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Susan Philipsz - The Missing String

09.11.2013 – 06.04.2014

In recent years, the Scottish artist Susan Philipsz – who refers to herself as a sculptor – has earned an international reputation for her striking sound installations. With The Missing String, Philipsz – a recipient three years ago of the prestigious British Turner prize – will be a guest in the bel etage of the K21 of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen from November 9, 2013 until April 6, 2014. This will be the first time this artist – who was born in Glasgow in 1965, and lives today in Berlin – has had an exhibition at the Kunstsammlung.

Occupying the boundary between visual art and music, Philipsz’s space-filling sound installation alludes to a number of earlier exhibitions that took place in the impressive galleries of the Ständehaus. In this project, she raises questions about the setting’s historical context and about practices of conservation and collecting.

A trained sculptor, Philipsz is interested primarily in the interplay between sound and space. “For me, it is a question of the way in which the emotional and psychological effects of sound can enhance our awareness of the space we occupy,” explained the artist in a newspaper interview conducted in 2010.

Through the deconstruction and rearrangement of sound and its localization in space, Philipsz effects a continuous redefinition of both media. Her handling of historical materials betrays an almost archaeological interest in that which is concealed, its multifarious potential conveyed through her work in striking ways to evoke a range of sensations and recollections. In her audio works, she employs the rock music of the 1970s, along with Scottish sea shanties and the “Internationale.” The basis for her 2012 project for documenta was an orchestral work that was composed in 1943 in the concentration camp at Theresienstadt, and premiered there as well.

The point of departure for The Missing String, created especially for the Kunstsammlung, is the artist’s wide-ranging research into the subject of the war-damaged musical instruments found today in numerous collections throughout Germany. They constitute a striking emblem of the destructive fury of war, and mirror the often tragic fates suffered by artists during the National Socialist dictatorship. The search for these testimonials of wartime experience, many of which have vanished into archives and storage depots, allows Susan Philipsz’s work to become a genuinely revelatory act.

For the production of The Missing String, she was able to use an entire series of war-damaged instruments, thereby employing them for their original purpose – to make music – for her recordings. Battered, displaying bullet holes, twisted out of shape, each narrates a different, moving story: simultaneously historical objects and musical instruments, their sound quality shaped in unavoidable ways by the impact of war.

Curators: Dr. Florence Thurmes, Ansgar Lorenz

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Zilvinas Kempinas: DARKROOM

September 05, 2013 – January 26, 2014

Especially for the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Kempinas has created a new installation that allows objects and structures – now bathed in red light – to appear as images in the darkroom of an old photographer. This association alludes to a condition that is suspended between dissolution in light and materialization at a secret location. The clarity of these forms, assembled from aluminum and video strips, also evoke experiences of irritation or confusion.

Kempinas – who lives in New York City, and was born in Plungė/Lithuania in 1969 – became familiar to an international public at the latest with the Venice Biennale of 2009. Currently, the Tinguely Museum in Basel is devoting a major survey exhibition to his work. With mastery, this artist unites principles of Constructivism, Minimalism, Op Art, and Kineticism. In 2007, these qualities made him the recipient of the Calder Prize.

Kempinas has realized his most recent work, entitled DARKROOM, in situ in the Laboratory, the project room of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, as a confrontation with the proportions and other concrete characteristics of the space.

In his new installation Kempinas invites the visitor to move between his constructions and ponder his process of perception – eventually making viewers reflect upon their relationship to the object.

The exhibition is supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania.

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Alexander Calder – Avant-Garde in Motion

September 07, 2013 - January 26, 2014

From September 2013, the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf will stage a comprehensive exhibition on the work of Alexander Calder, one of the most important American artists of the 20th century. It is the first time in two decades that the Kunstsammlung has put on a large-scale exhibition by this important sculptor, who shaped art history with his sensual and poetic sculptures. The focus for the selected works will be the 1930s and 40s and will concentrate  on Calder's development of abstract sculptures moved by air currents, the mobiles. During this period, the artist experimented with various artistic directions. His works fell into the gap between Piet Mondrian’s geometric images and the playful abstract work of Joan Miró and Hans Arp.

To document Calder's links to European avant-garde art and to enable us to look at the American artist’s works in a new and often surprising light, the exhibition includes historical and experimental films, avant-garde music and works by the most important of his fellow artists. In an exhibition covering more than 1,600 square metres, the visitor can admire a magnificent selection of works by Alexander Calder, on loan from international museums and collections.

