Exhibition card

Katarzyna Kozyra
Master of Puppets

26.10.2012 – 10.03.2013

Master of Puppets is the name of Katarzyna Kozyra's latest project basically representing a summary of her oeuvre so far.

Born in the 1960s in Warsaw, Kozyra today is one of Poland's most popular and most critically acclaimed female artists. Throughout almost all of her works, she combines elements of visual arts, theatre, performance, dance and choreography. A major exhibition shown at the Zachęta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw in 2010 in fact marked the beginning of Kozyra's probably most extensive project. Especially created for the spaces of Schmela Haus in Düsseldorf and as the title already implies, the concept of Master of Puppets refers to a critical dealing with proportions, scales and sizes. The basic idea is to allow for a new reception of Kozyra's already existing works by either reducing or enlarging their respective sizes. Also the artist will work with viewing habits and reception in general integrating the given architectural characteristics into her curatorial concept.

The exhibition organised by Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw in the Schmela Haus of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen is part of the cultural exchange programme »Klopsztanga. Poland without borders in North Rhine-Westphalia« with the support of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, Warsaw

Exhibition poster

100 x Paul Klee - Paintings and their Stories

September 29, 2012 - April, 21, 2013 (extended)

The purchase in 1960 of 88 works by Paul Klee (1879 - 1940) by the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia furnished the impetus for founding the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf. Today, the Klee collection – which has grown to include 100 works – is one of the most comprehensive by this artist in Germany, and the focus of international attention. Now for the first time, all of these works will be presented to the public together at K21. The focus of the exhibition is not exclusively on Klee’s creative achievement, but on the historical vicissitudes of these works of art as well. Klee began teaching at the Düsseldorf Art Academy in the early 1930s, and immigrated to Switzerland in late 1933 under pressure from the National Socialist dictatorship.

These paintings, drawings, and watercolors offer invaluable insights into the oeuvre of this remarkably multifaceted artist while providing a wide-ranging overview of Klee’s virtually inexhaustible creativity. Featured alongside works dating  from the turn of the 20th century and documenting his earliest beginnings as a graphic artist are those which reflect his experiences during the legendary trip to Tunisia in 1914. Precisely composed paintings dating from 1919 represent Klee’s adoption of oil  painting; the geometric-constructivist works were produced in connection with his teaching activities at the Bauhaus in  Weimar and Dessau. Drawings and oil paintings from the late periodic, finally, feature a cryptic, symbol-laden idiom. Klee also reflected with sensitivity and a razorsharp perspective on the events of his time, at the same time generating an artistic cosmos which synthesizes tragicomedy and irony, lightheartedness and gravity, playfulness and calculation.

The exhibition also fosters an understanding of Klee’s creative process through an examination of the fronts and backs of individual works: Klee accorded great importance to the materials he utilized, through which he aimed at very specific  effects. He gave his works special frames, thereby making it clear that he regarded them as objects. Also receiving attention is the collector through whose hands the greater part of the works in the Düsseldorf Klee Collection passed. Up   until the late 1950s, the US-American industrialist G. David Thompson assembled the collection before deciding –  astonishingly – to part with all of the works. Another focus of the presentation is on the art dealers who were involved  with the works in the Düsseldorf Klee Collection, some formerly owned by prominent personalities. Labels on the backs of some paintings supply information about international exhibitions at which works from the Düsseldorf Klee Collection were on view. They also tell of  the "diplomatic mission" fulfilled by the collection in a number of different countries since the mid-1960s.

Curator: Anette Kruszynski

Exhibition card

Gillian Wearing

September, 08, 2012 – January 06, 2013

In her work, the British artist Gillian Wearing (born in Birmingham in 1963, lives and works in London) investigates the relationship between public and private, fiction and reality, as well as between artist and viewer.

The performative photographs and films of this 1997 Turner Prize recipient are based on personal revelations, private fantasies, and psychological trauma. She exploits performance techniques drawn from the theatre, television and film. Wearing often places advertisements in order to recruit performers for her artistic projects. A variety of masks and costumes are used to ensure the privacy of participants.

But Wearing also points the camera at herself. In her self-portraits, she appears in the role of her own mother, father, or brother. In a series of recent works, Wearing has created a singular family album: by appearing as Diane Arbus, Robert Mapplethorpe, Andy Warhol, Claude Cahun, and August Sander, she transforms itself into her artistic models. Wearing interrogates her own notions of identityalong with those of others. Against the background of reality TV and web 2.0, the phrase The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, the title of Erving Goffman’s classic work on the sociology of role-playing, could well emblematize Wearing’s outstanding contribution to contemporary art, a complex and affecting oeuvre which is presented for the first time in the German-speaking world in this major solo exhibition.

