OPEN SPACE, architecture and design: raumlaborberlin, Photo: Achim Kukulies
OPEN SPACE, architecture and design: raumlaborberlin, Photo: Kunstsammlung
Paul Klee. A Collection Travelling Around the World: Installation View, Photo: Achim Kukulies
OPEN SPACE, Architektur und Gestaltung: raumlaborberlin, Foto: Achim Kukulies

museum global

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.


Paul Klee. A Collection Travelling Around the World: Guided tour through the Paul Klee-exhibition at Museo Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon, 7. 11. 1972, Foto: Carlos Coelho da Silva
Paul Klee. A Collection Travelling Around the World: Installation View Kunstsammlung NRW, Photo: Achim Kukulies
Paul Klee. A Collection Travelling Around the World: Installation View Kunstsammlung NRW, Photo: Achim Kukulies
Paul Klee. Eine Sammlung auf Reisen: Installationsansicht Kunstsammlung NRW, Foto: Achim Kukulies
Paul Klee. A Collection Travelling Around the World: Mapping the World with the different journeys of the Klee-Collection (1966-1985), graphic design: Henning Krause
Paul Klee. A Collection Travelling Around the World: Installation View "Paul Klee. Obrazy, kresby, akvarely" at the Sternberg Palais, Prague 1969, Foto: National Gallery in Prague 2018
Paul Klee. A Collection Travelling Around the World: Installation View "Paul Klee" at the Centraal Museum Utrecht, 1971, Photo: Centraal Museum Utrecht / A.F.S.J. Hulskamp

Paul Klee.
A Collection Travelling Around the World
13.10.2018 —

In 1960, the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia acquired 88 paintings, watercolors, and drawings by Paul Klee. This purchase represented an act of atonement (Wiedergutmachung) toward an artist who had been dismissed from his professorship at the Düsseldorf Art Academy by the National Socialists in 1933. This ensemble of works, which forms the foundation of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, founded in 1961, is now the point of departure for a reexamination of its permanent collection: from 1966 until 1985, the Klee pictures travelled the world, and were seen in Jerusalem in 1966, in Prague in 1969, in Rio de Janeiro in 1972, and in New Delhi in 1979, among others. In the context of this tour, the “universal genius” Klee and his works were explicitly designated as message and messengers of the still young Federal Republic of Germany, as strikingly documented through previously unknown archival materials, along with documents from some of the host institutions.

Selected Cities of the Exhibition-Tour (1966-1985)


The travels of the Klee collection began in Israel in 1966. Just one year after the resumption of diplomatic relations between the state of Israel and the Federal Republic of Germany, and even before any official agreement governing cultural exchanges between the two countries, 60 works from the Düsseldorf Klee collection traveled to Jerusalem, and were subsequently presented in Tel Aviv. Bound up with the exhibition were hopes for the advancement of friendly relations with Israel. At the same time, it offered the Kunstsammlung an opportunity to profile itself internationally as an institution.


After two stations in Israel, the Klee collection traveled to the countries of the Eastern bloc. Through this exhibition, Werner Schmalenbach – the premier director of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein Westfalen – hoped to strengthen “liberal forces” in the region. The tour was greeted with approval at the federal level as well. The exhibition in Prague, originally scheduled for late summer of 1968, had to be delayed for a year. At this point, with the Soviet invasion and the repression of the Prague Spring, the safety of the Klee pictures could not have been assured. Ultimately, altogether 62 pictures from the Klee collection were presented in the historic Sternberg Palace between April 10 and May 31, 1969.


As in no other country, and as early as the 1910s, the works of Paul Klee were appreciated in Japan. This recognition culminated in two trips to Tokyo by the Klee collection. It was shown at the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo in the framework of the worldwide traveling exhibition “The Bauhaus: 50 Years.” Ten years later, the works journeyed to the Japanese capital again, where they were presented in the context of a comprehensive Paul Klee exhibition at the Seibu Museum of Art.

São Paulo

The works of Paul Klee were shown in Brazil as early as 1953, at a special exhibition held at the Second Bienal de São Paulo. In 1972, at the Museu de Arte São Paulo, the pictures acquired a special significance and received particular attention: the exhibition coincided with the 50th anniversary of the “Semana de Arte Moderna” – a key event in the history of Brazilian modernism.


Documents and correspondence dating from the 1980s show that at that time, European museums typically regarded places like the Philippines, Africa, or Australia as anomalous settings for exhibitions of Western art. Organized through a dialogue between the embassy of the Federal Republic in Manila and the Foreign Office in Bonn – and hence far from established centers of art and culture – was a historic exhibition project. At the first showing ever in the country of works by Klee, art-lovers in the Philippines acquired a radically new perspective of Western art production. Given the fact that this artist was barely know in the Philippines, the figure of altogether 7000 exhibition visitors was regarded as a great success.


