Otto Dix – The Evil Eye

February 11 – May 28, 2017 (extended)
K20 Grabbeplatz

Otto Dix (1891 - 1969) – the celebrated painter and notorious enfant terrible – spent the intensively creative years 1922 - 1925 in Düsseldorf. During this period, as a member of the revolutionary artist’s group Das Junge Rheinland (Young Rhineland), he developed the critical handwriting that made him an unmistakable figure within 20th century art.

The exhibition Otto Dix – The Evil Eye is devoted to this decisive phase of his career. On view will be approximately 200 paintings, watercolors, and prints from German and international collections.

When the destitute Dix left Dresden for Düsseldorf for the first time in October 1921, he hoped to be welcomed in the Rhineland with exhibition opportunities and lucrative portrait commissions. During the ensuing three years, driven by singular ambition and enormous perseverance, he evolved from an expressive-realist Dada artist into a portraitist who emblematized the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity). Mercilessly, he fixed his contemporaries’ features on canvas. In 1925, when he moved to Berlin, having matured now as a man and an artist, he was preceded by his reputation as a harsh critic of society.

For the first time, the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen presents with the exhibition Otto Dix – The Evil Eye a monographic exhibition that focuses on these crucial years in Dix’s development.

Dix in Düsseldorf

The young painter and graphic artist from Dresden arrived in Düsseldorf in October of 1921; although flat broke at the time, he was no longer entirely unknown as an artist, and hoped for improved opportunities for exhibiting and for commissions in the Rhineland. With immense ambition, he transformed himself in the ensuing three years from an expressive-veristic Dada artist into a critical portraitist in the spirit of the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity), who fixed his contemporaries with a pitiless gaze in unsparing images. When he moved to Berlin in 1925, mature now both personally and artistically, the reputation of his "evil eye" preceded him.

In early 1920, Conrad Felixmüller arranged Dix’s initial contacts with the  Düsseldorf art scene, introducing him to Otto Pankok, Gert Wollheim, and other artists of avant-garde group Das Junge Rheinland (Young Rhineland). One member of the circle was the art dealer Johanna Ey, whose gallery was a lively meeting place for young Rhenish artists during the period.

Johanna Ey became a strong supporter of Dix’s career when he still lived in Dresden. Up until this point, he had suffered from the unmarketability of his works, but in the Rhineland, things turned around quickly:  Johanna Ey reported initial sales to him as early as September of 1920. When she finally met Dix, she was fascinated by the dandyish young man. She offered him lodging in an adjacent room in her gallery, and  made him one of the key personalities of her dealership.

Also among early patrons was the collector and physician Hans Koch, who had contacts with the Dresden art scene even before Johanna Ey, and who commissioned his own portrait from Dix in 1921. During this period, Martha Koch, the collector's wife, became Dix’s lover – the two married in spring of 1923. None of which, however, interfered with the professional or private relations of those involved.

For Dix, the three years in Düsseldorf were immensely productive, and were characterized by rapid artistic development: the greater portion of his watercolor output in, for example, was completed by 1923.

Beginning in 1922, he attended the Düsseldorf Art Academy; of decisive importance was the instruction he received in printing methods. He employed the aquatint technique he learned there, among others, in the celebrated cycle of etchings entitled Der Krieg (War, 1924), a drastic confrontation with the machinery of modern military combat. Many other pivotal works in color lithography – among them Cripples, Sailor with a Girl, and Leonie – date from this period as well.

The inspiring art and gallery scene in the Rhineland, encouraging level of success and hence growing material security, as well as private happiness: all of these factorsin concert had a stabilizing effect on Dix’s circumstances, and even brought him a certain established status within society – and they would influence his painterly and portrait style in subsequent years.

Beginning in 1924, Dix turned toward the Neue Sachlichkeit manner, deploying old master glazing techniques in increasingly cool, analytical portraits. Up to the present, Otto Dix is regarded as a celebrated and notorious portraitist who fixed his subjects with an "evil eye," staging them in violation of conventional aesthetic norms.


Curator: Dr. Susanne Meyer-Büser

The exhibition is supported by:

HSBC Deutschland, Rudolf-August Oetker-Stiftung, Schwarzkopf (Henkel Beauty Care), Messe Düsseldorf GmbH, Farrow & Ball

General partner: das Fashion- und Lifestyle-Unternehmen Breuninger; media partner: Handelsblatt; Fudned by Ministerium für Familie, Kinder, Jugend, Kultur und Sport.