Alexander Calder – the Avant-Garde in Motion is on show at the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, in two large exhibition halls at the K20 Grabbeplatz in Düsseldorf. In the Klee Hall the visitor will experience Calder's early sculptures – set against works by trend-setting fellow artists, such as Mondrian, Miró and Arp, as well as artistic and documentary films. In the high Grabbehall, by contrast, the large mobiles and stabiles will be exhibited to impressive effect by allowing the individual shapes to move freely. Here the visitor can experience how the artist makes playful use of space and proportions. At various points throughout the exhibition, Calder's mobiles enter into a dialogue with experimental music dating from the 1920s onwards, ranging from compositions by Edgar Varèse to those of John Cage. This illustrates how Calder constantly sought inspiration from other branches of the arts and broadened his own horizons.

Media partner is Handelsblatt

The Catalog is supported by Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung.

Curator: Susanne Meyer-Büser


Art Make Up – From Bruce Nauman to Gillian Wearing

Photography, Video, and Performance Works from the Collection

October 19, 2013 – January 19, 2014

Bruce Nauman’s multipart video edition Art Make Up (1967/68) illustrates the way in which the artist continually re-creates himself in the process of "art-making." Featured in this presentation are both photography and video works, but also performative approaches to displaying art that have been influenced by music, film, dance, and theater.

This thematic presentation of the collection in the basement level of the K21 – which extends all the way to recently-acquired works by Gillian Wearing and Wael Shawky – underscores the importance of movement, dynamism, and choreography in contemporary art.

The most recent acquisition of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Shawky’s marionette epic Cabaret Crusades: The Path to Cairo of 2012 – which has received numerous awards, and was acclaimed enthusiastically at the most recent dOCUMENTA – is being presented for the first time in a large-scale installation.

Curator: Doris Krystof


Alfred Flechtheim -
Art Dealer of the Avant-Garde

October 8, 2013 – January 12, 2014

The gallery owner Alfred Flechtheim (1878–1937) was a major protagonist in the art scene in the first third of the 20th century. His commitment to the ‘Rheinische Expressionisten’ group of artists, the French avant-garde and German Modernism, and his support of great artists such as Max Beckmann, George Grosz and Paul Klee, made him internationally famous even during his lifetime. The National Socialist regime, however, changed his life and that of his family drastically. Flechtheim had to leave Germany in October 1933. As an art dealer of Jewish extraction he suffered public defamation and, by 1935, his galleries in Düsseldorf and Berlin had been liquidated or were being managed by former business partners. However, he managed to send several artworks he still possessed abroad, mostly to London, where he died in 1937 at the age of just 59 as the result of an accident. His wife, Betty, committed suicide in 1941 in the face of her imminent deportation. The remaining works of art in their flat in Berlin were confiscated and their whereabouts remains unknown to this day.

Also coming into the possession of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen since the 1960s have been 18 pictures associated with the classical avant-garde, all of which passed through Flechtheim’s hands. Alongside 16 works by Paul Klee, these include a still-life by Juan Gris and a major work by Max Beckmann, the painting Night, which dates from 1918-19. As part of a joint project involving 15 German and Swiss museums honoring Flechtheim’s memory, these works are being given special emphasis within the permanent collection of the K20.

Up to the present day, Flechtheim’s legacy – he opened his first gallery in Düsseldorf a century ago –has left a mark on numerous museums through important works of art, many of which continue to shape the profiles of these institutions in decisive ways. Nearly all of the major museums own works by Ernst Barlach, Max Beckmann, Heinrich Campendonk, Lovis Corinth, Paul Klee, George Grosz, Oskar Kokoschka, Paula Modersohn-Becker, Wilhelm Morgner, Heinrich Nauen, Max Pechstein, René Sintenis, Edgar Degas, André Derain, Juan Gris, Fernand Léger, Aristide Maillol, Henri Matisse, Edvard Munch, Pablo Picasso, and Paul Signac whose provenances can be traced back to Flechtheim.

The purpose of this project as a whole is to investigate the paths of works of art owned by the participating museums, to elucidate their provenances and commercial histories as they passed from artists to dealer to collector. In order to provide an overarching perspective, all of the works found today in these 15 museums having connections to Flechtheim’s gallery have been incorporated into the databank of the website www.alfredflechtheim.com.

For many years, the Kunstsammlung NRW has been intensively investigating the provenances of its entire collection, a project that has generated vital information concerning the fates of these works and their previous owners. The great majority of the works associated with Flechtheim were conveyed to him on commission and entered the Landessammlung via diverse routes.