Exhibited in the Italian capital at the Galleria Nationale d’Arte Moderna (National Gallery of Modern Art) were altogether 200 works from the Düsseldorf Klee collection. With 5000 visitors attending the opening, a sold-out catalog after six days, as well as numerous press and television reports, the show became a significant cultural event.


Works by Paul Klee were shown in Egypt under the title “Paul Klee: 60 Works from the Modern Art Museum Düsseldorf.” Cairo remained the sole exhibition venue in Africa. A trip to Johannesburg under consideration by Kunstsammlung Director Werner Schmalenbach never actually took place.


In order to reduce high transport and insurance costs, three exhibition stations were planned for New Zealand: Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. Offered in Wellington in particular was a multifaceted accompanying program designed to make Paul Klee’s work more accessible to the public. There was a poster design contest for schoolchildren, a lecture series on Paul Klee, and a film program featuring German films from the 1930s. From New Zealand, the show traveled on to Canada, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. The worldwide tour of the Düsseldorf Klee collection wound up in 1985 after completion of the museum building at Grabbeplatz in Düsseldorf.

Microhistories of an Ex-centric Modernism: Installation View "Tokyo 1910", Photo: Achim Kukulies
Microhistories of an Ex-centric Modernism: Entrance Area, Photo: Achim Kukulies
Microhistories of an Ex-centric Modernism: Installation View "Adam and Eve" by Fernand Léger, Photo: Achim Kukulies
Microhistories of an Ex-centric Modernism: Installation View "Moscow, 1913", Photo: Achim Kukulies
Microhistories of an Ex-centric Modernism: Installation View "São Paulo, 1922", Photo: Achim Kukulies
Microhistories of an Ex-centric Modernism: Installation View "Mexico City, 1923", Photo: Achim Kukulies
Microhistories of an Ex-centric Modernism: Installation View "Shimla, 1934", Photo: Achim Kukulies
Microhistories of an Ex-centric Modernism: Installation View "Beirut, 1948", Photo: Achim Kukulies
Microhistories of an Ex-centric Modernism: Installation View "Zaria, 1960", Photo: Achim Kukulies
Microhistories of an Ex-centric Modernism: Installation View "Epilog", Photo: Achim Kukulies

Microhistories of an
Ex-centric Modernism
10.11.2018 —

The exhibition takes visitors around the globe in seven chapters framed by a prologue and an epilogue and following a chronological sequence: Tokyo, 1910; Moscow, 1913; São Paulo, 1922; Mexico City, 1923; Shimla, 1934; Beirut, 1948; and Zaria, 1960. “Microhistories of an Ex-centric Modernism” narrates moments of transcultural upheaval when artists formulated concepts of modernism—be it by publishing a manifesto, opening an exhibition, founding a society, or in connection with journeys and encounters.

Presented in the galleries of the permanent collection will be hitherto little-known artistic positions, at times in dialogue with selected works owned by the Kunstsammlung.
They showcase other perspectives and constellations which give rise to questions of considerable urgency today: How do national and cultural identities emerge? How are emigration and exile reflected in the works of individual artists? How do journeys, encounters, and exchanges influence art and cultural politics?

The exhibition is the result of several years’ research and the first step in our project to survey and understand a transcultural modernism.

Moscow, 1913

Exhibited in Moscow in 1913, alongside works by the Russian avant-gardists Kazimir Malevich, Mikhail Larionov, and Marc Chagall, were paintings by the Georgian autodidact Niko Pirosmani. This "natural talent" from Tiflis, who was oriented artistically toward Orthodox Christian icons as well as Oriental miniatures, became involved in the Neo-Primitive phase of the Russian avant-garde. 

Niko Pirosmani, Das Fest der Molokanen (1905)
Oil on cloth, 112 × 177 cm
The Collection of Niko Pirosmanashvili, State Museum of National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation of Georgia
Yorozu Tetsugoro, Nude Beauty (1912)
Oil on Canvas, 162 × 97 cm
Important Cultural Property, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo

Tokyo, 1910

The exhibition’s journey through the microhistories of an ex-centric modernism begins in Tokyo around 1910, with the paintings of Yorozu Tetsugoro and Kishida Ryusei. Like many artists and literati of the time, they were preoccupied with Japanese tradition, but also with European art around 1900. Their self-portraits in particular testify to an intensive search for an authentic identity. Yorozu’s works are representative of the ways in which Japanese artists of his generation negotiated with a multitude of sources of inspiration in their search for a modern, individual pictorial language. Apparent as well is the way in which both traditional Japanese as well as European-influenced painting retained their validity side by side.

