has cast limited editions of his wood sculptures in bronze at the long-established Hermann Noack fine art foundry in Berlin. Here the finest details of the sculpted wood are reproduced and burnished in black by the artist. On Baselitz’s black, unreflective surfaces, John-Paul Stonard remarks in his exhibition catalogue essay: “They betray the light absorbing wood from which they were originally carved; memory falls into them, rather than drama out of them.”

Georg Baselitz’s new bronzes include Sing Sang Zero, a standing couple with arms interlinked, and three fetishistic sculptures – Marokkaner, Yellow Song, Louise Fuller – showing a humanoid figure enclosed in rings. Louise Fuller is a gentle parody of the American dancer famous for her act with veils.

The monumental BDM Gruppe revives his childhood memories of three parading girls in his native town of Deutschbaselitz. John-Paul Stonard writes: “These village beauties […] could not be further from the Three Graces of antiquity, shown most famously in smooth white marble by Canova, or with classical restraint by Raphael. So much has been lost or transfigured. What has survived, from a memory that must have been filtered a thousand times, is the motif of the linked arms. Not hands held, but arms linked; a rare motif in the history of art.”

In the past months Baselitz has been working on a new series titled Black Paintings. After Blackout (2009) and The Negative (2012), the series in black would seem to be a logical step. Expressive representations of birds and human figures may be discerned in these pictures, though the shades Baselitz uses render them almost invisible. The figuration is revealed more through the highly structured surface of the heavy layers of black, dark blue and brown. In his essay for the exhibition catalogue, Michael Semff writes: “The artist surprises us with a radically new pictorial concept which, in almost minimalist reduction, aims to eliminate all visible contrasts. […] Time seems to have stopped here – not in the sense of standstill, but of exhaustion, calming ‘after the battle’.” Semff points out that twenty years before he created these Black Paintings, Baselitz already described his approach to painting, which still holds today: “I try to work without experience, without training, in a way I myself don’t know. I don’t want continuity … I set great store by waking sleep.” For his new series, shown in Pantin for the first time, Baselitz goes beyond this idea, confessing: “I dream of painting an invisible picture”.

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at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris

until 31 October 2013

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Above – Louise Fuller, 2013

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Yellow Song, 2013

BDM Gruppe, 2012

Flunkler Deck, 2013

Feite dunzkeleit, 2013

Rikschornfabstein, 2013

Georg Baselitz “The Dark Side” installation view at Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris.

Courtesy: Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris/Salzburg. Photo: Charles Duprat; Jochen Littkemann.

– See more at: http://moussemagazine.it/gbaselitz-thaddaeus-ropac/#sthash.FTKNWfe7.dpuf

https://accounts.google.com/o/oauth2/postmessageRelay?parent=http%3A%2F%2Fmoussemagazine.it#rpctoken=371513799&forcesecure=1 – See more at: http://moussemagazine.it/gbaselitz-thaddaeus-ropac/#sthash.FTKNWfe7.dpuf

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1995 interview

ART

New Again: Georg Baselitz

By Kenzi Abou-Sabe, Deborah Gimelson

Photography Richard J. Burbridge

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ABOVE: GEORG BASELITZ IN INTERVIEW, JUNE 1995. PORTRAIT BY RICHARD J. BURBRIDGE.

Georg Baselitz would like you to know that he embodies individualism. Rarely has another artist shirked categorization as surely and as vehemently as Baselitz. When we interviewed the German artist in June 1995, he was awaiting his very first retrospective exhibit on American soil at the Guggenheim. Now in his 70s, Baselitz hasn’t stopped creating, and his work has been exhibited in the US 105 times since then. Next week, on March 29th, Baselitz’s latest exhibition at the Gagosian in London will come to a close. Titled “Farewell Bill,” the show focuses on a series of upside-down, mirror-image, and perspective-jarring self-portraits, painted in bright strokes of color as homage to the late artist Willem de Kooning. The twin desires that Baselitz displayed to us in ’95—to be unpredictable and to shock—are clearly still at the forefront of his aesthetic ideology. Much of the chaos of Baselitz’s early paintings is still there, but they are both simpler and more complex in their characteristic distemper.—Kenzi Abou-Sabe
Raw Nerve Art
By Deborah Gimelson

As a German artist born during the time of Hitler’s Germany, Georg Baselitz has had to struggle with history itself to find his own way into history. He has taken the repression that came with the aftermath of the war and exploded it in his work. He is one of those artists who is essentially still unknown, even if his work is famous. The image of his work is imparted in the minds of all who have seen it, but the reasons for the work, and the man’s background, have not yet truly been discovered in this country. His retrospective, which just opened at the Guggenheim Museum, is one of the first real chances we’ve had in America to seriously discover what this tough, anxiety-producing art is really about. Here, in a two-part interview, an American art writer, Deborah Gimelson, takes on the heavyweight and finds out some of the answers and some of the mysteries.

Part One
Georg Baselitz seems almost too affable for a guy whose art—from eagles to men to dogs, much of it upside down—has torn through the fabric of traditional German painting and sculpture. His canvases and sculptures have managed to imprint their agitated, often tortured residue on the consciousness of contemporary art—a consciousness the artist is all too aware is not always accepting of his uncomfortable vision. His response to viewers finding his work ugly follows the line of reasoning he has adhered to from early in his career. If he is affecting someone so strongly and negatively, if they remember what they saw, says Baselitz, he must be doing something right.

After a successful, three-decade career on the Continent, Baselitz is having his first bona fide American retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, from May 26 through September 17. Although it appears to have taken a long time for a retrospective of his work to reach our shores, that is not the kind of problem that engages Baselitz, as he made clear in the interview that follows.

DEBORAH GIMELSON: I wish I spoke German, but I don’t. Can we try it in English, with translation, and see how it goes?

TRANSLATOR: Yes. O.K. [Editor’s Note: In the first part of this interview, conducted via telephone on March 22, the interpreter was Mr. Baselitz’s assistant, Detlev Gretenkort.]

GIMELSON: All right. Congratulations on the upcoming retrospective at the Guggenheim. You’ve had enormous success in Europe for many years, and I wonder why you think it took so long to have a show like this in America.

GEORG BASELITZ: I don’t have the feeling that it took such a long time.

GIMELSON: Even though we tend to give retrospectives to people in their thirties and forties in America?

BASELITZ: Lichtenstein was much older than I am when he got his first retrospective in Europe.

GIMELSON: [laughs] Uh-huh! O.K. What do you think the differences are between showing in Europe and showing in America?

BASELITZ: For me, America is a big unknown situation. I don’t see art as entertainment, so I don’t know exactly how to react.

GIMELSON: Because you don’t see art as entertainment? I don’t quite understand what you’re getting at. Do you think that American audiences view art as entertainment more than as art? Is that what you’re saying?

BASELITZ: Most of what comes from the States to Europe has something to do with entertainment. I can’t imagine artists in the United States having the same kind of isolated position that we have here in Europe. I have a feeling one lives more publically in the States.

GIMELSON: Hmmm. Anyway, I know you’re from Eastern Europe. I wonder what it meant to you to grow up in the postwar East. What kind of opportunities and what kind of obstacles were put in your path?

BASELITZ: When the war ended in 1945, the place that had been our home, which had been in the center of Germany, became and still remains a part of the Czechoslovakian border and the Polish border. I was seven years old. I grew up in the Eastern Zone, which became the German Democratic Republic in 1949.

GIMELSON: I’m trying to get at what it was like for you. In America there is, and has been, a resistance to German art of your postwar generation. I’m not so sure that this resistance only has to do with the idea of Nazism, which was happening while you were growing up. I think it also has a lot to do with the fact that certain kinds of art have been associated with fascism—for example, expressionism. You’ve been referred to as the greatest living neo-expressionist. How do you react to being called that?

BASELITZ: I became an artist because of the possibility it gave me to develop in another way, because I didn’t want to follow the same lines the others around me did. I was educated in the former German Democratic Republic, which meant that an individual figure had to be… like a soldier in the army, you know?

GIMELSON: Part of the bigger picture.

BASELITZ: Yes, part of the bigger picture. First, they tried for about a year to make me understand that I had to make a contribution to this system. Then after a year, they found out that I was too crazy for such things, and they dropped me out of school. [Gimelson laughs] So that was how I started at the Academy [of Fine and Applied Art] in East Berlin. Then I went to West Berlin and continued to study there.

GIMELSON: When did you go to West Berlin?

BASELITZ: That was in 1957. And there I found out that Germany is a kind of province. I didn’t know anything about expressionism, about the Bauhaus and Dada and surrealism. I was uneducated, so to speak—and everybody else was more or less uneducated, too. At the art school [the Academy of Fine Arts] in West Berlin, the great influences were coming from Paris. Those kinds of people didn’t exist anymore in Germany, because they had all gone into exile. I got sort of interested in this French thing, but I soon found out that existentialism was not congruent with my thinking. Then, in 1958 at the art school, there was a great American exhibition. It was a very big exhibition that was organized by MoMA [the Museum of Modern Art], with all these paintings by Pollock, Motherwell, and Rothko.

GIMELSON: The abstract expressionists.

BASELITZ: Yes. It was travelling all through Europe. It was the biggest and most powerful exhibition I had seen so far, and immediately I found out that even what I saw at this exhibition didn’t work for me, because I didn’t want to be colonized. So I forced myself to think about where I come from, and what has meaning for me.

GIMELSON: At that point, who did you identify with as an artist?

BASELITZ: I did not always trust my teachers, because I found them too weak. I was looking for something that could take me in a new direction, for things that I could admire. And because it was so hard to find this, I became a sort of outsider. That’s why I began to identify with the insane, “outsider” artists.

GIMELSON: The outsider artists in Germany, you mean?

BASELITZ: Not only in Germany, everywhere.

GIMELSON: Who were some of these people, specifically? Did they have names, or were they anonymous?

BASELITZ: Many of them were known, like Carl Fredrik Hill and August Strindberg, for example, and many others. There is a book that was written by Hans Prinzhorn and published in 1923 called The Artistry of the Mentally Ill, where you can find some of them.

GIMELSON: Ummm, all this is very interesting, but I want to get back to the subject of being a young artist for a minute. Do you have any contact with younger artists who are coming up today?

BASELITZ: Yes, I’m a professor at the art school in Berlin.

GIMELSON: And do you find that many of the obstacles you confronted as a young artist are similar to those that these young artists have to deal with today?

BASELITZ: I have always been aware of different movements and directions in art. But, in general, I’m always bored by any kind of generalization when it comes to artists. I think that there are just single individuals, who are valuable, and they work outside of any group.

GIMELSON: You mean those who develop as great artists.

BASELITZ: Yes.

GIMELSON: In some circles you’re well-known as a collector of African art. I wonder how those images, or that primordial energy from them, filter into your work. Can you describe the transaction between the two things, your collecting and your own work, and why collecting is so important to you as an artist?

BASELITZ: I have always had the feeling that other people are too stupid to discover interesting things. That’s why I do it myself. I think of collecting as a way to show that I understand what’s important better than others do.

GIMELSON: How many pieces are in your collection?

BASELITZ: Oh, I have collected so many different things.

GIMELSON: I’m sure, and for many years, right?

BASELITZ: Yes. At first, I started collecting my artist friends, artists like myself who nobody had yet noticed. I believe that I was the first to collect the very early [A.R.] Penck paintings. In everything, all I am collecting, so to speak, are my friends—artist friends. Right now, I’m focusing on African sculptures more or less from the Congo area. I’m also collecting 16th-century prints from the Ecole de Fontainebleau. Nowhere in my collection do I, say, have a Renoir painting. Because everybody knows that this is a good painter without me having to demonstrate it.

GIMELSON: I’d like to talk now about some people who have been intricately involved in your career. You met Michael Werner [who has continuously represented Baselitz since the beginning of the artist’s career and was influential in introducing his work to America] very early on. I’d like to know what the atmosphere was like in German art circles at that time, and what you think you and Werner saw in each other to forge such a strong and long-term association.

BASELITZ: We were from the same generation and the same nationality. Nobody had one penny in their pocket then. It was a very difficult time, economically speaking. When Werner saw a painting of mine, such as Die grosse Nacht im Eimer [“Big Night Down the Drain” 1962-1963], which back then nobody wanted and everybody thought was ridiculous, he realized that this was the right provocation, that it represented the feeling of the times in the right way.

GIMELSON: Do you have any specific stories about how you and Michael worked together?

BASELITZ: Michael was the first person I worked with who had something to do with art dealing. This was in the early ’60s. I remember that Michael told me about a famous collector, and Michael set up an appointment for us to meet. This man looked around the room and at my pictures. Then he said, “Young man, why are you doing these horrible things? Look out the window. There are nice girls out there. It’s springtime. Look at how beautiful the world can be. You’ll ruin your health by smoking so much and doing such tortured things.” The he left, embarrassed, without buying anything. And half an hour later, Werner came over, and I told him what had just happened. We agreed that this meeting had been a success.

GIMELSON: What do you feel is the absolute best situation, the optimal physical structure, for your work to be seen in?

BASELITZ: If my images stick in peoples’ heads, if they know the image without even looking at the image.

GIMELSON: Well, we should probably stop for now, since we have a second meeting for this interview in person when you come to New York next week. You know, I’ve seen you in Berlin a couple of times. You winked at me on the street once. [to the translator] Don’t tell him that! [translator tells Baselitz]

BASELITZ: On what occasion?

GIMELSON: The “Metropolis” exhibition four years ago.

BASELITZ: Are you sure it wasn’t somebody else? Because I don’t have a beard any longer.

GIMELSON: No, it was you. See you on Monday.

Part two
Curious to see what the dynamic of the artist who has made so many dynamic images is like in person, I sat down with Baselitz face-to-face in Interview‘s wood-paneled library to resume our talk. Baselitz drank espresso doppio and sometimes got up between translations of his responses to look at the selection of books on the library shelves; the first thing he did was make sure there was something about Baselitz on the shelves. Dressed in a well-made, wide-wale dark blue corduroy suit, dark shirt, and expensive silk tie, his current image is hard to reconcile with the Baselitz who reputedly, in his youth, hung out in Berlin bars with the Baader-Meinhof terrorists. Now more country squire than social revolutionary (he spends most of his time in a castle in Derneburg, where his studio is in a series of connecting, high-ceilinged, 17th-century rooms), he still wages an aesthetic war with his stark, volatile, and often primitive images. [Editor’s note: The following interview took place on March 27 in the Interview library. On this occasion, the interpreter was Waltraud Raninger, a translator who works with the Guggenheim Museum SoHo.]

GIMELSON: I want to begin this part of the interview by asking you about Francis Bacon. Now that Bacon is dead, many people consider you the most important artist of senior stature working in Europe today. How do you feel about this?

BASELITZ: I don’t know who made up this sort of greatest-hits list for artists. If one artist isn’t moving forward anymore, then it’s assumed another one is going to take their place. With Bacon’s death, a whole genre of art died. Does that mean now that I’m the next one to die?

GIMELSON: [laughs] I hope not.

BASELITZ: So do I.

GIMELSON: Can you talk a little bit about what you think neo-expressionism, a term that has often been used to describe your work, means in Europe, and what it means in America, and how the two notions of this genre differ?

BASELITZ: First of all, I am not a representative of anything. When art historians or critics or the public put somebody in a drawer like this, it has a tranquilizing, paralyzing effect. Artists are individuals. They have ideas, and the conventions for one’s self as an individual are not for a group. There are always those who follow the group, but they belong in the margins. I refuse to be placed within, or added to, one particular school.

GIMELSON: Why do you think it is then that people have tried to slot you into that neo-expressionist mold?

BASELITZ: I don’t know. When I began as an artist, I already did not like expressionism, or abstract expressionism, because abstract painting had already been done. I did not want to belong to any one group or the other, and I’m not one or the other.

GIMELSON: Where do you think the main impetus was coming from in your work when you were in your twenties, as opposed to now, when you’re in your fifties? What were the forces working on you then, and the obsessions, and what’s different about them now?

BASELITZ: These forces are biologically different now than they were then. In the beginning, the energy involved to create came from my reaction to the work of other artists. The force behind this was aggression. The art that I saw was great, but I had to reject it, because I could not continue in the same direction. So I had to do something entirely different. It had to be so different, so extreme, that those who loved pop art, for instance, hated me. And this was my strength. Later, it again worked in a biological manner. But in no way was it just my reactions against things.

GIMELSON: I am wondering how you would like this exhibition at the Guggenheim to represent your work.

BASELITZ: In a place like the Guggenheim, I would like to be a representative of arte povera. This would be my ideal. Unfortunately, God had something else in mind. I’m a painter, and this space is completely inappropriate for my work. But in the end, maybe this is also an advantage, because we have seen so many exhibits in recent years where the exhibition design was aesthetically beautiful. In this case, if someone wants to get something out of the exhibit, they must neglect the aesthetics and look at my pictures.

But I do not have a philosophy about retrospectives. Of course, I cannot change what I have done. What I am doing today, this I can change, in view of whatever I have done before. My retrospectives are like a series of ghosts. And for me to see my work collected like this is like entering a haunted house.

GIMELSON: You have spent your career defying tradition and structure, constantly remaking yourself or your art through your various paintings and sculptures. Yet in other aspects of your life, traditional structures, like family, are very important. Can you talk about this?

BASELITZ: As a human being, I am a citizen, but as an artist, I am asocial. A citizen sticks to conventions, does whatever is social. Artists, of course, must reject all conventions. I see no differently in reconciling the best of both of these worlds.

GIMELSON: If you met somebody who’s never heard of you or seen your work, how would you describe what you do every day?

BASELITZ: I would say I am somebody who builds furniture like a carpenter with canvas and color. No, I would say I build buildings or houses like a bricklayer with canvas and paint. This is a very good question.

THIS ARTICLE INTIALLY APPEARED IN THE JUNE 1995 ISSUE OF INTERVIEW.

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GOETHE INSTITUTE GERMANY

Georg Baselitz Rebellion by Standing Reality on Its Head

Special exhibition
Special exhibition “Georg Baselitz: Nature as Motif” | © Picture alliance

Painting motifs upside-down became his hallmark. Georg Baselitz is less concerned with the recognition factor of his technique and far more with depicting the world as he has experienced it: an upside-down world.

There are artists and writers who struggle with a theme throughout their lives, returning again and again to the same motifs and wrestling with that which eludes depiction. Many soon end up stagnating and become uninteresting. But those however, who continually take different perspectives, discover unconventional means and thereby illuminate their themes in new ways – these artists’ works never cease to ask interesting questions. Kafka was such a writer, Georg Baselitz is such a painter.

The process of painting as process of insight

The fact that Baselitz is not concerned with an interpretation of his subjects, but with the process of painting itself, can be seen in his works: his canvases appear unfinished by means of paint can edges, shoe prints and over-painting. Baselitz rejects clear-cut contours and cleanly-painted figures, since the foreground is taken up by the how and not the what. His first sculpture, which he presented in 1980 in Venice, was entitled Modell für eine Skulptur (Model for a Sculpture), half of which still remained un-carved in the wood block. The “how” enables us to follow the progress of the work and Baselitz’s thought process, which among other things leads to the insight that the “what” can be assertion pure and simple, and therefore absolutely must be called into question.

A German-German-German biography

Even as a child, Baselitz experienced the arbitrariness of such claims to truth. He was born into the Nazi dictatorship as Hans-Georg Kern on 23 January 1938, in Deutschbaselitz in Saxony. His parents were teachers – he remembers the schoolhouse where he lived with them: “A banner was stretched around the building with ‘Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer’ (‘one people, one empire, one leader’) written on it.”

The next truth was presented to him in the form of GDR socialism. In 1956 he began studying art in East Berlin and concentrated on Picasso, but not the way his teachers intended. When after two semesters Baselitz submitted “his” Picassos of the war years in Paris, they saw only the decadence of the west. Baselitz was expelled from the academy on the grounds of “social immaturity” and continued studying in West Berlin.

But the West also confronted him with “truths.” Pollock and de Kooning were the new heroes, but however much they impressed Baselitz, he was not inclined to emulate them. Baselitz, for whom being a follower had a bad aftertaste, encountered the truths of this world with distrust. Someone that sceptical is compelled to find his own truth – and Baselitz, young and aggressive, set off in search of it. In 1961 he changed his name to Baselitz after his birthplace.

Rebellion without penalty

In 1962 he married Elke Kretzschmar and began to do something that “simply no one wanted at all,” he says. No recognition, not exactly a pleasant time, Die große Nacht im Eimer (A Big Night Down the Drain) had come. In 1963, the picture of a man masturbating was confiscated from the Galerie Werner und Katz in Berlin, as was the painting Nackter Mann (Naked Man) that shows a nude with an oversized, erect penis. Baselitz was prosecuted. He was forced to find another way of expressing his scepticism if he was to avoid getting into trouble with the state prosecutor’s office each and every time he rebelled. In 1969 he created his fracture paintings (Frakturbilder): figures he cut up into strips and put back together in displaced order. The irritating effect of madness ultimately led to his upside-down take on reality, which was to become his hallmark: in that same year he painted an upside-down motif for the first time – Der Wald auf dem Kopf (The Forest Upside-Down). Rebellion by turning reality upside-down, and it worked: formally, Baselitz overcame concrete meaning and thereby created his own, personal alternative to the ideologically charged debates over realism and abstraction. He turned reality on its head and thereby rendered it abstract – it was this idea that made him famous.

“Strangely upright”

Baselitz knew he was on the right track. Starting in 2005, he began to revise his work and at the same time to deepen it. He then sometimes paints “strangely upright”, as he puts it. He also now finally feels stable enough to quote the great American artists of Abstract Expressionism and squeezes his figures out of the paint tube onto the black canvas, Action Painting without splattering. Negative images arise with reversed brightness values and the black eagles that convey the depressing aura of an oil-tanker accident. On the occasion of his major retrospective exhibition at the Haus der Kunst in Munich, Baselitz, now 76, finds succinct words for his revisions of the past: he considers his works over and over again and understands that “it could all have been done differently.” And because Baselitz doesn’t stop at this insight, he goes and does things differently.

A survey of Baselitz’ work Back Then, In Between and Today – Damals, dazwischen und heute is offered by the exhibition of the same name in the Haus der Kunst, Munich, until 1 February 2015.

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nytimes

Photo

Georg Baselitz in his studio. Credit Martin Müller/Gagosian Gallery

LONDON — In the autumn of 1958, an East German art student ventured into an exhibition of American paintings and was staggered by what he saw. Hanging on wall after wall of a West Berlin academy were works by Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and other Abstract Expressionists.

“I found those pictures so overwhelming, so totally unexpected, so different from the experience of my own world at the time that I felt totally desperate, because I thought I’d never stand a chance of doing well compared to those painters,” Georg Baselitz recalled in an interview at the Gagosian Gallery here.

“The dimensions, to us, were just huge: an expression of freedom,” Mr. Baselitz said, speaking through a translator. “Our canvases felt pathetic, tiny.”

More than a half-century later, Mr. Baselitz carries that experience with him. Now 76, he is being honored with three London exhibitions: “Farewell Bill,” a tribute to De Kooning is at Gagosian through March 29; “Germany Divided: Baselitz and His Generation,” through Aug. 31 at the British Museum, features more than 40 of Mr. Baselitz’s works on paper; and he has lent some 16th-century prints to the Royal Academy of Arts’s “Renaissance Impressions: Chiaroscuro Woodcuts From the Collections of Georg Baselitz and the Albertina, Vienna,” which runs from March 15 through June 8.

Photo

One of the artist’s works that is part of  “Farewell Bill,” a tribute to Willem de Kooning. Credit Georg Baselitz/Jochen Littkemann, via Gagosian Gallery

For much of his life, Mr. Baselitz has created work around one central theme: the pain of growing up in the ruins of Nazi Germany. He has produced raw and sometimes shocking art to express it.

His Gagosian show is full of large, jubilant canvases covered with messy swirls of bright paint that resemble 1970s de Koonings. Most are upside-down self-portraits in which the artist wears a baseball cap marked “Zero” — a reference to his brand of paint, but also, according to the catalog, to “Zero Hour,” a phrase used in post-1945 Germany to indicate a clean slate.

“As a German, by definition, you’re always linked to the Holocaust, linked to the Nazis,” Mr. Baselitz said. He added: “I was only 7 when World War II was over. Yet people nowadays still associate my generation with the past.”

Along with Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke and Anselm Kiefer, Mr. Baselitz is part of a group of German artists who “took it upon themselves to reinvent a broken culture,” said Gordon VeneKlasen, a partner of the Michael Werner Gallery in New York, which represented Mr. Baselitz until 2008. Although Mr. Baselitz has never been an auction darling on the scale of Mr. Richter, he is an influential post-war painter. The Paris dealer Thaddaeus Ropac, who represents Mr. Baselitz in Continental Europe, said he could not imagine “any other artist who confronted Germany with its own past the way Baselitz did.”

The past has never been absent from his work. Mr. Baselitz’s father, a primary-school teacher who fought for Germany in the war and lost an eye, was banned from teaching in what became East Germany. Their relationship was tense. “If your father was a Nazi and a perpetrator, the problem between the two generations becomes even more serious,” Mr. Baselitz said.

He started to express this aggression. In 1963, he completed a painting of an ugly, masturbating male called ‘‘Big  Night Down the Drain.’’ It was included  in his first gallery show, which drew  public attention, and was promptly confiscated (with another work) by the district attorney.

In the late ’60s, Mr. Baselitz started to develop what would become a trademark motif — depicting subjects upside down in a style that appeared both figurative and abstract.

“He found his perfect solution by inverting,” said Stephen Coppel, the curator of the British Museum show. You recognized the work’s subject, he added, but were also made to “look at the marks by which it was created.” The British Museum show includes drawings and prints of upside-down figures, eagles and trees.

Notoriety came at the 1980 Venice Biennale, when Mr. Baselitz exhibited his first sculpture — a totemic figure with a raised arm — that some viewed as depicting Hitler. Since then, he has continued to sculpt as well as provoke.

Age has not made Mr. Baselitz less blunt. In January 2013, he told Der Spiegel that women “don’t paint very well,” though they excelled at disciplines such as science. The remarks caused a stir, with journalists, academics and women in the arts accusing Mr. Baselitz of sexism, accusations that have resurfaced on Twitter, along with the original interview.

Asked in the interview at the Gagosian here to comment, Mr. Baselitz replied that while “the most beautiful women are those created in art by men,” female artists depicted unseemly subjects. The 17th-century painter Artemisia Gentileschi, for instance, showed men being “castrated and decapitated,” he said, while contemporary artists like Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas made everyone, including women, “look extremely ugly.”

“It could be that in the future things will improve,” he concluded.

Norman Rosenthal — who organized a Baselitz retrospective at the Royal Academy in 2007, and ran the exhibitions program there at the time — said Mr. Baselitz was, like Pablo Picasso, someone who “doesn’t care about being politically correct, cares about his own private, personal obsessions, and expresses them magnificently in painting and sculpture and printmaking.”

Gagosian’s London director, Stefan Ratibor, said the gallery had staged seven previous Baselitz exhibitions in New York, London and Rome.

“We wouldn’t do a show on this scale if we weren’t confident in his market,” he said. “Of the artists we work with, he’s one of the greats.”

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SPIEGEL ONLINEBaselitz also wasn't too thrilled about the art market in Germany.

01/25/2013 06:36 PM

German Artist Georg Baselitz

Baselitz also wasn't too thrilled about the art market in Germany. ‘My Paintings are Battles’

By Susanne Beyer and Ulrike Knöfel

German painter Georg Baselitz has made a name for himself — and a fortune — by being provocative. In a SPIEGEL interview, he stays true to form by bashing Germans and their museums and saying that the best artists have less talent and can’t be women.

The house of Georg Baselitz, one of the world’s most important painters, is hard to find. It’s on the waterfront of Ammersee, a lake near Munich, and hidden behind other villas. Designed by Basel architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, it’s probably one of the most beautiful residences in Germany. Fearing architecture tourists, Baselitz doesn’t allow journalists to photograph his house. The 75-year-old meets with SPIEGEL in his studio next door. Much of what he says seems cantankerous, but he clearly enjoys his tirades, which he delivers with a mischievous smile.


SPIEGEL: Mr. Baselitz, you’ve just turned 75, and you’ve been famous for the last 50 years. At the beginning, you were the painter with the wild and dangerous works, and the police even confiscated some of your paintings. Now you are lionized, and your works are coveted around the world. What’s harder for an artist to deal with, rejection or recognition?Baselitz: First of all, I seriously doubt that what you say about recognition is true.

SPIEGEL: Gallery owners and collectors are both crazy about you, and museums are constantly singing your praises.

Baselitz: But not the media.

SPIEGEL: Come now, you’re written about often.

Baselitz: Is that so? I’ve had some major exhibitions abroad lately, and yet there was hardly a word in the FAZ (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung), for example. And that was only because I had previously said that the relevant editors at the FAZ suffered from pandemic mental enfeeblement.

SPIEGEL: What makes you say that?

Baselitz: I received the graphics prize at Art Cologne three years ago. Before that, it had been awarded to people who undoubtedly deserved recognition, such as Sigmar Polke. But, in my case, the FAZ wrote that it was a petty cash prize.

SPIEGEL: The prize money is €10,000 ($13,400), which is a paltry amount when compared to the sums your paintings fetch.

Baselitz: The prize money is the same each year, but when I get it, it’s called “petty cash.” I think that’s contemptuous and insulting to the people who award the prize and to the graphics medium.

SPIEGEL: You’re one of the most famous and expensive painters in the world. But you seem to notice your critics more than your acclaim.

Baselitz: For me, it’s about more than that; it’s about Germans’ relationship with art. For instance, in Germany, we often hear the absurd complaint that museums don’t have the money to buy paintings. Of course, I’m not talking about me and my paintings. There are, after all, more popular painters in this country.

SPIEGEL: Only one of them is more expensive: Gerhard Richter.

Baselitz: Much more expensive. And he certainly pays more taxes than I do. Despite all the taxes people pay, there supposedly isn’t any money in this country for art. Of course, this makes an artist ask himself: “Well, then, what are you doing with the 100 million I pay each year? What happened to that money?” And he doesn’t get an answer.

SPIEGEL: Now you’re no longer complaining about the media, but about museums.

Baselitz: Yes, I am grumbling a bit. The Rhineland was once the center of art in Germany. Then it was Berlin, but now things have become quiet there, as well. Still, Berlin has the National Gallery, a name that suggests that the museum ought to be there for national art. There are similar museums all over the world, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the MoMA in New York and the Reina Sofia in Madrid. They all fulfill their purpose and do what has to be done.

SPIEGEL: And what’s that?

Baselitz: They collect what’s important in their respective countries. In Berlin’s National Gallery, however, this isn’t the case. They’re interested neither in me nor the other usual suspects. It’s simply a German reality.

SPIEGEL: What do you attribute that to?

Baselitz: To the directors and the mood.

SPIEGEL: What mood?

Baselitz: Spending money on art has always been frowned upon in this country — even earlier, when my and others’ paintings cost almost nothing. Something is always more important. The people in charge are always peddling reasons that others seem to accept. Those who don’t drink and aren’t crazy, or who don’t attract attention with how they behave in public, aren’t noticed in art.

SPIEGEL: You sound furious. We were actually planning on discussing whether the situation in the art world isn’t better than ever.

Baselitz: That’s a justified question seeing that everyone apparently has the feeling that that’s the case. There’s a market for art, and things are indeed going swimmingly, especially for German artists. But everything takes place in America and in London, where there are quite a few wealthy, engaged people. What motivates them to buy art is a different question, but they do.

SPIEGEL: These collectors are also buying your art. What more could you ask for?

Baselitz: That things were also better here, and that we weren’t just dealing with know-it-alls.

SPIEGEL: People in this country are very interested in art. The museums are reporting record visitor numbers.