The presentation provides insight into Flechtheim’s life and achievement as well as into the topic of provenance research and the restitution of artworks seized from the victims of National Socialist persecution. Moreover, visitors to the K20 are offered information about the project as a whole via the comprehensive website.

Installation view F3 Schmela Haus, Foto: Achim Kukulies

The Child, the City and the Art –
Aldo van Eyck, Nils Norman, Yto Barrada

April 19 – September 15, 2013

The playground as an urban, aesthetic, and political space forms the focus of the exhibition Das Kind, die Stadt und die Kunst (The Child, the City, and the Art),  which will be on view at the Schmela Haus of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen beginning on 19 April. The show’s point of departure is the oeuvre of Dutch architectural visionary Aldo van Eyck (1918–1999), who realized 700 playgrounds in Amsterdam between 1947 and 1978. Van Eyck was one of the first architects to explicitly integrate the perspectives of children into his aspirations toward the socially conscious reconfiguration and redesign of urban space. Juxtaposed against the historic presentation of plans and designs by this architect are artworks by Nils Norman and Yto Barrada which thematize the playground as a place of community and of transformation from a contemporary perspective.

The presentation of historic photographs, architectural drawings, plans, and models in the basement of the Schmela Haus – designed by van Eyck in 1967, and in use by the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen as an exhibition and event space beginning in 2009 – offers an overview of Aldo van Eyck’s singular Amsterdam production. Regrettably, very few of the more than 700 playgrounds exist today in their original forms.

Nils Norman (*1966 in Kent, lives in London) works at the interface between architecture, art, and urban planning. For the ground floor of the Schmela Haus, Norman has developed a site-specific work that responds to the building’s peculiarities, and at the same time constitutes an homage to Aldo van Eyck’s pioneering activities. The installation The Adventure Playground & Playscape Archive Study Unit (2013) links the interior space to the garden/courtyard of the Schmela Haus. Emerging through a play, study, and reading room, combined with sandboxes and game blocks, is an urban play area on a miniature scale.

The photographer and filmmaker Yto Barrada (*1971 in Paris, lives in Tangier) observes the transformations taking place in her Moroccan hometown of Tangier in the context of postcolonialism and globalization. Barrada has devoted a series of works to the playground, a microcosm through which she paradigmatically highlights the transformation of urban space and social conditions in her country.

The exhibition title "Das Kind, die Stadt und die Kunst" ("The Child, the City, and the Art") alludes to a collection of writings by Aldo van Eyck, which he wrote in 1962 under the title The Child, The City and The Artist. It was published posthumously in 2006. Among other things, it contains van Eyck’s pioneering insights into the development of urban space, the importance of children and their right to have a say, as well as discussions on his avant-garde form language.

Curator: Lisa Marei Schmidt

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Wolfgang Tillmans

March 02 – September 08, 2013 (extended)

The Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf is presenting a wide-ranging overview of the oeuvre of photographer Wolfgang Tillmans. On view from March 2 to July 7, 2013 is a selection of works from the past 25 years by this extraordinary transgressor of boundaries in the field of photography. The artist himself has configured this presentation as an integrated installation specifically for the exhibition spaces found in the expansive basement level of the K21. Moreover, Tillmans will be showing early graphic and other works from the late 1980s for the first time anywhere.

One of the most important artists of his generation, Wolfgang Tillmans (born in Remscheid in 1968) has subjected decisive aspects of photography to further development, redefining it as an artistic medium. The works of this photographer, who lives in Berlin and London, are represented in the most important collections worldwide, and have been featured often in international exhibitions.

The earliest works – photocopies of newspaper illustrations and of the artist’s own photographs – can be traced back to experimentation with the first digital black-and-white photocopying machines. In the early 1990s, images and photo sequences of his friends and of young people from popular culture and the club scene – which appeared in various magazines such as i-D and Spex – brought him to the attention of a broad public. In the year 2000, Tillmans became the first non-British artist and photographer to receive the prestigious Turner Prize.

At the center of Wolfgang Tillmans’s production stands the question of the image and the controversy centered on it, on how meaning emerges from a piece of paper. All of the works in the exhibition are analog images. This means that they depict reality, are not computer-manipulated, and were produced – at least initially – by allowing light to strike a photosensitive surface, a piece of film, or a sensor. Subsequently, however, Tillmans processes his images in highly diverse ways, whether in the form of photocopies, the digital or classical analog print, or in some instances through photochemical processing or even manually-executed alterations.

