Starting from a critical engagement with our own collection, the exhibition “museum global. Microhistories of an Ex-centric Modernism” at K20 focuses on selected instances of a transcultural modernism that is situated beyond the Western canon. With microhistories from Japan, Georgia, Brazil, Mexico, India, Lebanon, and Nigeria (1910 to 1960), the museum interrogates not just an Eurocentric version of art history, but its own perspectives as well.

Serving as a prologue to this wide-ranging exhibition project is the presentation “Paul Klee: A Collection Travelling Around the World”. An ensemble of 88 works by Paul Klee, who was defamed by the National Socialists as “degenerate”, forms the foundation of the Kunstsammlung. Central to the show are the culturally and politically motivated travels of the Klee collection to nearly 40 places around the world between 1966 and 1985.

Explored in an epilogue, the final exhibition gallery of “museum global”, is the way in which, around 1960, the canon of “Western” modernism was expanded via contemporary positions through new exhibition formats such as Documenta, as well as through the intensive collecting strategies of museums.

OPEN SPACE, configured together with raumlaborberlin, will accompany the exhibition. It comprises a stage, a café, a study center and a workshop for silkscreen printing to encourage and inspire encounters and discussions. With an additional entrance, the museum for the first time opens up to the Grabbeplatz as a new public space.

The research project has been initialized and is funded by the Federal Cultural Foundation. It is under the patronage of Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

Exhibition page

On November 23, 2018, Alfred Schmela – the founder of the pioneering Galerie Schmela in Düsseldorf – would have celebrated his 100th birthday. To mark the occasion, the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen has organized an exhibition devoted to this influential and charismatic art dealer. The presentation places the focus on Schmela’s widely ramified network, which functioned as a crucial nodal point of the international art scene during that era. At the same time, the Galerie Schmela, established in 1957, served as a vital source of inspiration for many art galleries that were launched during the 1960s. Although art historians have turned their attention toward the protagonists, structures, and mechanisms of the 20th century art market to an increasing degree since the 1980s, no exhibition devoted exclusively to the Galerie Schmela has been organized up to this point. The Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen is remedying this omission by casting a spotlight – assisted by Schmela’s granddaughter Lena Brüning as guest curator – on the impact of this "trailblazer of the

The venue for this exhibition is the architecturally incisive gallery building in Düsseldorf’s historic city center, planned by Aldo van Eyck and inaugurated in 1971. Assembled in the Schmela Haus – which was named for the commissioning client – are works by internationally renowned artists whose success is owed to a large degree to the activities and commitment of Alfred Schmela. Among these are exponents of Nouveau Réalisme such as Yves Klein and Arman, but also US-American artists like Kenneth Noland and Mark Tobey. Schmela’s engagement also benefited regionally active artists: Joseph Beuys was among his key artists, and Schmela worked closely as well with the ZERO group and the artists of Capitalist Realism, in particular Gerhard Richter. In combination with previously unexhibited archival material (correspondence, guest books, invitations, photographs, etc.), they shed light on the working methods and unique spirit of the Galerie Schmela.

The Chinese artist Cao Fei (*1978) is regarded as a pioneer of a generation of artists, for whose members digital media and network technology are simply aspects of everyday life. This Beijing-based artist elaborates her multifaceted artistic oeuvre through an imperative confrontation with the latest medial innovations. Soon, the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen will be presenting the first major solo exhibition in Germany of Cao Fei's works. This survey, which will be on view at the K21, will encompass her artistic production between 1995 and 2017, and will include videos, photographs, and multimedia installations, as well as drawings which have not been shown publicly previously.

Cao Fei's works reflect extensively upon the societal and urban situation of contemporary China, characterized by processes of massive transformation. Working along the boundary between fiction and reality, she draws inspiration also from her immediate milieu. Her projects – which exploit a film and television aesthetic that has been disseminated globally – are readily and widely accessible. The local phenomena observed by Cao Fei generate an awareness of the kind of situations that are occurring in our urbanized global environment. Many of her works pose questions such as: How do we experience our own lives? What are our expectations of the future? In which direction is society – and with it our megacities – developing today?

The major film "Haze and Fog" (2013) will be screened in the exhibition. Shot in the artist's block of flats, the film uses artificial lighting to convey the inner emptiness of the people who live here and their alienation from the city. In the documentary installation "Nation.Father" (2005-2008), Cao Fei offers insights that are both personal as well as political.

For each project, Cao Fei invents a new and compelling visual idiom. The media deployed by this artist consistently belong to the technological avant-garde. With works like "RMB City" (2007-2011), created using the virtual-reality platform Second Life, she functions as a chronicler of the evolving influence of digital resources.

Curated by Klaus Biesenbach for MoMA PS1, New York, und in cooperation with the Julia Stoschek Collection, Düsseldorf/Berlin
With kindest support by Konfuzius-Institut.