Baselitz: I’ve painted, but I’ve also done graphics since as long as I can remember. So even people with little to spend could afford it. But even the graphic works are only bought by those who buy the big, expensive paintings. I think that’s troublesome.

SPIEGEL: Why do you say that again?

Baselitz: Because everything is drifting apart, and because everything is moving away from the ordinary public.

SPIEGEL: How do you explain the many visitors to museums?

Baselitz: The museums! They say that people are going there. I had two big exhibitions in Dresden, but no one went. There are plenty of tourists on the street in Dresden, but they’d rather go to the Green Vault (museum) or to see the Old Masters. Other contemporary artists have had the same experience. And look at music. Alfred Schnittke was an important contemporary composer, and he lived in Germany, but no one here has heard of him. Everyone has heard of Mozart, and many believe that he can still be found in that little house in Salzburg, which is why people stand there in line. I think that our music and our art belong to our era. If the public doesn’t show up, it must be stupid.

‘Talent Seduces Us into Interpretation’

SPIEGEL: Perhaps artists and composers have also distanced themselves from the public.Baselitz: Wrong. The public has distanced itself.

SPIEGEL: And yet artists themselves could be to blame. Writers participate in debates in entirely different ways. Durs Grünbein writes political essays, and Martin Walser has often gotten involved. Günter Grass wrote a poem about Israel. You don’t have to approve of (the poem), but everyone was talking about it.

Baselitz: Painters just don’t live to draw attention to themselves in that way. Walser sells his books because people go to his book-signings and readings, where they buy a copy for €20 and take it home with them. He has to sell thousands of books. We painters don’t need that. I’ve never been on a talk show. I used to say to (now-deceased German painter) Jörg Immendorff: “Don’t do it. It’ll just hurt you, and it’ll make you unhappy.” But he couldn’t leave well enough alone because he was an agitator by nature. Writers have to do it. TV is their medium for selling books.

SPIEGEL: Sometimes it’s just a question of speaking up. In your works, you certainly do grapple with the country you live in.

Baselitz: Exactly. But no one on the other side of society is interested in that. We’re called “painter princes,” but it’s meant derisively. All German painters have a neurosis with Germany’s past: war, the postwar period most of all, East Germany. I addressed all of this in a deep depression and under great pressure. My paintings are battles, if you will.

SPIEGEL: Do you prefer not to address current affairs?

Baselitz: At least not the way Günter Grass does. And that would be terrible. Instead of sitting down and writing another “Tin Drum,” he writes a poem about Greece.

SPIEGEL: You find this reference to the here and now embarrassing?

Baselitz: Extremely embarrassing. There are also painters who do this sort of thing, but we’re not going to name them.

SPIEGEL: Why do you have trouble treating culture here with indulgence?

Baselitz: I think Günter Grass is truly awful. So is Walser, and so is (Hans Magnus) Enzensberger. Just read the diary of Hans Werner Richter, the head of Group 47, to which they all belonged. Read what he says about these people, and it’ll make you feel very depressed. I also feel that way because, after all, they were our role models, our heroes. Your magazine was the voice of these people. And their contribution? Zero. Reading Walser is unbearable. I call him “the bubble of Lake Constance.”

SPIEGEL: Oh, come on.

Baselitz: It makes me furious. I’m disappointed with philosophy. I just saw an opera, a premiere by … what’s his name, our professor from Karlsruhe? The one with the hair?

SPIEGEL: Peter Sloterdijk.

Baselitz: He wrote the libretto for “Babylon.” My God, is it awful.

SPIEGEL: Do you also pay attention to what your fellow painters are doing?

Baselitz: I live a secluded life. I live, in a sense, a lonely life. But I do pay very close attention.

SPIEGEL: The art-selling business has gone crazy. The gallerists who sell your works — including Larry Gagosian, the world’s most successful gallerist — must be constantly asking you for more paintings. Is this a dilemma for someone like you, who demands quality and depth?

Baselitz: No. It’s not a dilemma, and why should it be? It’s really an ambition. I want to be part of it, to be young and belong. That has always been what I wanted.

SPIEGEL: But Richter tops the list of the most expensive living artists. Do you like him?

Baselitz: I’m always happy to listen to someone from (the eastern German state of) Saxony. Most Saxony natives are offended when you address them in the Saxon dialect. Gerhard never is.

SPIEGEL: Aha.

Baselitz: Don’t forget that, as an artist, I have been a risk-taker. And I’ve done a lot of different things. I don’t make it easy for people. Identification is difficult. One doesn’t recognize my art right away.

SPIEGEL: Turning motifs upside down, as you do it, is a unique characteristic.

Baselitz: Actually, no one who looks at my paintings can see whether a painting is upside down or not anymore. I’ve made or developed so many image models that some people have given up trying to keep track of me. But others have only one or two ways of doing things and are successful with that.

SPIEGEL: It’s been said that you have painted all-black paintings or even painted over existing paintings with black paint. What is the point of that?

Baselitz: I don’t paint over my paintings with black paint. I paint black paintings. It isn’t because I’m sad, just as I didn’t paint red paintings yesterday because I was happy. Nor will I paint yellow paintings tomorrow because I’m jealous.

SPIEGEL: There are a lot of lone wolves in your generation. But there’s apparently enough room and money for you, Richter and Anselm Kiefer.

Baselitz: There are surprisingly many lone wolves, and they all run across the finish line as winners. Of course, when we got started, they were saying that panel painting was dead. But then came people like Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon, as well as Richter, Kiefer and me. When I painted my first painting, still right-side-up, my teacher told me that it was an anachronism. I had to look up the word. Then I said: No, no, I’m an avant-gardist. What I do is quite aggressive and quite mean-spirited.

‘Women Simply Don’t Pass the Test’

SPIEGEL: You started painting in East Germany, but you left early and continued to study in the West. Nowadays, the art market largely ignores the artistic legacy of East Germany, including the painters who received all the attention and promotion, the ones you referred to as “assholes” after German reunification. Is it delayed justice?Baselitz: As always, the market is right.

SPIEGEL: Always? The market only embraces a few women. There are hardly any women among the most expensive artists.

Baselitz: Oh God! Women simply don’t pass the test.

SPIEGEL: What test?

Baselitz: The market test, the value test.

SPIEGEL: What’s that supposed to mean?

Baselitz: Women don’t paint very well. It’s a fact. There are, of course, exceptions. Agnes Martin or, from the past, Paula Modersohn-Becker. I feel happy whenever I see one of her paintings. But she is no Picasso, no Modigliani and no Gauguin.

SPIEGEL: So women supposedly don’t paint very well.

Baselitz: Not supposedly. And that despite the fact that they still constitute the majority of students in the art academies.

SPIEGEL: It probably isn’t a genetic defect.

Baselitz: I think the defect actually lies with male artists. Male artists often border on idiocy, while it’s important for a woman not to be that way, if possible. Women are outstanding in science, just as good as men.

SPIEGEL: Women certainly aren’t as loud and obtrusive when it comes to how they present themselves. With its desire for the sensational, the market isn’t very forgiving of that.

Baselitz: Don’t you know who Marina Abramovic is?

SPIEGEL: She doesn’t paint, but she’s an important performance artist, someone who shows that a woman can come a long way.

Baselitz: She has talent, as do many women. But a painter doesn’t need any of that. In fact, it’s better not to have it.

SPIEGEL: Are you saying it’s better to not be talented?

Baselitz: Yes, much better.

SPIEGEL: Why?

Baselitz: Talent seduces us into interpretation. My sister could draw wonderfully, but she would never have hit upon the idea of becoming a painter. I never had that extreme talent.

SPIEGEL: For centuries, art was a craft, an almost physical labor that was performed by men. Men were also the first art historians. Everything was male, and it’s simply stayed that way.

Baselitz: That has little to do with history. As I said, there are certainly some female artists: Helen Frankenthaler, Cecily Brown and Rosemarie Trockel.

SPIEGEL: The latter is German, and she currently has a big show in New York. She is also well-regarded worldwide.

Baselitz: There’s a lot of love in her art, a lot of sympathy.

SPIEGEL: That doesn’t sound like praise. So what does she lack, and what does Modersohn-Becker lack, to make you not rank the two of them among the great artists?

Baselitz: Let me qualify that. There is, of course, quite a lot of brutality in art. Not brutality against others, but brutality against the thing itself, against what already exists. When Modersohn-Becker painted herself, she looked very unpleasant, and extremely ugly…

SPIEGEL: …and nude, at a time, around 1900, when it was completely taboo for women to portray themselves in that way.

Baselitz: Exactly. But she hesitated to destroy others, in other words, to really destroy Gauguin by going beyond his art. Men have no problem with that. They just do it. But you must know that I do love women.

SPIEGEL: Of course.

Baselitz: Yes, I’m constantly in love — with my own wife.

SPIEGEL: Does Jeff Koons — another expensive contemporary artist — have the necessary brutality? He supplies the world with sculptures of tulips and hearts.

Baselitz: The most unpleasant works of Jeff Koons that I’ve seen are those fuck paintings with Cicciolina. Just the fact that he made those paintings while at the same time talking about love and fathering a child … I think it’s dreadful.

SPIEGEL: So Koon’s early art did have that brutality you demand.

Baselitz: I don’t demand it. I just know that it has to be that way.

SPIEGEL: So, it has to be that way if you want to be a big artist?

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Published 10/06/2007

Click on the pictures below to enlarge

Georg Baselitz

Royal Academy of Arts, London
22 September–9 December 2007

Georg Baselitz is a powerful and rebellious painter who admits to being a painter of ‘bad pictures’. He has refused to fit into mainstream art since bursting onto the art scene in the 1960s, yet he has become universally admired. His overbearing preoccupation is Germany’s ugly wartime legacy. Baselitz is celebrated in a major retrospective at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, this autumn. Featuring over 60 paintings together with a significant number of drawings, prints and sculptures, the exhibition offers a comprehensive survey of Baselitz’s most important work. In 1981, Baselitz was included in the seminal exhibition at the Royal Academy, ‘A New Spirit of Painting’. This introduced his work to the British public; he is an Honorary Royal Academician.

Baselitz was influenced in his early years by the artistic works and writings of influential artists and theorists such as Kandinsky, Malevich, Nietzsche, Samuel Beckett and the French writer and artist Antonin Artaud. Baselitz later became involved with the work of the mentally ill and other outsider artists. He is a collector of African art and influenced by French and Italian Mannerist painting. Printmaking in the German tradition has also played an important role.

When the Allied Forces bombed Dresden in 1945, the young Georg Baselitz witnessed the horrors. One can be forgiven for having a love/hate relationship with the work of one of Germany’s most uncompromising artists, whose self-advertisement and self-aggrandisement exist in parallel with poignant, albeit extraordinarily ugly, images. Every work in Baselitz’s show refers to war, whether it is the black mood, fractured presence or specific references. Waldemar Januszczak finds it hilarious.

Baselitz is as compelling a painter as he is because the ultimate absurdity of war seems never to escape his attention. Even his most notorious painterly act – the ridiculous policy of painting everything upside down – strikes you as perfectly reasonable when compared with Germany entrusting the nation’s destiny to the Führer.1

He considers that Baselitz tackles the overwhelming problem of being German and being loathed, ‘with a fabulous combination of urgency and insolence’. Known as the artist who turned painting upside down at the end of the sixties, literally, he irritatingly has not put it right since. He appears to work in the eye of the storm freed of the spell of artistic icons, and yet he continues to work in traditional media: painting, drawing, printmaking and sculpture. He has taken risks to the point of recklessness, yet still chooses still life, portraiture and landscape. His are ‘unequivocal declarations of an attitude’, rather than ‘examples or components of a style’.2

In 1963 at his first solo exhibition in Berlin, two of his paintings were seized by public prosecutors on the grounds of obscenity. In 1969, he began to paint his figures upside down. In 1980, he shared the Nazi-era German pavilion at the Venice Biennale with Anselm Kiefer. The sculpture he showed there was crudely modelled, block-like and primitive in style, and it appeared to be making a fascist salute. It caused an outrage. Although the human figure is central to his oeuvre, he never uses a life model. The twisted, distorted, fractured human forms from the 1960s onwards are as shocking in their perception of humanity as those of his forebear in the northern tradition, Hieronymus Bosch. Baselitz, however, endows his work with elements of the absurd.

Georg Baselitz was born in 1938, the son of a primary teacher, in the small village of Grossbaselitz in Saxony, which later became East Germany. His name was Hans-Georg Kern, which he changed to Georg Baselitz when he left East Berlin in 1957. When he was seven, the town of Dresden just 30 km away was heavily bombed by the Allied Forces. The small school where Baselitz attended was also bombed, in spite of having the Red Cross flag on it. The children experienced the horror, huddled in a bomb shelter. The girl who later became his wife was from Dresden. They claim to have talked about the bombing every day since. The tragedy and horror of the Second World War and the aftermath under a Communist regime have obsessed Baselitz ever since. It forms the core of his experience and his art. David Sylvester describes his career as like no other European painter in that his creativeness has been sustained decade after decade.

The outstanding importance of his role seems to me to reside in two attributes, both of them rare. One of them – rare only in our time – is that his work seems free of any theoretical or polemical foundation or justification. It is a delight to wonder and to behold; it is not a notable stimulus for verbal investigation. The other quality – and here is probably unique – is that he is an artist who uses a harsh Germanic iconography (the hunter, the dog, the woman with a whip, the bird of prey) to produce paintings whose succulent, tactile surfaces seem the prerogative of French paintings.3

The work of Baselitz nonetheless presents images of a world possessed, a dreadful fracturing of human values, the collapse of civilisation itself. He distorts the human form itself and in doing so, creates works that are physically disgusting. The paint itself is applied as excrement, pushed and shoved around the canvas with apparent contempt. The contempt is in Baselitz’s scheme of things, disdain for the world, a comment on human nature itself, a searing comment on war and the state of the world: whether it be Vietnam or Iraq, nothing has changed.

What Baselitz could not escape was Germany and being German. Januszczak continues:

Baselitz’s Heroes are said to evoke Germany’s battered spirit in the post-war years. Their shirts are ripped. Their flies are open. Their bits are dangling. It has also been suggested that these are self-portraits, particularly the image of a one-legged soldier holding a palette and brush that is actually called Blocked Painter. But what I like most about these clumsy losers is their air of comic meladrama… If Baselitz is looking back on his pitiful national inheritance, then he is doing so with an explosive mixture of sadness and scorn.4

Thrown out of his first art school in East Berlin in 1956 on the grounds of ‘political immaturity’, Baselitz moved to West Berlin prior to the construction of the Berlin Wall. There he saw ‘The New American Painting’, which had a profound impact. In fact, he still refers to the experience of first seeing Phillip Guston and Jackson Pollock. Baselitz instinctively understood the observation made by de Kooning of Pollock, that Pollock had broken the ice. Pollock indeed shattered pictorial space. Guston was represented in ‘The New American Painting’, by works from the mid and late 1950s. They were neither abstract nor figurative, they were elusive and the discernable images fluctuated in focus and dissolution. In this Baselitz was greatly affected. He eventually rejected abstraction as such, but like many American artists was influenced by jazz music, the disruption of underlying rhythm, the dislocation of melody. Baselitz’s work has an affinity with jazz in the sense that many harmonies, sidetracks and levels of meaning all contribute to an art that can be experienced on different levels. Baselitz’s paintings of the late 1950s share much in their structure and woven surfaces, their energy, with Guston and de Kooning especially. He was not impressed nor taken in by the iconic simplicity of Pop Art and he rejected both the Social Realism of the Communist regime in East Germany and the universal purity of abstraction. In doing so, Baselitz became an outsider on both sides of the Iron Curtain. He had an irreverent sense of humour, and was more interested in the art of the insane than of modernist Europeans. He was drawn to the grotesque works of Grünewald’s ‘Isenheim Altarpiece’, Chaim Soutine’s fleshy distortions and Gericault’s studies of hands and feet. Baselitz also depicted feet – ugly, distorted images; he described his position at the time as ‘anti-classical’.

The Northern tradition of the ugly and grotesque drew Baselitz naturally. His first exhibition was described as ‘obscene’, ‘pornographic’, ‘revolting’. The titles themselves were provocative: ‘Sex with Dumplings’ (1963) where paint and bodily fluids were shown as interconnected. The painting ‘The Big Night Down the Drain’ shows the artist masturbating in an isolated dark space. The male ego is exposed by Baselitz as a pathetic, solipsistic performance, in which he masquerades as painting itself, the very medium that through history has been perfected to emulate human beauty and perfection. Norman Rosenthal, who organised the Baselitz exhibition, says that:

Exposure of the body and its more embarrassing functions has never been a problem for Baselitz, and this highly charged self-portrait about masturbation has a sense of tragic inevitability. The artist was not making a scandal for its own sake, but, rather, confronting postwar Germany – which he had found too ready to hide behind bland abstraction, too keen to avoid societal and psychological issues – with his own reality.5

Baselitz uses oil paint as if it were shit, and it did not do him much good in the process. Melancholia and illness characterised his personal experience.

Baselitz made images of the hero/soldier which inevitably created loathing in many viewers.

While it is not hard to see these images as referring to Germany’s desperate condition following the war – hulking single figures rise over their defunct landscapes like survivors of a great cataclysm – they could also be seen as surrogate self-portraits, reflecting Baselitz’s self-mocking ambition to reenergize German painting. These heroes, who carry palettes, a symbol of creative freedom and forward-looking energy, find their hands immobilised in animal traps. The ruined landscape could speak of war or the aesthetic debris left in the wake of the stylist onslaught of second – and third-generation abstraction. The Hero paintings posit the contention that if the twentieth century began with elimination of the figure through abstraction, it would end with the re-emergence, but that re-emergence would require anti-heroes who follow unpredictable paths.6

Baselitz’s hulking great figures have massive bodies, small heads and large hands. Michael Auping states that, ‘Baselitz’s further contortion of these characteristics creates an artist protagonist that is as deranged and bold as he is voluptuously pathetic. Contructed from rich accumulations of thick brushstrokes, he presents a tragic-comic Beckett-like character waiting for the painter’s next move’.7

The ‘Fracture’ paintings of the late 1960s reveal Baselitz’s keen interest in forests and trees and the motifs and imagery that have historically been associated with them. In fact, Baselitz considered a career in forestry and had applied to the state forestry school in Taranth. Rural landscapes peoples with woodsmen and hunters are depicted with an earth palette. They are part fantasy and part appropriation; they are divided into segments so that the imagery can be reorganised pictorially. Dividing the picture plane into segments conveyed the fracturing of Germany by the war. Pre-war and post-war Germany and East Germany and West Germany represented the divided national psyche. Fracture paintings represent the violent ruptures and break from historical continuity; they reveal the distress and destruction of Germany’s history. The next move was to turn the image on its head. The first completely inverted picture was ‘Wermsdorf Wood’, based on a painting by the von Rayski work of 1859. The loosely rendered image of the wood was seized on by critics as having political connotations – upside-down trees were seen to represent a country that had been culturally uprooted. The Nazi ban on ‘degenerate’ modernist art indeed created a rupture in German art history, in Baselitz’s words ‘a severing of memory’ from a figurative tradition. What followed was dislocating, ‘It was like one day waking up and abstraction had become the authority’.8 Inversion enabled Baselitz to bridge the gulf between the figurative tradition, stopped in its tracks by the Nazis and abstraction that came to dominate art by the 1950s. Baselitz describes his method:

The object expresses nothing at all. Painting is not a means to an end. On the contrary, painting is autonomous. And I said to myself: if this is the case, then I must take everything which has been an object of painting – landscape, the portrait, and the nude, for example – and paint it upside-down. That is the best way to liberate representation from content.

The hierarchy which has located the sky at the top and the earth at the bottom is, in any case, only a convention. We have got used to it, but we don’t have to believe in it. The only thing that interests me is the question of how I can carry on painting pictures.9

Portraiture is central to Baselitz’s oeuvre; he has been making portraits of family and friends since the late 1960s. Elke, his wife of thirty years, is often the subject; she claims this is largely due to her availability and the fact that they have always lived very closely. On one hand then, there is the pictorial calculation required to construct and execute an inverted portrait, and then there is the inevitable emotional content, as a consequence of the long-term close relationship, of sitter and artist. Conflicted feelings seem to characterise the majority of Baselitz’s work – nothing is as straightforward as the artist’s comments about them. Auping observes:

His portraits are about the fact that experience itself is not a pure process, revealing a narrative of distinct and logical episodes. The picture may be upside down, and references to the visible world may or may not be present in a specific picture, but that does not make such a picture any more or less faithful to its subject. There are moments in life when feelings exceed perceptions, when the world inside takes precedence over the world outside; every moment in every life is a confrontation, a meeting of inner and outer, an encounter between self and the thing observed or felt. What makes Baselitz’s inverted imagery so intriguing is the way in which it resists simplification and has the weird naturalness and ungraspability of experience itself.10

Baselitz’s portraits one at a time are disconcerting; en masse they assume a different level of existence. They are powerful and remarkable. The issue of portraiture in the post-photographic world was given profound impetus by Picasso almost 100 years ago. Any portrait since Picasso inevitably addresses the psychology of the sitter and the relationship between artist and sitter. It is important to be aware that Baselitz does not paint a work, and then turn it upside down. He holds the photograph of his sitter in one hand and paints with the other. If an inverted portrait is put the right way up, they simply do not work. Gerhard Richter understood Baselitz’s method when he observed that, ‘Nonsense has been written about Baselitz: by being turned through 180 degrees, his figures are said to lose their objective nature and become “pure painting”. The opposite is true: there is an added stress on the objectivity, which takes on a new substance’.11

Arguably, the most remarkable of Baselitz’s portraits are those of Elke in linocut. Baselitz found the traditionally low status of linocut attractive, as had Picasso and Matisse. The energy that can be achieved in linocuts is achieved by its direct and uncompromising method. The actual cutting and scooping of the lines, and the clear contrasts achieved when it has been inked and printed is both exciting and satisfying. So too are the methods of execution of Baselitz’s sculptures, which he began to make in the 1970s. His preferred carving tool is the chainsaw – primitive, energetic and roughly hewn. David Sylvester observes that unlike Baselitz’s paintings, his sculpture was always wholly Teutonic. ‘They are magnificent frames, rough-cast yet subtle, energetic, robust and moody. He has used these weighty, brooding forms to contain and offset some of the most tenuous and fragile looking canvases he has ever painted, creating a perfect integration of sculpture and painting, the coarse and the delicate, the massive and the vulnerable.’12

In the late 1970s and 1980s, Baselitz increased the scale of his work, making his imagery bolder. Although numerous of Baselitz’s images are overwhelmingly egotistical and male, he produced a remarkable image of Elke in 1994, ‘No Birds (Picture Twenty-Eight)’, in which she dwarfs the surrounding landscape, indeed becomes the landscape itself. Painted with hands rather than brushes, the figure is sculpted in paint; the figure is mother earth, a matriarch, an earth figure who floats across the vast canvas (290 x 450 cm). Flowers that have a myriad of associations are introduced by Baselitz as a kitsch wallpaper, a folk art addition to an already valid image. Teetering between the acceptable and artistic suicide, Baselitz teases his viewers, as only a self-styled loner-cum-self-publicist would. Baselitz is maddening in his audacity as an artist and as an individual. He is incredibly difficult to explain, and while there is very great support for his work in Germany and internationally, he has not inspired an actual following. He is a loner in all respects. In the 1990s his work became more accessible, with the introduction of more lyrical drawn lines in paint, with decorative elements of flowers, and a richer palette. The individuals look more plausible, less mythological, friendlier and more ethereal too. Baselitz is many things at any given time in his career.

Drawing is central to the painting of Baselitz and in certain respects his vast sculptures too. The linocuts especially show the powerful immediacy of the drawn line, and many paintings, especially recent works, resemble amplified versions of small works on paper. Baselitz describes drawing as encouraging an exceptionally ‘… fluid type of space … [where] you can break any kind of order or convention, quickly and precisely’. Recent works resemble vast pen and ink drawings amplified onto canvas.

The curator of this exhibition is Norman Rosenthal, who has long championed the work of Baselitz. It seems a little too apologetic to write the catalogue essay for a major retrospective at the Royal Academy ‘Why the Painter Georg Baselitz is a Good Painter’, but that in fact was based on the title of the artist’s own manifesto in 1966, ‘Why the Painting “The Great Friends” is a Good Picture!’

Standing within the long tradition of German art, and using time-honoured media, Baselitz has striven constantly to confront the realities of history and art history, to make them new and fresh in a manner that can only be described as heroic; heroic because his art has consciously gone against the grain of fashion, while always remaining modern. For Baselitz, the artist must be always an outsider, a worker and also, in a certain sense, a prince. Although he is rooted in a German – specifically Saxon – background, Baselitz has succeeded in engaging with art from all around the world. Through both learning and empathy he is able to bring to life traditions quite alien to his experience. He can be read as a highly conservative figure within modern art, but this makes him no less radical, even provocative.13

The Royal Academy exhibition of Georg Baselitz is a most successful one in terms of the hang, wall text and scholarship. The most dramatic galleries are where the ‘45 series’ and ‘Women of Dresden’ were displayed. The ‘45 series’ is a sequence of twenty paintings on wooden panels of equal dimensions. They are powerful images en masse, all produced over a four-month period. The physical feat is most impressive: the wooden panels are incised like wood engraving blocks, or etching plates, but the scale involves an aggressive and rebellious act. Oil and tempera have been applied to the surface, which is then chiselled, in a dynamic manner, not unlike the way Baselitz sculpts with a chainsaw. The geometric carving of the wooden panels reveals the raw untreated wood beneath the paint. The wood is lacerated, like torn flesh; further images are applied in a crude series of splodges, which allude to images of women. The series was made in 1989 to mark the 45th anniversary of the end of the war. As a series, they reveal Baselitz’s aesthetic concerns that were abandoned in many works. ‘Women of Dresden’ (most of the men were at the front when the city was bombed) is a homage to the suffering of women and children in the war, but without any of the profound compassion of Kathe Kollwitz. The crude sculptures resonate with references – from the Expressionist work of the Die Brücke, to the German tradition of wood engraving. They are layered with references to history and art history; they are angry but not moving. Rosenthal has succeeded in presenting a tough body of work, inexplicable in the first instance, in a convincing and enlightened manner.

Dr Janet McKenzie

1 Waldemar Januszczak. Turning the art world on its head. The Sunday Times 23 September 2007. http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/ tol/arts_and_entertainment/ visual_arts/article2499962.ece (last accessed 3 october 2007)

2 Andreas Franzke. Georg Baselitz. Munich: Prestel, 1989: 7.

3 David Sylvester. Paintings in Carvings. In: Georg Baselitz: outside. London: Gagosian Gallery 2000: 13.

4 Januszczak. Op cit: 18.

5 Norman Rosenthal. Why the Painter Georg Baselitz is a Good Painter. In: Georg Baselitz. London: Royal Academy, 2007: 3.

6 Michael Auping. Detlev Gretenkort (ed). Georg Baselitz: Paintings, 1962–2001. Milan: Alberico Cetti Serbelloni Editore, 2002: 16–18.

7 Ibid: 18.

8 Ibid: 20.

9 Ibid: 20.

10 Ibid: 22.

11 Ibid: 22.

12 Sylvester, op cit: 13.

13 Rosenthal, op cit: 1.

Baselitz: Who wants to be a small artist?

SPIEGEL: You simply wanted to be different from others yourself.

Baselitz: I was always on the outside. It was the worst when I still wanted to be a professor, having to deal with colleagues and students, and having to listen to all that academic nonsense. It’s really just a haze that keeps them busy. But all of that is fortunately over now, once and for all. Everything ended happily.

SPIEGEL: Wait! Georg Baselitz is happy?

Baselitz: Absolutely! Completely! It’s fantastic! I can even be happy about my own paintings.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Baselitz, thank you for this interview.

Interview conducted by Susanne Beyer and Ulrike Knoefel; translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

===

Georg Baselitz

Interview & Photography by: Mart Engelen



T his spring Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac hosted the opening of the exhibition of the new works by Georg Baselitz. The show includes a series of Baselitz new monumental sculptures, paintings and a number of works on paper.
Mart Engelen: When you started as a young artist,
do you remember the first thing that inspired you?
Georg Baselitz: My first inspiration was not as a
professional, because I was very young. I remember
that I saw an artist painting an oak tree in the countryside.
He was an unknown artist and the oak tree
looked so explosive! It was painted in the method
of ‘Die Neue Sachlichkeit’. I was only 13 or 14 and
thought: “What is this?”
ME: When you later entered the Academy of Art,
what did you specifically like?
GB: At the time in Germany it was a total different
situation than for instance in Amsterdam or Paris.
Just after the Second World War it was very difficult
for us. Germany was destroyed. There was no
hierarchy. There were no people you could believe
in, everything had been taken away also education
wise. I did not know who Kirchner was or Paul
Klee. I didn’t know anything. All of that changed in
1958. When I was twenty there was for the first time
at the Art Academy a big exhibition about American
Expressionism with Jackson Pollock and many
more contemporary artists.
It was so impressive, wonderful, but also astonishing
that you did not have a chance as a young artist
to create modern art. Because, for instance, De
Kooning was more understandable for the Europeans
than Pollock also Sam Francis. I thought: “this
is so great and surprising!”
I had a total different idea about America , so I said
to myself: “you have to do something totally different.
You cannot follow this. It was another time, another
world, another quality.” And then we heard
that there was an important museum in Amsterdam,
an important director and we heard about the COBRA
group.
So, many hitchhiked to Amsterdam. The first trip
I made together with my wife was to Amsterdam.
That was in 1958 or 1959 and we stayed in a little
hotel in the Red Light District for 5 Dutch guilders
a day. Separate. So we visited the Stedelijk Museum
but did not know anything about modernity,
Bauhaus and so on. I saw for the first time work of
Marcel Duchamp, Picasso and Malevich. For us
German artists Holland was actually the beginning
of our German career. Many of my colleagues had
exhibitions in the beginning of their careers at the
Stedelijk Museum of Eindhoven. After that followed
Amsterdam, France and the United States.
The Stedelijk Museum in Eindhoven had at that
time a very active director named Rudi Fuchs.
ME: What does Art mean to you these days?
GB: Well, it has changed a lot. Before, Art was determined
by certain doctrines, also styles. To give you
an example. When I started out, they said: “The image
of a table (“tafelbild”) is dead. You cannot paint
that anymore”. Then we have had the photographers,
after that the conceptualists, minimalists and
so on. Now nobody talks about that anymore. For
me, who always believed in this métier, I must say it
is an interesting development. Now you have a much
bigger audience. In the old days people were not interested
in Art. It was a small elite who were interested
in Art and who visited exhibitions. The group
who bought Art was even smaller. Nowadays there
is a big interest. You have many visitors of contemporary
Art shows. There are many collectors. It has
totally changed. By the way, the name of the Hotel in
Amsterdam was Elen.
ME: Never heard of it.
ME: You once said: “you cannot deny your origins”.
When we look at young artists today, I am tempted
to say that they are loosing their origins because of
globalization. What do you think about that?
GB: I don’t know, I cannot judge that. They always
ask me why are German artists so interesting? Well,
they all shared the same history: the Second World
War. And many were born in the DDR and lived
there. They also shared the feeling of being despised
by the whole world. That altogether appears to be a
good base to create Art.
We cannot say this of today’s new generation artists.
But some things will never change. Today we still
have German Art, American Art, Dutch Art. Even
when a German artist today will make pop-art, people
will see that it is made by a German, just like people
will recognize work that is made by an Italian or
a French artist.
ME: So there is still origin?
GB: Yes. I don’t know what it exactly is but I assume
a combination of roots and tradition.
ME: Your generation artists could find provocation
and inspiration through the Second World War.
How do today’s artists inspire themselves?
GB: I think they orientate in Art towards Art. When
you are an artist you have an incredible ambition.
What you believe is right, you have to pursue it. This
process is connected all the time with a lot of discipline
and aggression. They have to defend their Art,
so you have to be a provocateur. Otherwise it does
not work.
ME: When you want to become a great artist should
you then also play the role of ‘the great artist’?
GB: There are many ways. You can say the artist is
ill, that’s why he produces only one artwork a year.
Or, this artist is so introverted and precise he can only
produce one work a year. They say a lot of things
about artists just to manipulate the market and it is
seems all legitimate, but it is wrong of course. You
know there is a book about Rembrandt that explains
to us the entrepreneur Rembrandt. He totally manipulated
his own market. And today this happens
even more so.
ME: How can artists become good artists?
GB: First of all they need of course passion. They
have to own a sensitivity towards images more than
normal people. They have to suppress the feeling that
they just can
“do it like that”, because Art has nothing to do with
interpretation. With music, when you are talented,
you can play wonderfully a part of Chopin without
losing yourself.
In art that is impossible. You cannot paint like de
Kooning then you are not an artist. You are an interpreter.
We don’t need this in Art. That’s why a lot of
Art, what we see these days, is so diffuse. And you
think: “Why?”
ME: Do you collect Art yourself?
GB: Yes, I collect Art between 1500 and 1600. Specially
Parmigianino and his contemporaries. Apart
from that I also collect African Art, especially from
Congo.

