Tag Archives: Contemporary

Bruno Gironcoli at the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003

Bruno Gironcoli in Vienna, Austria

A sculpture by Bruno Gironcoli installed in front of Strabag Haus Donau-City in Vienna. Photo 2007.

The Austrian Pavilion at Venice Biennale 2003

The pavilion of Austria, a building by Josef Hoffmann, is modern and proper, architecture meant to please. His lovely pavilion, meant to be a place for educated Kunstgenuss, is inhabited this year by works of the subversive goldsmith, sculptor of the subconscious, designer of the wicked – Bruno Gironcoli (born 1936-February 2010✝). This show could have been more, given the strength of Gironcoli´s work. It could have been a chapter from H.P. Lovecraft´s Necronomicon; it could have been a factory of the ghostly, the night in Freud´s mare, a House of Usher within Hoffmann´s picture-perfect house of Austria.

But it is not. It is Gironcoli´s art which still saves a show with modest ambition, put together by curators Kaspar König (director Museum Ludwig in Cologne) and Bettina M. Busse, the two commissioners selected by Austria´s state secretary of art, Franz Morak. In Austria, everything is “normalized” at last. Morak, a conservative politician, previously was a punk rock singer. Gironcoli still is the master of Freud´s Albtraum.

“I derive images from nature,” answers the hermit sculptor who doesn´t seem to like to explain much of his work, and it is difficult to overlook some of the recurring symbols such as cringing babies, animal heads, and metaphors of female organs. Cringing babies, electric vulvas, Austrian edelweiss patterns – all of this is also designed with painstaking craftsmanship, a quality dear to find these days.

Gironcoli´s sculptures are disturbing. They are machines of exploitation, monuments of obsessions, apparati of beauty and irony. He elaborates on the absurdity of life as if he is commissioned to design shrines for the late Godot, fusing imagery of Art Deco and Sci-fi into prayer wheels of a fourth industrial revolution where genetically engineered babies are Romulus and Remus and the wolverine is a sewing machine.

“My presence in the Giardini is an accident”, says the 69 year-old Gironcoli. After “hip” young artist groups like Gelitin and Granular Synthesis shown in the Austrian pavilion in the 2001 edition of Venice Biennale (commissioned by Elisabeth Schweeger) and in the general genius tempi, it indeed seems so. Gironcoli never was a member of a group or a movement, although selections from his drawings certainly show connections to Wiener Aktionismus of the 1950s and 1960s.

Surely, people with better talent for marketing have more visibility in the Venice Biennale, the global Las Vegas of art and vanities. Gironcoli´s art is of a kind rarely seen there, attention-grabbing without grabbing for attention. Hoffmann, the architect of the Austrian pavilion, was an adversary of Adolf Loos. Crime is a matter of definition, and so is ornament. Exploitation, cheap effects, vanity, it is all out there in the Giardini once you leave the temporary parallel universe of Gironcoli. Is it crime? What would Loos say, or Freud? You can still go back, to the Austrian pavilion and Gironcoli´s Untitled from 1975/76, a yellow painted Madonna in the golden wheat field on top of two toilets. It is a heile Welt, or holy world out there.

*This article was written on June 29th, 2003 for the summer issue of Contemporary Magazine in 2003. I would like to express my thanks to Professor Bruno Gironcoli for granting me his time for an interview at his atelier.

Art Now in CEE

Vienna News

Vienna is fast becoming not only a popular holiday destination for tourists from Eastern Europe but also the place where Eastern European artists in need of a gateway to the platform in the larger art market gather. This year’s edition of Viennafair, self-acclaimed as the international contemporary art fair focused on the CEE, boasted a nearly 19% increase in attendance compared to the previous year. Only a few months later, when the Venice Biennale lifted its curtain for its 52nd edition in June, the Hungarian Pavilion surprised the visitors by presenting Andreas Fogarasi as its representing artist, a young Austrian artist born in Vienna to Hungarian parents.