Tarsila do Amaral, Antropofagia (1929)
Oil on Canvas, 131 x 146 cm
Collection of the Fundação José e Paulina Nemirovsky, on long-term loan to the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo
© Tarsila do Amaral Licenciamentos, Photo: Isabella Matheus

São Paulo, 1922

Another microhistory – as we proceed chronologically – is embodied in the works of avant-garde Brazilian artists such as Tarsila do Amaral. During the 1920s, this painter joined forces with the writer Oswald de Andrade to launch her country’s “Anthropophagic” Movement. As a strategy of aesthetic decolonization, the “cultural cannibalism” they propagated, involving the incorporation of the ‘Other’ through an appropriation of his strengths, became a central motif in Brazilian modernism. Works by the Jewish painter Lasar Segall – who was born in Vilnius and lived in Brazil beginning in the 1920s – call attention to the themes of migration, identity, and cultural transfer. 

Mexico City, 1923

Amedeo Modigliani’s portrait of the Mexican painter Diego Rivera, dating from 1914 and part of the collection of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, serves as the point of departure for the next chapter of the exhibition. Like David Alfaro Siqueiros and Frida Kahlo, Rivera was among the artists who became politically active during the upheavals experienced by Mexico in the wake of the nation’s ten-year-long civil war. Testifying to these activities is the Manifesto of the Union of Mexican Workers, Technicians, Painters, and Sculptors, written in 1923.

Frida Kahlo, Autorretrato en la frontera entre México y Estados Unidos (1932)
Oil on Metal, 31,8 × 34,9 cm
Collection: Modern Art International Foundation Courtesy of María and Manuel Reyero, New York, USA © 2018 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2018, Colección Maria y Manuel Reyero, New York
Amrita Sher-Gil, Self-Portrait as a Tahitian (1934)
Öl auf Leinwand, 90 × 56 cm
Collection of Navina and Vivan Sundaram

Shimla, 1934

Characterizing the life and work of the Indian-Hungarian painter Amrita Sher-Gil is the cosmopolitan identity she cultivated in the period between the two world wars. Having studied in the French capital Paris during the early 1930s, she was simultaneously familiar with the painterly conventions of the École de Paris as well as with India's pictorial traditions. In her work, she achieved a synthesis of "West" and "East" which is reflected in an increasing flatness, simplification of forms and intense color.

Beirut, 1948

Three years of study with Fernand Léger in Paris beginning in 1948 exercised a comparable influence on the Lebanese artist Saloua Raouada Choucair. During this period, through a critical confrontation with her teacher’s style, she developed an independent, non-objective style of painting based on Arabic calligraphy, Islamic geometry, and Western abstraction. In a polemic published by a number of Lebanese magazines, Choucair criticized the “retrograde Orientalists” and outlined her vision of a universal art as a resource for a progressive Arab society.

Saloua Raouda Choucair, Paris-Beirut (1948)
Gouache, 32 × 23,5 cm
Foto: Saloua Raouda Choucair Foundation
Uche Okeke, Ana Mmuo (Land of the Dead, 1961)
Oil on wooden plate, 92 × 121,9 cm
National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Joanne B. Eicher and Cynthia, Carolyn Ngozi, and Diane Eicher, 97-3-1
© Estate of Uche Okeke, Courtesy Asele Institute Nimo
Photo: Franko Khoury

Zaria, 1960

In October of 1960, Nigeria achieved independence from the British colonial authorities. During the same month, the revolutionary Nigerian artists’ group known as the Zaria Art Society drafted a manifesto which called for the radical rejuvenation of art for a new society. In 1961, two of the group’s members – Demas Nwoko and Uche Okeke – founded the transdisciplinary Mbari Artists’ and Writers’ Club in Ibadan together with writers such as Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka, as well as the German emigrant Ulli Beier. Established in Nigeria in connection with the review “Black Orpheus,” and lasting for a number of years up until the Biafran War of 1967, was a singular, Pan-African network, one that maintained contacts with artists from various African countries and South and North America, as well as the African diaspora in Paris. Among its associates was Léopold Sédar Senghor, who later became Senegal’s first president, and who visited the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in May of 1977.


The final chapter of the exhibition enquires into the reasons for the clear focus of the regional art gallery on European and North American art. It becomes clear how a canon of Western modernism was defined around 1960 through innovative exhibition formats such as the Documenta, and through intensive museum collecting policies. In developing a “museum of modernism,” Werner Schmalenbach – the founding director of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen – too oriented himself toward the first editions of the Documenta. He acquired a number of paintings for the museum that had been exhibited in Kassel – among them Jackson Pollock’s “Number 32” (1950).  