 

Johnson Road Projects presents Los Angeles-based artist Vincent Johnson’s dazzling color photographs shot in Los Angeles and Detroit + essay

Johnson Road Projects Summer 2015 Exhibition: A Selection of Vincent Johnson’s Color Photography 2001-2015

Johnson Road Projects presents Los Angeles-based artist Vincent Johnson’s dazzling color photographs shot in Los Angeles and Detroit. The artist has lived in LA for several years and most recently gone to Detroit on three photography trips to capture remarkable and startling images of Detroit in transformation.

 DSC05981 copy 1

Neon Chain
Neon Chain

The Deville

Color TV by RCA - Los Angeles
Color TV by RCA – Los Angeles
Ritz Motel - Air Conditioned Rooms
Ritz Motel – Air Conditioned Rooms

V

Permanently Parked Ford Mercury - Detroit
Permanently Parked Ford Mercury – Detroit
Detroit Tire and Bush House.72dpi
Tire and House – Detroit
Mister Softie Truck Detroit.72dpi
Mister Softee Truck Detroit

Vincent Johnson’s Artist statement from 2005 on Photography:

My artistic practice is currently concerned with the production of an archive of digital photographic images of the remains of Los Angeles’ and Southern California’s vernacular architecture after the inception of the motel in the 1920’s through intriguing phase that delivered the fantasy of neon noir architecture of the 1940’s and 1950’s. Since the majority of this form of architectural history are in forlorn and neglected avenues of Los Angeles and beyond, I do not consider the project to be a form of cultural tourism, but an authentic investigation and concern that gives rise to a cultural document as history. On occasion I will also produce a photograph that documents the relationship between the 1950’s through the 1970’s car culture and California private residences.

I work in Los Angeles, which has an exceptional amount of interesting architectural artifacts from the First World War period onwards. Many portions of the Los Angeles that I depict come into existence when New York was attempting to wrest the thorn crown of painting from Paris and succeeded. In the course of producing my photographic archive, I have employed strategies of production such as those used by the flaneur and the derive, in day and at night, by car and on foot, primarily in a stark and challenging urban territory, the Anti-City that is Los Angeles. Similarly, I have also allowed myself to merely wander through this world as the American artist that I am, and fall into pictures and spaces that call for documentation.

It is my experience that driving a car in Los Angeles and seeing the world through its windows is a complex real-time cinematic event. There is a temporary encounter and an enduring intimacy through memory via the photographed subject – this produces the photograph, as versus a sustained relationship with a single but ever-changing street scene. Through auto travel one is given the privileged observer position of moving through the world as a real-time unedited film, a cinema-state; to take a number of photographs of it afterwards. Often, when I drive I look about and “remember” key images, photographs of urban sites from the mid-century and earlier that I will take pictures of in the future.

Despite the relative youth of Los Angeles cultural architectural properties from the mid-20th century and earlier, they are constantly vanishing from the physical landscape of the state, as the dead architecture and their signs are either demolished or their elegant features are almost erased. Part of my project is documentary in the recognition of this reality. At certain times and places in Southern California, merely by driving about, one can gain a very strong sense of the lifestyles of Los Angeles’ remarkable architectural past, in reinvented forms of openness to new possibilities, without external pressure, to fulfill the promise of the future.

Vincent Johnson

Lake Balboa, California
4.12.05

Hauser & Wirth’s Mega Gallery Expands to Los Angeles – Major Space Announced



What will be most remarkable about LA’s new warehouse gallery corridor and transformed downtown in the spring of 2016 will be that there will be four major artworld institutions in close proximity for the fist time ever in the city’s history. MoCA has been restored to order and has begun a masterful turnaround, finally hiring new curators, offering a program of world-class exhibitions, and most recently, Artists Talks about the current exhibitions. The sparkling new Broad Museum, which has a stellar exhibition space of 50,000 sq. ft., will offer major exhibitions from its rapidly expanding collection of premier contemporary art, and curated exhibitions from other collections. What will be the world’s largest contemporary art gallery, at 100,000 sq. ft., Hauser, Wirth and Schimmel plan to offer a new model for the gallery as museum. As they plan to do historical shows, and shows of artists not on their roster who have not shown in Los Angeles, and bring in leading curators to do prime exhibitions, this will be the beginning of an unprecidented time in the life of the artist in Los Angeles. The Mistake Room, LA’s first international, mid-sized Kunsthalle, is part of the LA warehous gallery transformation. Already they’ve shown Oscar Murillo, and have a show by Cao Fei upcoming soon, and are bringing  a major mutichannel video installation by Issac Julien to the US, in downtown LA.
Vincent Johnson is an artist and writer in Los Angeles. His current exhibition can be seen at https://johnsonroadprojects.wordpress.com/
Hauser Wirth & Schimmel compound in the LA warehouse gallery district

Hauser Wirth & Schimmel compound in the LA warehouse gallery district

The Broad Museum on Grand avenue in downtown LA, across the street from MoCA

The Broad Museum on Grand avenue in downtown LA, across the street from MoCA

Hauser, Wirth & Schimmel’s debut exhibition in the east of downtown LA warehouse gallery corridor will be A Revolution Within,” and will feature “35 artists from the late 1940s to the present working in abstraction–kind of biomorphic and figurative abstraction.”
“With seven buildings of eclectic character clustered inside a square-block complex on the former site of the Globe Grain and Milling Company distribution center, on East 3rd Street, he feels he has that covered. The gallery will produce a rotating schedule of overlapping shows across the many structures, and he looks forward to being surprised by how the artists will respond. “Some people do very well in a clean white cube,” he says. “Some people do well in industrial spaces, some in modest or cabinet-sized galleries. Some people do well in open space.”
“One of the reasons we are opening up the whole footprint of LA space is that we are trying to make the building not just a place for exhibitions but as a place to come and sit, with a garden, a courtyard, a restaurant, a bookshop. A breezeway you can ride your bike right into. We’ll have Saturday and Sunday hours, stay open late Thursday through Saturday.”
“It’s a group show, a thematic show, with material covering mid-century to the present. It will be fundamentally about exceptional artists, put it into a larger context, along with lesser known figures—people from here that are not necessarily associated with each other. Mixing it up that way is something I’ve always enjoyed as an art historian. To say, okay, let’s just reshuffle this thing and put new cards in there.” Also, without mentioning names, Schimmel plans to bring in a number of top curators, and “give them the resources, independence and time they need to do something really exceptional. I don’t feel like it’s any different than how I was bringing in guest or project curators at MOCA. You construct a program of ideas, artists, and historians—it all feeds in.”
Frieze New York 2015 Market

‘I Hope They Will Come for Something That Isn’t Just Consumerist’: Paul Schimmel Talks About His New L.A. Gallery

Paul Schimmel at the Hauser & Wirth booth at Frieze New York. (Photo by Katherine McMahon)

One of the more intriguing sights at the Frieze New York art fair on opening day was Paul Schimmel, the curator and art historian, selling works at the booth of Hauser & Wirth. Schimmel spent 35 years working for museums and, after a controversial exit from the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles in 2013, eventually landed at Hauser & Wirth, one of the biggest commercial galleries in the world. Schimmel will run the business’s L.A. outpost, and he will be a name partner.

He’s far more relaxed than most people I’ve encountered at these kinds of events, and he took a seat at a table with me and talked casually while his colleagues ran around the booth conducting business with even more frantic collectors. Thinking about his new life as a dealer, he said, “I’m thinking if five percent of these people really have their life changed by becoming a collector, I hope that they will come for something that isn’t just consumerist, but something that really allows them to meditate and learn and experience art in a way that’s a little slower, a little more personal.” And with that in mind, he laid out the business model for Hauser Wirth & Schimmel.“Our ambition was and is great,” he said, “in that we really wanted to create a kind of hybrid where a third of our program will be historical exhibitions–non-selling exhibitions–a third of it will be artists with whom this will be a unique opportunity to show them in Los Angeles, and a third will be from the Hauser & Wirth program. And to that degree we’ve found an extraordinary facility that allows us to do this kind of programming simultaneously.” He also said the space will have a “beautiful restaurant,” a 20,000-square-foot courtyard, and a retail shop run by “one of the top booksellers.”Schimmel also said that the inaugural show, scheduled to open next January, is called “A Revolution Within,” and will feature “35 artists from the late 1940s to the present working in abstraction–kind of biomorphic and figurative abstraction.”As for switching roles from highly revered museum curator to occasionally having to sell art at a fair, Schimmel said the two aren’t so different. “I haven’t been dealing so much at fairs,” he said, “but I’ve come to maybe half a dozen since I started, and I found it’s very easy to talk about and sell things that I love and know about.”At Frieze, this included a sculpture by Juan Muñoz, an artist not represented by Hauser & Wirth, but whom Schimmel described as a “family friend,” adding that he spent time in Muñoz’s studio, seeing how he worked. As for Paul McCarthy, one of Hauser & Wirth’s most beloved artists, and a staple of their booths at numerous fairs, “He’s my neighbor,” Schimmel said. “Literally. We live five minutes apart.”Asked about his selling style he said, “If anything, I’ve been told I probably have a tendency to talk too much.”

==

Paul Schimmel Looks Ahead
by shayna nys dambrot
Jan 2015

Paul Schimmel
Photo: Felix Clay, courtesy Hauser & Wirth

Undated drawing of the Globe Grain & Milling Co.
Photo: courtesy Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection and Hauser Wirth & Schimmel

Paul Schimmel was MOCA’s chief curator from 1990-2012, a tenure that coincided with and arguably spearheaded Los Angeles’ rise to international art world attention. While not exactly prodigal, Schimmel’s heralded return to the LA conversation as vice president and partner in global gallery armada Hauser & Wirth and co-founder of Hauser Wirth & Schimmel in LA, is naturally quite a headliner-grabber. HWS LA’s square-block campus is slated to open toward the end of the year in an industrial part of where else but downtown—around the same time as the new Broad Museum, and very nearby his MOCA alma mater, itself experiencing something of a rebirth this year. To say he’s wildly excited about the potential would be an understatement. He’s on fire about it.

A pop-up show previewing the gallery’s program had been scheduled for January, concurrent with the January art fairs and ahead of renovations to the seven buildings on the HSW LA campus. This is no longer happening, for boring construction reasons, but speculation as to which of the LA artists in the roster with whom Schimmel could soon be working locally—Sterling Ruby, Mark Bradford, Paul McCarthy, Diana Thater, Richard Jackson, Thomas Houseago, and the estates of Jason Rhoades and Allan Kaprow—remains rampant. In the meantime, at the dawn of what promises to be one of the most dynamic years in LA’s already energized art world, and in light of the coming winter art fair season, Schimmel spoke to art ltd. about enlivening art history, best curatorial practices, architecture as destiny, serving the public, and Los Angeles’ allure as a proper cultural destination.

“I know nothing about art fairs,” Schimmel starts. “I’ve been taking trustees to art fairs forever and I do understand about how they provide a service. But from a programmatic standpoint, I’m like the anti-art fair guy. I think fairs make people think in terms of consumerism. I think when art is made with a customer in mind, it perpetuates a certain kind of art that is almost a genre in itself. Plus it serves artists so much better to pursue a body of work, and not have it go all here and yonder. To be able to bring it together and show it in a place where there is a dialogue that they have with their own work, that the community of artists have with the work, the critics, and the general public. I just think the success of fairs is different from what galleries do best—which is to make long-term commitments to artists and to show them in a regular fashion. And in fact, one thing I can say about the HWS program is that everything from projects in progress to historical work borrowed from institutions will be included.”

At the same time, Hauser & Wirth’s brand is all about visually spectacular spaces, and architectural vastness. The gallery will be a mammoth even by the standards of the proliferation of new and noteworthy galleries setting up in the area that’s already well underway. From The Mistake Room to François Ghebaly, Night Gallery, CB1, The Box, CES and literally dozens more, HWS will certainly not be an outlier. Surprisingly, Schimmel seems committed to bucking the trend towards the ginormous in favor of offering more, if less palatial, spaces with a range of qualities, understanding from his time in the institutional world that upscaling is not every artist’s friend. “First of all,” he says, “I couldn’t agree more that there is a concern about the sheer scale of individual works; the notion of super-sizing everything. I remember when the ’80s art world blew up and everyone blamed Julian Schnabel. But I don’t think it comes out of the gallery world, I think it comes out of the biennials, their pavilions and spectacle-oriented production scales.” With seven buildings of eclectic character clustered inside a square-block complex on the former site of the Globe Grain and Milling Company distribution center, on East 3rd Street, he feels he has that covered. The gallery will produce a rotating schedule of overlapping shows across the many structures, and he looks forward to being surprised by how the artists will respond. “Some people do very well in a clean white cube,” he says. “Some people do well in industrial spaces, some in modest or cabinet-sized galleries. Some people do well in open space. One of the things I learned at MOCA, where I did everything from intimate drawing shows to large-scale installations, is that variety is hugely important in being able to accommodate that which artists do best, whatever that is. And so when I started looking for a space, I wasn’t looking necessarily at raw square footage, but rather at the range of structures. At HWS, it’s really much more like a museum, where you have a selection of spaces that function very differently.” The site has buildings that were made for transportation trucks, mills, storage, built from the 1890s through the mid-20th century. Arrayed around a central courtyard, there are two spaces with classic wooden bow-truss ceilings, one space that’s open to the sky, one with clerestories running down the length, and one with a 75-foot skylight. Two of these buildings, the mill and the bank, have cast concrete columns, with the insignia for the old Globe Mill—strands of wheat and the globe —at the top. They are using that as the HWS logo, differing from the other Hauser & Wirth operations. This makes Schimmel very happy, reminding him about what it looks like to “make something here that is unique to this area, that is grown and nurtured here and then distributed all over the world.”

So what is it that makes the LA art world, and the work that has been produced here, so unique? As an art historian and curatorial voice based here for essentially his whole career—and whose next phase is sounding more and more like a private-sector continuation of the same—Schimmel is in a position to ponder that question most profoundly, and share his findings with the world. “There’s no question that for much of the 20th century, certainly in the 1950s-80s, LA measured itself by the NY yardstick. Yet already there were real exceptions, including Kienholz taking assemblage and the combine and turning it into theatrical spectacles and walk-in environments. I don’t think Kienholz was all that far from Robert Irwin, in that they were saying ‘It’s not about a thing, it’s about an experience. It’s not about an object but an environment.’ That started changing the paradigm. What happened in the 1980s, however, was the rise of LA’s art schools. There was nothing like that on the east coast. That became LA’s foundation rather than a gallery system. You could do experimental work that was in a sense outside the commercial arena.

The breaking down of institutional walls that happened here allowed a new kind of culture to develop. Those students who stayed changed the world of LA art.”

The architectural spaces here were profoundly different, too. Schimmel remembers how in 1984 the Geffen (then called the Temporary Contemporary) scrambled to open in time for the Olympics when MOCA’s main building was not going to be ready. And how that big raw space became where all the artists wanted to show. “I think about what the TC represented—super cheap warehouse space converted lightly—and the impact it had, whether we’re talking about Beacon, DIA, Bordeaux, or the Tate. I’m amazed people don’t acknowledge how Chelsea wouldn’t exist without LA. They looked around and said, ‘We need these LA kinds of spaces. More natural light, bigger, more generous, industrial.’ Every aspect of what I’m doing at HWS is influenced by that legacy.” Even so, Schimmel is also very aware that LA has been slow to parlay all that potential. “Look how quickly New York was able to capitalize on that shift, and frankly how slow LA has been, both to develop its own natural infrastructure—and I say this thinking about how beloved by artists the Geffen is—how unfortunate it is that an institution should have to struggle to keep such a great asset alive. But I also think MOCA’s specific turnaround from a very difficult period, in terms both financial and ideological, has been remarkably fast. Usually when these things go askew, it takes a generation for them to get back on track. That makes me believe, I do believe, that in this community there are people who really do fundamentally respect creativity.”

A lot of those same people are clearly expecting HWS to place a serious focus on LA artists, and for the relationship of the program to the city to be apparent from the start. Adamant that LA is central to the mix, Schimmel vaguely but firmly promises “huge differences” between HWS and the other Hauser & Wirth galleries. “I think it’s up to galleries to figure out how to do this, but I would like to see artists have as much respect and appreciation for galleries as they do for museums, and the only way I know how to do that is to make galleries behave more aggressively both in the area of education and public engagement. There’s real value to that. For artists, they need a gallery to act in the interests of history rather than in the moment.” To that end, HWS will have more thematic, group, and historical exhibitions—à la institutions or kunsthalles. Schimmel sees that as making up about a third of the schedule. The second third is the opportunity for artists from all over the world to show here, which many would like to do, including but not only those from the gallery’s own stable, project by project. Then of course, there is the full, expansive program of Hauser & Wirth to be addressed.

Besides high-profile hometown players like Mark Bradford, Paul McCarthy, and Sterling Ruby, Schimmel feels an enormous personal connection to his work with the estate of Jason Rhoades. “We very much would like to do Jason proper in his town,” says Schimmel. “Rhoades was discovered in Europe by Ivan Wirth before he became known in LA. Very early, simultaneously with the earliest people in Los Angeles, myself included, who came to him through people like Paul McCarthy. And Ivan had met Paul through the ‘Helter Skelter’ show and brought him in.”With a laugh Schimmel admits, “I probably did my best work for Hauser & Wirth before I even joined the staff!” Given the many areas of overlap between not only the roster but the scope and day-to-day of what he actually does, it makes sense that Schimmel sees it all as a continuum, one in which his time at MOCA is less of a legacy and more of a prologue. One of the most salient holdovers is his taste for assembling a team. “I had the smartest curators working for me at MOCA. Curators do the most extraordinary things for artists, as tremendous advocates that are in many ways undervalued and underappreciated. Rodney Graham would not have happened without Connie Butler. Russell Ferguson did great things, like the Douglas Gordon show. Maybe the most significant thing I accomplished at MOCA—and it was the hardest to see break down—was the depth of the relationship between an artist and a curator. I hope that galleries who have museological ambitions will raise the bar in terms of what scholarship and a lifetime commitment to an artist can mean. It can enable an artist to do their most significant work. That’s in some ways an old-fashioned European way of doing things. You see curators on their sixth exhibition of Sigmar Polke, and might think that’s too many. But no, it’s the perfect thing to do, getting in early and carrying it through. It doesn’t matter how successful an artist becomes, that handful of people who believed in them before there was any financial value, before they got confused by the marketplace—nothing is more profound than that early commitment. That doesn’t change.”

Early and lifelong relationships with artists, reliance on visionary curatorial teams, appreciation for the potential of eccentric architecture and room to experiment, and an artists roster with an already laudable penchant for Angelenos. Check. But what will all this really mean to the city when it is said and done and the inaugural show opens? Though loathe to drop any spoilers, it’s obvious Schimmel is ready to start talking about it—though he does pretty well with evocative generalities. “It’s a group show, a thematic show, with material covering mid-century to the present. It will be fundamentally about exceptional artists, put it into a larger context, along with lesser known figures—people from here that are not necessarily associated with each other. Mixing it up that way is something I’ve always enjoyed as an art historian. To say, okay, let’s just reshuffle this thing and put new cards in there.” Also, without mentioning names, Schimmel plans to bring in a number of top curators, and “give them the resources, independence and time they need to do something really exceptional. I don’t feel like it’s any different than how I was bringing in guest or project curators at MOCA. You construct a program of ideas, artists, and historians—it all feeds in.”

As far as the physical gallery’s direct relationship to the city that inspired it, Schimmel refers to the recent Hauser & Wirth success with their Somerset UK property, which opened this past summer. He describes it as both a destination and educational program, predicated on the idea of a museological art center experience. They had 58,000 visitors within a few months. “One of the reasons we are opening up the whole footprint of LA space is that we are trying to make the building not just a place for exhibitions but as a place to come and sit, with a garden, a courtyard, a restaurant, a bookshop. A breezeway you can ride your bike right into. We’ll have Saturday and Sunday hours, stay open late Thursday through Saturday. Our number one audience is the neighborhood, and the artists who live and work here. We are not about cultural tourism per se, though the Europeans love downtown, but rather a real town center. We want this to be the living room for the downtown arts community.” It’s a community Schimmel himself calls home, and he plans to see that proof in the HWS pudding. “What else can I do? I don’t know anything else. I’ve been a curator for 40 years!”

Exterior view of HWSLA. Aerial Photo taken December, 2014
Photo © art ltd.

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November 21, 2014 update:

 

  • BROOKLYN RAIL

Artists Supporting Their Own

Over the past months, I have had the opportunity to think a lot about the future of the art world. With my departure from the Museum of Contemporary Art, the death of Mike Kelley, and my increased responsibilities as a co-director of the foundation he began in 2007, I have been forced to think about both the changed landscape of the arts in Los Angeles and internationally. I have always known that my first responsibility is to the artists themselves and that they should be privileged in the mix of public collectors, critics, dealers, and curators that make up my world.

Artists have never let me down. With Mike (again) another world has revealed itself to me—artists foundations that support their own. I have had the good fortune to closely observe the great work of the Krasner, Pollock, Gotlieb, Warhol, Rauschenberg, and now the Mike Kelley Foundation. Artists are clearly becoming even more important in supporting artists and their ideas, not just the things they make. Surely one of the great bonuses of the commodification of art is that the artists can and are making a huge difference in the lives of future generation of less commercialized artists.

With the hundreds of artists foundations already existing in the U.S. and many more to be formed by the wealthiest generation of artists ever, their legacies will become among the most important not-for-profit institutions to directly support the arts.

CONTRIBUTOR

Paul SchimmelPAUL SCHIMMEL was Chief Curator of MoCA Los Angeles from 1991 to 2012. He is currently Chairman of the Mike Kelley Foundation and Co-Curator of the Richard Hamilton retrospective

Hauser & Wirth Nab LA Factory, Hirshhorn Names New Director, and More

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jonathantdneil.com

A Profile of Paul Schimmel

Felix Clay, Photograph of Paul Schimmel

When I sit down for breakfast with Paul Schimmel, he asks the first question, as if he’s conducting the interview and I’m the renowned curator who has recently joined up with one of the world’s three or four truly global, powerhouse galleries, and got the original owners to add my name to the shingle – Hauser Wirth & Schimmel – to boot. We’re at the Langham Hotel in Pasadena, not far from the Norton Simon Museum or from where Schimmel lives, and once a regular breakfast spot for him and Richard Koshalek, most recently of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, but once Schimmel’s boss at LA MOCA. I’m in great company. So that question?

“What shows have you seen?”

I’m not surprised. Schimmel lives for making shows. He’s been doing it since the 1970s, before arriving at the Newport Harbor Art Museum (now the Orange County Museum of Art) in 1978 from the Contemporary Art Museum, Houston, where he was responsible for American Narrative/Story Art: 1967–77 (1977), which included John Baldessari, Eleanor Antin, William T. Wiley, Ed Ruscha and Allen Ruppersberg, among other artists of, as Schimmel describes them, the “narrative conceptualist” persuasion. That show travelled west, to UC Berkeley and Santa Barbara, and apparently Baldessari was there each step of the way. “John treated me like a curator,” Schimmel says. “[He] went to every venue and helped me to get the very best work.” And after a stint back in New York at the Institute of Fine Arts and a master’s degree, Schimmel said to his wife, “You watch. My first job will be in California.” That was Newport, where the museum’s holdings of postwar California art grew by a reported 300 percent during Schimmel’s tenure.

His second job in California? LA MOCA, which is where, from 1989 until the middle of last year, Schimmel not only mastered the craft of the substantial historical survey – his last show for the museum, which opened in October 2012, Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949–1962, is a case in point – but also shifted the artworld’s (to that point rather moribund) thinking on the history and value – intellectual, aesthetic, commercial – of postwar California art with Under the Big Black Sun: California Art 1974–81 (2011), which tackled the prehistory of 1992’s Helter Skelter: LA Art in the 1990s, in many ways that era’s and perhaps Schimmel’s career-defining exhibition (if such a narrowing of lens is possible).

Why California and why LA? For the art, and the artists. Within months of arriving at Newport, Schimmel met Mike Kelley. His reaction? “I was like, ‘Yes! Thank God I don’t have to figure out how to invent this person.’ This person is here. When you find someone in your own generation who embodies the same kinds of interests, well, I knew this was where I was going to be. And there was no question that doing work deeply committed to the region but with international implications was doable.” There’s little question that he did it, either. And there’s little question that he was able to do it because of his commitment to the community of artists that included Chris Burden and Paul McCarthy, and of course Kelley and others.

When I asked Schimmel whether he thought about quitting LA after MOCA’s board forced him out (presumably because he and then-new but now-former MOCA Director Jeffrey Deitch didn’t mix well, but Schimmel wouldn’t say, and no one else is talking either), and following Kelley’s death in 2012, he said yes, he did. He considered New York, and Europe, but in the end he couldn’t leave, “not so much because of my own generation”, but because of the “younger artists, people like Mark Grotjahn and Thomas Houseago and Sterling Ruby and Laura Owens”, and because of that “languorous sense of community” that comes from a “place where you can both make something and show something”. “More than anything else,” Schimmel said, “it was that sense of being part of a community of younger artists who both believe in and appreciate their community and my place in it.”

Someone else appreciated Schimmel’s place in that community as well. A few days before we spoke, Schimmel opened Re-View: Onnasch Collection – a survey of Reinhard Onnasch’s nearly unparalleled collection of postwar art from the 1950s to the 1970s (including a number of important works by Edward Kienholz from 1960 to 61) – at Hauser & Wirth’s Piccadilly and Savile Row spaces in London. As Schimmel tells me, “Iwan [Wirth] was very clever. Long before I joined the staff,” – this is one of Schimmel’s great gifts: the ability to be modest and self-aggrandising at once – “he put together a list of four or five potential people to work on the show, which he’d been trying to do for a long time. My name was on the list without me knowing it, and Mrs Onnasch said – and I’d worked with the Onnasches on the Out of Actions show, and for the Rauschenberg Combines show, and forHand-Painted Pop; so at three different times over the last 20 years I’d worked with them; I’m a known quantity – and Mrs Onnasch said, ‘Oh yes, that would be good, but I don’t think he would do it’. And Iwan says he looked at her and said, ‘Oh, you never know’.” Indeed you don’t, unless you’ve had the following exchange, as Schimmel told me:

I was opening Under the Big Black Sun and Iwan calls me and asks, “Paul, are you at the Geffen?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “I’m going to be there in five minutes. I want to pick you up.” I said, “I’m in the middle of an installation.” And he says, “No, no, no. It’s just right in the neighbourhood. I want to show you something.” I said, “OK, the break’s at eleven. So pick me up at eleven.” He takes me three, four blocks away, and shows me just a beautiful warehouse space. And he says, “What do you think?” And I say, “I think it’s beautiful.” And says, “No, really, what do you think?” And I said, “Iwan, no. No. I’m not thinking about it.” He says, “OK, what do you think we could do here? What would make sense here?” I said, “Well, things should be very different than the kind of programme you would have in New York and there should be fewer things, bigger, richer, deeper; and don’t think about it in terms of how much stuff you can sell here as how much stuff can enter into Hauser & Wirth.” And he says, “Exactly.”

Of his new partner Schimmel says that, yes, “there is that sort of inscrutable quality of the Swiss, but it’s also combined with an overwhelming joy and enthusiasm for things. He’s sort of like a California kid”, but one who learned about California from Jason Rhoades and Paul McCarthy, figures who embody what Schimmel appreciates most about California artists, their fiercely independent and ambitious “can-do spirit”, which he traces back to Ed Kienholz himself, one of a generation of artists who were going to write their own history and “were going to control not just what you see but how you see it”.

“Ultimately”, Schimmel says, Hauser Wirth & Schimmel “was the only opportunity to make something from the ground up in Los Angeles, with a community of artists with whom I felt completely comfortable. And I believe it’s more than just the opportunities I’ll have as a curator, but also the opportunity to bring in what I think are still woefully undervalued players in the artworld, which are art historians and curators. There’s a bigger role for these people. Parties are nice; scholarship is the foundation. For me this is the great attraction. Ursula [Hauser] and Iwan have a real sense of the importance of serious scholarship – taking a more scientific and less a celebratory approach to the work.”

It’s not clear when or exactly where Hauser Wirth & Schimmel will open its doors. “Downtown is the focus,” Schimmel told me. He has a clear idea of what he wants. A compound of buildings, of different spaces, indoor and outdoor, that afford some creative restrictions rather than the ever-looming tabula rasa of a 4,000sqm warehouse-cum-kunsthalle, plus some amenities that will make it a destination. “LA is very a funny place,” Schimmel admits. “The classic Gertrude Stein line, ‘There is no there there’, really is true.” So it will be important that visitors to the new space will value the time and, as Schimmel says, “give it over”, because “if you put on a great show, tons of people will come”, But, he continued, “you have to make it rich enough and comfortable enough”, which most Angelenos know really distils down to two things – “Good parking. Good parking.”

This article was first published in the November 2013 issue of ArtReview.

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Hauser & Wirth Nab LA Factory, Hirshhorn Names New Director, and More
Hauser Wirth & Schimmel announce new space in downtown Los Angeles.
(Courtesy Hauser & Wirth )

— Hauser Wirth & Schimmel Names Venue: A former flour mill in downtown LA has been announced as the location of multidisciplinary arts center Hauser Wirth & Schimmel, a collaboration between the ever-expanding gallery and former LA MOCA chief curator Paul Schimmel. A two-month show will debut at the building in January, after which the institution will close for renovations until 2016. “More of our artists live in LA than in any other city. They’re a diverse, multigenerational group whose work informs our international program and shapes contemporary dialogue,” said gallery president and owner Iwan Wirth. “It seems particularly fitting to launch our third decade by creating Hauser Wirth & Schimmel and pioneering a new gallery model in the city known around the world as a place for imagination, reinvention and new forms of cultural expression.” [LAT]

JUN. 06, 2014/Art in America

Hauser Wirth & Schimmel to Open Gallery Complex in Downtown L.A.

Globe Grain and Milling Company. Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection.

 

 

Iwan Wirth of the contemporary art gallery Hauser & Wirth, with locations in London, Zurich, New York and, soon, Somerset, has announced the company’s new Los Angeles venture, Hauser Wirth & Schimmel, in partnership with former Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) chief curator Paul Schimmel. The chosen venue—an historic 100,000-square-foot flour mill compound in the city’s active downtown arts district—will be transformed into a multidisciplinary arts center.

Beginning in January 2015, the still raw spaces will host a three-month group exhibition focusing on Los Angeles-based artists who have emerged in the past 15 years. The facility will then close for renovation and reopen the following winter.