Once again Vienna sees itself as the metropolis of new art from Central and Eastern Europe. As a welcome gesture to Bulgaria and Romania joining the EU this year, the Vienna city government invited Bulgarian curator Iara Boubnova to archive the inventories of Vienna’s contemporary art collection and to organize the inaugural exhibition “Long Time No See”(20 June-30 August) to mark the opening of the new MUSA, or Museum auf Abruf (Museum on the Demand) at a stone’s throw of Rathaus, the capital’s city hall.

Despite the concerns by some theorists such as Slovenian Marina Gržinić, who sees the Eastern European art scene being ‘branded’ often under the name of Balkan art, the legendary Harald Szeemann, even before having curated his large-scale survey on the contemporary Balkan art scene titled Blood & Honey at Essl Collection back in 2003, had worked with artists such as Marina Abramovich and Braco Dimitrijević early on in the 1970s in the Documenta. Vienna Künstlerhaus recently staged the International Print Triennial Krakow-Oldenburg-Wien 2007, an international joint effort to rediscover the spirit of Polish tradition of graphic art in times of the digital trends.

Artists hailing from behind the former Iron Curtain are coming into renewed attention. Galerie Ernst Hilger has been fine-tuning on the taste of the wealthiest visitors and art buyers in Vienna – Russians – with its recent show SPUTNIK (30 August-27 September) and Esterházy Palace showed off its ambition in contemporary art collecting with the Central Europe Revisited I (16 July-16 September) show.

Adela Demetja, 『Untitled』 from “VirtuAlbania” at Steirischer Herbst + Pavelhaus, 2006. Courtesy: Pavelhaus, Steiermark.

The subjects of burdens and traumas from the post-communist past are still the mainstay dealt with by artists from the former Eastern bloc, as seen, for instance, in the work by Sanja Ivekovic in Shooting Back (until 28 October, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary). But younger artists are shifting their outlook towards the contemporary condition, seen for instance at “VirtuAlbania”, part of the annual Steirischer Herbst festival (Graz, 20 September-14 October) and “RE:PLACE” (Siemens_artLab, 4 October-10 November), which is presenting young artists from Bratislava commenting on the ‘twin cities’ – Vienna and Bratislava – and their common, and not always untroubled history re-seen in the contemporary context.

Istanbul Now, Galerie Lukas Feichtner, 14 September-10 November
HYPERLINK “http://www.feichtnergallery.com/”http://www.feichtnergallery.com/
The Gallery mounted a show dedicated to the topic of the latest art scene in Istanbul. The exhibition presents 21 artists offering unique visual commentaries on the state of the nation’s capital.

Drago Persic Solo Exhibition, Engholm Engelhorn Galerie, 9 November-22 December http://www.engholmengelhorn.com/Freshly graduated from the Academy of the Fine Arts in Vienna, the young artist Drago Persic, born in Banja Luka, Bosnia-Herzegovina and currently working in Vienna has his first solo show.

*This article originally appeared in the Contemporary magazine issue no. 95 in 2008.

East, West, Vienna

Vienna News

A view from the 『Belgrade Art Inc.: Moments of Change』 exhibition at Secession. 2004. Photo: Pez Hejduk Courtesy: Secession, Vienna.

Since centuries Vienna has been the melting pot of mid-European culture. Although Habsburg Austria could be defined as a forerunner of globalization until the outbreak of WW1, contemporary Austria still has to come to grips with the legacy of its Eastern neighbors. Bordering on 5 of the 10 new Eastern EU member nations, the country has traditionally been containing a significant number of minorities from those regions.

Being avant-garde by thinking on old links, Leopold Museum mounted its first survey exhibition on Polish Modernism of the interwar Europe two years ago. This year’s edition of Kunst Wien (held 7-10th of October at the Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna), the annual national-scale art fair which turned international this year for the first time, announced to the surprise of Viennese, that of 43 foreign exhibited galleries, more than 30 were participants from Eastern Europe. While the attention in this fair was mostly drawn to already internationally-recognized names with high price tags such as Franz West, Arnulf Rainer, Elke Krystufek, and Valie Export, it was less well known that quite a few up and coming Austrians artists such as Milica Tomic are originally from former Yugoslavia.