Exhibition Poster

The American artist Lutz Bacher – who has concealed her identity beneath a masculine pseudonym throughout her career – works conceptually in a range of media. A longtime resident of California who now lives in New York, the artist has based her work since the 1970s on found objects as well as texts and images pulled from the minutiae of popular culture. Soundtracks from Hollywood films, props from television shows, and unedited cell phone videos find their way into her works along with discarded objects from different spheres of consumption.

Through techniques of rearrangement, distortion, and estrangement, Bacher destabilizes the appearance and alters the impact of her materials, creating ruptures and making new constellations possible. Addressing the strong influence of the mass media on everyday social and political life, issues of identity, power structures, and violence are central aspects of her artistic practice. Now, for her exhibition at the K21, "What’s Love Got to Do With It," new and recent work by Bacher is  presented on the Bel Etage and in the entrance hall of the museum.

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Anni Albers (1899 – 1994) was a multifaceted artist who established weaving as an art form and united this ancient cultural technology with modern artistic practices. This retrospective exhibition offers deep insight into the achievement of the artist, craftswoman, designer, author, and teacher Anni Albers, from her beginnings at the innovative Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau, to her time at the legendary Black Mountain College, and up until the 1980s.

While her woven images – characterized by textile structures, subtle coloration, and an abstract formal language – are intended for visual contemplation, her room dividers, carpets, and curtain material are meant to be used. Along with her numerous textile patterns and designs, they illustrate Albers’ intensive preoccupation with intricate woven structures and innovative fibers. A selection of works commissioned by architects testifies to her sustained interest in a dialogue between architecture and textile art. In addition, diverse materials, along with texts by Albers the author, illustrate the history and the possibilities of weaving while visualizing – with reference to pre-Columbian textiles from the collection of Josef and Anni Albers – her idea of woven thread as constituting a kind of universal language.

This encounter with the remarkable diversity of her achievement will inspire a renewed appreciation for Anni Albers’ singular contribution to modernism and her sustained influence on both art and design.

The exhibition is being organized by the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, and the Tate Modern, London.

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The internationally acclaimed Scottish artist Douglas Gordon (*1966) presents his striking, largescale video installation "k.364", 2010 in the Grabbe Halle of the K20. In this 50-minute work, which is projected onto a pair of two-sided screens, the artist follows two Israeli musicians of Polish-Jewish heritage on their journey by train from Berlin to Warsaw, where they are scheduled to perform Mozart’s "Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola, and Orchestra in E flat Major, KV 364" in the National Philharmonic.

Their reflections concerning the Holocaust, the landscape, so charged with historical memory, and their visit to a synagogue in Poznan – misappropriated as a swimming hall since in the National Socialist era – are mixed with the sound of the rolling train and the soothing tones of Mozart's symphony.

The work movingly documents of the profound trust of the  protagonists in the power of music against the subtly delineated background of a dark and unredeemed history.

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The investigation of time, language, and history is central to the artistic activities of the Raqs Media Collective. Founded in 1992 by Jeebesh Bagchi (b. 1966), Monica Narula (b. 1969) and Shuddhabrata Sengupta (b. 1968), Raqs practices at the intersection of contemporary art, historical enquiry, philosophical speculation, and theory, while taking into account social and political conditions in a global context.

The point of departure for this exhibition is Raqs’s continual fascination with time, a topic that has preoccupied the members of the group intensively ever since they began working together. In works such as "Escapement" (2009) and "Re-Run" (2013), they pose such questions as: What is time? What does it mean to measure time? And: How does time relate to space and history? Visitors will find themselves confronted with a range of time-related phenomena – from a heartbeat or pause for breath to the timing of historical episodes, all the way to eternity. Viewers are encouraged to interrogate conventional notions of the measure of time and its disciplinary function in everyday life, and to question its foundational role in the capitalist organization of labor.

The artists make language their material and medium of play. This may take the form of puns or neologisms which they integrate into the titles of their works or weave into texts. In illuminated installations such as "Lost in Search of Time" (2015) or "Revoltage" (2010), it features in the form of brightly illuminated letters arrayed in regular rhythmic patterns. Such linguistic play allows them to elicit a variety of readings, to break with fixed terms and concepts, and to subvert linear narratives. Even the collective’s name is based on wordplay: “Raqs” can be traced back to a term in Islamic mysticism that refers to an ecstatic state attained by Sufi dervishes while whirling. It describes a highly concentrated and at the same time continuously active mode, which Raqs describe as “kinetic contemplation.” At the same time, Raqs can stand for "Rarely Asked Questions."

With their exhibition at K21, Raqs open up a new space of possibilities, one that invites visitors to heighten their awareness of the fundamental ambivalence of this world while re-examining habitual methods, narratives, and patterns of thought.