Microhistories of an Ex-centric Modernism: Installation View "Epilog", works on display: Kumi Sugaï, "Le festival de l'auto-route", 1965, Oil on Canvas, 256,8 x 205,5 cm and Jackson Pollock, Number 32, 1950, lacquer on Canvas, 269 x 457,5 cm
Both works belong to the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Photo: Achim Kukulies


Tarsila do

Born in Capivari in the State of São Paulo in 1886, the Brazilian artist Tarsila do Amaral came from a wealthy family of coffee plantation owners. Amaral began studying painting in São Paulo and, from 1920 onwards, continued in Paris, first at the Académie Julian and, three years later, in the studios of Andre Lhote, Albert Gleizes, and Fernand Léger. From Paris, she brought back a collection of artworks acquired there, thus making works by the European avant-garde accessible in Brazil. In 1926, Amaral’s first solo exhibition took place at Galerie Percier in Paris. Two years later, her painting "Abaporu" triggered the emergence of the anthropophagic movement instigated by her husband, Oswald de Andrade. She died in São Paulo in 1973.

Mário de

The Brazilian writer and musicologist Mário de Andrade was born in São Paulo in 1893. After studying music at the conservatory, he played an influential role in the "Semana de Arte Moderna" (Modern Art Week) in Sao Paulo in 1922. In 1928, he published his novel "Macunaima. O heroi sem nenhum carater" (Macunaíma. A Hero without a Character), a major literary work of Brazilian modernism. Through his studies, as well as through his cultural activities since 1935 as the director of the Department of Culture in São Paulo, he contributed significantly to the discovery and preservation of the cultural heritage of Brazil. Mário de Andrade died in São Paulo in 1945.

Oswald de

Born in São Paulo in 1890, the writer Oswald de Andrade came from a wealthy aristocratic family. While reading law at the university, he already began working as a journalist. He undertook several journeys to Europe, where he established contacts with the avant-garde. In 1924, his “Manifesto Pau-Brasil” was published, followed in 1928 by the publication of his cultural-revolutionary “Manifesto Antropófago” (Cannibal Manifesto). In 1926, he married the painter Tarsila do Amaral; three years later, however, the couple separated. Oswald de Andrade died in São Paulo in 1954.

Dr. Atl

Born in Guadalajara in 1887, Gerardo Murillo studied at the Academia de San Carlos in Mexico City from 1890 to 1896. In 1899, he traveled to Europe on a state scholarship. From 1902 on, he used the pseudonym Dr. Atl (“Doctor Water” in Náhuatl) to emphasize his Mexican identity. Before the outbreak of the Revolution in 1910, he painted the first modern mural in Mexico. While in Paris in 1913, he founded the journal "Action d’Art". Back in Mexico City in 1916, he was publisher of the journal Acción Mundiale which featured contributions from the Muralism movement. In 1922, he published his book "Las Artes Populares en México" (Folk Arts in Mexico); from 1923 on, he directed the Office of Archaeological Monuments, and in 1930 he briefly served as the director of the Academy of Fine Arts. He subsequently devoted himself exclusively to landscape painting and the study of volcanoes. Dr. Atl died in 1964.


Born in Aguascalientes in 1905, Anita Brenner and her Jewish family moved to San Antonio, Texas, in 1916. She began studying there but later transferred to Mexico City, where she lived from 1923 on. She initially worked as a journalist for numerous newspapers and magazines. She was a close friend of numerous artists, including Diego Rivera and Jean Charlot, and was committed to making their works known in the USA. Between 1927 and 1944, she lived in New York, where, in 1929, she published the book "Idols behind Altars", which served as an inspiration for Sergei Eisenstein during his filming of "Que Viva Mexico!". That same year, she completed her doctorate in Anthropology at Columbia University, New York. Among other things, she published the art magazine "Mexico this Month" from 1955 on. Anita Brenner died in a car crash in Mexico in 1974.


Jean Charlot was born in France in 1898. After studying at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, he settled in Mexico City in 1921. Here, he worked on his first murals, was an active member of the Syndicate of Technical Workers, Painters, and Sculptors, and became friends with Edward Weston and Anita Brenner. In addition to painting, he also focused on illustrations. In 1925, he worked on the first issues of the magazine "Mexican Folkways" as a designer and art editor. After having spent twenty years in New York (1928–47), he returned to Mexico to research his comprehensive book "Mexican Mural Renaissance" 1920–25, which was published in 1963. In 1949, a scholarship took him to Hawaii, where he lived until his death in 1979.