At Wiener Kuenstlerhaus, The New Ten is on view (until 16 January). Works by 20 younger artists selected from the new EU member countries are mirroring on the socio-political environment of the nations in question. Such an approach is not a new idea. Blood and Honey: Future is in Balkan, shown already in the summer of 2003 at Sammlung Essl, covered the most recent  arts scene of the Balkan nations. This Harald Szeemann-trademarked exhibition included more than 70 young and mid-career artists eager to hop on the bandwagon of the Western art market. Mr Karlheinz Essl himself, the founder of Essl Collection and owner of an Austrian DIY and housing supply retail chain dominating the Eastern European market, has been conducting his own talent-search missions in the Eastern European and Balkan regions since several years.

More recently, if not more timely, the Belgrade Art Inc.: Moments of Change show at Secession and the smaller but cleverer Free Entrance: Art from Bratislava, Budapest, Ljubljana, and Vienna show at BAWAG Foundation this summer bore witness to many refreshing talents from the former Eastern Bloc which are not only fully keeping pace with the latest media language and technology but also excelling in witty and satirical commentaries. After this phase of artistic exploration of common themes old and new, artists from both sides of the former iron curtain will set the tone for a Europe which will hopefully never stop to explore itself.

The New Europe: Culture of Mixing and Politics of Representation, Generali Foundation in Wien, from 20 January until 24 April,  HYPERLINK “http://foundation.generali.at” http://foundation.generali.at. Yet another show on the arts of Eastern Europe, this time curated by two Romanian-born guest curators. The show proposes to be a platform for examining and redefining the identity of old ‘New Europe’, as it struggles to overcome the East-West conflict resulting from socio-cultural differences.

Bettina Rheims: A Retrospective, Kunsthaus Wien, until 24 April,  HYPERLINK “http://kunsthauswien.com” http://kunsthauswien.com. For those who were fascinated with the glamour and decadence of the roaring 1920s depicted in Tamara de Lempicka exhibition past winter, this will be the photographic parallel.

Nordic Dawn:Modernism’s Awakening in Finland 1890-1920, Austrian National Gallery Belvedere,  from15 June until 2 October. An excellent opportunity to get a glimpse of the extensive quantity of works of modern art during the Turn-of-the-Century Finnish Modern era which was esteemed by Viennese modernists yet virtually unknown to the public to date.

* This article originally appeared in the Contemporary magazine issue no. 73 in 2005.

Exportable Goods

Danish Art Now



Exportable Goods – Danish Art Now | November 17th, 2006 – February 17th, 2007 | www.galerie-krinzinger.at/projekte/ | Curated by Severin Dünser.

Carlsberg, Lego and Bang & Olufsen are what comes to mind when Danish exports are the topic. This is quite remarkable already considering the size of this Nordic kingdom with about 6 million permanent citizens. There is also Arla foods, whose butter had been boycotted some time ago because of another Danish export, the now-infamous Muhammad cartoons. But there is more to Denmark than bad taste. Now there are also names such as Superflex, Rasmus Bjørn and Jesper Just to be included in the list.

Denmark is an architecture and design rather than an art nation, with household names such as Jørn Utzon, designer of the Sidney Opera House, Verner Panton, designer of the still-very-hip Panton chair, or Poul Kjærholm, an uncompromising advocate of solid crafts, good materials and intelligent construction, who sold his furniture mostly to Americans and Japanese while his compatriots were questioning if it wouldn’t be better to make it all in PVC.

Pia Rönicke, The Zone, 2005, 22:40 minutes, DVD. Courtesy: Andersen S Contemporary. Photo: Krinzinger Projekte.