Work on the seven late 19th and 20th-century buildings and interior courtyard that make up the historic 901 East 3rd Street complex will be overseen by the L.A. real estate and project management firm Creative Space, with support from local Los Angeles city councilman José Huizar of District 14.

UPDATE: This news article has been updated. It previously misstated Paul Schimmel’s role at the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles.

 

Complex edifices: An update on Hauser Wirth & Schimmel and Broad Museum

Undated drawing of the Globe Grain & Milling Co. headquarters and warehouse, at 907 E. 3rd Street in Los Angeles, now an arts district. The complex is the location for Hauser Wirth & Schimmel's new LA gallery.

LA Public Library/Security Pacific National Bank Collection

Undated drawing of the Globe Grain & Milling Co. headquarters and warehouse, at 907 E. 3rd Street in Los Angeles, now an arts district. The complex is the location for Hauser Wirth & Schimmel’s new LA gallery.

Off-Ramp host John Rabe gets an update from arts reporter Jori Finkel on the Hauser Wirth & Schimmel gallery coming to the downtown Arts District and the Broad Museum coming to Grand Avenue.

One’s gritty; one’s grand. Two new important arts spaces are coming to downtown L.A. soon, one in the Arts District that’s long been the home of poor artists, another alongside Grand Avenue’s grand edifices. Jori Finkel, an arts journalist currently freelancing for the New York Times, gave us an update on both this week.

First, we went to 901 East 3rd Street,  the site of a former flour mill. It’s near the former Al’s bar, a punk rock Mecca, and across the street from Wurstküche, the sausage and beer hall.

RELATED: Documentary “Young Turks” covers an era when the Arts District was really gritty

The international art gallery owners Hauser & Wirth will be opening a huge new gallery here in partnership with former MOCA chief curator Paul Schimmel. Finkel says, “A powerhouse gallery, for sure. Galleries in Zurich, New York, and London.”

It will be called Hauser Wirth & Schimmel. “[Schimmel] is actually a partner with them worldwide now,” she says, “but this particular gallery he will be running, and we can already see his stamp on the program, because the first thing they’ll be doing — maybe January of 2015 — is a pop-up gallery show to show the world what they’re bringing to L.A., and it’s going to be a big one.” Finkel says that show will include Mark Bradford, Laura Owens, Sterling Ruby and Mary Weatherford as among the artists.

Then, it’ll close again and — after extensive renovations — reopen sometime in 2016 as a “gallery on the model of a museum,” as Finkel puts it. “It is commercial, but they’re staffing up as though it were a museum,” with educational programming and some exhibits at which the art will not be for sale, she says.

Schimmel left MOCA because he didn’t get along with Jeffrey Deitch, the former high-end gallery owner brought in to direct the museum. He’s since been replaced by Philippe Vergne. The question asked then, with raised eyebrows, was, “What does a gallery owner know about running a museum?”

Now, it’s only fair to ask, “Does Schimmel, who has spent decades in the museum world, have what it takes to run a gallery? ”

Finkel responds: “‘Does he have what it takes to make sales?’ is a question I’ve heard other (art) dealers ask.”

And despite the fact that he’s built deep relationships with important artists, “Paul is not known for working on the service model so much. He has a big personality. People love him for that reason, and he rubs some people the wrong way for that reason.”

Next, it was off to Grand Avenue to check out the progress on Eli Broad’s new edifice, the Broad Museum, completion of which has been delayed until at least the middle of next year, according to what Broad told Finkel.

Finkel says the works inside will be the contemporary art collected by Broad and his wife Edythe and by the Broad Art Foundation. “So while you’ll find some early Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein, Warhol-type works, you’re also going to find some really big names of contemporary art today: Murakami, Koons, Cindy Sherman.”

Will the Broad hurt MOCA, which is almost across the street? Finkel says she doesn’t think so, because MOCA has struggled with low attendance, and “anything else that brings people who are art-interested or even just art-curious to this area will make this more of a destination for art. How much more is the question.”

Los Angeles
Hauser Wirth & Schimmel to Open Downtown Los Angeles
09.06.2014Iwan Wirth, president and owner of Hauser & Wirth, announced the company’s new Los Angeles venue will be located at 901 East 3rd Street, in a historic 100,000 square foot flour mill complex in the city’s burgeoning downtown Arts District.Under the direction of partner Paul Schimmel, Hauser Wirth & Schimmel will transform the site’s sprawling collection of late 19th and early 20th century buildings and outdoor spaces into a multi-disciplinary arts center. The new venue will offer exhibitions, museum-caliber amenities, and a schedule of public programs. In addition to indoor and open air spaces, Hauser Wirth & Schimmel will over time include special studios for artist residencies and projects; dedicated spaces for workshops and education; and a restaurant and bookstore.

In January 2015, Hauser Wirth & Schimmel will host a three-month group exhibition focusing upon Los Angeles artists who have emerged in the past fifteen years. The facility, for which the gallery has signed a long-term lease, will then close for renovation and open to the public permanently the following winter.

“Los Angeles has exploded as a creative community for the visual arts”, Paul Schimmel said. “Artists based here want to exhibit in their home town, and increasing numbers of artists from around the world want to live and work in Los Angeles. With Hauser Wirth & Schimmel, we aspire to give all of these artists a unique second home: a place to create and show their art in historical context, a place that encourages their most rigorous and best expressions, a place that brings them and their art into a dynamic, exciting, and transformational dialogue with the public.”.

 

 

Paul Schimmel. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth & Schimmel. Photo Felix Clay

 

 

 

MAJOR UPDATE:  PAUL SCHIMMEL BECOMES NAME PARTNER IN NEW HAUSER WIRTH & SCHIMMEL

Hauser & Wirth Developing L.A. Art Space with Paul Schimmel – BWWVisual ArtsWorld by art.broadwayworld.com 5.24.13

“As partner in Hauser &S Wirth, Mr. Schimmel will help the gallery develop and will run a new Los Angeles arts space called Hauser Wirth & Schimmel. Envisioned as a museum-like destination for experiencing art in context, the new venue is expected to open in 2015 and will offer three to five major exhibitions per year. Hauser Wirth & Schimmel will place significant emphasis upon education and public programs, offering an array of on-going events and activities inspired both by its exhibitions and the local culture.”

“Hauser Wirth & Schimmel will be shaped as a cultural center. It will provide a platform for the substantial group of exceptional Los Angeles artists represented by the gallery; introduce Los Angeles to the work of artists from around the world through solo exhibitions and rigorously organised historical shows; invite leading scholars, curators and writers to participate in programs seeking new and compelling connections between history and the present day; and prioritize can be no dount ommunity engagement and lingering visits.”

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The spectacular cultural program announced by the Hauser Wirth & Schimmel gallery is nothing less than astounding. It seems that it is a response to every criticism of MoCA Los Angeles. That it will do what the Jeffrey Deitch led MoCA has claimed it cannot do – as it had to become a Populist institution that allowed street art to overwhelm true high culture. There can be no doubt that this new gallery in formation will become the space that lifts Los Angeles’ cultural scene to untold new heights. Over the years many LA arts institutions have had dreams they could not realize, from building a major new museum building, to having the level of cultural programming that draws an international audience. It would seem that the gallery will also be providing the kind of public intellectual life that MoCA claimed was impossible to exist in Los Angeles. LA’s artworld thought that it was major error in having a former gallerist run a major contemporary art museum. It seems that the correct formula is to have a world class curator as the tastemaker, and the high minded deep pockets business end will make it all possible.

Vincent Johnson is an artist and writer in Los Angeles

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Previous reporting:

The Hollywood Reporter has offered the news that former MoCA Los Angeles Chief curator Paul Schimmel has accepted a offer and position with Hauser & Wirth, one of the most powerful galleries in the world. This is the first world-class international gallery to expand to Los Angeles from Europe. The gallery would be the only one in Los Angeles with a contemporary art curator of the highest rank on its team. There are a few others internationally with major curators on its staff, such as Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac in Paris. Schimmel would be quickly moving beyond his departure from MoCA, which was fighting for its financial life, to one a commercial gallery with vast resources. I am anticipating that he will create thematic group shows with exhibition catalogs that will be as potent as the best shows ever curated at MoCA. His curatorial eye and vision will give the works he selects a double power – that of immediate curatorial validation from the highest of cultural authorities, yet within the context of a hugely commercial enterprise. Hauser & Wirth’s Los Angeles gallery space could become the dominant player in the LA artworld.

It has only been a few months since the gallery expanded into the Chelsea gallery district in New York City, opening a spectacular 23,000 sq. ft. space with an exhibition of the work of Dieter Roth. The gallery was also already operating on New York’s Upper East Side. Now with spaces in London, Zurich and New York City, the gallery will be expanding into Los Angeles. When this happens and the actual location and scale of the space is announced, it would join a small number of the super elite galleries that have recently expanded west into LA, including L&M Arts and Matthew Marks (2 separate new spaces). This new tier of LA gallery, which includes massive spaces at Blum & Poe, Regen Projects, Perry Rubenstein, LA Louver, Gagosian, are offering a platform for many international artists, many whom have never before exhibited in Los Angeles, or at least not in recent or even distant memory. Add to this Laura Owens 12,000 sq. ft. studio space, east of downtown LA, that is currently showing several of her recent large scale paintings. The space is already being used for readings, screenings, and possibly a show by the legendary New York City painter Alex Katz. Many LA artists are quite surprised to see the continued growth of the LA art market at the uppermost elevation. Yet it is also quite rewarding to go to openings at these new venues, as several are defacto LA kunsthalles that are also commercial galleries, bringing in the best of international art to Los Angeles as never seen till today. Perhaps this also means that more of LA’s own top art stars today, from Paul McCarthy to Thomas Houseago to Sterling Ruby, will be exhibiting some of their works here, created in airplane hanger sized studios, (McCarthy, 150,000 sq. ft. LA studio), Ruby, 90,000 sq. ft. LA studio) instead of shipping everything to NYC or out of the country.

Vincent Johnson is an artist and writer in Los Angeles

www.vincentjohnsonart.com

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Wire

Hauser & Wirth take on Paul Schimmel for Los Angeles gallery

Friday, 24th May 2013

Press release: Hauser & Wirth is pleased to announce that internationally acclaimed curator and scholar Paul Schimmel has been named a partner of the gallery. Schimmel joins Iwan Wirth, Manuela Wirth and Marc Payot in leading an enterprise founded over 20 years ago.

Described by The Financial Times as ‘a marketplace of ideas’, Hauser & Wirth has locations in Zurich, London and New York. Its program focuses upon significant contemporary artists and includes historical surveys and thematic group exhibitions that advance new dialogues about art.

The gallery represents over 50 established and emerging contemporary artists, as well as the estates of Eva Hesse, Allan Kaprow, Josephsohn, Lee Lozano, Jason Rhoades, Dieter Roth, Philippe Vandenberg and the Henry Moore Family Collection.

Click here for more: After 20 years, why is Hauser & Wirth setting up a gallery in Somerset?

Over the course of the past three decades, Paul Schimmel has become known as one of the most influential curators of his generation. Formerly chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA), and recently a co-director of the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts, Schimmel is credited with playing a pivotal role in establishing southern California’s unique contemporary art scene as a potent force on the global cultural stage.

Pictured above: Legs of a Walking Ball by Eva Hesse

He is a scholar of the art of the 1950s; has created ambitious thematic exhibitions that have shaped recent art history; and has organized defining retrospectives for significant artists ranging from Willem de Kooning to Charles Ray, among many others.

As partner in Hauser & Wirth, Mr. Schimmel will help the gallery develop and will run a new Los Angeles arts space called Hauser Wirth & Schimmel. Envisioned as a museum-like destination for experiencing art in context, the new venue is expected to open in 2015 and will offer three to five major exhibitions per year.

Read more on Hauser & Wirth

Hauser Wirth & Schimmel will place significant emphasis upon education and public programs, offering an array of on-going events and activities inspired both by its exhibitions and the local culture.

Like Hauser & Wirth Somerset, the exhibition and outdoor art facility scheduled to open in 2014 on the historic 100-acre Durslade Farm at the edge of the ancient town of Bruton in southwest England, Hauser Wirth & Schimmel will be shaped as a cultural center.

It will provide a platform for the substantial group of exceptional Los Angeles artists represented by the gallery; introduce Los Angeles to the work of artists from around the world through solo exhibitions and rigorously organised historical shows; invite leading scholars, curators and writers to participate in programs seeking new and compelling connections between history and the present day; and prioritize community engagement and lingering visits.

Pictured above: Plans for Hauser & Wirth’s Somerset gallery

Hauser & Wirth will announce additional details about the location, design and programs of Hauser Wirth & Schimmel in early 2014.

‘Los Angeles has been an essential part of Hauser & Wirth’s history from the very beginning,’ Iwan Wirth commented. ‘In 1992, our first year in business, I saw Paul Schimmel’s MOCA exhibition ‘Helter Skelter’, and for me it was a revelation. Los Angeles is a place of breakthroughs. Dieter Roth’s first exhibition in the United States took place in Los Angeles.

‘The work of pivotal figures we represent – Allan Kaprow, Richard Jackson, Paul McCarthy and Jason Rhoades – would be unimaginable without the impact of Los Angeles upon their thinking and practices. And now younger generation artists like Diana Thater, Thomas Houseago, Sterling Ruby and Rachel Khedoori are extending our relationship with this amazing city.

‘We have long dreamt of opening a space in Los Angeles and making a contribution to the community that means so much to our artists and to us personally. We are honored and delighted to have Paul Schimmel as our partner in realizing that dream’.

‘Each of Hauser & Wirth’s locations reflects the distinct character of its city,’ said Marc Payot. ‘The buildings we occupy in Zurich, London and New York all have colorful histories, the local communities have very specific cultures, and these things influence our thinking about our program.

‘With Paul Schimmel leading our Los Angeles initiative, the gallery’s West Coast destination is guaranteed to have a fantastic sense of place, a great complement and counterpoint to our presence on the East Coast and in Europe’.

‘It is a great honor to join Hauser & Wirth,’ said Paul Schimmel. ‘The gallery has a profound dedication to artists, a consistent commitment to scholarship and a strong sense of community in an increasingly globalized world. The partners, directors, staff and artists of the gallery are an extraordinary extended family’.

About Paul Schimmel

Born and raised in New York and educated at Syracuse University and the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, Paul Schimmel has resided in Los Angeles for thirty years. He has spent much of his career examining the artists who have defined that city. Schimmel began his career at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston TX, where he was a curator from 1975 to 1977 and senior curator from 1977 to 1978.

He served as the chief curator of the Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach CA from 1981 to 1989. In 1990, he became chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA), a position he held until 2012. At MOCA, Schimmel mounted many of the institution’s most ambitious and effecting exhibitions.

In addition to ‘Helter Skelter: L.A. Art in the 1990s’, these included ‘Hand-Painted Pop: American Art in Transition, 1955 – 1962’; ‘Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object, 1949 – 1979’; ‘Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949 – 1962’; and ‘Under the Big Black Sun: California Art, 1974 – 1981′, the most comprehensive survey ever organized to examine the fertility and diversity of art practice in California during a unique period in American history when artists’ and institutions’ societal roles were re-examined dramatically.

Schimmel’s monographic exhibitions included shows devoted to Chris Burden, Willem de Kooning, Takashi Murakami, Sigmar Polke, Robert Rauschenberg and Charles Ray. He has won numerous honors and awards, including two awards from the Association of Art Museum Curators (AAMC), seven awards from the International Association of Art Critics (AICA), and the Award for Curatorial Excellence given by The Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College (2001).

Mr. Schimmel has recently served on the Committee for the Preservation of the White House and the La Caixa Contemporary Art Collection Acquisition Committee. He has been co-chairman of the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts. In spring 2013 he received an honorary doctorate from the San Francisco Art Institute.

About Hauser & Wirth

Hauser & Wirth is a global enterprise representing over 50 established and emerging contemporary artists, including Rita Ackermann, Ida Applebroog, Phyllida Barlow, Louise Bourgeois, Christoph Büchel, David Claerbout, Martin Creed, Berlinde De Bruyckere, Martin Eder, Ellen Gallagher, Isa Genzken, Dan Graham, Rodney Graham, Subodh Gupta, Mary Heilmann, Andy Hope 1930, Roni Horn, Thomas Houseago, Matthew Day Jackson, Richard Jackson, Rashid Johnson, Rachel Khedoori, Bharti Kher, Guillermo Kuitca, Maria Lassnig, Paul McCarthy, Joan Mitchell, Ron Mueck, Caro Niederer, Christopher Orr, Djordje Ozbolt, Michael Raedecker, Pipilotti Rist, Sterling Ruby, Anri Sala, Wilhelm Sasnal, Christoph Schlingensief, Roman Signer, Anj Smith, Monika Sosnowska, Diana Thater, André Thomkins, Ian Wallace, Zhang Enli, David Zink Yi, and Jakub Julian Ziolkowski. Hauser & Wirth also represents the estates of Eva Hesse, Allan Kaprow, Josephsohn, Lee Lozano, Jason Rhoades, Dieter Roth and Philippe Vandenberg, as well as the Henry Moore Family Collection.

Click here for more

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The following is a collection of articles, interviews, recent reviews and gallery installation shots concerning Hauser  Wirth.

http://hyperallergic.com/63937/chelseas-newest-mega-gallery-embraces-its-gritty-industrial-past/

Galleries

Chelsea’s Newest Mega-Gallery Embraces Its Gritty, Industrial Past

A view of Hauser & Wirth's cavernous new space, with one of Dieter Roth's "Floors" in the back leftA view of Hauser & Wirth’s cavernous new space, with one of Dieter Roth’s “Floors” in the back left (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

Yesterday afternoon, Hauser & Wirth opened the doors to its new space in Chelsea for a preview. The gallery’s only home until now in New York has been a townhouse on the Upper East Side, which, like all buildings of its sort, makes for a narrow, multilevel (and sometimes fragmented) art-viewing experience. The new gallery, the site of the former Roxy nightclub and roller rink on West 18th Street, is pretty much the opposite — a cavernous warehouse that, although it’s technically only one floor, seems to expand and spread in every direction.

Another view of the spaceAnother view of the space

The space, first and foremost, is huge: 23,000 square feet, bested probably only by David Zwirner’s 30,000 square feet a block north and Gagosian’s 25,000 square feet of space nearby on West 24th Street. Compared to those two, both of them quite pristine white cubes, Hauser & Wirth’s new gallery has a much grungier, more industrial feel. Co-owner Marc Payot touched on that in his remarks yesterday, saying the gallery “didn’t want to create another white cube. We wanted to respect the architecture.” Not that huge, industrial spaces are anything new, mind you, but it’s just as well: the place is pretty jaw-dropping as is, and though there’s no doubt I’d prefer Chelsea still sport a roller disco rather than yet another massive gallery, at least the shell of the Roxy — its vaulted ceilings and skylights, a small plate on the floor where the roller rink used to start — remains. (As an amusing side note, I discovered that the Roxy’s former website is now a Japanese site about dogs.)

Björn Roth explaining his father's "Landscape with Tower" (1976–94)Björn Roth explaining his father’s “Landscape with Tower” (1976–94)

The gallery is opening with a show devoted to Swiss artist Dieter Roth and his collaborations with his son, Björn Roth. A somewhat abbreviated visit left me with the impression that this is a fantastic exhibition, and a great choice to inaugurate the space. Whether it’s “Large Table Ruin,” a sprawling installation made from the accumulated tools and miscellaneous studio detritus that seems to have a mind of its own; an assemblage made partly from junk and paint cans and toys; or a painting that includes plastic tubes and is activated by pouring liquid into them, Roth’s work is rough to its core. His aesthetic is one of controlled chaos, an embodiment of the provisional, and his palette full of browns and tans and earthy colors.

Dieter Roth's "Floors"Dieter Roth’s “Floors” (click to enlarge)

All of this fits well with the feeling and architecture of the former nightclub — in addition to things that just fit, quite literally, in there, like Roth’s “The Floor” pieces, which are composed of two floors from his studio in Iceland. On a brief walkthrough of the show, which unfortunately was largely drowned out by noise from non-listeners and the echo of the space, Björn explained that his father had originally upended and installed the floors as artworks in 1992, when he was having an exhibition in Switzerland and didn’t have enough work to fill the giant space. I can’t help but take this as confirmation that by continually creating and opening huge spaces, the art world is encouraging artists to basically go big or go home — but that’s another story for a different day.

The second generation Roth and one of his sons, Oddur, also created a beautiful site-specific bar for the gallery, a permanent installation located in a little nook in the southeast corner of the space. To get to it, you traverse another permanent installation, Mary Heilmann’s “Two-Lane Highway” painted on the floor, while one of the bar’s windows overlooks the third permanent installation, a gleeful striped tape piece by Martin Creed that decks the entrance hallway and stairs.

Videos by Dieter Roth on the wall, Mary Heilmann's "Two-Lane Highway" on the floorVideos by Dieter Roth on the wall, Mary Heilmann’s “Two-Lane Highway” on the floor
A view of Martin Creed's permanent installation from inside the Roths' barA view of Martin Creed’s permanent installation from inside the Roths’ bar

The bar was the subject of much conversation among the assembled writers, artists, and others — I suspect because its dark wood, jumbled candles, coziness, and slightly underfinished feeling make it exactly the kind of place you’d want to hang out in (if only it were in Brooklyn …). Also because most of us will never actually get to hang out there: like so much of the art world, the bar won’t be open to the public, only accessible for special occasions.

Bjorn and Oddur Roth's "Roth New York Bar"Björn and Oddur Roth’s “Roth New York Bar”

Hauser & Wirth’s new space at 511 West 18th Street (Chelsea, Manhattan) opens to the public tomorrow, Wednesday, January 23, with the exhibition Dieter Roth. Björn Roth.
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http://www.purple.fr/diary/entry/sterling-ruby-s-exhm-exhibition-at-hauser-wirth-london

STERLING RUBY’S “EXHM” EXHIBITION at Hauser & Wirth, London Photo Aurora Aspen








Hauser & Wirth

20 Years

€ 58.00

Hauser & Wirth
20 Years

Edited by Michaela Unterdörfer, Hauser & Wirth, texts by Susanne Hillman, Michaela Unterdörfer, Iwan Wirth, Maria de Lamerens, graphic design by studio achermann, Zürich

English

2013. 1082 pp., more than 1500 ills.

21.90 x 29.30 cm
hardcover in slipcase

available

ISBN 978-3-7757-3512-4

| History of the gallery’s past twenty years in a comprehensive reference work

| An example of an influential contemporary art gallery with branches in Zurich, London, and New York

When Iwan Wirth, Manuela, and Ursula Hauser founded the Hauser & Wirth Gallery in 1992, there was no art market in the current sense. The numerous fairs, auctions, biennials, and festivals were not initiated until later. Philanthropic entrepreneurs professionalized, public cultural institutions privatized, and collectors opened their own museums. Art become a status symbol and an investment; hence, the mediation of content, protected by the new profession of curator, also became more important. Parallel to its gallery platform and its over fifty artists, including Louise Bourgeois, Isa Genzken, and Paul McCarthy, Hauser & Wirth regularly shows historical stances in elaborate museum-like presentations of artists such as Egon Schiele, Francis Picabia, and Hans Arp. This publication devotes itself to the gallery’s artists in more than fifty generously illustrated chapters and includes an extensive chronology, archival material, and personal photographs of over two hundred exhibitions, shedding light on the gallery’s lively history.

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purple DIARYGO BACK
THOMAS HOUSEAGO’S “SPECIAL BREW” EXHIBITION at Hauser & Wirth London, London Photo Aurora Aspen

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http://www.aestheticamagazine.com/blog/eva-hesse-1965-hauser-wirth-london/

blog-1

Eva Hesse 1965 at Hauser & Wirth, London

In 1964, Eva Hesse and her husband Tom Doyle were invited by the industrialist Friedrich Arnhard Scheidt to a residency in Kettwig an der Ruhr, Germany. The following fifteen months marked a significant transformation in Hesse’s practice. ‘Eva Hesse 1965‘ running from 30 January to 9 March at Hauser & Wirth, brings together key drawings, paintings and reliefs from this short, yet pivotal period where the artist was able to re-think her approach to colour, materials and her two-dimensional practice, and begin moving towards sculpture, preparing herself for the momentous strides she would take upon her return to New York.

Hesse’s studio space was located in an abandoned textile factory in Kettwig an der Ruhr. The building still contained machine parts, tools and materials from its previous use and the angular forms of these disused machines and tools served as inspiration for Hesse’s mechanical drawings and paintings. Sharp lines come together in these works to create complex and futuristic, yet nonsensical forms, which Hesse described in her writings as ‘…clean and clear – but crazy like machines…’.

Seeking a continuation of her mechanical drawings, in March of 1965, Hesse began a period of feverish work in which she made fourteen reliefs, which venture into three-dimensional space. Works such as H + H (1965) and Oomamaboomba (1965) are the material embodiment of her precisely linear mechanical drawings. Vibrant colours of gouache, varnish and tempera are built up using papier maché and objects Hesse found in the abandoned factory: wood, metal and most importantly, cord, which was often left to hang, protruding from the picture plane. This motif would reappear in the now iconic sculptures Hesse would make in New York.

The time Hesse spent in Germany amounted to much more than a period of artistic experimentation. In Germany, Hesse was afforded the freedom to exercise her unique ability to manipulate materials, creating captivating, enigmatic works which would form the foundation of her emerging sculptural practice.

Eva Hessse 1965, 30 January until 9 March, Hauser & Wirth London, Savile Row, London, W1S 2ET. www.hauserwirth.com

Credits:

1. Oomamaboomba, 1965, Ursula Hauser Collection, Switzerland. Photo: Abby Robinson, New York
2. Eva Hesse at work in her studio in Kettwig an der Ruhr, Germany, ca. 1964 / 1965 © The Estate of Eva Hesse. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Nathan Kernan
3. No title, 1965, © The Estate of Eva Hesse. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth

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http://www.contemporaryartdaily.com/2012/10/a-visual-essay-on-gutai-at-hauser-wirth/

slideshow

Contemporary Art Daily

A Daily Journal of International Exhibitions

“A Visual Essay on Gutai” at Hauser & Wirth

October 21st, 2012

Artists: Norio Imai, Akira Kanayama, Takesada Matsutani, Sadamasa Motonaga, Shuji Mukai, Saburo Murakami, Shozo Shimamoto, Kazuo Shiraga, Yasuo Sumi, Atsuko Tanaka, Tsuruko Yamazaki, Jiro Yoshihara

Venue: Hauser & Wirth, New York

Exhibition Title: A Visual Essay on Gutai

Date: September 12 – October 27, 2012

 

Full gallery of images, press release and link available after the jump.

Images:

"A Virtual Essay on Gutai" at Hauser & Wirth
"A Virtual Essay on Gutai" at Hauser & Wirth
"A Virtual Essay on Gutai" at Hauser & Wirth
"A Virtual Essay on Gutai" at Hauser & Wirth
"A Virtual Essay on Gutai" at Hauser & Wirth
"A Virtual Essay on Gutai" at Hauser & Wirth
"A Virtual Essay on Gutai" at Hauser & Wirth
"A Virtual Essay on Gutai" at Hauser & Wirth
"A Virtual Essay on Gutai" at Hauser & Wirth
"A Virtual Essay on Gutai" at Hauser & Wirth
"A Virtual Essay on Gutai" at Hauser & Wirth
"A Virtual Essay on Gutai" at Hauser & Wirth
"A Virtual Essay on Gutai" at Hauser & Wirth
Tsuruko Yamazaki
Tsuruko Yamazaki
"A Virtual Essay on Gutai" at Hauser & Wirth
Kazuo Shiraga
Kazuo Shiraga
Norio Imai
Norio Imai
Norio Imai
Norio Imai
Norio Imai
Norio Imai
Akira Kanayama
Akira Kanayama
Takesada Matsutani
Takesada Matsutani
Takesada Matsutani
Takesada Matsutani
Sadamasa Motonaga
Sadamasa Motonaga
Sadamasa Motonaga
Sadamasa Motonaga
Shuji Mukai
Shuji Mukai
Saburo Mirakami
Saburo Mirakami
Saburo Murakami
Saburo Murakami
Shozo Shimamoto
Shozo Shimamoto
Shozo Shimamoto
Shozo Shimamoto
Shozo Shimamoto
Shozo Shimamoto
Shozo Shimamoto
Shozo Shimamoto
Kazuo Shiraga
Kazuo Shiraga
Yasuo Sumi
Yasuo Sumi
Atsuko Tanaka
Atsuko Tanaka
Atsuko Tanaka
Atsuko Tanaka
Atsuko Tanaka
Atsuko Tanaka
Tsuroko Yamazaki
Tsuroko Yamazaki
Tsuroko Yamazaki
Tsuroko Yamazaki
Tsuroko Yamazaki
Tsuroko Yamazaki
Jiro Yoshihara
Jiro Yoshihara
Jiro Yoshihara
Jiro Yoshihara

Images courtesy of Hauser & Wirth, New York

Press Release:

New York, NY… After World War II, a devastated Japan processed the impact of the atomic bomb and faced a cultural void. It was in this atmosphere of existential alienation that the Gutai Art Association (Gutai Bijutsu Kyokai) – a group of about twenty young artists, rallying around the charismatic painter Jiro Yoshihara – emerged in the mid-1950s to challenge convention. Although keenly aware of Japan’s artistic traditions, the Gutai artists attempted to distance themselves from the sense of defeat and impotence that pervaded their country, and to overcome the past completely with ‘art that has never existed before’. They burst out of the expected confines of painting with daring works that demonstrated a freewheeling relationship between art, body, space and time. Dismissed by Japanese critics as spectacle makers, the Gutai artists nevertheless produced a profound legacy of aesthetic experimentation, influencing Western critics and anticipating Abstract Expressionism, Arte Povera, Fluxus, and Conceptual Art.

‘A Visual Essay on Gutai’ traces efforts by these artists to resolve the inherent contradictions between traditions of painting – the making of images on a flat, framed plane – and the core tenets of a movement that called for experimentation, individuality, unexpected materials, and, perhaps above all, physical action and psychological freedom. On view at Hauser & Wirth New York will be more than 30 works spanning twenty years, all of them exciting responses to the constraints of painting and the limits of time itself.

Curated by Midori Nishizawa and organized with Olivier Renaud-Clément, ‘A Visual Essay on Gutai’ also marks the half-century anniversary of Gutai’s first U.S. exhibition, which was organized by the French critic Michel Tapié, noted champion of Art Informel. His ‘6th Gutai Art Exhibition’ was presented in New York City in September 1958 at the Martha Jackson Gallery at 32 East 69th Street – in the townhouse now occupied by Hauser & Wirth New York.

‘A Visual Essay on Gutai’ will remain on view at the gallery through 27 October and will be accompanied by a new publication based, both in concept and design, upon the twelve Gutai journals that the group published and disseminated internationally in the decade between 1955 and 1965.

The Gutai Art Association was formed by Jiro Yoshihara in July 1954, in the Ashiya region of Japan. Exhorting younger artists with such slogans as, ‘Don’t imitate others!’ and ‘Engage in the newness!’. Yoshihara challenged Gutai’s members to discard traditional artistic practices and to seek not only fresh means of expression but the origins of artistic creation itself. The Gutai artists responded with performance, installation, flower arrangement, and music, often in public places. In seeking to define this constantly changing body of work, Yoshihara penned The Gutai Art Manifesto in 1956, proclaiming ‘the novel beauty to be found in works of art and architecture of the past which have changed their appearance due to the damage of time or destruction by disasters in the course of the centuries…that beauty which material assumes when it is freed from artificial make-up and reveals its original characteristics.’ Yoshihara concluded the Manifesto by stating, ‘Our work is the result of investigating the possibilities of calling the material to life. We shall hope that there is always a fresh spirit in our Gutai exhibitions and that the discovery of new life will call forth a tremendous scream in the material itself’.