di Cavalcanti

Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1897, the painter Emiliano di Cavalcanti began already at an early age to earn his living as a caricaturist and illustrator. In 1916, he moved to São Paulo and, in 1922, was actively involved in the realization of the "Semana de Arte Moderna" (Modern Art Week). This was followed in the 1920s by several longer sojourns in Paris. In 1931, he participated in the so-called Revolutionary Salon in Rio de Janeiro and, the following year, founded the Club of Modern Artists in São Paulo together with Flavio de Carvalho. He died in his hometown of Rio de Janeiro in 1976.

do Rego Monteiro

The life of Rego Monteiro, who was born in Recife in northeastern Brazil in 1899, was played out between Brazil and Paris. At the age of fourteen, while studying painting in Paris, he already exhibited works in the Salon des Indépendants. In 1919, the artist began studying the pre-Columbian Marajoara culture. The following year, an exhibition of his works toured through several Brazilian cities. In 1930, Rego Monteiro co-organized the exhibition “The School of Paris”, with venues in Recife, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo. From the 1940s on, his artistic activity shifted to writing. Rego Monteiro died in Recife in 1970.

Saloua Raouda Choucair

Born in Beirut in 1916, Choucair studied with the Lebanese painters Omar Onsi and Moustafa Farrouk. During the course of the 1940s, however, she developed a non-objective style combining Arabic calligraphy, Islamic geometry, and Western abstraction. In 1948, she moved to Paris, where she came into contact with Fernand Léger and other representatives of the École de Paris. She wrote texts on Arab modernism and, in 1951, moved back to Beirut. In 1957, following a research trip through the USA, she turned from painting to sculpture. While Choucair became well known in Lebanon early on, it was only in old age that she was discovered as a “pioneer of abstraction in the Arab world.” She died in Beirut in 2017.


Born in Riga (then Russian Empire) in 1889, the later film director and theorist Sergei Eisenstein first studied visual art in Saint Petersburg. With the outbreak of the Russian Revolution in 1917, he joined the Red Army. From 1920 on, he worked as a set designer at and then later as director of the Proletcult Theater in Moscow. From 1923 on, he used film sequences on stage. His international breakthrough came in 1925 with the film “Battleship Potemkin”, followed in 1928 by October. In 1927, he made the acquaintance of Diego Rivera in Moscow. Between 1930 and 1933, he worked in Hollywood. In 1932, he shot footage for a film in Mexico, “Que Viva Mexico!”, which, however, he was unable to complete. Eisenstein died in Moscow in 1948.


The sculptor and painter Ben Enwonwu was born in Onitsha, Nigeria in 1917. The pioneer of Nigerian modernism studied at the Government Colleges in Ibadan and Umuahia between 1934 and 1939. He then studied abroad in London, where, from 1944 to 1948, he completed a degree in art at the Slade School of Fine Arts and obtained a master’s degree in anthropology from University College. In 1948, he attempted, in his role as art advisor to the Nigerian colonial government, to establish a modern Nigerian art inspired by Léopold Sédar Senghor’s concept of Négritude. The bronze sculpture of Queen Elizabeth II, created in 1956, as well as numerous exhibitions, awards, and teaching assignments at home and abroad, contributed to his international reputation. Ben Enwonwu died in Lagos in 1994.


Raised in the provincial town of San Juan de los Lagos, where she was born in 1902, María Izquierdo began to paint only after her family moved to Mexico City in 1923. From 1928 on, she studied at the Academia de San Carlos, whose director at the time, Diego Rivera, greatly appreciated her work. Her first solo exhibition took place at the Art Center in New York in 1930; shortly thereafter, she participated in a group show at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 1931, she left the academy and shared a studio with the painter Rufino Tamayo. In 1936, her paintings were admired by the French surrealist Antonin Artaud and later also exhibited in Paris. She died in Mexico City in 1955.


Born in Coyoacán in 1910, Frida Kahlo studied drawing and modeling in Mexico City between 1922 and 1925. In 1928, she became a member of the Mexican Communist Party; through Tina Modotti, she met Diego Rivera and married him in 1929. Between 1930 and 1934, the couple lived in the USA. Kahlo focused on painting and adapted Mexican votive painting for her narrative works. From 1937 to 1939, Leon Trotsky lived in exile on her estate in Coyoacán. In 1938, Julian Levy Gallery in New York hosted her first solo exhibition. In the catalogue, André Breton described her paintings in the context of surrealism, thus sustainably influencing the reception of her work. She died in Coyoacán in 1954.


Larionov Born in 1881 in Tiraspol, Russia, Mikhail Fyodorovich Larionov began studying at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture in 1898. In 1900, he met his future partner there, the painter Natalia Goncharova. In 1906, he participated in the Russian exhibition at the Salon d’Automne in Paris. He was the initiator of various radical group exhibitions of the Moscow avant-garde:"Jack of Diamonds" in 1910, "Donkey’s Tail" in 1912, and Target in 1913, with which he introduced the neo-primitive—and later “Rayonistic”—style of painting. After being wounded in the First World War, he settled in Paris in 1917; here, Sergei Diaghilev, director of the "Ballets Russes", hired Larionov and Goncharova as costume and stage designers. Mikhail Larionov died in Paris in 1964.