Only 5 years ago something like an art gallery was a rare sight to be spotted in Copenhagen. All at once there is now a demand for domestic art, reason enough for a very contemporary art scene to thrive. Yet there is no area which could be called a gallery district. But it would not be Denmark if the government would not take care of any unmet needs, and so a new government-initiated art district is in the making.

In a scene as jaded as the contemporary art scene in most places these days, the Danish look a bit fresher. Superflex, a Copenhagen-based collaborative of three, show a neatly laid out table with ingredients and equipment for home beer brewing (Free Beer, Superflex, 2005). Perhaps a statement in the vein of open source computer software such as Linux, or an antithesis to Carlsberg , which only competes with Heineken and Bud for world dominance, or perhaps just a statement that the Danes like beer.

Video artist Jesper Just, whose Something to Love (2005) is on view, has been exhibiting intensely in the last few years on both sides of the Atlantic, including a solo exhibition at the Stedelijk in Amsterdam. A series of works captured in 16 mm film exploits a rather neglected topic in contemporary art – gender-mainstreamed identity politics. Just’s silent but emotionally tense Something to Love questions the traditional role of the Hollywood male, suggesting that it is okay for men to betray inner emotions and that, sometimes, boys cry, too.

Many works here are directly influenced by architecture and design: For instance, Rasmus Bjørn’s Goldie (2005), a baseball cap and bat adorned with pseudeo-commercial brand logos; Hein Jeppe’s neon hanging lamp; Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset’s trolleys Coupled #1 (2002), which had been rendered dysfunctional by being joined together; and California-educated Pia Rönicke’s The Zone (2005), which features three young architects repeating some of the most abused buzzwords in the field of city planning, exposing how Danish architectural practice has plunged into use of thoroughly void Modernist clichés.

Form doesn’t always follow function, but here it is all too tempered. Nothing here is meant to challenge, provoke or offend. Since the infamous cartoons, the Danish pride in freedom of expression seems to have been bruised, or as the Danish writer Poul Borum said, ‘ Art is for everybody, but not everybody knows it.’  And in the end, even the insightful socio-institutional critique provided by something like Elmgreen & Dragset’s dysfunctional trolleys is ultimately just another lucrative export.

* This article originally appeared in the Contemporary magazine issue no. 92 in 2007.

Cameron Jamie’s Drawing

Cameron Jamie: Suburban Apocalypse as Theater

David Bowie said he decided to become a rock star in order to leave his native suburban neighborhood. Matt Groening became a cartoon star by turning his suburbia experience into The Simpsons. Once standing for the utopia of a peaceful life, it has become the site of a zombie apocalypse (witness the comedy film Shaun of the Dead (2004)). Now Cameron Jamie’s observations on suburban desperation make for good theater also in contemporary art.

Since his international breakthrough in the exhibition Let’s Entertain (Au-délá du spectacle) at Centre Pompidou, Paris in 2000, an array of his works has been under review by some of the major art venues back home. His video works Spook House (1997-2000), BB(2000), Kranky Klaus(2002-3) and more recently JO (2004), featuring music by Japanese musician Keiji Haino, are on view at this year’s version of the Whitney Biennial under the banner title ‘Day for Night’(through May 28th). The Wrong Gallery – a prankish exhibition project launched by curators Maurizio Cattelan, Massimiliano Gioni and Ali Subotnick, who also organized the 2006 edition of the Berlin Biennale 4, includes Cameron Jamie in its talent roster. Now his most comprehensive solo show in America is to be mounted this summer (July 16th-October 18th) at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

Cameron Jamie was a suburban kid trapped in a sleepy working-class neighborhood in southern California. He describes his childhood in his hometown, San Fernando Valley, as something like a mental confinement. Thanks to the Northridge earthquake, he was able to escape from suburbia in 1994, eventually into Paris, France, ‘the city’ of culture and sophistication and surely a nice place to work on clearing his suburban childhood backlog. But then dreary suburbia is everywhere, even in Paris.