In working toward the goals outlined by Yoshihara, the Gutai group realized that the elements needed to make unprecedented art were in fact to be found in unexpectedly familiar places. Kazuo Shiraga wallowed in mud; Saburo Murakami leapt through expanses of paper; and Atsuko Tanaka employed bells and lightbulbs in theatrical performances. In tandem with such efforts, however, Gutai artists continued to struggle with the expected materials and physical parameters of classic painting techniques, and to explore abstraction as a means to escape its intellectual and creative confines. In ‘A Visual Essay on Gutai’, visitors to Hauser & Wirth will encounter works in which stretched canvas is married to acrylic, plastic, cloth, vinyl, resin, plaster, tin and even projected light – works that occupy a liminal realm between painting and sculpture. Works by Tsuruko Yamazaki, Norio Imai and Takesada Matsutani in particular ambush the pictorial plane with, respectively, cloudlike tin projections, white molded apertures, and glossy vinyl and resin blobs.

Kazuo Shiraga is perhaps the best known Gutai artist internationally. Among the works in ‘A Visual Essay on Gutai’ are two of his powerful ‘Performance Paintings’ – aggressive abstractions from the early 1960s in crimson and green. ‘I want to paint as though rushing around a battle field’, he wrote in 1955. He even used his feet to create these works in the heat of the moment.

The exhibition also includes two important paintings by Atsuko Tanaka, the most internationally recognized female figure within the Gutai group who is best known for creating the ‘Electric Dress’ (1955). This garment made of incandescent bulbs was painted in primary colors and worn by the artist during a Gutai performance. The physical dress with its tangled wires and brightly lit bulbs morphed into Tanaka’s two-dimensional paintings, which are seemingly whimsical works exploring the circles and circuits in which she was ‘sensing eternity’.

‘A Visual Essay on Gutai’ also includes two of Jiro Yoshihara’s famed ‘circle’ series of about 25 paintings, one of the most important bodies of work to emerge from the Gutai movement. ‘Work’ from 1967 is an important example from this series, which was influenced by the Zen artist-monk Nantembo Toju (1839 – 1926), an artist who worked in calligraphy and ink painting. In Zen tradition, the circle represents void and substance, emptiness and completion, and the union of painting, calligraphy, and meditation.

At a time when a majority of Japanese artists had adopted a Western approach to creating and criticizing art, Gutai’s ideas and works were repeatedly met with the question, ‘Is this art?’. What established Gutai as entirely unique was the fact that no one, often including the movement’s own members, could predict the group’s course and the manifestations its work would take. Gutai’s imperative to continually create something surprising took its artists in new directions, leading Yoshihara to ask himself, ‘whether or not the production process was stamped with the instant of creation as proof of the fierce desire to affirm a vivid sense of adventure and a free spirit’.

Link: “A Visual Essay on Gutai” at Hauser & Wirth

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bruce nauman: mindfuck exhibition at hauser and wirth, london

designboom
bruce nauman: mindfuck exhibition at hauser and wirth, london

original content
bruce nauman: mindfuck exhibition at hauser and wirth, london
1
Jan 30, 2013

first image
‘run from fear, fun from rear’, 1972 by bruce nauman
neon tubing with clear glass tubing suspension frame
two parts:
20.3 x 116.8 x 5.7 cm  / 8  x 46  x 2 1/4 in
18.4 x 113 x 5.7 cm  / 7 1/4 x 44 1/2 x 2 1/4 in
image © 2012 bruce nauman / artists rights society (ARS), new york / DACS london
private collection

bruce nauman: mindfuck
hauser and wirth london, savile row
on from the 30th of january through to the 9th of march, 2013

from the 30th of january, 2013 hauser and wirth will present the work of renowned artist bruce nauman with an exhibition titled ‘mindfuck’
in the north gallery, savile row. the show, featuring an eclectic selection of works from throughout nauman’s career, will focus particularly
on his iconic neon sculptures and installations. the work triggers a critical dialogue surrounding a body of work whose central themes
explore the human condition, language, sex, and death. the experience of works by nauman speaks of a certain state of trauma,
a nod to the hysteric, and ode to the psychotic – to the consequences of the superego and to the logic of dreams.

weaved throughout the compositions is nauman’s bizarre ability to build visual and experiential manifestations that tap into the
complexity of the human unconscious. ‘mindfuck’ calls attention to the enduring weight of the mind-body split in the artist’s work –
neon sculptures such as ‘sex and death / double ’69’ (1985) and ‘good boy / bad boy’ (1986 – 1987) could be said to represent the
conscious and cerebral side of his art, whereas installations such as ‘carousel (stainless steel version)’ (1988) and
‘untitled (helman gallery parallelogram)’ (1971) focus on the phenomenological aspect of his exploration of perception, space, and the body.
nauman’s artistic approach enters the worlds of psychology, anthropology, sociology, and behavioural science.
the artist once stated that he wanted to make ‘art that was just there all at once…like getting hit in the back of the neck with a baseball bat’.


‘sex and death/double ’69”, 1985
neon tubing on aluminium monolith
227 x 134.8 x 34 cm / 89 3/8 x 53 1/8 x 13 3/8 in
image © 2012 bruce nauman / artists rights society (ARS), new york / DACS london
private collection. courtesy hauser & wirth
photo: stefan altenburger photography zürich


‘untitled’ (helman gallery parallelogram) (detail), 1971
wallboard, green fluorescent lights
458 x 552 x 691 cm / 180 3/8 x 217 x 3/8 x 272 in
glenstone
image © 2012 bruce nauman / artists rights society (ARS), new york / DACS london


‘carousel (stainless steel version)’, 1988
stainless steel, cast aluminum, polyurethane foam, electric motor
height: 183 cm / 72 in
diameter: 612.1 cm / 241 in
image © 2012 bruce nauman / artists rights society (ARS), new york / DACS london
courtesy of the ydessa hendeles art foundation
photo: robert keziere


‘sex and death’, 1985
pencil, charcoal and watercolour on paper
approx. 200 x 228 cm  / c. 78 3/4 x 89 3/4 in
image © 2012 bruce nauman / artists rights society (ARS), new york / DACS london
private collection. courtesy hauser & wirth

lara db
01.30.13


Former MOCA Chief Curator Paul Schimmel Inks New Gallery Deal

12:12 PM PDT 4/11/2013 by Degen Pener, Maxwell Williams
Paul Schimmel - P 2013
Getty Images
Paul Schimmel

The deal with Hauser & Wirth could bring plans for the gallery to open a space in Los Angeles.

Paul Schimmel has landed.

our editor recommends

According to art world insiders close to the former chief curator of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Schimmel has inked a deal with the Zurich-based gallery Hauser & Wirth, which also has branches in London and New York. According to the sources, the deal will bring Schimmel to the gallery, and that plans for the gallery to open a space in Los Angeles are likely.

If this is the case, the gallery, which represents dozens of major artists including Paul McCarthy, Christoph Büchel, Pipilotti Rist and Rita Ackermann, would immediately become one of the biggest players in town.

The terms of the deal are not known.

Schimmel was fired from his position at MOCA amidst an imbroglio that included the resignations of the museum’s four remaining artist trustees, John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger, Catherine Opie and Ed Ruscha. Since Schimmel’s departure from MOCA, he has worked as the co-director of the Mike Kelley Foundation in Los Angeles. It is unclear whether the gallery — which handles the estates of many artists including Eva Hesse, Jason Rhodes, Allan Kaprow and Dieter Roth — will take Kelley’s estate aboard.

On March 19th, Hauser & Wirth hosted a conversation between Schimmel and Los Angeles-based artist Sterling Ruby at its London branch, in conjunction with an exhibition of Ruby’s work. This talk sparked rumors about the curator’s involvement with the gallery, and soon whispers turned to full-blown speculation.

Schimmel is one of the most highly respected curators in the field, having organized upwards of 350 exhibitions, most notably retrospectives of the artists Charles Ray, Paul McCarthy, and Takashi Murakami, as well as a host of thematic group shows. His swan song at MOCA, “Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949-1962” about artists who physically damaged their canvases was hailed by the LA Times as “boldly thoughtful” and “illuminat[ing] a big — but overlooked — idea.”

A rep from the gallery did not reply to a request for comment.

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http://artobserved.com/2012/11/armorys-creative-director-leaves-fair-to-accept-position-at-hauser-wirth/

Michael Hall Leaves Armory Show for Hauser & Wirth

by Brian Boucher 11/28/12

Armory Show creative director Michael Hall has resigned effective Friday. He confirmed his departure to A.i.A. by phone today.

Hall will take up a new job at Hauser & Wirth Gallery next week after almost seven years with the Armory Show. Hauser & Wirth opened an Upper East Side location in 2009, and will inaugurate a new venue in Chelsea in January.

Hall started at the fair in 2005 as operations manager but became managing director when Katelijne De Backer left her post as director in 2011. He became creative director this fall. He was involved in developing the talks and film series (Open Forum and Armory Film) and the regional “Focus” section, and selected and worked with commissioned artists.

Cofounding director Paul Morris resigned in September after 18 years. On Sept. 27 A.i.A. broke the news that the Armory Show, the Volta Show and Art Platform Los Angeles were up for sale by Chicago-based Merchandise Mart Properties.

The Armory Show’s centennial edition will take place March 7-10, 2013, at piers 92 and 94 on the Hudson River.

PHOTO: Michael Hall and Jacob Fabritius. Photo by Catarina Lundgren Åström via Flickr.

http://www.vogue.com/magazine/article/house-of-wirth-the-gallery-worlds-art-couple/#1

House of Wirth: The Gallery World’s Power Couple

by Dodie Kazanjian

Hauser & WirthIwan and Manuela Wirth with Thomas Houseago’s Hermaphrodite, 2011
Photographed by Norman Jean Roy

On the heels of a major New York expansion, the gallery world’s Swiss power couple is set to open a cultural center in the English countryside.

New York’s Chelsea art district is fighting its way back from the devastating floodwaters of Hurricane Sandy. Countless works of art have been lost, and some of the smaller galleries may not survive, but the art community as a whole seems amazingly buoyant. At David Zwirner on West Nineteenth Street, where the water level hit five feet, Diana Thater’s video installation Chernobyl is up and running in the only operable space a week and a half after Sandy, while construction crews labor around the clock nearby. One block south, work is continuing full tilt on Hauser & Wirth’s huge new gallery, whose opening date is scheduled for January 22. Marc Payot, the Hauser & Wirth partner who is in charge here, tells me he hadn’t wanted to look at this space originally, because it wasn’t on the ground floor—but he did so, and it’s turned out to be a very smart decision. Confidence in the future, which has helped to make Hauser & Wirth one of the world’s most powerful contemporary-art galleries, is what drives the art world these days.

Iwan Wirth, a 42-year-old Swiss who started the business 20 years ago in Zurich, has never been afraid to think big. Exuberant, curly-haired, bursting with enthusiasm for his artists and their projects, he has transformed the London art scene during the past decade with his three galleries in Mayfair. Now, at 24,700 square feet, his emerging New York behemoth—formerly known as the Roxy, the famous eighties disco and roller rink—will be one of the largest column-free art spaces in town. Hauser & Wirth has had a smaller gallery on East Sixty-ninth Street since 2009, but now that it represents Paul McCarthy, Roni Horn, and several other important American artists exclusively, Iwan has decided that they need “a bigger playground.” He adds, “The artists will want this, and it’s important that we feel it before they do.” Martin Creed, the British Turner Prize–winner, is re-creating the grand stairway of the new gallery as an artwork. Because Dieter Roth, the late Swiss artist whose work will also inaugurate it, insisted on having a bar in all his exhibitions, Hauser & Wirth is installing one (permanently) in what used to be the Roxy’s VIP area, over the stairs. The exhibitions will stay up much longer than they do in other New York galleries: There will be only four a year. Unlike the globe-girdling Gagosian empire, Hauser & Wirth has no plans to establish outposts in other cities. “The artists lead the way,” Iwan tells me. “We’re located in exactly the right places, and now we have the ideal space in New York.”

Hauser & WirthLouise Bourgeois, Spider, 1994
Photographed by Norman Jean Roy

I spent some time with Iwan and Manuela, his wife and business partner, in England last summer. Theirs is very much a family business. Iwan, who has been buying and selling art since he was sixteen, went to see Ursula Hauser in 1990 because he had an opportunity to buy a Picasso and a Chagall, but only half the money needed to pay for them. Ursula, a self-made retail and department-store magnate who became one of Switzerland’s greatest art collectors, found him charming, and agreed to put up the money. They celebrated the joint venture with a bottle of cognac, three snifters of which so unhinged nineteen-year-old Iwan that he became inarticulate when Ursula introduced him to her daughter Manuela, and then drove his car into their fence as he was leaving. Manuela overcame her dubious first impressions of him (“arrogant, young”); she joined the new firm of Hauser & Wirth as his secretary and agreed to marry him four years later. Their offices are side by side now, in their big, suavely modern gallery on Savile Row, and they have an equal share in all decisions—except those regarding sales. “Like Ursula, Manuela is useless as a salesperson,” Iwan tells me, “because she doesn’t like to let go of things, and she’s too polite to nag people. It’s much easier for me because I have to pay the bills.” All three of them are passionate collectors, and the personal family collection, most of which is in a warehouse in Switzerland, covers a very wide range of art in addition to the core holdings in modern and contemporary.

“Being Swiss,” he says, “you have to be a bit of a pirate—go out and find the treasure, because it won’t find you. We’re a small country surrounded by big players, and you have to find your niche. When we started our gallery in 1992, most of the important painters were taken, and local collectors already had strong relationships with galleries. So the niche for us was artists who were making more complicated work, work that needed support, that was highly important but not commercially successful. A lot of the artists we take on don’t have a market—our job is to build it.”Their first artist was Pipilotti Rist, a young Swiss whose uproarious video Ever Is Over All, produced by Hauser & Wirth, would soon take the art world by storm and be acquired by the Museum of Modern Art. Jason Rhoades and Paul McCarthy, two Americans whose unruly, in-your-face sculptural installations had cult status but scared off dealers and collectors, joined the gallery soon afterward, as did Louise Bourgeois, a legendary older artist whose market fell far short of her reputation. Others followed—Roni Horn, Ellen Gallagher, Rashid Johnson, Sterling Ruby, the estates of Eva Hesse and Henry Moore—50-plus artists and estates, more than a third of whom are women. “I’m a feminist,” Iwan explains. “I’ve always felt that women artists in the twentieth century are dramatically underrated, underrepresented, and underpriced.” (Manuela teases him because his family comes from the Appenzell region of Switzerland, where women couldn’t vote until 22 years ago.)

Hauser & Wirth artists check in, but they don’t check out; not one has ever left this artist-centric gallery. Iwan estimates that he spends 95 percent of his time working with and for his artists, and the other 5 percent on art sales in the secondary market, which, because he’s so good at it, keeps the gallery afloat. “The best thing about the art market,” he says, “is that it’s unstructured and unregulatable. That’s the nature of the beast. Sharing knowledge and information is the backbone of our business. Things that would put you in jail in another industry are not bad in this wonderful world. This suits me very well because that’s the way I think and function. I’m a fish in water. People confuse prices with quality, but if you’re knowledgeable and have a feeling for art, even in this crazy market, you can find great art that’s affordable.”

In 2000, Iwan joined forces with David Zwirner and opened Zwirner & Wirth in New York on East Sixty-ninth Street. They did a lot of great shows together over the next nine years but decided to go their separate ways because of what Zwirner describes as “brand confusion”—they still share artists, inventory, and clients, and continue to work together. “It’s a lot of fun to have a real friend in this industry,” says Zwirner. “Somebody I can trust a hundred percent.” Meanwhile, with the Zurich operation thriving, Iwan and Manuela established themselves in London—first in Piccadilly, then Savile Row. They moved their family over in 2005, put their four young children in English schools, and then, in 2007, they discovered Somerset.

On a typically English day—cloudy with periods of rain—Iwan, Manuela, and I are driving southwest in their sturdy Land Rover. It’s two hours to Bruton, the town where they went looking for a country place of their own and fell in love with the ancient, historic, and spiritual landscape of Somerset. (This is King Arthur territory, and its history goes back to Neolithic times: We pass Stonehenge on the way.) They bought a fifteenth-century farmhouse and set to work renovating it, a five-year project that involved extensive landscaping of the 500-acre property—restoring an apple orchard, putting in wildflower meadows, a walled vegetable garden, and 40,000 trees and bushes with the help of New York–based landscape designer Miranda Brooks. They moved in a few months ago, and the children now live there full time; Manuela and Iwan commute from London on weekends. “It’s the epicenter of everything we do now,” says Iwan. “It was in horrible condition when we first saw it. But within half an hour, Manuela looked at me, I looked at her, and we knew this was destiny. The place found us.”

The rain is coming down harder as we get closer, driving on a narrow lane that keeps turning into green tunnels between the thick high hedges on each side. “They’re ancient and full of birds and berries and small animals,” says Iwan. “I’m actually planning a book about Somerset hedges.” We enter the property, passing flocks of sheep, a monumental Thomas Houseago sculpture, and an allée of stone heads by Hans Josephsohn, which have just been delivered. Inside the front door, where two long rows of dark-green wellies are lined up, in various sizes, the two youngest children fling themselves into their parents’ arms. A deep immersion in English country life is the keynote here, coexisting with the challenging works of art on view throughout the marvelous old house.

The next morning, the sun keeps trying to come out as Iwan and Manuela offer an overland tour of Durslade Farm, the adjoining, 200-acre property that the gallery bought three years ago, and which they are turning into a local cultural center. The farm buildings here, which date from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, haven’t been inhabited for 20 years, and the place is a picturesque ruin—it was the setting for some scenes in the film Chocolat. Scheduled for completion in the spring of 2014, the renovation will provide art-exhibition and education spaces, film screenings, a two-acre landscaped park (with 24,785 plants) designed by Piet Oudolf, who did the plantings for New York’s wildly popular High Line, and a world-class restaurant and bar. The heart of the project is an ambitious artist-in-residence program, which has already started with a year-long visit from Pipilotti Rist, along with her ten-year-old son. As Iwan says, there’s a tradition of writers, music and theater here, but it’s a desert when it comes to visual art. “This is where art can go to work and change people.

“This place is a slowing-down facility,” adds Iwan, whose cornucopia of ambitious projects might overwhelm a fainter spirit, but who himself never seems rushed about anything. That night, sitting at the long dining table in the barn, with his four children, their nanny, and Phyllida Barlow, a 68-year-old, little-known English artist who’s recently joined the gallery, Iwan is indefatigable. He carves and serves the steaks he’s just grilled—from an animal on the next-door farm—passes around a huge wedge of Cheddar from the artisanal cheesemaker we visited this afternoon, and urges us to have another glass of his excellent Châteauneuf-du-Pape. He banters with Phyllida about the sculpture he’s asked her to make for the ancient well in their garden.“He’s forever young,” Mary Heilmann, another artist he represents, told me, “and he’s forever old.”

This month Hauser & Wirth is giving a dinner party in the entrance hall of the New York Public Library to celebrate the opening of its Chelsea gallery. All its artists are invited, and the gallery is flying them in from around the world. Both the setting and the scale are momentous, yet somehow appropriate. Anthony d’Offay, London’s most important art dealer from the late sixties until he closed his gallery in 2001, told me recently that he has known three great contemporary dealers. “There was Leo Castelli, Xavier Fourcade, and now, Hauser & Wirth. These three have had the old-fashioned idea that encouraging the artist and being truthful and doing great shows has an important role in the world. It’s not about making a trillion dollars. It’s about enthusiasm for great works of art. Iwan goes to sleep at night, and dreams about art.”

January 10, 2013 2:59p.m.

The New Hauser & Wirth Makes Room for an Entire Army of Loyal Artists

Hauser&Wirth

Iwan Wirth is standing at the top of the stairs in the former Roxy dance club and roller rink, which he recently had renovated into the largest of the outposts of his global art enterprise, Hauser & Wirth. It is the week of the opening of the big-box gallery’s first show, a survey of the rather intimidating work of Dieter Roth and his son Björn Roth, and he’s introducing his artists to each other: Zany British conceptualist Martin Creed, styled a bit like Willy Wonka (and who enlivened the entry stairway with strips of colored tape), meet world-weary Indian Subodh Gupta, draped in a scarf and looking desperate for a tea. Thirty-three of Wirth’s artists made the pilgrimage altogether, and many are still jet-lagged after being called from all over the world. “Everybody knows me, but not everybody knows each other,” he says with Swiss bonhomie. “It’s like a class reunion, only they’ve never met before.”

The grand opening of this converted disco is the biggest thing to hit West Chelsea since Hurricane Sandy. Fortunately, the exhibition space is up a flight. What was once a sweaty, shirtless dance floor is now, thanks to architect Annabelle Selldorf, a vast, tidy exhibition hall, the largest column-free space in Chelsea. Later this month, the dealer David Zwirner, Wirth’s former partner in New York, whose own gallery already takes up most of 19th Street, is opening a five-story expansion on 20th Street, which Selldorf also designed. As the art gets supersized along with the profits, these new galleries look and feel like museums. Gagosian was a pioneer of this model, but, as one curator who has worked with both attests, “Iwan’s no Gagosian. He’s so warm,” and “unusually focused on art which is difficult to understand.”

And on naughtiness: Ten years ago, when Hauser & Wirth opened a gallery in a former bank in London, Paul McCarthy created a bawdy, messy food-fight video work featuring people wearing oversize heads portraying Osama bin Laden, President George W. Bush, and the Queen Mother. “These spaces are about education, of course,” says Wirth, a burgherish but still boyish 42.

Wirth’s journey began in 1990 outside Zurich, when he was a teenage entrepreneur looking for seed money to help buy a Picasso and a Chagall to then resell. He persuaded a department-store owner, Ursula Hauser, to invest, and after they started Hauser & Wirth together, he married her daughter Manuela. At first, the gallery worked in the “secondary market,” matching old works with new owners, before beginning to represent contemporary artists — which wasn’t easy, since, as Wirth has admitted, “No artist really needs to show in Switzerland.” They overcame their place on “the periphery” of the art world — though very much at an epicenter of European money — by punctilious customer service. (Wirth once cited good bookkeeping as a major reason for his success.) And by having good taste in what they bought for themselves: “They were my best collectors,” says Rita Ackermann, an abstract painter born in Hungary who now lives in New York and joined last summer. “A dealer must collect the art themselves.” The gallery brags that it’s never lost an artist.

In Zurich, Hauser & Wirth is part of a hybrid commercial and noncommercial arts complex in a former brewery; outside London, it is building a local cultural center with an artists-in-residence program. But in New York, the gallery that represents ­museum-approved artists like Pipilotti Rist, Roni Horn, Louise Bourgeois, and Dan ­Graham was tucked away from the ­contemporary-art spotlight in a townhouse on the Upper East Side, shared with Zwirner until 2009. (The Zwirner & Wirth partnership ended around the time Wirth started looking for spaces downtown; Zwirner has cited a need to avoid “brand confusion.”) The gallery’s arrival in Chelsea — in this New York dream palace, a Ziegfeld for art — is a sign that art globalism goes both ways. It’s not just Gagosian in Hong Kong, it’s also foreigners planting their flags in the New York market.

With, of course, their own values. “I think with Iwan it’s not a commercial venture. It’s very much about the artists and what they need and what they want,” says Paul McCarthy, who is seated with his wife in a bar designed by Oddur Roth, Dieter’s grandson, a cozy tangle of industrial junk. “For me, the pieces have gotten bigger, almost to the point where I can’t show them. They’d have no place to go; who would own them? Instead of saying ‘Scale down, this is better for your art’ — which means better for sales — Iwan just follows.” Which sounds awfully indulgent, but when I ask Wirth about it, he says, “It’s not carte blanche — well, of course, it is carte blanche, but in a very controlled way.”

“You can be a great artist but still make really horrible decisions,” says Ackermann, who felt that, when she met Marc Payot, the also-Swiss head of Hauser & Wirth in New York, “it was the first time in my life when I had spoken honestly and completely with a dealer.” Payot tells her, she says, “This is a better one, that is a worse one, that is a piece of shit.”

Traditionally, Wirth explains, the secondary market has paid for the fun part: the creating of new art. Now, as more young artists are successful in their own right, he’s taken to looking for “who is overlooked,” he says, pointing around to the Roth exhibition as an example. “This is why we do historic shows — we’re creating a context,” he says. Actually selling art is another matter — the transactions increasingly take place at art fairs. “The problem you have with galleries is that there is no trigger point,” he says. “People just come and come again and then come again.”

*This article originally appeared in the February 11, 2013 issue of New York Magazine.

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http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2012/dec/16/hauser-wirth-art-gallery-somerset

Hauser & Wirth to open new art gallery in Somerset

Derelict farm will be converted into gallery and arts centre and is expected to attract 40,000 visitors a year

Hauser and Wirth Somerset artists impression, aerial view

An artist’s impression of Hauser & Wirth Somerset in Bruton. Photograph: Hayes Davidson

London! Zurich! New York! And now eight miles south of Shepton Mallet, convenient for the A303 and Bristol-Weymouth railway line. One of the world’s leading commercial galleries has revealed plans to expand its operations into what were derelict farm buildings in Somerset.

When galleries such as Hauser & Wirth announce expansion, it normally means a new space in Mayfair or Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, not what was, for centuries, a working farm in the middle of the English countryside.

The gallery said it would open its latest outpost on the edge of Bruton in the summer of 2014. “This is a beautiful part of the world and also a very creative part of the world,” said Alice Workman, who will be in charge of Hauser & Wirth Somerset. It will consist of a gallery and arts centre which “will serve the local community and town but also act on a national and international level”.

The gallery is expecting about 40,000 visitors a year and is an interesting development. While the public appetite for contemporary art seems to grow and grow, the chances of any publicly funded galleries being planned soon is remote. It could provide a model for other galleries to follow.

Somerset does not have any significant contemporary art galleries, said Workman. “We’ve got a great arts scene in Bath and Bristol but they are a good hour away.”

Planning permission was granted last week for a gallery and arts centre on what was originally built as a “model farm” dating back to 1760. There is a cowshed, a piggery, stables, barns, a farmhouse and land – but most of it is in a terrible state of disrepair with some buildings not safe to enter.

It could become something of a country retreat for Hauser & Wirth’s artists and the farm has already been visited by names such as Pipilotti Rist, Roni Horn, Phyllida Barlow and Paul McCarthy.

“Our artists are finding this a really exciting and inspiring project,” said Workman. “It is something really different.”

Hauser & Wirth was founded in Zurich in 1992 by Iwan and Manuela Wirth and Ursula Hauser, opening on Piccadilly in London in 2003 and the Upper East Side of Manhattan in 2009. It expanded again in 2010 when it opened a new London space on Savile Row.

Workman said there was no real template or model to follow, and the enterprise was something “completely new”.

The site, Durslade farm, lies on the edge of Bruton – about 30 minutes from Glastonbury – and is not far from the railway station so it will not only attract visitors in cars.

Piet Oudolf has designed the landscaping including a one-and-a-half-acre meadow garden.

Workman said the local support had been striking. One resident is the Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud, who said: “I’m excited that this magical town is being given such a shot in the arm in a way which is full of interesting promise. Art, architecture and cultural activity are not always the most common form of regeneration that small market towns see and it’s going to be interesting to chart how the wider pull of Hauser & Wirth Somerset will colour the atmosphere of Bruton. This project will bring culture from our cities into the rural world – one which I inhabit and love – and I’m particularly looking forward to the mix that it will generate.”

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http://www.wmagazine.com/w/blogs/thedailyw/2013/01/22/dieter-roth-and-bjorn-roth-at-hauser-and-wirth-chelsea.html

Don’t Miss: Dieter Roth at Hauser & Wirth

Installation view, ‘Dieter Roth. Björn Roth’, Hauser & Wirth New York NY, 2013“You like some Jägermeister?” asks Björn Roth, a Marlboro Red burning in an ashtray next to his coffee at half past noon on a recent afternoon. “It’s healthy.”Roth, the son and sometime collaborator of the late German-born Swiss art polymath Dieter Roth, is standing behind the bar he built — with the help of his sons, Oddur and Einar, and a retinue of assistants — for “Dieter Roth. Björn Roth,” the inaugural exhibition at Hauser & Wirth’s new mega-gallery in New York’s Chelsea, in the former Roxy roller rink-cum-nightclub on West 18th Street.  A majestic survey of the Roths’ three-decade meditation on the art-making process through accumulation, decadence, and decay, the show opens tomorrow though Björn Roth and company have been working since mid-December to install it. They have been filling Hauser & Wirth’s massive 25,000 square foot space with a suite of Dieter’s Clothes Pictures— paintings made with the late artist’s hand-tailored suits (he lost 75 pounds in the early 90s)— and two abstract murals painted on the white siding of portable classrooms in Aesche, Switzerland. “All the other buildings were sprayed with graffiti, but they had so much respect for Dieter they didn’t touch ours,” says Björn, who lives in Iceland, where he is working on some new pieces with his own son Oddur.But Dieter is never far from this thinking. Shortly before Dieter Roth died in 1998 at the age of 68, he asked Björn to imagine they were on a train ride.“If I get off on the next station, will you continue with the train?” he asked his son.He was not pressing me at all,” Björn says. “It was a question, and I said, ‘Of course’ because the only thing I know is to ride this train.”Björn RothFor the New York show, Björn, in an homage to the Manhattan skyline,  is reprising Dieter’s chocolate and sugar factory with two ceiling-high towers, one of Guittard chocolate, the other of rainbow-hued sugar crystal busts of Dieter with human, lion and sphinx heads. “The funny thing is that you can’t use cheap chocolate, or it will break,” says Björn, grabbing a handful of wafers. “There’s not enough oil.”Anchoring the exhibition are two floors extracted in 1992 and 1998 from Roth’s Mosfellsbaer, Iceland studio and the ever-expanding process piece “Large Table Ruin” —made from three-decades worth of drills, hammers, work tables, film, projectors,paints, beer bottles, and lamps and various installation tools. “It doesn’t look like it, but it’s a very chronological piece,” says Björn, laughing. “This table is in high danger of getting glued. Though that would be sad because these are the spare bulbs for the projectors.” And while the 128-screen video installation “Solo Scenes,” a document of the last year of Dieter’s life, speaks —like so many Rothian pieces — to impermanence, the bar, made of bits of machinery (and a harpoon) from and old Icelandic whaling factory, candle sculptures, and relics of the old Roxy,  is intended to stay open for the life of the gallery. From top: Dieter Roth/ Björn Roth. Tischtuch mit Palmenbildern, 1986-1994; Installation view, ‘Dieter Roth. Björn Roth’, Hauser & Wirth New York NY, 2013“I’ve had carte blanche,” says Björn of installing the show, conceding that this latest exhibition is rather spare compared to his first show with Hauser & Wirth in Zurich in 1998, a week before his father died. “It became a hangout for artists and all the guests were filmed,” he recalls. “I remember Paul McCarthy and Jason Rhoades having fun there. Christopher Wool came with his father. Urs Fischer worked there as a bartender. At that time he a young artist and probably needed the money and possibly he liked to [bartend].”The original bar — and subsequent iterations — were meant to function as a cosmos in itself. But just because it’s a work of art doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to grab a drink. “Maybe we’ll fly in a braumeister from Germany for the opening, but it has to be done in the right way,” says Björn, pouring a second round of Jägermeister.  “A lot of people try to make their own beer and it tastes like vomit.”The bar at Hauser & WirthBut imbibers beware: the Hauser & Wirth saloon (and all its patrons) will be filmed. As will the opening: guests will be invited todrive remote controlled cars outfitted with cameras to make short, ankle-level videos. Adds Roth. “They make really great films.”Installation shots: © Dieter Roth Estate, courtesy Hauser & Wirth, photos: Bjarni Grímsson; Hauser & Wirth saloon: Diane Solway
January 22, 2013
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http://howtospendit.ft.com/style/3785-iwan-wirth-talks-personal-style

How To Spend It

A website of worldly pleasures from the Financial Times

Iwan Wirth talks personal style

Iwan Wirth set up Hauser & Wirth in 1992, and now has contemporary galleries in London, New York and Zurich.