Born in Kiev in 1879, Kazimir Malevich moved to Moscow in 1904. He attended the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, and also took lessons in the studio of Fyodor Rerberg. During his neo-primitivist and cubo-futurist period between 1910 and 1913, he participated in the exhibitions "Jack of Diamonds", "Donkey’s Tail", "Target", and "Union of Youth". In 1915, with the picture "Black Square on a White Ground", he laid the foundation for suprematist painting. In 1922, his works were included in the "First Russian Art Exhibition" in Berlin. Between 1923 and 1926, he directed the State Institute of Artistic Culture (GINChUK) in Petrograd (now Saint Petersburg). In 1927, he exhibited in Warsaw and Berlin, and in 1929 at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. Malevich died in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) in 1935.


Born in São Paulo in 1889, Anita Malfatti studied painting in Berlin from 1910 to 1913 with Fritz Burger (1867–1927) and Lovis Corinth (1885–1925). Two years later, she continued her studies in New York at the Independent School of Art. In 1917, her scandalous first solo exhibition took place in São Paulo. In 1922, she participated in the “Semana de Arte Moderna” (Modern Art Week). From 1924 on, she resided in Paris for four years. On her return, the painter was represented at numerous exhibitions of the Brazilian avant-garde. She died in São Paulo in 1964.


Born in 1896 in Udine, Italy, Tina Modotti came to Los Angeles in 1913 to work as an actress. In 1923, she moved to Mexico City together with Edward Weston. For her first assignments as a photographer, she documented murals by Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros. As the official photographer of the newspaper “El Machete”, which was supportive of the Mexican Communist Party, she focused on portraits and still life motifs. In 1926, she and Edward Weston were commissioned by Anita Brenner to shoot photographs in Mexico for her book “Idols behind Altars”. After stays in Germany, Russia, and Spain, she returned to Mexico in 1939, where she died in 1942.


Demas Nwoko, an artist, architect, dramaturge, industrial and theater designer, and editor at “New Culture Publications”, was born in 1935 in Idumuje-Ugboko, Delta State, Nigeria, where he continues to live and work to this day. From 1957 to 1961, he studied painting at the Nigerian College of Arts, Science, and Technology in Zaria. As a founding member of the groundbreaking artist group Zaria Art Society (1958–61) and co-founder of the Mbari Artists and Writers Club (1961–67) in Ibadan, he is one of the key protagonists of postcolonial modernism in Nigeria. From 1961 to 1963, the interdisciplinary artist studied stage design in Paris and Japan; he taught theater arts at the University of Ibadan from 1963 to 1978. Nwoko has been represented in exhibitions in Nigeria, Senegal, and Europe.


Born in Salt Lake City in 1904, Pablo O’Higgins studied at the Art Academy of San Diego in 1922/23. In 1924, he got in contact with Diego Rivera, who invited him to Mexico City. O’Higgins became Rivera’s assistant and worked for several years on the murals of the Secretaría de Educación Pública. He was an active member of the art scene and shared an apartment with Jean Charlot. In 1927, he became a member of the Mexican Communist Party; and in 1931, he was in Moscow at the same time as Tina Modotti. In addition to working on many of his own murals from 1933 on, in 1937 he was co-founder of the artists’ association Taller de Gráfica Popular. In 1961, he received Mexican citizenship. Pablo O’Higgins died in 1983.


Uche Okeke was born in Nimo, Nigeria, in 1933. From 1957 to 1961, he studied painting at the Nigerian College of Arts, Science, and Technology in Zaria. As a founding member of the artist group Zaria Art Society (1958–61), he wrote the manifesto “Natural Synthesis” in 1960. He co-founded the Mbari Artists and Writers Club (1961–67) in Ibadan and founded the Asele Institute and Documentation Center in Nimo in 1958. In 1962/63, he spent several months in Munich. In 1969, an exhibition touring through Germany that promoted the support of his home region of Biafra took him to Düsseldorf. After the Biafran War (1967– 70), he became Head of the Department of Art at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka, where he established the concept of “natural synthesis” in connection with techniques of Igbo-uli painting, which would influence subsequent generations of artists. Numerous international exhibitions and lectures underline his importance as one of the key figures of postcolonial modernism in Nigeria. Uche Okeke died in Nimo in 2016.