There are backyard wrestlers, Austrian mountainfolk in their traditional pre–Christmas „Perchten“ dance and French Neo-Nazis as seen through the eyes of a home video ethnographer in search of the odd. Primitive are the others, we learn from Cameron Jamie, and they are now no longer in remote continents, as was the case with 19th century colonialists, but in our own backyard. While the likes of Picasso found the ‘primitive’ an inspiration for artistic renewal, here we get to see oddities mainly for their oddity-value, and one of them is Jamie himself: in his self-portrayal video The New Life (1996), the artist disguises himself as a wrestler dressed in long Johns and a self-made mask and engages in some clumsy two-some action with a Michael Jackson look-alike.

Cameron Jamie’s drawings are self-portraits to his statement that his “inside had died and what had been buried come out as zombies.” He doesn´t do all of his zombie drawings by himself though. In the Maps and Composite Actions series, produced in 2003, he collaborated with Dutch graphic artist Erik Wielaert, who illustrated scenes which have been vocally described by the artist. Dressed up as Dracula with a large comforter, he is depicted as a lonesome poseur in a large black cape and white socks in a bizarre LA taxi scene. In Composite Action 2, Dracula is roaming in the suburban night street on a white horse, perhaps inspired by horrid images of Rip Van Winkle in The Legend of the Sleepy Hollow. Composite Action 3 depicts a scene in a 24-hour supermarket, where the artist enters as a limping hunchback Dracula and spooks late evening shoppers.

His drawings are linked to his videos and performances. Inspired by images of goats, devil masks, and spilt gut, there are remote resemblances to the Graffiti Art of Jean-Michel Basquiat, the expressive scribbles by Art Brut master Jean Dubuffet, or occasionally to Cy Twombly. Some of more recent drawings from 2004-2005 have taken on more in the manner of stream-of-consciousness sketches consisting of thin continuous lines with no distinguishable beginning or end. Doodles used to be preparatory scribbles for the creative mind. But for Jamie drawings are annotations to his videotapes that suburbs are indeed odd and folk rituals are primitive.

*This article originally appeared in Contemporary21 no. 83 (Special issue on Drawing, 2006).

Mozart Frenzy in Vienna 2006

Vienna News

Angus Fairhurst, The Problem with Banana Skins, Divided Inverted, 1998, Polyurethanobjekt, 7 x 36 x 36 cm Photo: EVN Collection, Maria Enzersdorf.

“Everything stays better (Alles bleibt besser),” promises the current chancellor who is running for his third term in the national election this October – A fitting slogan for the Austrian angst of anything that might change and an illustration for something that has changed, albeit in a frog-in-a-slowly-heated-up-pot manner, especially concerning art.

In the meanwhile, on Tuchlauben, Vienna’s elegant street in the city center, a taste of bitterness lingers at Bawag Foundation’s “Nothing but Pleasure” show, examining absurdity and irony from its contemporary collections, as if it is a metaphor for the recent Worker’s Union-owned Bawag Bank scandal which will eventually end in the Bank’s liquidation.

This summer, the Culture Minister, after years of haggling, did let go of Nazi-looted art by Gustav Klimt to the niece of Adele Bloch-Bauer after a dictum by an American court. In the face of losing a pre-eminent cultural treasure that once shaped the zeitgeist of the Modernist era, the Austrian public showed nonchalance. There was more sympathy with the Saliera, or rather with its snatcher, who took the treasure out of the Kunsthistorisches Museum three years ago without the annoying hindrance of an alarm or security guards and the help of a convenient scaffolding. Right next to it, on Heldenplatz, the most obvious installation this year was an oversized “Mozartkugel “, a chocolate ball respected by tourists and locals alike, a fitting sight to celebrate the Mozart-year – besides Amadeus salmon, Mozart yoghurt drinks, and Mozart sausages.