Afterwards the exhibition will be shown at Tate Liverpool (Jun 23 –15 October, 2017)


Marcel Broodthaers.
A retrospective

04 March – 11 June 2017
K21 Ständehaus

Marcel Broodthaers. A Retrospective presents a major overview of the multifaceted oeuvre of the Belgian artist Marcel Broodthaers (1924 –1976), who formulated an idiosyncratic artistic position within the milieu of Pop, Minimalism, and Conceptual Art. When he was 40 years old, Broodthaers turned from poetry toward visual arts, and soon received acclaim within Europe's avant-garde scene for his displays and cinematographic works, with their stringent criticism of institutions.

This exhibition, which includes more than 400 works in the most diverse genres and media, has been organized meticulously over a period of more than four years by The Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid. The show finishes in Düsseldorf, a city that did much to promote Broodthaers' brief but highly productive artistic career. Broodthaers not only lived in Düsseldorf (from 1970 – 1972), he also received, assimilated, and reciprocated decisive impulses from the local art scene, which was networked internationally to an optimal degree.

A number of works and exhibitions came to fruition in Düsseldorf, among them the legendary show "Section des Figures" (Section of Figures), organized in 1972 at the Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, and a component of Broodthaers’ principal work, the Musée d’Art Moderne, Département des Aigles (Museum of Modern Art, Department of Eagles) (1968 –1972).

This long-awaited retrospective of the works of Marcel Broodthaers initiates viewers into a fascinating aesthetic universe – one that regards poetry as a "disturbance of the world order" and an "indirect political question," and that advocates a radically open-ended and processual approach to interpreting art, and hence represents a contribution to an understanding of art that remains valid today.


Organized by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid.

The exhibition is organized by Christophe Cherix, The Robert Lehman Chief Curator of Drawings and Prints, The Museum of Modern Art, New York; and Manuel J. Borja-Villel, Director, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía; with Francesca Wilmott, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Drawings and Prints, The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

In K21, Düsseldorf, the show is curated by Doris Krystof.

The exhibition is supported by:

Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung,
das druckhaus

General partner: das Fashion- und Lifestyle-Unternehmen Breuninger
Media partner: Handelsblatt
Funded by Ministerium für Familie, Kinder, Jugend, Kultur und Sport.

Installation view, photo: Achim Kukulies

Leunora Salihu
Gravity on a journey

31 March – 24 September 2017 (extended)
K21 Ständehaus, Bel Etage

Although Leunora Salihu’s sculptures have an austere composition, they are light and permeable. The artist creates her works from a multitude of materials, like clay, plaster, metal, and multiplex boards, playing with their contrasting characteristics to assemble new, extraordinary combinations.

Their titles – like Trichter, Tunnel, or Treppe (Funnel, Tunnel or Staircase) – hint at a possible technical or functional origin. On closer inspection, however, all apparent usefulness disappears. The sculpture Propeller is a prime example of this. Its structure of stacked MDF boards and a fragile ceramic core refers to the rotating movement of a propeller. On another level, the sculpture also deals with many  purely artistic issues, like the relationship between difference and repetition, three-dimensional forms, gravity, and dynamics.

Leunora Salihu was born in 1977 in Prishtina (Kosovo).

Wael Shawky, Cabaret Crusades, The Secrets of Karbalaa, 2014, installation view, photo: Achim Kukulies, © Wael Shawky

real sets / fictional sets
Videos and Photographs

Selected Works from the Permanent Collection

02 August – 08 October, 2017
K21 Ständehaus

In the basement level of the K21, real sets / fictional sets features videos and photographs from the permanent collection that take the stage/film set as the point of departure for the most diverse scenarized spatial arrangements, an approach that offers fields of play for a variety of scenes, plots, and narratives. On view will be works by Bruce Nauman, William Kentridge, Rosemarie Trockel, Richard T. Walker, Heimo Zobernig, and Wael Shawky, supplemented by a selection of photographs by Candida Höfer.

On view for the first time will be the collection's most recent acquisition: with Candida Höfer’s large format color photograph "Schmelahaus Düsseldorf I" (2011), an important new addition to the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen stands at the center of the temporary presentation of works from the collection entitled "real sets / fictional sets." Höfer's striking photograph "Schmelahaus Düsseldorf I" (2011) is a gift of the artist to the Society of Friends of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen.