February 16 2011
Emma Crichton-Miller

My personal style signifier is, apparently, my scarves. My wife, Manuela, was a great help here; she said I am “a scarf person”. I wear scarves because I fly so much and it is always warm, then cold, and I get a sore throat. I have them in all colours, fabrics, shapes; and I lose them quite regularly so I have to buy more. There is one from my friend Andi Stutz [owner of Fabric Frontline Zurich]; and whenever I go to visit Subodh Gupta, we seek out shops in New Delhi.

The last thing I bought and loved was a Swedish wood-splitting axe from the amazing German catalogue Manufactum. I love wood-chopping and I have a collection of axes. This one, called the Graensfors cleaving hammer (£111), is an art work. 0800-096 0938; www.manufactum.co.uk.

And the thing I am eyeing next is a “bella macchina” Berkel antique meat slicer, a high-quality industrial machine that slices your salami very thinly, safely. It’s very erotic. It really affects the quality of your food, and I am a food person. www.volanobiz.com/berkel-meat-slicers.htm.

The best souvenir I’ve brought home is an 18lb salmon from my first fishing trip to Iceland. I went with my friend Björn Roth, the son of Dieter Roth. It was late-season fishing and it was the only salmon I caught in four days. Bjorn told me to stuff it, so we did, and now it hangs in our kitchen.

The last item I added to my wardrobe was a bespoke suit from my neighbour in Savile Row, Kilgour. It’s dark-navy, single-breasted and made in light wool serge. I have walked up and down Savile Row 10,000 times over the past few months, as our new gallery took shape, and have been impressed by the construction of these suits. 8 Savile Row, London W1 (020-7283 8941; www.kilgour.eu).

My favourite room is the kitchen in our London house. The world stops at 6pm for our family dinner. When I am in town that is an iron rule, and so it is the most important room.

A recent find is a restaurant in Somerset called At The Chapel, run by Catherine Butler and Ahmed Sidki. It is a unique place – a bakery, a cultural centre, a pizza place and a grill. And also ­– completely different – the Duty Free Paul Smith shop at Heathrow’s Terminal 5. The older I get, the earlier I find I want to get to the airport, so I often have 30 minutes to kill. At The Chapel, High Street, Bruton, Somerset BA10 0AE (01749-814 070; www.atthechapel.co.uk). Paul Smith Globe, Departure Lounge, Heathrow Terminal 5 (020-8283 7066; www.paulsmith.co.uk).

The last music I downloaded was actually amassed by my staff – I got an iPod for my 40th birthday this year. They all downloaded their favourite tracks, from 1970s punk to classical; my own musical taste is embarrassingly ill-educated. I can listen as I drive to Somerset.

If I didn’t live in London, the city I would live in is Los Angeles. Firstly, because it would be the ultimate challenge to live a completely different life; LA is the absolute opposite side of the coin to London. Secondly, many of our artists live there, and it would be extraordinary to be closer to them. And there is no other place where nature and the urban are so interlinked – sea, desert and city.

An indulgence I’d never forego is St Galler bratwurst, which you can get in the Kronenhalle in Zurich – the role model for all other artists’ restaurants. Ramistrasse 4, Zurich, CH-8001 (+4144-262 9900; www.kronenhalle.com).

The books on my bedside table are Marcel Duchamp and the Forestay Waterfall, an extraordinary history of Marcel Duchamp and his final masterpiece, Étant donnés: 1° la chute d’eau, 2° le gaz d’éclairage. This was edited by a guy who worked for me once, and it has texts by every Duchamp specialist. And another that’s completely different: The King of Oil: The Secret Lives of Marc Rich by Daniel Ammann, a present from my Zurich director. Rich is an interesting character and a great art collector.

My favourite website is Education City, a website for my children to do revision. It keeps me up to date with their curriculum. www.educationcity.com

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http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/3869049a-21ae-11df-acf4-00144feab49a.html#axzz2QBjeIduG

February 27, 2010 12:22 am

Hauser & Wirth’s latest expansion

By Georgina Adam

Iwan Wirth in his newest London gallery spaceIwan Wirth in his newest London gallery space

With his round glasses and curly dark hair, Iwan Wirth looks a bit like a grown-up Harry Potter. Highly focused and energetic, the Swiss art dealer, at just 39 years old, is one of the most influential and successful players in the market. His gallery, Hauser & Wirth, has outlets in Zurich, New York and London, with an artist roster that includes such established names as Roni Horn, Louise Bourgeois, Joan Mitchell, the estates of Lee Lozano, Eva Hesse, Dieter Roth and the Henry Moore family collection, alongside emerging artists such as David Zink Yi or Zhang Enli. A recent coup has been the acquisition, with New York dealer David Zwirner, of a large part of the Lauffs collection of minimal and conceptual art, some of which will be exhibited at Hauser & Wirth’s stand at the Maastricht fair next month.

Wirth opened his first art gallery at 16, at a time when he was still using the school telephone to make calls. A significant moment was meeting Manuela, daughter of the wealthy collector Ursula Hauser, in his 20s; he married Manuela and the three founded Hauser & Wirth in Zurich in 1992. By 2000 Wirth was forging ahead – a joint partnership in New York with David Zwirner was followed by the opening of a London gallery in a Lutyens-designed former bank at 196 Piccadilly in 2003. He then expanded into Shoreditch in the east end of London with a project space, Coppermill, which hosted keynote shows by Paul McCarthy, Martin Creed and Christoph Büchel; he moved out of Coppermill in 2007. The joint gallery with David Zwirner has ended, although the two dealers continue to collaborate, and H&W has its own space in New York.

Now H&W is opening its biggest space yet, in the heart of London’s West End. The 15,000 square foot, column-free gallery with six metre ceilings, divided into two parts, will be inaugurated this autumn with a major show devoted to Louise Bourgeois, who celebrates her 100th birthday next year. It is currently being refitted by architect Annabelle Selldorf.

We meet in the upstairs floor in Old Bond Street above the famed Red Room of the Old Master dealer Colnaghi, which H&W uses for contemporary shows once or twice a year. Piled high on the table are artists’ books – supporting the gallery artists through publishing catalogues and books is an important but lesser-known aspect of the gallery’s work.

Does the decision to open another space in London say something about the position of the British capital at the heart of the art market? I ask. “London had expanded so rapidly in the previous few years, and it was specialised in younger material which was worst hit,” he answers. “But now the London market is back on track, and the Giacometti price is a sign of this. Also, my experience is that non-American collectors now hesitate travelling to the US, they just don’t want to go through that hassle, they prefer to come to London.”

“For us, London is close to Switzerland where we have a strong collector base, a strong artist base. And then we are European, in the sense of doing business in an old-fashioned way.” He laughs: “When we went to New York I said we were the Aga of galleries,” referring to his traditional, methodical Swiss approach, “but they totally failed to understand, they don’t have Agas [old-fashioned range-style cookers] there … ”

We are speaking the day after Giacometti’s “L’Homme qui Marche I” (1961) achieved over £65m just up the road, at Sotheby’s. What does that price mean? I ask. “It is one of the rarest and most iconic trophies that you can have, I was never offered a Walking Man,” he says, “And at last sculpture has also found its rightful place – I always thought it was under-valued, but no more.” En passant, he gives credit to the auction houses for their managing of the art market downturn. “I’m quite impressed how they steered through the storm,” he says. “They did a very good job of re-instilling confidence. Of course they were also partly responsible for the excesses of the boom as well!”

During the downturn, art galleries were getting the upper hand as vendors became more hesitant to risk their works of art at auction and were more likely to sell them through dealers. I ask Wirth if the recent huge prices change this. “I’m afraid the Giacometti price will tip the balance back again in favour of the auction houses,” he says. “We had a buyer’s market, but it didn’t feel like a buyer’s market any more at Sotheby’s sale,” he says.

Whether or not the pendulum will swing back, Wirth is convinced that his position on both on the primary and secondary markets is the most successful business model for a gallery. “It is a balance, but operating on the secondary market makes very long-term investments in the careers of certain artists possible. The cycles are far more extreme if you just do primary,” he says.

We walk over to the new space in Saville Row, of which he is obviously proud. One side consists of a vast raw space, with no columns; Wirth stands obediently in the centre, admiring the bare breezeblock walls while being photographed. Is it true that he always shows a new space to his artists before making a final decision? “Absolutely! I see them very much as part of the family, I love building galleries!” he says. “It’s great to create these spaces for art, with artists. Sometimes an artist might show for 15 years in the same gallery, and a new space stimulates them.”

Wirth is known to be very close to his artists, who range in age from 30-year-old Polish artist Jakub Julian Ziolkowski to Louise Bourgeois at 98. I ask him if this is easy. “I started out so young, everyone was older than me!” he says. “30 or 60 were the same to me then, and actually it never occurs to me to think about the age of the artists, I just look at the art.”

“The art market is at its most interesting moment for a very long time because for the first time it is truly global,” he says. He has another appointment and with Swiss punctuality is anxious not to be late. In conclusion I ask if he has any more expansion plans. “No” he says, waving good-bye. “But then I always say that – until I find another space.”

www.hauserwirth.com——–

GQ Louise Bourgeois

Louise Bourgeois

The rise of Swiss gallery Hauser & Wirth has been characterised by a quiet modesty some might interpret as stealth. “For those who’ve been watching, we’ve achieved a great deal,” says the gallery’s London director, Gregor Muir. “Hauser & Wirth may appear to some as an emerging gallery, but in fact it is one of the largest operations in the world.”

On 14 October, Hauser & Wirth opens the doors of its newest London space in the middle of Mayfair, on what was once the site of the English Heritage HQ. Designed by architect Eric Parry, it was recommended by its agent David Rosen at Pilcher Hershman, for its “New York factory” appeal. “This is the joy of London,” says Muir. “Finding this space was so unexpected.”

Opening night is scheduled during Frieze Art Fair, to be witnessed by everyone who is anyone on the global art scene, and the inaugural show will be Louise Bourgeois: The Fabric Works (“Untitled” 2007, pictured), a museum exhibition that comes straight from the Vedova Foundation in Venice. Many of the works are being shown for the first time, some of which have been lent by the Hauser family. Meanwhile, at Hauser & Wirth’s flagship gallery in Piccadilly, a Jason Rhoades show runs in tandem. For his 2005 exhibition, Black Pussy… And The Pagan Idol Workshop, Rhoades filled the former bank with flea-market junk and hung the place with 427 neon words, all euphemisms for vagina. He said he drew his inspiration from Mecca. So we can believe Muir when he says, “October will be an all-singing, all-dancing month for Hauser & Wirth.”

Now may seem like an odd time to be expanding an international art business, but this family-run outfit has always launched new galleries in dire circumstances. Iwan Wirth teamed up with his wife, Manuela Hauser and her mother, Ursula, to form their eponymous gallery, launching in Zurich in 1992, during the last recession and accompanying art-world slump. They opened their first London space in 2003, in a cultural and economic climate still reeling from 9/11, and at a moment when London’s top gallerist, Anthony d’Offay, had created shockwaves
by closing his space to become an “armchair dealer”. While the Establishment played it safe with bestsellers or retired to the sofa with its pipe and slippers, Hauser & Wirth moved into the grandiose ramparts of an Edward Lutyens-designed building opposite the Royal Academy and showed big, difficult, non-commercial, art.

It was all very impressive and smacked of authenticity, a rare commodity on the contemporary art scene, but who were these Swiss people with their good taste and bottomless funds? Such questions ricocheted around the velvet upholstery of antiquated London nightspot Tramp, during Hauser & Wirth’s discreet launch party. “Eight years on, people still don’t quite know,” says Muir. “I sit here and wonder when the penny will drop and they’ll realise Iwan isn’t just one of the biggest gallerists in London, but in the world.” Wirth has been placed in the top 20 of Art Review‘s Power 100 list every year since 2003, so I think they may have an inkling; he was No.11 in 2009, compared to Larry Gagosian’s No.5. What people really want to know is if Wirth’s muted yet meteoric rise is a threat to Gagosian, the man we all take to be the most powerful art dealer in the world.

In 2009, just as this recession got under way, Hauser & Wirth continued its expansion, this time to New York. Iwan Wirth already inhabited the building as half of the secondary market dealer, Zwirner & Wirth; but its new incarnation, as a large-scale, high-performance primary market gallery, was described by art commentator Robert Ayers as “an act of inspired art historical chutzpah”. They opened with legendary Sixties artist Allan Kaprow, inventor of the “happening”, who first produced his installation “Yard” in the same building, in 1961. Was this a red rag to New York-based Gagosian, or are comparisons missing the point? After all, Kaprow is no Jeff Koons, Gagosian’s bestselling, porn-star loving, figurehead artist. This is earnest stuff with no eye for fashion or sales. The closest Wirth gets to “the great male artist” is Paul McCarthy, known for his gigantic Disneyesque figures including “Gnome Buttplug” (Santa holding a sex aid), made for the City of Rotterdam, 2001. But McCarthy’s work is also rooted in the non-commercial “happening”: he performed psychosexual acts such as “Class Fool” (1976), in which he hurled himself about in a classroom splattered with ketchup until he was bruised and confused. He threw up, put a Barbie doll up his rectum and only stopped when the audience could take no more.

“Hauser & Wirth is a different type of model, unlike any other gallery,” says Muir. “We’re not just selling a product. Our focus is artists and they are unusual, distinctive people.” The right kind of space is intrinsic to the Hauser & Wirth vision, Muir tells me. Its acquisition of the cavernous Coppermill depot off Brick Lane in London led to shows such as Cristoph Büchel’s Simply Botiful exhibition (2006), for which the artist built sets of a sweatshop, recycling camp, a hotel/brothel and an import-export shop; visitors clambered up ladders and through dirt tunnels. In Turner Prize-winner Martin Creed’s 2007 show at the Coppermill, viewers were plunged into blackness save for a screen showing a penis sliding in and out of a woman’s anus to a slow, rhythmic beat; for the opening, this was accompanied by a live orchestra. The Labour government called Coppermill an outstanding rejuvenation project but was unable to halt the eventual destruction of the building, hence the three-year-search for a comparable space, ending with Savile Row.

The money for all this, one assumes, comes from the secondary market, buying and selling Modern Masters at auction and at art fairs such as the European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF). This is not the glossy, social world of contemporary art galleries such as White Cube and Gagosian; it is the domain of some of the highest net-worth individuals on the planet, “people who don’t make a noise,” says Muir. “Iwan isn’t social, he has another agenda.” It is a world familiar to the Hauser family, however, whose private art collection is housed in a railway-shed museum outside Zurich, which also contains studios, a library and archives. They collected Louise Bourgeois for more than 20 years before her death last year. Not born to collecting like his wife, Iwan Wirth had nevertheless started his first gallery by the age of 16. The opening hours were Wednesday afternoons and weekends, to fit in with his school timetable. Who knows where his love of art came from, but his father climbs mountains and there is a sense that Wirth’s phenomenal drive, steady climb and expansive vision form a sort of conceptual mountaineering. He is hands-on with his artists, loves travelling with them and displays an energy that would put most 20-year-olds to shame. Then again, he is only 40, quarter of a century younger than Gagosian and younger, too, than Jay Jopling and his YBAs.

Hauser & Wirth

Opens
14 October

Exhibits
Louise Bourgeois, Paul McCarthy, Martin Creed

Where
23 Savile Row, London W1

Contact
hauserwirth.com

Originally published in the October 2010 issue of British GQ.

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http://newamericanpaintings.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/anj-smith-at-hauser-wirth/

Anj Smith at Hauser & Wirth

by New American Paintings

February 12, 2013, 8:30 am
Filed under: Review | Tags: , , ,

Portraits by the British artist Anj Smith appear at first glance to be those of young women. But careful viewing reveals elements that throw their portrayal of femininity into question—a few strands of facial hair, an Adam’s apple. Smith says the ambiguity is intentional, and that she was inspired to investigate issues of gender in her work by a close friend who recently underwent gender reassignment surgery. Her paintings are at once radical explorations of identity and sexuality, fused with a painting practice that has its roots in a fifteenth-century aesthetic and technique, a striking contrast that invigorates her work.

All of the eleven paintings on view at Hauser & Wirth in New York are small, but painted in intricate detail. At times Smith’s brushstrokes are scarcely detectable as hairline traces across her canvases. In other instances her brushstrokes are not detectable at all, as she has seamlessly created porcelain complexions and diaphanous textiles using an oil technique only achieved by true painting masters. It takes the artist six to nine months to create each painting, but the complexity of each piece succeeds in creating scenes that are surreal and alluring, well worth her time-consuming efforts. – Nadiah Fellah, NYC Contributor

High Blue Country
Anj Smith | High Blue Country, 2012, Oil on linen, 14 1/4 x 11 in
Girl in Glass
Anj Smith | Portrait of a Girl in Glass, 2012, Oil on linen, 18 1/2 x 15 3/4 x 1 in

The Moon Like A Flower

Anj Smith | The moon, like a flower, 2012, Oil on linen, 14 1/8 x 11 1/4 in

Among the many tediously-depicted details in each painting—common elements of which are insects, reptiles, monkeys, jewelry, flowers, cigarette butts—is Smith’s portrayal of each figure’s hair, richly highlighted, and which is intricately woven into braids and knots, adorned with feathers and fabric. That the tendrils seem to take on a life of their own is contrasted by the figures’ sullen or lifeless expressions, many shown in a three-quarter profile, another motif tying the artist’s work to a Flemish or Dutch painting tradition.

Fruits of Forest
Anj Smith | Fruits of the Forest, 2012, Oil on linen, 19 5/8 x 16 7/8 x 1 in
Fruits of Forest (detail)
Anj Smith | Fruits of the Forest (detail), 2012, Oil on linen, 19 5/8 x 16 7/8 x 1 in

Further conjuring Northern Renaissance masters like Jan Van Eyck is Smith’s use of symbolism, like the skulls so often seen in devotional paintings as momento mori, or reminders of the viewer’s mortality. However, she has written that, “symbols no longer stand for fixed intentions and a skull can mean pretty much anything…I feel those old defunct symbols retain a kind of ‘half-life’ meaning, a vestige of their purpose. As their original content decays in the present, they still suggest something to us, even if that ‘something’ is less clear and is morphing into something else.” The artist’s reimagined context for these symbols can be seen in her placement of an Alexander McQueen knuckleduster ring in the painting Fruits of the Forest, which features skulls in its design. The traditional symbol of mortality thus becomes one associated with consumerism and luxury, blurring the line between its traditional use in painting and the popular currency its gained as a fashionable icon. In another painting, New Blooms at the Ossuary, a crevice below ground and the decaying side of ghostly sea vessel reveal caches of skulls, each precisely rendered in detail. The artist’s myriad use of the motif in this instance borders on the absurd, taking the singular use of something meant to convey religious reflection, and repeating it until it becomes virtually meaningless.

New Blooms
Anj Smith | New Blooms At The Ossuary, 2012, Oil on linen, 22 x 27 1/2 x 7/8 in
New Blooms (detail)
Anj Smith | New Blooms At The Ossuary (detail), 2012, Oil on linen, 22 x 27 1/2 x 7/8 in

Although Smith’s paint handling is generally uniform and smooth, she departs from this method in her depiction of uneven terrain. By building up the oil on the canvas, parts of her paintings become almost sculptural, projecting off the surface of the work in high impasto to suggest a rocky texture. This technique is used in The Sentry, a picture of an androgynous reclining nude, whose gender is kept mysterious by a swatch of red fabric extending from the groin. Although the figure wears dark lip rouge and a flapper-style headband, closer observation reveals a barely-detectable layer of hair that covers the figure’s arms and legs, each strand rendered in painstaking detail. Despite the painting’s title, it is unclear what this figure guards, leaving one to contemplate its literal or allegorical meaning.

The Sentry
Anj Smith | The Sentry, 2012, Oil on linen, 18 1/8 x 15 3/8 x 7/8 in

The dark and whimsical nature of these works creates an aesthetic that is distinct, while displaying the artist’s ongoing engagement with the history and tradition of painting. In their careful rendering and rich, saturated colors, Smith’s paintings in themselves become like the priceless objects that are depicted within them. It is telling that the paintings in this show were sold almost immediately. Each tiny scene is an endless expanse of visual imagery and symbolism, and one could spend several moments tracing the minute details in her landscapes and portraits. Within each work are also remnants of popular culture and contemporary fashion that reward a meticulous eye. For this reason, Smith’s paintings are best experienced in person, where their sumptuousness and complexity can be fully appreciated.

Ziggy
Anj Smith | Ziggy, 2012, Oil on linen, 16 7/8 x 15 3/8 x 7/8 in

Anj Smith: The Flowering of Phantoms is on view at Hauser & Wirth in New York through February 23rd.

Anj Smith was born in Kent, England in 1978 and studied painting at the Slade School of Fine Art and Goldsmith College, both in London. Since 2003 she has had multiple international shows, in Europe, India, Thailand, and the US. Smith currently lives and works in London.

Nadiah Fellah is a graduate student of Art History at The Graduate Center, CUNY in New York.

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http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/03/magazine/03chapman.html?_r=0

Fair Players

The Dealer

By ALICE RAWSTHORN
Published: December 3, 2006

Imagine that you’rean art dealer, and when you ask one of your artists for a work to sell at the Frieze Art Fair, he presents you with a thousand copies of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” in Arabic. What do you do? If you’re Iwan Wirth, you place those books smack in the middle of your booth, just as the artist, the Swiss sculptor Christoph Büchel, wanted. Did he ever consider just saying no? “Absolutely not!” Wirth insists. “But after the piece sold, we removed it. People were stealing the books. Why would anyone want to walk around an art fair with a copy of ‘Mein Kampf?’ ”

Julian Broad for The New York Times

Irwin Wirth, above the fray, in his booth at the Frieze Art Fair.

Readers’ Opinions

Looking like a grown-up Harry Potter with unruly curls and a hearty laugh, Wirth, 36, has become one of the most powerful players in contemporary art since founding the gallery Hauser & Wirth with his wife, Manuela, and mother-in-law, Ursula Hauser, in their native Switzerland in 1992. They now have outposts in Zurich and New York, as well as three gallery spaces in London, where he and Manuela live with their four children. Frieze, now in its fourth year, is Britain’s biggest art fair, drawing 152 galleries and some 63,000 visitors. It is also a highlight of Wirth’s business year. “It’s the center of gravity of the London art scene,” he says in his singsong Swiss accent, “thrilling, exciting and completely exhausting.”

Juggling the roles of curator, construction mogul, psychologist, entrepreneur and nanny, Wirth had a frenzied Frieze week in October. After presiding over the opening of a palatial new gallery on Old Bond Street, he gave a beer-and-sausage party to celebrate an installation by Büchel at his cavernous East London project space. Then there was the premiere of “Sick Film,” by the British artist Martin Creed. Wirth also had to buy for collectors at the London auctions that week, where he hoped to bag a Peter Doig painting for Hauser & Wirth’s own collection. After all of that, in addition to taking his children to school each morning, he still had several million dollars’ worth of art to sell at the fair.

Born in eastern Switzerland to an architect father and schoolteacher mother, Wirth got the art bug at 7, when he staged his first show — copies of Giacometti and Henry Moore sculptures he made himself. “I sold them for 75 francs,” he remembers proudly. Wirth opened a commercial gallery in their village at 16 and set up as a private dealer in Zurich in 1990. There he met Manuela, the daughter of a wealthy Swiss family. Together they acquired an ambitious contemporary-art collection for her mother and established Hauser & Wirth. Their artists include Europeans like Isa Genzken, Andreas Hofer and Pipilotti Rist, although Wirth has a penchant for “big boy” U.S. sculptors like Paul McCarthy and the late Jason Rhoades. He is equally excited about Büchel, whose East London show included a replica of an illegal industrial recycling plant. “When you meet a great artist like Paul, Jason or Christoph, you just know,” Wirth says. “There’s a particular type of energy — and they need a big gallery like ours to support them.”

That support comes from his secondary market, which generates most of Hauser & Wirth’s turnover. Like his rivals, Larry Gagosian and Jay Jopling, Wirth is an ace salesman. Having set new records at each of the first three Frieze fairs, he had high expectations for 2006. Wirth says that the frenzy of the fairs has transformed the art market, by replicating the buzz of the auction room and spurring even veteran collectors into making impulse purchases. “If people have time to decide, they’ll take it,” he observes. “The miracle of the art fair is that they don’t.”

By the second day of Frieze, almost all of the art in Hauser & Wirth’s booth has been sold, including a $480,000 McCarthy sculpture. The Old Bond Street gallery had opened smoothly, as had Creed’s film, although Büchel’s factory installation proved trickier. Local officials panicked at possible safety risks, and then a truck crashed into a sign outside. But his only disappointment was being outbid for the Doig painting at auction. “It was a beauty,” Wirth lamented. “My limit was £600,000, but I went up to £800,000, and someone bid £820,000. I tell collectors to set a limit and stick to it, but that’s what happens. It’s like a doctor telling his patients not to smoke and being a terrible smoker himself.”

Alice Rawsthorn is the design critic for The International Herald Tribune.


http://www.theartnewspaper.com/articles/Hauser–Wirth-to-open-in-New-York/17434

Hauser & Wirth to open in New York

Gallery hopes to buck the downturn with transatlantic expansion

By Charmaine Picard. Market, Issue 203, June 2009
Published online: 27 May 2009

NEW YORK. Hauser & Wirth is opening a gallery space in New York in September as part of its long-term strategy to increase US market share. The gallery will expand its Zurich- and London-based operations at a time when shrinking demand for contemporary art has led several galleries to close international branches and others to cut staff.

“Everybody is looking at costs, and so are we,” said gallery owner Iwan Wirth. He added: “The art market has shrunk, but we made a decision one year ago that if there’s one place we want to be, and need to be, for the next 20 years it’s New York.”

The space will be located on the first four floors of the Upper East Side townhouse currently occupied by Zwirner & Wirth gallery. The six-story building, which was purchased by Ursula Hauser in 1997, is the site of the former Martha Jackson Gallery where Allan Kaprow installed his famed work Yard in 1961. The gallery, which represents the artist’s estate, will recreate the installation for its inaugural exhibition. Mr Wirth told The Art Newspaper: “Many of our artists, like Allan Kaprow, Paul McCarthy, Eva Hesse and Roni Horn, have no gallery representation in New York. We have great relationships in America and we want to shorten the distances.” Hauser & Wirth partner Marc Payot will run day-to-day operations at the New York outpost.

Although Mr Wirth will no longer share a space with New York dealer David Zwirner, the pair will continue their collaboration in the secondary market. Meanwhile, Mr Zwirner will also open a new space on 19th Street in Chelsea this September, in a building designed by Shigeru Ban, whose new Centre Pompidou-Metz opens next year.

According to Mr Wirth: “The good thing about the moment is there are lots of opportunities—you get great staff and great works of art with more realistic prices. It’s a buyer’s market.”
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http://www.artinamericamagazine.com/news-opinion/the-scene/2013-01-23/hauser-and-wirth-new-space-chelsea/

Hauser and Wirth Opens Giant New Gallery in Chelsea

by Brian Boucher 01/23/13

International powerhouse gallery Hauser and Wirth makes a dramatic addition to its list of locations (Zurich, London, New York’s Upper East Side) this week, when its mammoth new space opens at 511 West 18th St. in Chelsea. A.i.A. attended a press preview Monday.

The new space’s debut comes less than two weeks after the row of small galleries on West 27th Street finally re-opened after Super-storm Sandy. Situated on the second floor, the new facility was unaffected.

View Slideshow Installation view, ‘Dieter Roth. Björn Roth’, Hauser & Wirth New York NY, 2013 © Dieter Roth Estate Courtesy Hauser & Wirth Photo: Bjarni Grímsson; Dieter Roth Grosse Tischruine (Large Table Ruin) (with Björn Roth & Eggert Einarsson) Begun 1978 Mixed media installation Dimensions variable Installation view, ‘Dieter Roth. Björn Roth’, Hauser & Wirth New York, 18th Street, New York NY, 2013 © Dieter Roth Estate Courtesy Hauser & Wirth Photo: Bjarni Grímsson;

“Dieter Roth. Björn Roth” (Jan. 23–Apr. 13) is the first exhibition on West 18th Street, and it includes installations, sculpture, video and prints by the father-and-son team, about half the works on loan from the Dieter Roth Foundation, Hamburg. Featured are more than 100 objects, created since the 1970s, some never before shown in the States.

As Hauser and Wirth’s Marc Payot told A.i.A. during a preview visit this fall, “Roth represents a kind of father figure for many of the artists we represent, in that his work is process-oriented and often collaborative, as well as highly complex and multilayered.” A gallery press release points out that Roth’s work sprung from a central concept of the indivisibility of art and life.

Visitors are greeted in the entryway by a site-specific, permanent work by Martin Creed, in which vertical stripes of colorful duct tape of various designs adorn the wall of the stairway that leads up to the second-floor space to the reception desk.

There, visitors turn a corner into a nearly 25,000-square-foot, column-free, sky-lit space under wood ceilings supported by black steel trusses. New York architect Annabelle Selldorf oversaw the design of the new facility, which is in the former home of the Roxy discotheque. It neighbors the High Line elevated park and Frank Gehry’s building for the IAC headquarters.

Large parts of the space are perfumed with the scent of chocolate, from Selbstturm (Self Tower), 1994/2013, a giant column of busts made out of chocolate, stacked on glass shelves in a metal frame, whose production continued in the gallery, with two young men cooking up the chocolate and carving the busts. “There are two-men teams working in 12-hour shifts,” the gallery’s Michael Hall told A.i.A.

Björn Roth led a walkthrough of the show Monday, explaining the genesis of two gigantic works, The Floor I (1973-1992) and The Floor II (1977-1998), that are actual floors from studios Roth occupied, displayed upright in the manner of a painting.

“The idea of the floor paintings came in 1992,” he said, when they had a large wall to fill in an exhibition. He pointed out where a section of the floor had been cut out to accommodate a door in that wall, saying with a smile, “we had to cut a door in the floor.”

Standing in front of some paintings made from tablecloths, he noted that “most works in the show are made from materials that had some other life.” The paintings are dated with huge spans of time, like Tischtuch mit Gechirrbildern (1987-94). “His philosophy was that you don’t do much at any one time,” he said, speaking of his father. “When I look at these paintings, every line brings memories from different times.”

Memorabilia from the Roxy adorns a café/bar created by Björn, who often collaborated with his father to create bars, and Björn’s son Oddur, whose name, he explained to A.i.A., is Icelandic for the point of a spear. “The business end,” he added with a mischievous smile.

“Some staffers had birthdays during the installation, which we celebrated here,” Hall pointed out, “and you can still see leftover cake in the glass-fronted filing cabinets above the bar.”

“Those are American-made cabinets,” Oddur told A.i.A., “which were exported to Iceland maybe 50 years ago, and which we found as scrap and brought back to the States. Scrap always has a history. And we live off of it. Or,” he asked philosophically, taking another drag on his cigarette, “does it live off of us?”

Oddur was standing in the bar, near a large glass cabinet in which scraps of paper were whirling around. “That’s a shredder for tearing up bad reviews,” he said with a meaningful glance at an art critic standing nearby.