Although, or because, art dealers and city-run museums as well as artists are left on their own devices since 2000, when umbrella for state-patronage was removed, some of the Viennese contemporary galleries on Seilerstätte and Schleifmühlgasse have recently been the most aggressive promoters at major international art fairs. Austria showed off 22 contemporary galleries at ARCO ‘06 in February. The Viennafair 2006, sponsored by Erste Bank (a newcomer in the Austrian corporate art collection), took place this April with an emphasis on Eastern European art and an unprecedented power-selling attitude. 20 days in September and October will see the launch of the brand new “Vienna Biennale,” a slightly misleading title as it will take the shape of a fairground for young artists rather than of a thematic biennale.

Exhibition Recommendations:
Kunsthalle Wien, Paraflows 06 – Annual Convention for Digital Art and Culture in Vienna, September 9-16th,  HYPERLINK “http://www.paraflows.at/” http://www.paraflows.at/ shows current digital creativity and state of net culture through local and international projects at various Viennese art spaces.

Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien(MUMOK), Joseph Beuys from the MUMOK Collection, August 4th-October 29th,  HYPERLINK “http://www.mumok.at/” http://www.mumok.at/ Marking the 20th anniversary of the death of Joseph Beuys, Vienna’s MUMOK is showing previously never shown drawings and sculptures which had been done for his various exhibitions in Vienna during the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Generali Foundation, …Concept Has Never Meant Horse, September 15th-December 17th,  HYPERLINK “http://foundation.generali.at/” http://foundation.generali.at/ Titled from a quote by Daniel Buren, the exhibition presents socio-politically focused conceptual works from the 1960-70’s from its collection.

Francesca von Habsburg and T-B A21

Francesca von Habsburg and T-B A21(Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Space in Progress)

Art collecting has throughout history been an exclusive pastime for aristocrats and the wealthy. After World War II in Austria, the new social democratic government took over this role, creating a climate of relative liberalism in which most art projects were supported by the federal government. Since the takeover of the conservative-right wing coalition in 2000 and the forces of the free market which accompanied this, an increasing number of museums and public galleries have complained of being starved of funding.

In this situation it appears to have been a logical move for Francesca von Habsburg, wife of the grandson of the last Austro-Hungarian monarch Franz Joseph II, to have chosen Vienna once again as a location of aristocratic collecting. To paraphrase Hans Christian Andersen, the empress got a new dress, and it’s name was T-B A21. The heritage of art collecting in Francesca von Habsburg’s family begun with the legacy of her grandfather Heinrich Thyssen, an ardent collector of 17th and 18th century old masters and her father Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, a Forbes list billionaire, who built up the world’s second largest private art collection, which is now installed in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid.

Francesca von Habsburg is now expanding on this family tradition, utilizing qualities that are scarce in a scene dominated by the interests of politics and the free market: audacity, taste, and, of course, means. Unlike her ancestors though, she follows a distinctively more contemporary style. Located on the prestigious Himmelpfortgasse, near Seilerstatte in the city center, an area tightly packed with government administrative offices and home to several well-established Viennese commercial galleries, at a first glance T-B A21 exudes an air of understatement considering its collection of some 400 contemporary art works by dozens of international artists.

“I have come from an extremely traditional view on collecting based on the generations before me and what my father achieved,” Habsburg states. For her and the Thyssen family before her, an art collection is about the collector’s vision, not just about individual art works. She collects works by both established and emerging artists whom she values as those that will stand the test of time and testimony for many years to come. In order to achieve that, she commissions new works or projects in the context of TB-A21-organized exhibitions rather than buying individual works that have been already widely publicized.

T-B A21 is now arguably the most noteworthy private collections with a contemporary and conceptual focus in Austria, comparable only to the insurance-owned Generali Foundation and the BAWAG Foundation, which is run by one of the largest banks in the country. Also, in Vienna most public art institutions and projects are government funded, and thus are heavily influenced by their policies. T-B A21 however has clearly set out to be an important private patron with a bureaucratic upper hand. For example, the spectacular installations comprised of heaps of rubbish and construction materials by John Bock and Christoph Schlingensief which were displayed last summer, had they been in normal museums or commercial galleries, could have had faced with much difficulty convincing Austria’s notoriously rigid Building Regulation Authority (known as the Baupolizei) for safety reasons.