Colette Omogbai was born in Uzebba, Nigeria, in 1942. She studied from 1960 to 1963 at the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria and in 1964/65 at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. In her first exhibition at the Mbari Artists and Writers Club in Ibadan in 1963, she attracted attention with her surrealist pictures. The celebrated avant-garde artist published her manifesto “Man Loves What Is ‘Sweet’ and Obvious” in the “Nigeria Magazine” in 1965, in which she defended her artistic freedom against critics who found her work too radical and unfeminine. With her emigration to the United States, where she earned her PhD in Art Education at New York University, her traces were initially lost. Her only extant work is now in the former collection of Ulli Beier in the Iwalewahaus in Bayreuth, Germany. Today, Colette Omogbai lives in Nigeria.


Niko Pirosmani, also called Pirosmanashvili, was born in the village of Mirzaani in Georgia (then part of the Russian Empire) in 1862. The self-taught artist worked as an independent and contract painter in Tbilisi. In 1913, his pictures were discovered by the avant-garde artists Ilja and Kiril Zdanevich and Le Dantu, and were subsequently published in magazines. In the same year, his paintings were included in the "Target" exhibition in Moscow. In 1916, Ilja Zdanevich organized Pirosmani’s first solo exhibition in a private salon in Tbilisi. Shortly thereafter, the painter was invited to become a member of the Society of Georgian Painters. Niko Pirosmani died in Tbilisi in 1918.


Born in the central Mexican city of Guanajuato in 1886, Diego Rivera studied painting at the Academia de San Carlos in Mexico City. In 1907, he traveled to Spain on a scholarship, after which he settled in Paris. In 1922, back in Mexico, Rivera worked predominantly on murals, which he executed, for example, in the Secretaría de Educación Pública (1923–28) and the Palacio de Bellas Artes (1934), as well as, from 1930 on, in various locations in the United States. In 1927/28, he spent time in Moscow and gave lectures on monumental painting. In 1929, he married the painter Frida Kahlo. In 1931, Rivera was given a retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, which had only opened two years before, in 1929. Diego Rivera died in Mexico City in 1957.


Born in Tokyo in 1891, Kishida Ryusei became a student of Kuroda Seiki in 1908 and painted at his Hakubakai art school. Here, he learned the Western-oriented, academic painting style of his teacher, who had lived in Paris for some years. In 1911, Kishida changed his style and became preoccupied with painters such as van Gogh, Matisse, and Renoir. Like Yorozu, he participated in the activities of the short-lived artist group Fyūzankai in 1912/13. His most important theme is the portrait. In 1913 alone, he painted thirteen self-portraits, surely provoked by the increasing significance of the individual, as discussed in artistic circles at the time. As early as 1914, Kishida turned to a style of painting oriented toward the masters of the Renaissance and no longer saw himself as a modernist artist. He died in Tokuyama in 1929.

C. Marker und
A. Resnais

The writer, photographer, and film director Chris Marker was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine in 1921 and died in Paris in 2012. He studied philosophy with Jean-Paul Sartre and joined the Résistance during the war. The film director Alain Resnais was born in Vannes in 1922 and died in Paris in 2014. He trained as a cutter at the Institut des Hautes Études Cinématographiques in Paris and is considered one of the most important representatives of the Nouvelle Vague and an innovator of cinema. The anti-colonial and anti-racist film Les Statues “Meurent Aussi” (Statues Also Die, 1953), which they jointly shot on behalf of “Présence Africaine”, addresses the looting of works of art by Europeans in Africa. Until 1968, it was included on the index of forbidden films in France.


Lasar Segall was born in 1889 to a Jewish Sofer in Vilnius, at the time annexed by Russia and now the capital of Lithuania. In 1906, he continued his studies of painting in Berlin, and from 1910 on in Dresden. There, together with Otto Dix and others, he founded the Dresden Secession Group. In 1923, Segall emigrated to São Paulo, but resided in Paris from 1928 to 1932. In the year of his return to Brazil, he was active as a co-founder of the Society for Modern Art (SPAM) in São Paulo, where he lived until his death in 1957.


The literary and film pioneer Ousmane Sembène was born in Ziguinchor, Senegal, in 1923. He is considered one of the most important representatives and politically active voices of African cinema. During the Second World War, he fought for France as a “Tirailleur Sénégalais” and, until Senegal gained independence, worked for several years as a docker in Marseille. He studied at the Gorky Film Institute in Moscow. “With La Noire de...” (Black Girl, 1966), he realized his first feature-length film, which criticizes the neocolonial structures and dependencies of France. It was the first non-French film to win the Prix Jean Vigo, and in 1966 was presented at the 1er Festival mondial des arts nègres in Dakar. Ousmane Sembène died in Dakar in 2007.