Parker Ito: Interviews and Articles

 

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 PARIS-LA MAGAZINE

EXHIBITION: PARKER ITO AT CHATEAU SHATTO

Parker Ito’s show at Chateau Shatto, A Little Taste of Cheeto in the Night, is a fully-immersive, claustrophobic, phantasmagoric experience. The artist transformed a vast, multi-roomed warehouse behind the gallery with architectural interventions, punching holes in the walls and ceiling. Double-sided paintings hang from silvery chains and LED light strands, and the floors are haphazardly carpeted in astro-turf and red plush. Custom-made slippers, screen-printed buckets, ceramic figurines and action figures litter the space, sometimes in precise constructions, and at other times lying about in wait for a crushing step. Photos simply don’t do the show justice; go and see it for yourself before it closes on April 26.

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Parker Ito

Sarah Nicole Prickett
Sebastian Kim

Parker Ito, Parker Cheeto, Olivia Calix, Deke McClelland Two, Julia Rob3rts, and Painter_John99@yahoo.com are all, as far as Los Angeles-based artist Parker Ito is concerned, real names used to make real art. Now known almost exclusively as Parker Ito, the 28-year-old artist is currently working on a series of shows that, collectively, he sees as the second exhibition in a Parker Cheeto trilogy. (The first, “Parker Cheeto: The Net Artist [America Online Made Me Hardcore],” took place at IMO gallery in Copenhagen last year.) He’s also planning an exhibit of his 101 “Parked Domain Girl” paintings (oil canvases based on a stock image of a smiling blond with a backpack); a show of sculptures about computer printers; and a “multichannel installation.” He doesn’t sleep very much, or very well. He doesn’t read. He hates discussing his work. If we hadn’t met in the flesh to do exactly that, I wouldn’t have even been sure that it was Ito speaking—he’s often had friends or assistants conduct interviews over e-mail on his behalf.

In September 2012, Ito had his commercial breakthrough show, “The Agony and the Ecstasy,” at Stadium gallery in New York. The room glinted and flashed with all-surface objects, unbelievable from every angle. Photographing them was a little like Insta-gramming the moon—impossible, but you couldn’t stop wanting to try. I wanted to buy one. This past February, The Agony and the Ecstasy (2012), a wall covering made from vinyl, enamel, and 3M Scotchlite fabric, sold at Sotheby’s for more than $94,000. Suddenly, a Parker Ito fingernail was out of my price range. Critic Jerry Saltz called him a mediocrity.

It should be easy enough to locate Ito’s work in a “post-internet” bubble and leave it there, but once you start looking, you quickly see he’s not too good for that, but too much. Cosmophagy, the word Susan Sontag used to describe “the devouring of the world by consciousness,” comes to mind. His oeuvre is compulsive, insatiable. No starving artist, Ito seems rather more bulimic, as if there’s no bad-for-you image or medium he won’t eventually chew up and spit back out. When I find out he’s a supertaster (meaning he experiences the sense of taste far more intensely than most), the metaphor is complete: Ito explains that the condition makes him unable to eat anything too complex or refined, and that, like his friend Harmony Korine and his idol Jeff Koons, he prefers the salty, bland, overly processed, borderline trashy and “fake.” I met up with him for a few hours in April when he was in New York, and we ate sushi.

PARKER ITO: Is there a Google search result for your hair? I searched your name and hair came up as a suggested thing.

SARAH NICOLE PRICKETT: Probably. I’ve had a lot of different hairstyles. You seem like someone who Googles everyone you meet.

ITO: Yeah, I do.

PRICKETT: What year did you first get a computer? People have different ages, I think. You have your biological age, the age on your birth certificate, and then you have a sexual age, and then a digital age. Maybe you have an emotional age.

ITO: Well, my taste buds are like a 7-year-old’s. [laughs] I remember the internet being a thing, and not having it at my house, and then getting AOL dial-up, and having my parents put a porn filter on the computer. But I can’t remember much in general. My memory’s gotten really bad lately.

PRICKETT: Short term or long term?

ITO: Both. I’m pretty good at remembering what I have to do, though.

PRICKETT: How many things do you have to do every day?

ITO: I don’t know, 10? I don’t write anything down.

PRICKETT: So, you have the memory of a really good waitress.

ITO: Maybe. And I’m good at remembering my ideas, or at least I think I am. I don’t keep a sketchbook.

PRICKETT: Do you remember your dreams?

ITO: When I used to take prescription drugs, I had really vivid dreams and I could remember them. But now I never do.

PRICKETT: What did you take drugs for?

ITO: I have agoraphobia, and it got really severe last year. Do you have it?

PRICKETT: No, I don’t, but I think agoraphobia seems like a perfectly sane response to the absolute disgustingness of the world at times.

ITO: I see the world as a pretty positive place. With agoraphobia, I’m only in fear of fear. Like, I’m afraid of having a panic attack, and panic attacks usually happen in public places, so I’m afraid of public places. I had a panic attack on an airplane last year. They were about to take off, and I was like, “I need to get the fuck off the plane, I’m having a panic—” And they were like, “Oh my God, do you need a stretcher?” And I was like, “No, just let me off the fucking plane.” After that I went on Xanax. A lot of Xanax. I was also on an antidepressant and a mood stabilizer. I was a fucking zombie. It was a really dark time in my life.

PRICKETT: Were you making art?

ITO: That was the only thing I could do. The only time I felt normal was when I was making stuff.

PRICKETT: Did it change the art you made in any perceivable way?

I‘M INTERESTED IN MAKING WORK THAT MIMICS THE MECHANISM OFTHE INTERNET …I’M TRYING TO MAKE SOMETHING SO COMPLICATEDTHAT IT CAN’T BE UNDERSTOOD, SO TOTAL THAT YOU CAN NEVER ZOOM ALL THE WAY OUT.  —Parker Ito

ITO: No, I don’t think so. Well, that was right around the time that my assistants started becoming very heavily involved, because I had left California to get away from my family. [laughs] I grew up in Orange County, and my family lives in Long Beach, and at the time, I was living with my dad. My parents were—are—going through a divorce, and I was right in the middle of everything. I flipped out, and I came to New York to live here for a month. It was the worst place to fucking go, but I was under the impression that being around my family was what was stressing me out, so I came here, and then I called and e-mailed my assistants and had them work remotely for a month. In May I flew back to Los Angeles for a show, and I hadn’t even seen the work; I hadn’t touched it. I just showed up for the opening, and there were 20 paintings that I had made.

PRICKETT: How many assistants do you have?ITO: About five. I have a very different relationship with my assistants than most artists. Most artists say, “My assistants made this, but the ideas are all mine.” But sometimes my assistants come up with ideas for stuff to make, and I just say, “Okay, we’ll make it.”PRICKETT: If your assistants make something for you, are their names on it?

ITO: Well, I don’t sign my work, so nobody would sign anything.

PRICKETT: Are they well-paid?

ITO: Twenty-five dollars an hour.

PRICKETT: That’s good. Do you remember that New York Times Magazine piece written by an assistant for Jeff Koons who made the Cracked Egg painting and got paid 14 dollars an hour?

ITO: Whoa. That’s shitty.

PRICKETT: I’m shocked that none of your assistants ask you for a percentage of sales. But I think I just don’t know how the world works.

ITO: My assistants like making things, but they don’t want to put up with all the bullshit of being an artist. And I try to be a really cool boss. For my two main assistants, who have been with me longer than anyone else, I bought monogrammed velvet slippers. I bought them the Jackson Pollock Crocs. I’m getting berets made for them, and they have sweatsuits printed with some paintings we did.

PRICKETT: Were you ever someone’s assistant?

ITO: No, I’d be a fucking horrible assistant. I can’t really do anything. [laughs]

PRICKETT: Were you a good student?

ITO: In art school, yes, I was a very good student. In high school, no. And before art school, at this junior college in Orange County, I was kicked out. I was put on academic probation because I failed this math class twice. I just never showed up.

PRICKETT: I bet everyone thinks they know what your adolescence was like because they watched The O.C. growing up.

ITO: Oh, yeah. But I watched Degrassi [The Next Generation].

PRICKETT: So you were an original fan of Drake?

ITO: Yeah. Jimmy.

PRICKETT: I saw that one of your shows was titled “Nothing Was the Same (John Boehner Ramesses III).” I’m Canadian, and I find it so funny, a famous rapper being from Canada. It’s incongruous. Drake is so drastically uncool. His record label, OVO, has a blogspot page.

ITO: I’m into that. My girlfriend is in Canada now.

PRICKETT: What’s her name?

ITO: Liv Barrett. She’s also my gallerist now. We live together in Hollywood. I don’t know what you know about Hollywood, but that’s where I live. So it’s all super-fucking-eccentric rich people with giant cowboy hats, and then bums shitting on trees.

PRICKETT: That’s amazing.

ITO: It’s a weird place.

PRICKETT: It is a weird place. L.A. is so heartless and disparate to me.

ITO: Yeah, there’s no center. I like living in L.A. a lot.

PRICKETT: You drive a car, I guess.

ITO: All the time. I drive a ’98 Honda Civic. It’s a piece of shit. I’ll go to an event with a collector and there’s valet parking, and they’re in a Rolls-Royce or something, and I’m behind them in a shitty Honda full of garbage.

PRICKETT: Do you remember the first time you thought you wanted to be an artist?

ITO: Yeah. [laughs]

PRICKETT: Was it when you were watching Degrassi?

ITO: It was a little before that. I was really into skateboarding for a long time. Then I realized that I probably wasn’t going to become a professional skateboarder. I’ve only wanted to have two jobs: a professional skateboarder and an artist. I’ve actually come back to skateboarding through art. I don’t know if you know who Rob Dyrdek is. He had a show called Rob & Big that was on MTV, and now he has a show called Ridiculousness, and he’s a pro skateboarder, and he’s collecting art now. He collects my work. Through Insta-gram, I became friends with Steve Berra, who runs the Berrics, the skate place and website. It’s one of the most influential things in skateboarding right now. And Steve said he wanted to give me a pro model, like a pro board.

PRICKETT: I guess if you have a pro board, you’re a pro skateboarder.

ITO: Technically, yeah. It’s like an honorary degree. But, yeah, I read a book on Basquiat when I was 18 or 19, and I decided I wanted to be an artist.

PRICKETT: You dress well. That’s a Basquiat thing. He wore, like, Commes des Garçons suits.

ITO: Yeah, yeah, and he painted in them.

PRICKETT: He painted in them?!

ITO: All I wanted my whole life was to buy whatever I wanted.

PRICKETT: Did you grow up with money?

ITO: Fuck, no. I’m from a super-middle-class family.

PRICKETT: Define middle class. What did your parents do?

ITO: My dad works for an oil company. My mom was a hairdresser, and now she does X-rays, mammograms, stuff like that. I worked in the oil fields before I became an artist. It’s a big paranoia of mine that people think I’m from money because I’m from Orange County. I spend a lot of money on clothes now, and I go to all these fucking parties for art.

PRICKETT: Well, and you’re successful, and it’s getting harder and harder to go to school and become a successful artist if you don’t have money to start with.

ITO: That’s the other thing. A lot of artists are just rich kids. But, no, I’m in a lot of debt from school. A lot of debt.

PRICKETT: How much?

ITO: Probably 60, 70 grand. I don’t really know, to be honest. When I was in school, I got them to give me a bunch of extra money so I could buy computer software, and then I downloaded all the software for free and used the money to go shopping online.

PRICKETT: What did you buy?

ITO: Just tons of clothes.

PRICKETT: The shirt you’re wearing now, the print has the Montreal Canadiens logo on it. Did you do that on purpose because I’m Canadian?

ITO: Oh, no. It’s vintage Nicole Miller from the ’90s. I collect shirts with all-over prints, and this one seems to be Canadian-themed. It would be funny if I did it on purpose.

PRICKETT: Do you collect any other things?

ITO: I have a lot of books, I guess.

PRICKETT: What kinds of books?

ITO: Art books, books with big pictures in them. I read comics a little bit. I like Dash Shaw and Paul Pope. In my work I use a lot of images from a comic Geof Darrow did with Frank Miller called Hard Boiled. There’s an image from it on my website.

PRICKETT: Who wrote the text on your website?

ITO: Glass Popcorn. He’s a rapper who lives in Tempe, Arizona. I think he’s 17, but he got popular on the internet when he was maybe 14. His favorite artists are me and Harmony Korine. That sounds weirdly egotistical.

PRICKETT: It’s not. I loved Spring Breakers [2012] more than anything, because it was all surfaces, and everything was reflective and refracted, and you could read that movie so many ways, and [Korine] wouldn’t argue with you about any of them. He’d never admit to having an opinion on his own work, although he did say it was the first real movie he’d made.

ITO: Harmony Korine is my good friend. He’s a real artist. My girlfriend and him had a conversation in Miami, and if I remember correctly—I was pretty fucked up at the time—he said he made Spring Breakers because he was interested in the way the light in Miami looked at particular times. It wasn’t about script or storytelling; it was about lighting.

PRICKETT: Lighting is everything. I won’t go to places with bad lighting. Partly it’s vanity, but it’s also that I seek certain times of the light. Sometimes in my apartment, at sunset, the whole window will burn orange, and it’s just my favorite—it’s ecstasy. So I think that’s a perfect reason to make a film. What do you feel is your primary reason to make art?

ITO: That I want to make this shit. I want to see this thing made. The work I’m making now is a continuation of my earlier work, which includes art I made under different names, art I made in collaboration with Body by Body [a collaboration between artists Cameron Soren and Melissa Sachs], a bunch of websites I made, a bunch of video work. But people only know the reflective paintings or the dot paintings because those are at auction. Right now, I’m building an exhibition that can’t be contained by a gallery. It’s planned to take place in the fall in L.A. in a warehouse where I’ll just work for months.

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ARTFORUM

Parker Ito

03.23.15

View of “Parker Ito: A Lil Taste of Cheeto in the Night,” 2015.

 

Crammed into 7,500 square feet of leased space behind Château Shatto Gallery in downtown LA, Parker Ito’s current exhibition is a stunning, vertiginous private museum multiplied hundreds of times. The show is over a year in the making, and it’s not finished yet: Ito will continue amending the paintings and installations on view until the exhibition is reprised as an “epilogue.” “A Lil Taste of Cheeto in the Night” is on view until May 2, 2015.

I WANT TO MAKE EXHIBITIONS where there is always a potential for the work to be shifting. There is a sensation that I’m chasing: an exhibition beyond the pacified white cube, something indigestible, something profuse. The question became how to make something that feels like my website, where I’m always making new work and adding things on. In a sense, my website is my masterwork: It’s like a grand edit of everything I’ve ever done, and it takes on a life of its own where things are infused in a bigger structure.

I came up with this two-year project of trying to make something so total and intricate it couldn’t be comprehended—where you could zoom in on the details endlessly, but never zoom out completely. “A Lil Taste of Cheeto in the Night” played out in several stages. It began with a prelude in the beginning of 2014: I hung eight paintings in an Atwater coffee shop. They were completely anonymous and ambient. After the exhibition, the paintings came back to my studio to be painted on some more, and they now hang in this show on the back of larger double-sided paintings.

Part one was at Smart Objects, a project space in Los Angeles, in May 2014. It was the first time I considered the whole building as a medium. I left the main space of the gallery empty. A nonsensical neon sign was hung facing out toward the street. There was a disused, three-story elevator shaft in the building and I broke through the wall to hang a bronze sculpture inside the shaft. Wallpaper was installed in the bathroom, and I hung a series of paintings throughout the second-floor apartment where the dealer lived. I painted a mural on the roof, too.

Part two was at White Cube in London last July. I considered this a trailer for “A Lil Taste of Cheeto in the Night.” This was an effort to make an exhibition that spilled beyond the confines of the designated exhibition space. Children of the gallery’s staff contributed to some of the paintings that were hung throughout the offices, and flower vases made by other employees were scattered around the show. There was also a video piece, which is an episode of another ongoing work, and the receptionists wore pairs of bespoke slippers for the duration of the show. We added live parrots for the documentation. The show was credited as the work of Parker Cheeto and my eight studio assistants. People thought it was a group show.

The content in the current LA exhibition goes through a process of absorption. There are numerous sculptures riffing off the iconography of the local company Western Exterminator; my works feature an iconic top-hatted man with a mallet that sits atop company buildings and vans. They’re something you see often in LA because you’re constantly on the freeway, and Western Exterminator has depots at several freeway locations—off the 101, the 405. I think about how part of being alive is having to constantly process so much information that you’re pushed to a space where you don’t really know what the thing is—it’s just floating. I wanted to be able to incorporate as many media, processes, and strategies, as many kinds of content, as I could grasp. With such a density of information, the chemistry between things becomes unpredictable. The exhibition reaches a point where there is no one-to-one correlation between a reference and its meaning. It’s like when people who don’t read Chinese get Chinese characters tattooed on their bodies. Often those phrases are mistranslated, but it doesn’t really matter to the person what the characters say. They’re mostly interested in the qualities being conveyed by this kind of typography. That’s how I think about content: It’s not equivalent; it’s a filter. I’m invested in the sensation of things.

— As told to Chris Kraus

NYTIMES T MAGAZINE

An Artist Whose Signature Style Is a Lack of One

Photo

Handlers install a painting for the artist Parker Ito's new show, "A Lil Taste of Cheeto in the Night," which will be displayed through an ongoing installation process during its run.
Handlers install a painting for the artist Parker Ito’s new show, “A Lil Taste of Cheeto in the Night,” which will be displayed through an ongoing installation process during its run.Credit Elon Schoenholz

When Parker Ito was growing up in Seal Beach, a small city in Orange County, California, he watched David Copperfield DVDs assiduously. He dreamed of being a magician. “Then, I wanted to be a professional skateboarder,” the artist, 28, said from a folding chair set atop the barren rooftop of his Los Angeles studio in the El Sereno neighborhood. It was a few weeks before his new, knotty multimedia show, “A Lil Taste of Cheeto in the Night,” would open in a 7,800-square-foot warehouse in Downtown Los Angeles, adjacent to Château Shatto, the gallery co-owned by Ito’s girlfriend and art dealer, Liv Barrett.

In his busy workspace below, Ito’s studio assistants were perched on scaffolding as they studiously worked from photographs and printouts to render massive two-sided paintings, which were now hanging shambolically on chains from the rafters of the exhibition warehouse. The paintings dally between appropriated logos from the ’90s skateboarding brand Hook-Ups; images of Ito as a Joan of Arc figure; and representations of the Western Exterminator, an Angeleno billboard staple depicting a tophatted man scolding a mouse while holding a mallet behind his back.

Ito is well known for hiring skilled painters as his studio assistants and paying them a fair wage (and sometimes giving them full credit as the artists of an exhibition, as he did at the London gallery White Cube last year) to realize his concepts. Often, this rankles critics who prefer that the artist’s hand touches the work — the sort of question of fabrication that Donald Judd raised in the 1960s and that has critically dogged Jeff Koons’s practice.

Photo

An installation view of "A Lil Taste of Cheeto in the Night."
An installation view of “A Lil Taste of Cheeto in the Night.”Credit Elon Schoenholz

Ito tries to remove as much of himself from the process as possible, aside from an approval procedure; and because of his assistants’ distinct abilities, the studio creates works that vary greatly in technique. The pieces through which he first achieved prominence while still a student at California College of the Arts in Oakland — paintings of “the parked domain girl,” a fresh-faced co-ed who appears as a placeholder on countless unconstructed web addresses across the Internet — come in all types, from one that apes the street-art wheatpaste style to one that is completely abstracted to one done as an anime.

In fact, for Ito, variety is the only constant. He even switches his name up, going by pseudonyms such as Deke McLelland Two, Creamy Dreamy and Parker Cheeto. The idea that most artists end up finding and perfecting a style, which they’re expected to maintain for the rest of their lives, frightens him. “I never wanted to be someone who had an ability to do anything,” Ito said. “I never wanted to be someone who could paint really well or draw really well. I always want my work to be changing and shifting, and I never want to be set in something, so I purposefully never learned to do anything. I really try to make everything at this point.”

“A Lil Taste of Cheeto in the Night,” his biggest show yet, which opened over the weekend, is the culmination of two years of Ito figuring out how to present his artwork in a yearlong series under one umbrella. Previously, there was a show done anonymously and semi-secretly in a cafe in Atwater Village, consisting solely of still life paintings of roses, followed by an exhibition at the cramped Echo Park gallery Smart Objects. The third iteration came last July, after Jay Jopling, the owner of the prominent London gallery White Cube (which represents Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin among others), dropped by Ito’s studio and offered him a show. Ito was hesitant, having made the decision to shun big galleries; he compromised by doing the show, but giving credit to his assistants — and Parker Cheeto, of course. “I was really trying to take a break this year,” he says. “I really wanted to carve my own path and avoid commercial galleries.”

Ito dislikes openings, so “A Lil Taste of Cheeto in the Night” did not have one. The exhibition’s announcement came in the form of a newsprint booklet containing a love letter written to Ito by Barrett. And Ito has painted Barrett into one of the show’s paintings (though he had to redo it in the weeks leading up to the show, because “her nose was all wrong,” Ito says).

Alongside 33 paintings, 19 bronze sculptures of the Western Exterminator in all forms are hung from chains or positioned on top of other works. Sloppy ceramics are scattered through the space, string lights are haphazardly threaded through holes in the ceiling like the nest of wires at the back of a computer desk, and several fake palm trees — the same kind used to mask cellphone towers — will be right at home when they are installed in the next few weeks of the ever-changing exhibition.

If anything, Ito is the type of artist that sends critics into fits. The New York Magazine art critic Jerry Saltz called him mediocre in one article, lumping him into the “zombie abstraction” dogpile in another, Ito having been caught up in the whole mess surrounding the art advisor Stefan Simchowitz’s price goosing and art flipping. The art-world gossip has affected the way critics approach Ito’s work. “It turns people off to my work before they even look at it,” says Ito. “It’s hard for me to know if people have even seen a lot of the stuff I’ve done.”

Ito is hoping that this show changes the perspective of how his work is seen, a daunting task in the art world. Ito can’t say for sure exactly where he falls in the art-making genres, but what he does know is that he will always be switching it up, keeping people guessing and trying to keep it interesting for himself through adaptation. “Even though I’ve made so many bodies of work that look totally different, people tell me there’s a feeling that, when they see my work, they know it’s mine,” he said. “So even my attempts to destroy myself, I’m still myself, I guess.”

“Part 3: A Lil Taste of Cheeto in the Night” runs through an undisclosed date in late April at 1317 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, chateaushatto.com.

Correction: January 28, 2015
An earlier version of this post omitted a credit for the pictures of Parker Ito’s artwork. They were taken by Elon Schoenholz.
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DIS MAGAZINE

Interview with Parker Ito

PARKER ITO | THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY
STADIUM
548 W. 28th St. Suite 636
New York, NY 10001
SEPT 6 – OCT 6 2012

Parker Ito, as many of you already know, is a multi-media and Internet artist based in the Bay Area. Over the past few years he has become known for his uses and manipulations of found and stock imagery as well as continually re-configuring and jumbling all kinds of online identities, communities, systems and paths of communication. His current solo exhibition at Stadium in New York City titled The Agony and the Ecstasy, features new paintings and sculptures that defy the conventional binary between viewership in the gallery and documentation as it is presented online.

Courtney Malick: I have to start off by asking about the title of the exhibition, The Agony and
the Ecstasy, which of course conjures certain distinct references such as the novel (1961) of the same title about the life of Michelangelo and the subsequent film (1965) based on the book starring Charlton Heston.  Then there of also the famous song by Smoky Robinson.  Were any of these works in your mind in any way when deciding on a title for this show?

Parker Ito: I like movies, but only bad movies. And I don´t ever read books, only Wikipedia entries.  So my knowledge of these things is very superficial.  The Agony and the Ecstasy seemed to be a good title for an art show because it kind of encapsulates artistic struggle.  My artistic struggles are not so much about, ‘Oh, making art is really hard,’ but more like, ‘I need more money to go online shopping,’ ‘I have a crush on this girl, how do I get her attention on twitter?’ or ‘Do I look hot in this Facebook photo?!’ Online romances are sort of my thing and that´s probably the main theme of this show.  When I say “online romances” I don´t just mean girls either, I´m talking about romantic relationships with art via the Internet as well.

CM: Can you tell me a bit more about what you mean by ‘romantic relationships with art’?

PI:  Like people artworks seem to exist in some sort of in-between state. Sometimes people take really good photos and sometimes people look hotter offline. I heard a rumor that I’m hotter in person. More so now than ever things exist in multiple versions and one is not truer than the other. Most artworks seem to look better online and lots of art objects can be underwhelming and unromantic in person.

CM: Yes, that is definitely true for photos and other two-dimensional work. I am also really interested in the idea of the exhibition trailer that was included as a link in the press release that I received via e-mail.  This is a PR technique that I have never seen before.  Is it something that you conceived of as a preemptive extension of the exhibition or is it something that the gallery has done in the past?  Also, what was it that you wanted to convey in the trailer that you felt would intrigue people to come see the show in person?

PI: Maybe not in a blue chip sense, but more so with a lot of younger artists exhibition trailers seem to be pretty common now.  Mark Leckey made some pretty cool trailers for his exhibitions.  Hopefully people will get excited about coming to my show when they see the trailer.  That’s probably what I was thinking about most.  We live in a day in age of TL;DR though, so who wants to read a whole press release when you can watch a video and get more of a sense of what the show is about?  You do´t even have to watch the whole trailer, which is cool too, you can just scrub through it.


CM: I guess that is true to an extent, but I actually found a lot of things in the press release that intrigued me that I doubt I would have understood about the show based solely on the trailer. Most importantly the press release describes a lot about the conceptual background for this body of work, but I would really like to hear from you how it came about, especially as it relates or diverts from your previous work?

PI: Twenty-twelve was all about making beautiful things – my motto this year is ‘be pretty, make pretty things.’  That was the genesis of this body of work.  Then I got this idea to try and create artworks that were un-documentable, and then this basically shifted into trying to make art objects where the content of the work was the documentation and that had multiple, unique viewing experiences.  Reflective material offered all of these qualities and I just jumped into that head-first.  The timing was so perfect, as reflective material seems to be really trending in fashion right now. This makes me feel like I´m the artistic equivalent to hypebeast or something.

CM: I love the idea of documentation as content too and it is clearly foregrounded in this project. Can you say a bit about why you have chosen to set it up in this way?

PI: Yes this is the most important thing.  When buying a painting or a sculpture collectors always ask “which is the artists favorite?”  My answer would be that my favorite is all the of the paintings and sculptures together, with multiple documentation of each object collected on my website, then a link to my website posted on Facebook with at least 50 likes.  I think that´s probably most simple way to explain my reasoning.

CM: From what you have told me so far I am curious to know if you consider this project to be a formal one or if you see it as being rooted in the conceptual?  Perhaps in this case we cannot distinguish between the two?

PI: I´m not a conceptual artist, but I think this work is rooted in “konceptualism” and this is similar to when people spell the word “cool”, “kewl”, or “kool”.  I am passionate about the Internet and making work about the effects that Internet has had on traditional art objects is the most honest thing I can do, even if sometimes I do that under another name.  These paintings and sculptures are made flat, un-stretched.  Water and paint is sprayed on to the reflective material, which leads to very randomized results.  This reduces the whole process into something very systematic, which yields a very formal result.  But the qualities specific to the materials make the experience of viewing these works in person and in documented form very unique, and this is the more “konceptual” side of the project.

CM:  Wow, I’ve never thought of a kind of renewed or “off-brand” version of conceptualism.  It is interesting that you mentioned wanting to achieve a certain beauty with these works yet on the other hand you would be most pleased to see them reduced to a popular link on your Facebook page.  Again, the tension between agony and ecstasy or form and concept seems to arise.  Do you feel it is that dichotomy that the works embody that will continue to make them compelling in a non-visual sense once the gallery show is over?

PI: Most conceptual artists claim to be intellectuals. I am either a super anti-intellectual or a fake pseudo-intellectual. Just in the same way that my life is more conceptual than any art, therefore I do not need to make conceptual art. Multiplicity is an important part to the project – a gallery viewer could see these objects in person and think “wow these are extremely beautiful” and the works would just be reduced to pretty things on a wall. Someone could see a low res cell phone pic on Facebook that is extremely blown out and actually have no understanding at all of the formal characteristics of these works. So these objects both reject and accept their own beauty. The most interesting way to experience them is to live with them because one can view them in every lighting condition.

CM: Clearly one of the problemics your show addresses is the dichotomy that exists between experiences that take place online as opposed to offline.  Offline, in terms of an art exhibition, would traditionally mean the ‘separate-ness’ of the white cube of the commercial or museum gallery.  However, I am beginning to wonder if we can even make such a distinction any longer, as most of us spend each day with a smart phone in our hand at all times, through which we are continuously connected to the internet and various social media networks.  It is this perpetually connected condition that makes me wonder if the “unaffected”, (as it is referred to in the show’s press release), space of the gallery can any longer actually be considered as such?  Do you think that virtual and physical space necessarily operate differently?  And if so, do you think that there will eventually be a time when they will merge completely?

PI: Yea I mean this is already happening.  The best way to understand this is if you think about the new Apple OS and how the default track pad settings actually function in reverse from the previous settings.  This is because people are getting so used to being on smart phones all the time and scrolling the opposite way is actually more natural.  Or things like how Instagram filters just look like Instagram filters and don´t even reference film anymore.

CM: I know what you mean, particularly about Instagram’s self referential filter aesthetic.  It is clear to me that it is this condition that your show references, what I am wondering is whether you feel that by presenting something (these paintings) that cannot as easily transition from the real to the virtual realms, does this project represents a critical perspective on this hyper way of interacting via new technologies?

PI: No. I think I’m just being honest about the impact of the Internet on contemporary culture. I mean right now I’m writing this on my iPhone on an abbreviated version of gmail because my laptop is broken and I’m traveling. it takes me longer to type and the experience of handwriting my responses would be very different but it’s still “me.”

CM:Right, of course. I guess my last question would be if other than the documentation existing as the final state of this show that will be accessible on your website, do you have other plans for ways to extend or re-use the documentation “works” that will be the result of The Agony and the Ecstasy?

PI: I don’t really see an end because this work could be re-blogged forever and each time the work is photographed it is reactivated.

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ART REVIEW MAGAZINE – LONDON

Maid in Heaven / En Plein Air in Hell (My Beautiful Dark and Twisted Cheeto Problem)

White Cube Masons Yard, London, 16 July – 27 September

By Oliver Basciano

Parker Cheeto is Los Angeles-based Parker Ito. This show is attributed to a ton of names on White Cube’s website (which I assume are real; Cheeto / Ito is known to play with these things, though), including his assistants, various friends and an art logistics company in LA. I’m guessing however that this is mainly a Cheeto / Ito affair, because it is his face that is plastered floor-to-ceiling in the lower gallery. Back to those portraits shortly. Cheeto / Ito who is in his late twenties, has various other hip guises, including a Twitter account under the name of Joe Vex (@CreamyDreamy), from which he posts such bon mots as ‘i will never admit ive met someone before unless they admit it first :(’ and ‘i cant fuck you tonight cause im fucking you tonight’. I thought about trying to decipher all this. I looked at the press release, but it was just some story about going to a party in Miami and not recognising New York Yankees baseball star Alex Rodriguez. I looked online, but all I found were interviews in which our man said things like, ‘Harmony Korine is my good friend. He’s a real artist.’ In the end I came to the conclusion that I really couldn’t give a shit.