On the 20th of April, 2004, T-B A21 launched its official opening with an audio-based installation exhibition by Canadian, Berlin-based multi-media artist Janet Cardiff. Since then, it has mounted some of the most experimental contemporary art shows in Vienna. Puppets were a familiar sight last summer with Dan Graham, Tony Oursler and Rodney Graham’s puppet rock-opera Don’t Trust Anyone over Thirty (2005) which was commissioned by T-B A21 and presented at the annual Vienna Festival. The accompanying show at T-B A21, ‘Puppets and Heavenly Creatures,’ exhibited works by these artists as well as Paul McCarthy, John Bock and Jason Rhoades. Recently in Deseos Fluidos – Brazilian and Cuban Perspectives between Reality and Fantasy Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto showed his Humanoídes (2001), figurine sculptures made of Lycra and Styrofoam that visitors were invited to inhabit and explore. Deseos Fluidos was a colorful and creative potpourri with a distinctively sun-drenched and ironic quality, providing a much needed artistic antidepressant, especially during Vienna’s dreary winter days. While Brazilian Rivane Neuenschwander showed an unpretentious installation with colored tape and balls, perhaps the most outstanding and humourous piece was Portaviones (2005), a swimming pool which had been converted into a battleship (or maybe vice versa), by Cuban artist group Los Carpinteros.

Art in T-B A21 is also tailor-made on imperial order as the gallery likes to commission works from hip artists. For example, in March last year, Germany’s rising star Jonathan Meese staged a multi-tech opera performance at the Unter den Linden State Opera House in Berlin. Christoph Schlingensief also showed the spooky installation Animatograph (2005) and will move his blankets and slide projectors to both Neuhadenberg and Namibia. Olafur Eliasson presented his conceptual installation Your Black Horizon (2005) at the temporary pavilion designed by David Adjaye at the Venice Biennale and in December Candice Breitz exhibited her homage to Bob Marley. From April to July this year Kutlug Ataman will present his 40 channel video installation Küba (2005-6), on an artistic river cruise from Istanbul to Vienna, certainly a timely piece considering that Vienna last summer was full of right-wing election propaganda and slogans such as ‘Vienna must not become Istanbul.’

T-B A21 labels itself as a space for the contemporary. But the new today is old news tomorrow, and some of the better pieces in Francesca’s collection might well manage to join the family collection in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemizsa in Madrid.  ‘Look at the Emperor’s new clothes. They’re beautiful!’ people clamored in Andersen’s tale. Francesca’s gallery is really beautiful, and colorful at that.

* This article originally appeared in Contemporary 21 Special Issue on Collections no.80 in 2006.’

그리스 아테네 현대 미술의 심장부로



2004년 아트 아티나 (Art Athina) 미술 페어 행사장 모습. Photo courtesy: Art Athina.

8월의 마지막 2주일간을 뜨겁게 달구면서 전세계인들의 이목을 한곳으로 집중시켰던 제28회 아네테 올림픽이 벌어지고 있는 동안, 서양 문명의 발상지이자 올림픽 경기의 종주지 아테네시에서는 미술의 올림픽 경기라 해도 좋을 만큼 야심찬 예술 행사가 나란히 열리고 있었다.

찬란한 고대 문명과 문물이 한껏 꽃피웠던 고대 그리스. 수도 아테네가 자리하고 있는 아테네 섬 말고도 14개의 섬 무리로 구성되어 있는 그리스는 화창한 날씨와 느긋한 여가를 즐기러 오는 휴가철 여행객들의 천국인 것은 분명하다. 하지만 이 나라에도 주목할 만한 현대 미술계가 있었던가?

중세 초기 비잔틴 문화에 이어 중세부터 20세기 초까지 이슬람권인 오스만투르크의 오랜 지배와 20세기 전반기에 걸쳐 이어진 발칸전쟁과 테오도로스 판갈로스의 독재정권으로 혼란과 지체를 경험했던 역사적 특성 때문에 이웃 서북부 유럽에서 한창 전개되었던 20세기 근대화 물결에 동참하지 못했다.