This overview extends from Wearing’s iconic early work Signs that Say What You Want Them to Say and Not Signs that Say What Someone Else Wants You to Say (1992 – 93) all the way to the recent video Bully (2010). On view in this presentation, whose configuration was planned in consultation with the artist, are video works (with German subtitles), photographs, sculptures, and – for the first time outside of Great Britain – the space-filling installation Family History (2006).

The exhibition is organised with Whitechapel Gallery, London. Touring to Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich.

The Düsseldorf station is funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation.

Curator: Doris Krystof

Exhibition card

Thomas Schütte

June, 16 - September, 09, 2012

The work Wattwanderung / Low Tide Wandering – whose title underscores notions of roaming and discovery – consists of 138 separate etchings which are suspended from taut wires. Images of the sea are associated with ebbs and flows and with the transition from one picture to the next. The most common motifs are the portrait, women, and flowers, themes consistently present for years in the works of Thomas Schütte (born in 1954, lives in Düsseldorf). The individual sheets are conceived as a kind of journal by means of which the artist records the dramatic and banal events of everyday life in 2001.

Many of the etchings are accompanied by texts whose wordplay allows the artist to pose questions on serious issues: "Desaster des Friedens" (Disaster of peace), "Wie sieht eine Seele aus" (What does a soul look like), "Ground zero wie geht es weiter" (Ground Zero, what next), and "Atmen nicht vergessen" (Don't forget to breathe). The pictures and texts trigger associations, evoking images from the viewer’s own world. While journeying through the series, passive contemplation gives way to an active mode of reception, and the beholder necessarily adopts a position.

Curators: Florence Thurmes in collaboration with Marion Ackermann

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Big Picture III (Szenen/Figuren)

April 14, 2012 - January 27, 2013

The third installment of Big Picture – an overview of the collection’s large-scale installations – centers around the question: What is presentation? On view in the basement level of K21, designed by Stadler Prenn Architekten Berlin, is a concentrated selection of works which articulate ideas about roles, identity, and the self in contemporary art. The spectrum extends from performance art to reality-based forms such as the interview, and all the way to borrowed works from the realm of film and cinema. Selected loan works supplements the thematic presentation of the works from the collection.

Featured are works by
Vito Acconci, Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Peggy Buth, Keren Cytter, Hanne Darboven, Jeanne Faust, Christoph Girardet und Matthias Müller, Stefan Hablützel, Nan Hoover, Paul McCarthy, Imi Knoebel, Tony Oursler, Pia Stadtbäumer

Curator: Doris Krystof
Assistent Curator: Maria Anna Bierwirth

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Fresh Widow. The Window in Art since Matisse and Duchamp

March 31 – August 12, 2012

For centuries, the window has been found among the most favored artistic motifs. The picture of a "room with a view" in which the window marks the threshold between exterior and interior has long fostered reflections on the medium of painting itself. The observation that a painting resembles a view through an open window dates all the way back to 1435, when it entered a treatise on painting written by the Renaissance scholar Leon Battista Alberti. He coined a metaphor which has for centuries shaped our understanding of the picture which is organized according to the rules of central perspective and which – like a window – reveals to us a delimited segment of the world.

While the window remained a favored motif in the 20th century as well, it appeared now more frequently in isolation, deprived of any connection to architectural settings or landscape views, and shorn of figures shown from the back gazing longingly into the distance. In their window paintings, Robert Delaunay, Henri Matisse, and Josef Albers experimented with a pictorial form that is no longer devoted solely to depicting reality, and which instead  emphasizes the planarity of the picture support while concentrating on color and line and their interaction. In 1920, with his reproduction of a set of French windows, their panes lined with black leather and hence rendered opaque, Marcel Duchamp bid an adieu that was as laconic as it was striking: bearing a title which plays on the words "French window". Fresh Widow announces programmatically the loss of a view through the picture while opening up a path toward the new. Now, the window goes blind or even shatters, as in pictures by René Magritte. To an increasing extent, it refuses any access to the world outside, instead ceding space to a new pictorial reality.

Beginning in 1950, artists such as Ellsworth Kelly, Eva Hesse, Robert Motherwell, Gerhard Richter, Christo, Isa Genzken, Brice Marden, Günther Förg, Toba Khedoori, Jeff Wall, Sabine Hornig, Olafur Eliasson and Jochem Hendricks have devoted intensive working phases to fundamental questions and phenomena whose points of departure are found in the motif of the window. These themes include the reductive shape of the window and its formal similarity to the grid and the framed panel painting; the framing and hence channeling of the viewer‘s gaze; transparency and mirroring, light and shadow; the interpenetration of volume and surface, and finally, emancipation from all forms of materiality.