Höfer's view of an empty room, its walls and concrete block ceiling, as well as its white marble flooring, shows the northeastern corner of the exhibition space located in the basement level of the building – constructed in 1971 after designs by the Dutch architect Aldo van Eyck for the legendary Düsseldorf gallerist Alfred Schmela in 1971 – located at Mutter-Ey-Straße 3. In the sober style so characteristic of Höfer's work, this minimalist architecture, illuminated by neon lighting, is presented as a blank surface that awaits a future utilization.

In October of 2013, in fact, the Schmela Haus was equipped with sculptural installations in the form of a stage and bar. Through a confrontation with van Eyck's refractory aesthetic, the sculptor Andreas Schmitten realized his "Set for the Schmela Haus: Lounge and Bar," which is reminiscent of a musical hall or circus, and which is concealed in the view shown by Höfer. The photograph "Schmelahaus Düsseldorf I" at the same time refers to a number of aspects of recent Düsseldorf art history: to the 1960s/70s, years of upheaval strongly associated with Schmela; to the local photographic tradition established by the Becher School; to the Düsseldorf Art Academy, from which Candida Höfer herself emerged around 1980; and finally to the history of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, which has used the Schmela Haus – situated between the K20 and the K21 – since 2009 as a third venue, and in particular as a guesthouse and center for special events.

Artists participating:

Alice Creischer / Andreas Siekmann, Candida Höfer, William Kentridge, Bruce Nauman, Wael Shawky, Rosemarie Trockel, Richard T. Walker, Heimo Zobernig


Rupture, War and Surrealism
in Egypt (1938 – 1948)

15 July – 15 October 2017
K20 Grabbeplatz

This is the first comprehensive museum exhibition about the largely forgotten Cairo based group Art et Liberté ("art and liberty", "jama’at al-fann wa al-hurriyyah"). The exhibition presents more than 200 works from around 50 collections in 12 different countries, including paintings, works on paper, prints, photographs, films, books, and archival documents. At the dawn of World War II and during Egypt's colonial rule by the British Empire the surrealist collective of artists and writers was engaged in its defiance of Fascism, Nationalism and Colonialism.

Through their works, artists such as Hassan El-Telmisani, Inji Efflatoun, Fouad Kamel, Amy Nimr, Samir Rafi, and Ramses Younane amongst others, gave voice to the group's political, aesthetic and social commitment. The collective's main driving force was the Cairo-based poet and literary critic Georges Henein, the son of a diplomat and a cosmopolitan personality who had been closely associated with the Parisian Surrealists grouped around  André Breton from as early as 1933. Surrealism, with its often provocative, always poetic, subversive, anarchic, and intimate amalgamation of poetry and painting, resonated very strongly in Cairo where it stood firmly in its fight against political repression and for the ideal of human freedom.

This exhibition features a direct link to the  Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen: the Cairo-based artists' collective explicitly declared solidarity with many of the classical modernist artists who were persecuted by Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco. Some of these artists are represented today in the permanent collection. Alluding to the defamatory and propagandistic National Socialist exhibition devoted to "Entartete Kunst," the Art et Liberté group headed its founding manifesto of December 1938 with the words "Long Live Degenerate Art!" and demanded: "Together, Let us overcome the Middle Ages that emerges from the heart of the Occident."

This overview of the multifarious activities of the Art et Liberté group serves as a prologue to the extensive presentation Excentric Modernism, planned for autumn 2018 at the K20, which investigates manifestations of non-Western modern art on various continents in the framework of the research project "museum global" (2015 – 2018). As the first artistic tendency of modernism, the impact of Surrealism was international in scope. With its redefinition of Surrealism, Art et Liberté in Cairo established a contemporary pictorial and literary language that was equally rooted in both, global and local realities.

Curators: Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath (Art Reoriented, Munich and New York), Doris Krystof (for the Düsseldorf station of the exhibition).

The exhibition was shown previously at the Centre Pompidou / Paris and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía / Madrid. After Düsseldorf, it will be shown at the Tate Liverpool (Nov 17, 2017 – March 18, 2018), and finally at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm (April 21 – Aug 19, 2018).

The exhibition is supported by:
S.E. Sch. Hassan M.A. Al Thani
Schwarzkopf (Henkel Beauty Care)
Montblanc Kulturstiftung
Medienpartner: Handelsblatt

Supported by the Federal State of Nordrhein-Westfalen