I came to the conclusion that I really couldn’t give a shit

Which is where I thought initially I’d leave this review. Then I became annoyed that I wasn’t giving a shit, because that’s the kind of Valley Girl attitude, signposted in interviews, those tweets and the party-boy persona displayed in the self-portraits, that Cheeto / Ito’s practice is a knowing expression of, and what is so infuriating about Maid in Heaven/En Plein Air in Hell (My Beautiful Dark and Twisted Cheeto Problem). On the ground floor of the gallery there are six paintings (which mix UV paint, oil, acrylic and screenprinting on each canvas), together with some garish wilting flowers in ceramic vases on the floor; chains hanging down from the ceiling; and a widescreen monitor, also floor-based. I have no idea what the flower and chain motifs (reiterated in a couple of the paintings) are there for. They evoke, respectively, works by Jeff Koons and Kanye West, figures to whom Cheeto / Ito nods in the show’s title. It is hard to determine the reasons for these references, other than their cool cultural cachet (incidentally, Cheeto / Ito can perhaps be seen to perform a similar role for brand White Cube). The paintings are kitsch when studied through the lens of any painterly critique, stylistically closer to tattoo or skate iconography than anything else. It appears, however, that the intention for them is to be looked at less in the terms of painting and more as advertisements for or signifiers of the Cheeto / Ito brand: scrawled across a couple are even the title and dates of this exhibition.

Can you guess what the video that was being shown on the monitor is like? A thoughtful meditation on neoliberal politics and the dispossessed. No, just kidding. You were correct first time: giflike animated characters, phone pics of Cheeto / Ito and his mates having a good time, the music videos of Kanye’s Bound 2 (2013), Robyn’s piss-poor Dancing On My Own (2010), all interrupted occasionally by an industrial noise track neither I nor Shazam recognised. Downstairs: red carpet; more chains; more flowers; more paintings, this time hanging from the ceiling at angles; and those floor-to-ceiling photographic portraits of the man himself looking cool / kind of hot and definitely being aware of both these things. Over the latter images are various lengthy handwritten notes, including a list of ‘Things not likely to be seen in a P.I. Painting’ (Candy Crush, outdoor gear and ‘Jewish Shit’ among them apparently).

Aside from being immensely boring, the problem with all this is that it’s Teflon-coated

Aside from being immensely boring, the problem with all this is that it’s Teflon-coated. There’s so much layered irony, self-awareness and knowing hints to ideas of vacuity (the artist as brand, from the show title’s evocation of Kanye and Koons onwards); so much celebrated meaninglessness, so much self-publicised lack of a shit given; that to critically hit it with those things just elicits a shrug. To play devil’s advocate, the artist may just be honestly reflecting the generational and cultural environment that surrounds him (poor chap); but if he’s just holding a mirror, with no commentary, with nothing at stake, just a mire of Gen-Y nihilism (and when the artist literally won’t put his name behind the work), it leaves the critic stuck, art criticism stuck and this critic wanting to hit the eject button.

This article originally appeared in the October 2014 issue

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BOMB MAGAZINE

Art : Interview

Away From Keyboard: Parker Ito

by Antonia Marsh

Parker Ito discusses AFK, IRL, and post-Web 2.0 arenas.


Parker Ito, The Agony and the Ecstasy series, Enamel on 3M Scotchlite and vinyl, 36 × 48 inches, 2012. All images courtesy of the artist.

Although his new paintings attempt to create an artwork that cannot be documented, it was documentation itself that was the aim of one emerging YIBA (Young Internet-based Artist). Parker Ito’s most well-known exhibition project, New Jpegs, took place at Johan Berggren Gallery in Malmo, Sweden in 2011; the artist generated content in the form of installation shots that were then manipulated through digital imaging software to create an entirely new body of work. This conversation between Ito’s practice in the digital realm and three-dimensional artworks that have the capacity to exist within physical space weaves throughout Ito’s work. JstChillin, an online curatorial project that lasted eighteen months, in its retrospective, stepped away from the screen and manifested itself in real space, while his project The Most Infamous Girl in the History of the Internet exists simultaneously as a series of paintings and a continuously re-blogged Internet meme.

With much of his earlier work available online via the artist’s website, and with three exhibitions this summer in New York, Chicago, and Toronto, the perceived notion that a digital environment exists separately from its physical counterpart is limiting. Musing over the oppositions of physicality and virtuality both in space and objects, Ito and I conclude that an artwork—and, by implication, an exhibition—cannot exist solely in real space, but must include an online presence in order to fully exist.

Antonia Marsh While some of your earlier projects such as JstChillin.org and PaintFX were web-based to begin with, they have also included live, real-time aspects. How do you understand this transition from an online environment to an IRL [“In Real Life”] environment?

Parker Ito Well, to begin with, I no longer believe in the relevance of the term “IRL.” Although perhaps somewhat dogmatic, I find its usage antithetical to my entire practice. For me the term “IRL” constitutes a relic of Web 1.0 net anxiety/novelty. “IRL” infers a division between a presumed “real world” and what happens online that I don’t think exists anymore. We live in a technologically hybrid reality where the space between the physical and the virtual is fluid.

AM Ok, so if we are to avoid the term “IRL,” what can it be substituted with? Does another term communicate better the position such projects exist in when taken offline?

PI Currently, we exist in a post-Web 2.0 arena, floating slightly before or in the midst of what I believe will be Web 3.0. A more custom, personal web, whose language will remain consistently abbreviated due to the ubiquity of smart phones and other mobile devices, defines Web 3.0. “AFK” or “Away From Keyboard” is the term I use the most often, but even the meaning of this term is shifting. In being constantly connected, “Log Off” is increasingly becoming a redundant action for users, so in fact we are very rarely “AFK.” However, overall I still see this as a more appropriate term, because fundamentally it acknowledges that the Internet is very real, realer than it’s ever been, which the term “IRL” seems to inherently reject.

AM Now that we are armed with the appropriate terminology, let’s return to art practice: for you, how is the authenticity of a web-based artwork or exhibition affected when it is taken offline?

PI In my opinion, through its constant documentation, an art object now exists as much online as it does offline. Whether professional or amateur, the capacity for posts on Facebook or links on Twitter to share artworks with a global audience has transformed contemporary art into a cyclical network of documentation. Art since the Internet has become continuously documented, shared and exchanged, which I now visualize as a kind of loop with no ending point or final resting place. All information flows in more than one direction. A lot of times the initiators of these loops are objects, or exhibitions that take place AFK, but this isn’t always true. A website, jpeg, etc. can be the starting point too. I think of the production of an artwork intended for physical exhibition or web-based exhibition simultaneously. I never produce a work that won’t be online. So whether or not it is intended for physical exhibition, its relation to operating in this media distribution loop is embedded in my artistic practice.


The Agony and the Ecstasy series, Enamel on 3M Scotchlite, plexi and aluminum, Dimensions variable, 2012.

AM So would you be inclined to argue that the online presence of an art object in fact legitimates its existence more so than its actual physical presence?

PI I would actually say that in the artist community that I’m most directly involved with, sometimes referred to as #YIBA (young, Internet-based artists), an artwork is most directly initiated into existence through its documentation as a non-object. For me, this initiation via non-objects equally exists in the realm of exhibition-making. What I mean by this is that until you post your show as an event on Facebook and begin actively generating responsive activity, such as “Likes,” it doesn’t really exist.

AM Are you therefore suggesting that the status of the art object has shifted so as to always maintain some sort of inherent online presence? In order to exist offline as a physical object, does an artwork have to exist virtually online at the same time?

PI There is a saying, “If it isn’t online, it doesn’t exist.” This is true now more than ever.

AM One of your most recent projects, an exhibition in Zurich, Switzerland entitled Anime Bettie Page Fucked by Steampunk Horse Warrior, had a considerable Internet presence. Was this a deliberate choice, perhaps an attempt to embody what we have been discussing about the necessity for an online presence in order for an exhibition to fully exist?

PI I initiated Anime Bettie Page Fucked by Steampunk Horse Warrior as part of Aventa Garden, a collaboration between Body By Body (Cameron Soren and Melissa Sachs) and myself as Deke 2. The exhibition spawned out of observations surrounding the way counter-cultures and sub-cultures have become increasingly popularized through their hybridization and increased prominence via the Internet. Contemporary popular culture is reliant on the Internet for its visibility; however, similarly, everything that is taken online has the potential to become “pop” almost immediately, including what might otherwise be considered counter-cultural.

In terms of using Web space to present exhibitions that occur offline, Anime Bettie Page Fucked by Steampunk Horse Warrior reflects what I’m most interested in at the moment. For the show, Aventa Garden (which describes itself as the leading American-Anime Deviant Art Studio Concept-Powerhouse) generated a lot of content, even though the actual exhibition only consisted of one projection, one painting, and some Mountain Dew cans stacked around a door. The gallery exhibition was just a tiny aspect of the show and in some sense is overshadowed by the extensive collating and archiving of documentation of the project’s process and supporting materials.

Thinking about this particular project enables a visualization of what we just discussed—this idea that art exists within a network. If a viewer were only to see the gallery component of this exhibition, they’d be missing out on a lot. On the website, email correspondence between the curators and the artists and craftsmen who helped us realize the exhibition are made available; as well as Google Chat conversations between Melissa, Cameron, and myself discussing the concept of the exhibition. We even documented our attempts to contact an ice block store to see if they could freeze a saxophone for us. As a result of this continuous amalgamation of information, the project feels somewhat never-ending, and we seem to be constantly updating the site with new tidbits.


Installation shot from New Jpegs with Ben Schumacher sculpture in foreground. The Most Infamous Girl in the History of the Internet, Oil on digital print on canvas, 36 × 48 each, 2012.

AM In relation to what we have been discussing, it might also be beneficial to talk about some of your earlier projects, like JstChillin.org and Paint FX …

PI It’s interesting that you bring up JstChillin and Paint FX, both highly collaborative projects that, while I initiated and remain associated with, equally exist as authorless projects, or belong to a collective rather than individual voice. Paint FX (Jon Rafman, John Transue, Tabor Robak, Micah Schippa, and myself) began in response to a returning interest in formalism and a general fetishism for glossy software. Paint FX had several offline shows where we printed jpegs from the site on paper and displayed them in a casual salon-hang. Over 700 images exist on PaintFX.biz, and I found selecting ten works for exhibition in a gallery space challenging, because it instigated a conversation about quality that I felt uncomfortable with. The element of constant, unhierarchical output was something that had always appealed to me about the project.

AM I agree, the Internet as an unhierarchical network offers the works on Paint FX a kind of utopian horizontality, however as soon as some kind of curatorial selection is implemented in order to choose which works might be taken offline, this horizontal organization is lost. In addition, in terms of curatorial modes of display, the salon-hang is historically associated with artistic hierarchies between genres of painting.

Frozen Saxophone, Ice, saxophone, Mountain Dew Game Fuel, Dimensions Variable, Aventa Garden, 2012.

PI When the project was placed into a gallery space, it suddenly felt contrived and static. I do believe there was potential for the project to work as an exhibition, although more attention to display was needed. Unfortunately Paint FX ended at the peak of its popularity, so for me the project still feels unresolved, and in some ways this lack of conclusion feels like failure. Although my role was less in production of work for the site and I functioned more as a facilitator for the project, in the end we were successful in branding a new aesthetic of shimmering software, which I am happy with.

JstChillin was a long-term project I started in collaboration with Caitlin Denny, an artist I studied with in California. In total JstChillin lasted two years, from Spring 2009 until Spring 2011, which is an unusually long time when considering the speed normally associated with the Web. This unconstrained timing allowed us to develop our own unique voice. For me, what was most successful about the project was our transformation of the online platform model into a constantly morphing project that constituted part social experiment, part networked performance and part gallery. Every two weeks we invited an artist to launch an exclusively commissioned project that was featured on the homepage. We intended to rebel against the online gallery “reblog” model that seemed to be dominating web-based exhibition spaces at the time.


The Most Infamous Girl in the History of the Internet, Oil on digital print on canvas, 36 × 48 inches, 2012.

AM What offline endeavors were programmed and how did these affect the rhythm and identity of JstChillin?

PI “Avatar 4D,” a one night performance event we curated in San Francisco in 2010 was the first AFK event we hosted and in a lot of ways was a major turning point for the project as well as for my own work. This was the first time I met a lot of the artists we had been working with in person, including Artie Vierkant, Chris Coy, and Jon Rafman. All three of these artists were included in New Jpegs, an exhibition I curated in Malmö, Sweden last year and then Jon and I started Paint FX together. JstChillin culminated with a retrospective over the last two years at 319 Scholes Gallery in New York, entitled READ/WRITE. The title of the exhibition is derived from a term coined by Lawrence Lessig, developed in order to describe the difference between Web 1.0, a read-only web, and Web 2.0, a read/write web.

Our approach to the show was loose in some ways, but was mostly focused on objects, and more than anything was really about the social component of a group of artists whose practices are defined by a high online presence.

But in short I view offline and online exhibiting as two unique experiences, and two unique perspectives, one is not more important than the other. They are both essential for contemporary art in the midst of smart phones, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, [and beyond].

For more information about the work of Parker Ito, visit his website here.

Antonia Marsh is an art writer and curator from London.

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WIDEWALLS

Interview Highlights: Parker Ito

Sanja Lazic

Parker Ito is a very interesting guy. He is an artist without a signature, recognizable style or technique; he hates discussing his own artwork, reading and long sleeping. However, this 28-year-old American artist agreed to talk to Interview Magazine’s writer Sarah Nicole Prickett about almost everything, even his own art. From a status of an emerging artist, Ito gained wider recognition in 2012, thanks to his breakthrough show ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy’ at Stadium gallery in New York. Now, Ito’s works sell for head-turning figures, causing a lot of controversy over the actual value of his works.

Interview Highlights: Parker Ito

Art As A Cure

Ito admits suffering from agoraphobia, which caused a long period of taking prescription drugs. However, even if he calls it ‘a really dark time’ in his life, art was the only thing that kept him sane. ‘That was the only thing I could do. The only time I felt normal was when I was making stuff’, Ito remembers, ‘well, that was right around the time that my assistants started becoming very heavily involved, because I had left California to get away from my family. My parents were—are—going through a divorce, and I was right in the middle of everything. I flipped out, and I came to New York to live here for a month. It was the worst place to fucking go, but I was under the impression that being around my family was what was stressing me out, so I came here, and then I called and e-mailed my assistants and had them work remotely for a month. In May I flew back to Los Angeles for a show, and I hadn’t even seen the work; I hadn’t touched it. I just showed up for the opening, and there were 20 paintings that I had made’.

 

On His Assistants

Ito explains his relationship with his assistants (five of them) being different from the usual one. He even admits that some of the ideas for the work are theirs, even though they are not signed, explaining it by saying ‘I don’t sign my work, so nobody should sign anything. My assistants like making things, but they don’t want to put up with all the bullshit of being an artist. And I try to be a really cool boss. For my two main assistants, who have been with me longer than anyone else, I bought monogrammed velvet slippers. I bought them the Jackson Pollock Crocs. I’m getting berets made for them, and they have sweatsuits printed with some paintings we did’.

Interview Highlights: Parker Ito

No Signature

Ito’s work doesn’t seem to have the usual continuity as other artists do. He agrees with the statement that this lack of recognition helps him not be branded in a certain way. ‘I’m interested in making work that mimics the mechanism of the internet. In The Agony and the Ecstasy, I wanted to show the effect of the internet on traditional art objects, and how that affects the way we document and experience artwork. So it was about distribution through a network. Now I’m interested in embodying it. I want to be an internet for a network, right? And a network is something constantly shifting and never stable. So to do that, I can’t really have a signature style or be bound to a medium. It’s very hard because there’s a style that emerges anyway, or maybe it’s more a feeling than a style’, Ito concludes.

 

Reviews of Beaute Congo – Congolese Paintings 1926-2015 at Fondation Cartier Paris

This is a historic exhibition of Congo artists from 1926 – 2015 at the Fondation Cartier in Paris. The core art collection of African Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is from the Congo. The Congo was a colony of Belgium from the last decade of the 19th century until at least 1960, when its president was assassinated.

Vincent Johnson

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Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain

Beauté Congo – 1926–2015 – Congo Kitoko

July 11–November 15, 2015

Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain
261, boulevard Raspail
75014 Paris
Hours: Wednesday–Sunday 11am–8pm,
Tuesday 11am–10pm

T +33 (0) 1 42 18 56 50

www.fondation.cartier.com

A place of extraordinary cultural vitality, the creative spirit of the Democratic Republic of the Congo will be honored in the Beauté Congo–1926–2015–Congo Kitoko exhibition presented at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain with André Magnin, Chief Curator.

Taking as its point of departure the birth of modern painting in the Congo in the 1920s, this ambitious exhibition will trace almost a century of the country’s artistic production. While specifically focusing on painting, it will also include music, sculpture, photography, and comics, providing the public with the unique opportunity to discover the diverse and vibrant art scene of the region.
Access
Metro: Raspail or Denfert-Rochereau (lines 4 and 6)
Bus: 38, 68, 88, 91 RER: Denfert-Rochereau (line B)
Vélib’ and disabled parking at 2, rue Victor Schoelcher

Nomadic Nights
Information and reservations every day from 11am to 8pm (except Mondays)
fondation.cartier.com/nomadicnights / T +33 (0) 1 42 18 56 72

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Paris hosts first ever retrospective of art from Democratic Republic of the Congo

With more eyes than ever on African art, Fondation Cartier’s expansive Beauté Congo exhibition showcases earliest paintings to today’s vibrant, political works

La Vraie Carte du Monde, by Chéri Samba, 2011.
La Vraie Carte du Monde, by Chéri Samba, 2011. Photograph: Chéri Samba/Fondation Cartier

There is a tradition in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, that artists hang their paintings on the outsides of their studios, for the whole world walking by to look at.

Some paintings reflect the very streets where they hang – bars filled with music and dancing, streets overcrowded with rusting cars and elegant sapeurs strutting down the pavements, bejewelled and bedecked in flamboyant outfits. Others depict a utopia, a vision of the DRC that has left behind the conflict, poverty and corruption of the past century. Almost all are steeped in politics.

It is these paintings, and other artworks stretching back 90 years, that are to form the first ever retrospective of art from the DRC. Opening on Saturday at the Fondation Cartier in Paris, the expansive show incorporates 350 paintings, photographs, sculptures and comic books from 41 different artists.

Most of these works have never been displayed internationally, having sat among private collections in Belgium, France and Switzerland, while others were dug out from colonial archives in Brussels and a few brought over from Kinshasa, direct from the artists themselves.

The exhibition may have taken just one year for the curator, André Magnin, to put together but it has been his passion for almost 30 years, having travelled back and forth to the DRC meeting and championing many of the artists now displayed. With more eyes than ever turned to the African art world, and the recent rise in African art fairs in cities such as New York, London and Paris, Magnin, who is the world’s foremost expert on African art, said the time felt right to finally work with the Fondation Cartier to realise his vision.

Amour & Pastèque, by Chéri Samba, 1984

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Amour & Pastèque, by Chéri Samba, 1984. Photograph: Chéri Samba/Fondation Cartier

“People see the DRC as just this country of war and death and suffering but look around – these are such beautiful works filled with such colour and humour and sensuality,” said Magnin, standing before the Popular-style paintings of Pierre Bodo. “I want this exhibition to widen people’s perceptions of the country, show not only how beautiful but also how diverse and how political the art has been over those many decades. I have been wanting to do this show since 1987 but it is only now that the time felt right.”

The exhibition itself works backwards, beginning with the contemporary work of some of the younger artists painting in the capital today and ending on a series of “precursor” paintings: primitive watercolours dating back to 1926 that had lain forgotten in the depths of the Library of Brussels archive, until they were recently rediscovered by Magnin.

Untitled, by Antoinette Lubaki, c.1929

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Untitled, by Antoinette Lubaki, c.1929. Photograph: Antoinette Lubaki/Fondation Cartier

Among the newer works are a collection of photographs by Kiripi Katembo that depict the city of Kinshasa reflected in the dirty water that covers the streets, offering a certain poetry to the chaotic and polluted streets of the capital. Another series, by Sammy Baloji, superimposes photos of Congolese tribes taken on a Belgian expedition in the late 1800s on to watercolours of the country, painted by a Belgian artist during colonial times – a pointed comment on the legacy of colonisation.

Also on display are comic books of Papa Mfumu’eto, who between 1990 and 2000 produced the most popular bande dessinée (comic strips) in Kinshasa. Though they were fictional, they drew from everyday life and the corrupt politics of the Mobutu dictatorship and at their peak were more popular than the daily newspaper.

La Nostalgie, by JP Mika, 2014

La Nostalgie, by JP Mika, 2014. Photograph: JP Mika/Fondation Cartier

An elusive figure, Mfumu’eto made his first public appearance in seven years to visit the retrospective in Paris. Speaking to the Guardian, he explained how he had become drawn to the medium of comic strips. He said: “My five older sisters died before turning five and then I came along and my mother was incredibly protective of me.

“I wasn’t really able to play with other kids because my mother was afraid of losing me like she lost my sisters. I felt very isolated and anonymous in terms of the world around me and the comics came to me as a way of escaping that. The comics brought people to me – they followed the stories and wanted to know what I would create next.”

His first comic, which depicted Mobutu as a boa constrictor who swallowed things and threw them up again as money – still the most popular comic ever sold in Kinshasa – can be seen in the exhibition, alongside numerous others produced over the decade. Mfumu’eto often responded to the wishes of his readers, and when Mobutu died in exile in Morocco in 1997, the artist illustrated him impregnating a woman in hell and having to burn there forever.

However, making critical statements on politics in the DRC, even in the format of art, can often be a dangerous occupation. Mfumu’eto said he had been threatened by the authorities about his comics, while Bodo, another “Popular” artist and evangelical pastor whose paintings feature in the exhibition, died last September under allegedly suspicious circumstances.

Most artists, however, have continued regardless. One of the most internationally renowned Congolese artists in the exhibition is Chéri Samba, 58, whose works have been shown at the Pompidou in Paris as well as at MoMA in New York and at the 2007 Venice Biennale. Having begun life as a billboard painter in the 1970s, he went on to pioneer the Popular style of art – bright, eye-catching works that focused on everyday life and often incorporated text.

La Nostalgie, by JP Mika, 2014

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Untitled, by Pili Pili Mulongoy. Photograph: Pili Pili Mulongoy/Fondation Cartier

“With my paintings I want to captivate people and I want the messages of my paintings to be direct,” Samba said. “I direct my work at the leaders and I want to use my paintings to talk about subjects they may have forgotten but are important to the people. My paintings inspired by daily life and for me, the meaning of Popular art is where people of all milieux can recognise the themes, the topics, the subjects that I am treating. This was created as art for the people.

Untitled (Match Ali-Foreman, Kinshasa), by Moke, 1974

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Untitled (Match Ali-Foreman, Kinshasa), by Moke, 1974. Photograph: Moke/Fondation Cartier

“I believe everyone in earth has a mission and I believe that God gave me the tools to paint and speak my messages through my paintings.”

Figures from Nelson Mandela to Barack Obama crop up in his paintings, though one of the most powerful works on display in the retrospective is a piece called Little Kadogo, I am For Peace, That is Why I Like Weapons. It is a portrait of his son dressed as a Congolese child soldier, palms up in surrender and looking directly out at the viewer.

“I can’t separate my works from politics and I don’t think I ever could,” said Samba. “Yes, my work has got me into difficulty, I have been stopped by the authorities, but it has never gone any further than that and I don’t care. It will never stop me from painting.”

Oui, il faut réfléchir, by Chéri Samba, 2014

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Oui, il faut réfléchir, by Chéri Samba, 2014. Photograph: Chéri Samba/Fondation Cartier

Art, said Samba, was everywhere in Kinshasa, from the posters on the streets to the facades of people’s houses. Now, more than ever, the art scene in the city was thriving, he said. He was heartened that a new generation had taken on the mantle of Popular art and that it was now being seen beyond the city and country’s borders.

Indeed, Samba said he would continue to paint as he had always done. “For 40 years I’ve always been doing the same thing in my paintings, particularly in terms of the message,” he said. “The only thing that has changed is the grey hair in my beard.”

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WALL STREET JOURNAL

A Vibrant Display of Congolese Art at Fondation Cartier

‘Beaute Congo,’ a sparkling new exhibition at Paris’s Fondation Cartier showcases 90 years of modern and contemporary art.

J.P. Mika, ‘Kiese na Kiese,’ 2014. ENLARGE
J.P. Mika, ‘Kiese na Kiese,’ 2014. Photo: JP Mika / Photo: Antoine de Roux

THERE IS ONLY the most fleeting sense of a Conradian heart of darkness in “Beauté Congo—1926-2015—Congo Kitoko,” the Fondation Cartier’s sparkling new show of modern and contemporary Congolese art. The exhibition, which opens in Paris tomorrow and runs through Nov. 15, is a showcase of popular art, neither stiffly academic nor fashioned by European tradition—one that reflects the buoyant resilience of the Congolese character, which refuses to dwell on a grisly colonial past.

Curated by Frenchman André Magnin—who for the past 30 years has been instrumental in introducing contemporary African artists to European audiences—the show’s scope is ambitious, spanning 90 years and featuring 350 paintings, photographs, and sculptures from around 40 Congolese artists.

Pilipili Mulongoy, ‘Untitled,’ c. 1950.
Pilipili Mulongoy, ‘Untitled,’ c. 1950. Photo: Pilipili Mulongoy / Photo: Andr

“I wanted to tell the story of 90 years of Congolese art, which has always been described partially, and was visually familiar but only fragmentarily until now,” explains Mr. Magnin.

The show, laid out in reverse chronological order, begins on the ground floor with work by newer artists such as the EZA POSSIBLES collective, established in 2003 in Kinshasa, and J.P. Mika.

Mr. Mika, who was born in Kinshasa in 1980, is part of a new generation of artists whose narrative, figurative paintings are inspired by the colorful exuberance and dandyish demeanor of Congolese street life. His recent paintings, on patterned fabrics, take their inspiration from the dynamic composition of African photographic studio portraits of the 1960s.

The artist, a graduate of Kinshasa’s Académie des Beaux-Arts, which has existed in various guises since 1943, received additional training from Chéri Chérin. Along with Chéri Samba, Mr. Chérin is one of the leading lights of the self-avowed generation of “popular painters” who began to develop their politically aware cartoonish style, mixing text and images, in the 1980s.

Both artists, who started out making commercial billboards, have several paintings on display, including a denunciative portrait by Mr. Samba of one of his sons dressed as a boy soldier, hands held high in the air.

Chéri Samba, ‘Oui, il faut réfléchir,’ 2014.
Chéri Samba, ‘Oui, il faut réfléchir,’ 2014. Photo: Chéri Samba / Photo: André Mor

In the basement is a series of black and white photographs by Jean Depara, who was born in Angola but went into exile in what was then the Belgian Congo in 1948. Mr. Depara, who died in 1997, left behind an extraordinary collection of photo-reportage depicting Kinshasa before and after independence. Particularly striking are his images of the “Bills,” young Congolese hoodlums from working-class neighborhoods who, in the 1950s, dressed in the style of their American Western heroes.

In the same room is a remarkably intricate construction of a cardboard city by Bodys Isek Kingelez, who became famous for his cardboard models of imaginary buildings. From 1992 until his death this year, he conjured up entire cities based on the kind of utopian designs he dreamt of being built.

It is something of a shock to stumble on the geometric paintings by Congolese artist Djilatendo from the 1920s to ’30s and realize how thoroughly modern they still are

 

But perhaps the greatest discovery of this entrancing exhibition is to be made in the next-door room, where vibrant Congolese paintings from the first half of the 20th century are on display. It is something of a shock to stumble on the geometric paintings by Congolese artist Djilatendo from the 1920s to ’30s and realize how thoroughly modern they still are.

Very little is known about Mr. Djilatendo’s life and work other than that he was a tailor by profession and was inspired by the work of local carpet weavers to produce his geometric panels. He and Albert Lubaki, another early artist on display, were encouraged by a Belgian administrator, Georges Thiry, who supplied them with paints and paper to produce figurative work of animals and village life.

The simple lines and bold use of color in an untitled snake painting from 1931 by Djilatendo call to mind the red fish paintings Matisse did in Morocco from 1911 to ’12. Mr. Magnin, however, is keen to stress that any similarities are coincidental, as it is highly unlikely that Djilatendo had ever come across Matisse’s art before. The comfort is knowing that, without the need for any introductions, the innate elegance of one artist later found its echo in another.

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THE ART NEWSPAPER LONDON

Paris’s love affair with Congolese Modernism continues

Moke, Untitled (undated). © Moke

In 1946, a French soldier and painter named Pierre Romain-Desfossés moved to the African city of Élisabethville (now called Lubumbashi) in the Belgian Congo and set up an art studio called Atelier du Hangar. For nine years, until his death in 1954, Desfossés worked with local artists, such as Mwenze Kibwanga and Pili Pili Mulongoy and helped them get their work into galleries in Paris, London and Rome.

Their work was even exhibited in venues as far away as the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The Hangar was later integrated into Lubumbashi’s art school, but an independent streak cut through all the art the atelier produced. As Desfossés once said: “We must speak forthrightly against all attempts to abolish the personality in favour of a uniform aesthetic according to the standards of white masters.”

This is just one episode in the history of art from what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo that will be explored in a landmark exhibition opening at the Fondation Cartier in Paris in July. The show surveys 90 years of art from the African nation and includes nearly 300 pieces (mostly painting, but also photography, comics and music) by more than 40 artists. “There is a vitality to all of the work, even if there is not much continuity between the first painters included and those who came after the Second World War,” says Leanne Sacramone, a curator at the foundation who worked with the show’s chief organiser, André Magnin.

The earliest work included comes from the 1920s, when Congolese artists were encouraged by Belgian colonial officials such as Georges Thiry to make art on paper. The show then follows through the “popular artists” of the late 1970s and ends with work from the past 15 years. The exhibition is sponsored by the museum and will include a programme of events, such as dance performances.

Beauté Congo, 1926-2015, Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris, 11 July-15 November

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 ART INFO

Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art to Exhibit a Century of Congolese Art

Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art to Exhibit a Century of Congolese Art
Chéri Samba, “Oui, il faut réfléchir” (2014); JP Mika, “Kiese na kiese (Le Bonheur et la Joie)” (2014)
(Copyright Chéri Samba; JP Mika/ Courtesy Fondation Cartier)

In a show of support for the African contemporary art scene, the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art in Paris will stage “Beauté Congo – 1926-2015 – Congo Kitoko” this summer to trace a century of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s artistic production, from the figurative and geometric works representing village life in the 1920s, to the unconventional collages exploring a better collective future.

Running from July 11 through November 15 at the Fondation Cartier, “Congo Kitoko” follows a series of other projects held at the Fondation featuring Congolese artists including the solo shows Bodys Isek Kingelez (1999) and J’aime Chéri Samba (2004) and the collective exhibitions Un Art Populaire (2001).

Over the years, Congolese artists learned to let their imaginations run free to create colorful works in their own highly inventive and distinctive styles. Some, such as Chéri Samba, Chéri Chérin, and Moke, found themselves inspired by daily, political, or social events that were easily recognizable by their fellow citizens, while others, like Pathy Tshindele and Kura Shomali, approached art crticially with unconventional collages and paintings. And sculptors like Bodys Isek Kingelez and Rigobert Nimi also made a name for themselves with intricate architectural models of utopian cities or robotized factories to explore the question of social cohesion.

The exhibition goes hand in hand with the French jeweler’s commitment to eradicate the conflict gold trade in Congo, where the extraction and smuggling of gold has served as an important means of funding for armed groups and army commanders in the deadliest conflict since World War II. Advocacy group Enough recently released a report that found companies including Tiffany & Co., Signet Jewelers, Cartier, JC Penney, and Target had taken proactive steps to set up requirements for their suppliers to source only from conflict-free gold refiners, contribute to solutions on the ground in Congo, and support the communities affected by mining and violence in the country.

“Congo Kitoko” will also include sculpture, photography, and comics in an effort to showcase the vibrancy and diversity of the art scene in Sub-Saharan Africa. Music also plays a significant role, as jazz, soul, and rap will be played throughout the exhibition, in conjunction with the artworks, while a never-before seen documentary by Vincent Kenis of Crammed Discs, in collaboration with Césarine Bolya, will feature a series of spontaneous interviews of people who participated in Kinshasa’s 1960’s music scene.

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