The 100 paintings, drawings, objects, sculptures, photographs, and projections featured in the exhibition Fresh Widow. The Window in Art since Matisse and Duchamp exemplify the astonishing variety and diversity of the  pictorial models proposed between 1912 and the present. The presentation strikingly documents the use to which these artists put their new-won freedom.

The exhibition is realized with the kind support of
Kunststiftung NRW and Stiftung Kunst, Kultur und Soziales der Sparda-Bank West. Supported by Velux. Media Partner: Handelsblatt.

Curator: Maria Müller-Schareck in collaboration with Melanie Vietmeier

Exhibition card

Wojciech Bąkowski - Piotr Bosacki


February 03 - June 06, 2012

This duo of Polish artist, born respectively 1979 and 1977 in Poznan/Poland, where both still live, have collaborated in particular on literary and musical themes.

Bąkowski's art is rooted in spoken literature. To date, he has produced numerous works on paper, animated films, at times interactive sculptures and installations, as well as performances. He conceptualizes penetrating works of striking directness, floating worlds located somewhere between everyday observations and hallucinations.

With his point of departure in geometric and other systems of rules, Bosacki develops compositions, animated films, but also objects which present themselves as paradoxical constructions: exhibiting extreme rationality on the one hand, they seem trivial or even defective on the other.

Typically for their generation, both artists pursue a confrontation with a reality apparently devoid of plan or aim, while at the same time maintaining an existential commitment characterized by philosophical and poetic penetration.

The exhibition is part of "Klopsztanga. Polen grenzenlos NRW". Supportet by Adam-Mickiewicz-Institut and the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Curator: Julian Heynen

Exhibition card

Roman Ondák - Within Reach of Hand or Eye

February 25 - May 28, 2012

At the latest since his much-acclaimed work for the Czech and Slovakian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale of 2009, Roman Ondák (born 1966, lives in Bratislava) has been regarded as a key figure among younger artists who have taken up and developed the traditions of conceptual, process-oriented, and installation art in strikingly independent ways. His often subtle interventions into everyday situations assume the most varied forms, ranging from brief or more extended appearances by individuals to objects, drawings or notations, and even the participation of the public. While a number of works investigate phenomena associated with art and museum culture, his primary interest is in “the everyday behavior of real  people” and in “the qualities found behind the objects” (R. O.). With its humanistic orientation, and despite its unassuming formal qualities, his art is directed toward the sheer breadth and complexity of reality itself.

The presentation centers on a new installation which was conceived especially for this exhibition, entitled The Hill Seen from Afar (2011). The work, which brings habitual perspectives into disarray, takes the form of an artificial hill  at whose apex stands a miniature tree. Appearing in the middle of this artificial space is a piece of nature, one which foregrounds the beholder’s perceptions. Are we confronted here by an artwork which calls attention to itself through its special dimensions, or instead by a “hill seen from afar”? In the latter case, why is the hill situated  directly in front of the viewer? Where does this distance reside? Solely in the mind of the beholder? These and  numerous further questions – which could almost have emerged from Gulliver’s Travels – are triggered by this highly attractive object, which qualifies as a sculpture in its own right.

The two other exhibited pieces are associated thematically with The Hill Seen from Afar. They hark back to the  actions or installations of recent years, shifting them into new aggregate states. In Across That Place (2008-2011), Ondák asked people to gather in order to skip stones across the water of the Panama Canal, formerly the property of the US. Through video, posters, paintings, drawings, photographs, maps, postcards, and   letters, this playful “overcoming” of the distance between the American continents, as well as of former colonial rule, circulates as an event that is simultaneously real and poetic. In Eclipse (2011), finally, an installation which originally reversed above and below is returned to the floor once again. Here, the point of departure is a life-sized, traditional truss which the artist assembled upside-down in a contemporary exhibition space and covered it by metal tiles he dismantled from the gallery’s ceiling. Now, the remains of this absurd building lie on the floor, whether as recollections of the past or as an inventory of materials for a new construction at some other location. Also appearing in a kind of peepshow is a view of the original work in an unexplained situation which resides between past and future, between reality and fiction.

Within Reach of Hand or Eye: the title of the Düsseldorf exhibition encapsulates the three works on display, posing questions about our perceptions of the world, about distance and proximity, boundaries, and the possibilities of one‘s own knowledge and influence.

Curator: Julian Heynen