Through his works, Tillmans has not only discovered a new image language for photography, but at the same invented an unmistakable form of presentation that transforms each exhibition into an integrated, site-specific installation. His exhibition praxis – which involves arranging framed photographs alongside unframed ones, C prints alongside photocopies and inkjet or laser prints in the most diverse formats, some of them mounted directly on the walls, to form complex and at the same time rigorous wall installations – has proven a formative influence for many younger artists. The same is true for his unconventional approach to photography, which he consistently explores for the sake of new pictorial possibilities and variations in relation to the medium’s materiality and techniques, presenting his results simultaneously in exhibitions, artist’s books, and magazines.

Curator: Isabelle Malz


Supported by

This exhibition was organized by the Moderna Museet in Stockholm in collaboration with the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen.

The Düsseldorf version of the exhibition has received support from the Stiftung Kunst, Kultur und Soziales der Sparda-Bank West (Foundation for Art, Culture, and Social Projects of the Sparda Bank West).

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Sculpture at the Düsseldorf Art Academy from 1945 to the Present

February 20 – July 28, 2013

Since 1945, sculptors who have taught or studied at the renowned Düsseldorf Art Academy have been responsible for a series of decisive and influential artistic impulses. Professors such as Ewald Mataré, Erwin Heerich, Joseph Beuys, Klaus Rinke, Irmin Kamp, Fritz Schwegler, Rosemarie Trockel, Hubert Kiecol, Katharina Fritsch, and Rita McBride have influenced highly productive debates and discussions within the Academy and beyond. Like many of their  colleagues and former students, they have contributed through their work to the development of sculpture over the past 70 years.

It was the sculptor Tony Cragg – a professor at the Academy for many years, and currently its director as well – who gave the impulse for this extraordinary survey exhibition from an insider‘s perspective. The selection of works by 53 artists, many of them produced in the context of the Academy itself, form an astonishing and impressive panorama of internationally acclaimed modern and contemporary sculpture that brings together familiar works with unknown or rediscovered ones. This chronological overview, which occupies three galleries of the K20, spans the spectrum from the historic positions of the postwar years all the way to the present day. The show demonstrates that precisely the multiplicity of artistic attitudes and concerns have been decisive in shaping teaching activities at the Academy.

Figurative sculpture has altered its appearance without losing its relevance, while the traditional materials of the sculptor – bronze, wood, stone, and clay – have remained despite the fact that Academy artists have worked as a matter of course with industrially manufactured substances and everyday objects, with ephemeral materials, with light, air, odor, music, film, etc. The appropriation of pre-existing objects exists on equal terms with constructive and shaping techniques, while new casting technologies have simplified and enriched work processes. This fertile juxtaposition of figurative and abstract sculpture, of traditional and unconventional materials, of references to tradition and receptiveness to extra-artistic impulses, in conjunction with an openness to innovative content within the field of tension between personal experience and social responsibility – these are the factors that continue to shape sculptural production at the Düsseldorf Academy, with its rich tradition, up to the present.

This exhibition was developed through a close collaboration between the Düsseldorf Art Academy and the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen.

Curators: Tony Cragg, Siegfried Gohr, Robert Fleck sowie Marion Ackermann und Maria Müller-Schareck


Supported by

The exhibition is fundey by Kunststiftung NRW.
Sponsors are: National-Bank AG, Essen, and Hogan Lovells International LLP.

With works by

Joseph Beuys, Karl Bobek, Ralf Brög, Hede Bühl, Tony Cragg, Richard Deacon, Jürgen Drescher, Bogomir Ecker,  Katharina Fritsch, Isa Genzken, Martin Gostner, Thomas Grünfeld, Erwin Heerich, Georg Herold, Martin Honert, Jörg  Immendorff, Magdalena Jetelová, Irmin Kamp, Hubert Kiecol, Luise Kimme, Harald Klingelhöller, Imi Knoebel, Jannis Kounellis, Gereon Krebber, Norbert Kricke, Bernd Lohaus, Markus Lüpertz, Heinz Mack, Ewald Mataré, Rita McBride, Christian Megert, Reinhard Mucha, Wilhelm Mundt, Nam June Paik, A.R. Penck, Otto Piene, David Rabinowitch, Erich Reusch, Klaus Rinke, Dieter Roth, Ulrich Rückriem, Reiner Ruthenbeck, Leunora Salihu, Andreas Schmitten, Thomas Schütte, Fritz Schwegler, Pia Stadtbäumer, Rosemarie Trockel, Günther Uecker, Didier Vermeiren, Paloma Varga Weisz, Thomas Virnich, Franz Erhard Walther