Born in Budapest in 1913, Amrita Sher-Gil lived alternately in Hungary and Shimla, northern India, before studying in Paris, initially in 1930 at the Académie de la Grande Chaumiere, and later (1931–34) at the École des Beaux-Arts. In 1932, she won the gold medal of the Salon de Paris and was accepted as the youngest member of the salon. In 1934, she returned to Shimla, where she studied the precolonial art of India. In 1938, she married the Hungarian physician Viktor Egan and moved to rural Saraya in Uttar Pradesh, where she experienced a fruitful creative period. Her art was appreciated by Indian intellectuals. In 1941, she moved to Lahore, where she died that same year during the preparations for a comprehensive solo exhibition.

David Alfaro

Born in Chihuahua, Mexico, in 1896, David Alfaro Siqueiros began his artistic training in 1912 at the Academia de San Carlos in Mexico City. In 1914, during the Revolution, which was also known as the Mexican Civil War, he joined the Constitutional Army, after which he spent two years in Europe. In 1922, he co-founded the Syndicate of Technical Workers, Painters, and Sculptors in Mexico City and wrote manifestos propagating a new, post-revolutionary Mexican art. His first murals were executed in 1923 in the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria. From 1932 on, during his exile in the United States, he also executed murals in Los Angeles, and in 1936 he founded the Siqueiros Experimental Workshop in New York. Before his death in 1974, he built the Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros and bequeathed his personal visual archive to the Mexican people.


Born in Hanamaki, Iwate Prefecture, in 1885, Yorozu Tetsugorō learned Japanese painting as a young man. He concluded his studies of Western painting with Kuroda Seiki at the Tokyo Fine Arts School, which he had begun in 1907, with the highly acclaimed painting Nude Beauty, executed in 1912. That same year, the short-lived Fyūzankai group— in the activities of which Yorozu also participated— was founded in Tokyo. In 1914, the painter returned to his home region. In 1919, he resettled in Chigasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, where he died of tuberculosis in 1927.


The painter, sculptor, and pioneer of Nigerian modernism Clara Ugbodaga-Ngu was born in Kano, Nigeria, in 1921. As one of the few professionally trained female artists in Nigeria, she studied in London at the Chelsea School of Art and the London Institute of Education (1950–55). In 1955, she became the only Nigerian faculty member at the Nigerian College of Arts, Science, and Technology in Zaria, which was still marked by colonial structures; here, she taught many students who later became important artists, including members of the Zaria Art Society. Despite widespread recognition, as well as exhibitions in Nigeria, Senegal, the USA, and England, she is practically nonexistent in art historiography. She died in 1999 and is buried in Cameroon.


Born in Highland Park, Illinois, in 1886, Edward Weston studied at the Illinois College of Photography in 1908 and opened his first photography studio in California in 1911. In 1923, he moved with Tina Modotti to Mexico City, where the Aztec Land Gallery presented his first exhibition in Mexico in October of that year. He and Modotti hosted parties which became meeting places for artists such as Diego Rivera and his close friend Jean Charlot, as well as politicians and generals. After a short stay in California in 1924/25, he became increasingly interested in patterns and textures, as proven by the photographs taken in Mexico. After the commission for Anita Brenner’s book “Idols behind Altars”, he returned to the USA in 1926, where he worked with great success until his death in 1958.


10.11.2018 —

OPEN SPACE, Public Cafeteria and Screenprint-Workshop, Photo: Achim Kukulies
OPEN SPACE, Screenprint Workshop, Photos: Judith Winterhager
OPEN SPACE: Infostation with an Archive of Voices (interviews with the curatorial team) and further research tools, Photo: Judith Winterhager
OPEN SPACE, Entry from the Grabbeplatz, Photo: Judith Winterhager

OPEN SPACE, an accessible space configured by the Kunstsammlung and raumlabor Berlin, will accompany the exhibition "museum global" while opening up the museum to the larger urban society: for the first time, access to the K20 becomes possible from Grabbeplatz as well. Outfitted with a café, a stage, a silkscreen workshop, and information offerings, along with lectures, entertainment, and opportunities for encounter, OPEN SPACE has been conceived as a freely accessible meeting place and a space for negotiation. It invites the public to participate in a wide-ranging supporting program which takes up current social and political controversies and interrogates the role of the museum in society.


Our media library consists of a documentation of discussions, readings and lectures at the OPEN SPACE.

Additional information and documents related to this research and exhibition project, launched in 2015, is available on our museum website.


The exhibition catalogue "museum global. Mikrohistories of an Ex-centric Modernism" is published by Wienand Verlag, Cologne.

280 pages, numerous coloured and black and white images

Price 34,- Euro

Catalogue available at our Webshop