덕분에 그리스는 근대기 유럽에서 온 국제 양식에서 영향을 받은 그리스 전형의 근대주의 미술을 채 발전시킬 정치적, 경제적, 사회적 여유를 갖지 못했다. 오늘날 미술계 전문가들이 20세기 이후의 그리스 미술을 논할 때 그리스를 기독교적 개념상의 유럽권으로 포함시켜야 할지 아니면 동유럽 동남쪽에 자리한 ‘유럽의 화약고’ 발칸 지방으로 포함시켜야 할지 고민하는 것도 바로 그 같은 역사적 이유 때문이다. 그 결과 지난 반세기 동안 현대 미술 또한 뚜렷한 정체성이나 주목할 만한 특성을 구축하지 못한 채로 표류해오고 있었다는 미술계의 평가가 고작이었다.

그러나 그리스에도 현대 미술계는 분명 존재한다. 아직 파릇파릇하고 여린 연녹색 들풀에 비유할 수 있을까. 그리스 미술계는 변화와 발전의 기운으로 꿈틀대고 있으며 새로운 아이디어와 수완을 갖추고 현대 미술가를 발굴하고 매매하는 신세대 화랑업자들이 속속 등장하고 있다. 그리스는 자국의 독자적인 화랑업계 장려를 목표로 지난 1993년부터 아트 아티나 (Art Athina)라는 연례 미술 박람회를 주최하여 현대 미술의 대중적 보급과 인식 확산에 노력을 기울였다.


아테네 중심부에 자리하고 있는 베르니에 엘리아데스 화랑(The Bernier / Eliades Gallery)은 1977년에 설립된 이래 현재는 현대미술 분야에서 활발한 활동을 벌이고 있다. Photo courtesy: The Bernier / Eliades Gallery, Athens, Greece.

올 2004년 행사에는 전세계에서 찾아온 71개 사설 화랑들이 참여해 아테네 도시를 북적거리게 했다. 올 초 스페인 아르코 (ARCO) 현대 미술 박람회에서도 그리스의 2004 하계 올림픽 주최를 축하하는 의미에서 최근 아테네를 비롯한 그리스 여러 도시 곳곳에서 하나둘씩 문을 열기 시작한 신진 화랑들을 대대적으로 홍보했다.

이 행사를 통해서 아직까지 그리스의 현대 미술계에 대해 잘 모르고 있던 미술계 관계자들과 언론들은 그동안 그리스의 대표적인 사설 화랑, 아트 딜러, 현대 미술 전시장 등을 발굴하는 기회를 맞았다는 평가가 지배적이다.

아테네의 데스테 현대미술 컬렉션 (Deste Collection) 특히 글로벌주의를 표방하며 그리스 현대 미술계의 총아로 떠오르고 있는 다키스 조아누 (Dakis Joannu)는 ‘그리스의 현대 미술 슈퍼 컬렉터’라는 별명으로 불린다. 미술 관련 언론계에서 다키스 조아누라는 이름은 숨은 관심거리로 잔뜩 주목을 받고 있다. 미국에 화장품업계의 거물 로널드 로더 (Ronald Lauder), 마이크로소프트사의 빌 게이츠 (Bill Gates), 음반업계의 데이비드 게펜 (David Geffen), 영국에 거물급 광고대행업체의 공동 소유자 찰스 사치(Charles Saatchi), 스위스에 엠마누엘 호프만 (Emmanuel Hoffmann)과 에른스트 바이얼러 (Ernst Beyeler)가 있다면 그리스에는 다키스 조아누가 있다고 자랑할 만큼 그가 그리스 현대 미술계에서 점하고 있는 위치는 자못 의미심장하다.

여타 국제적으로 널리 알려진 구미권 미술 컬렉터들의 경우와 달리 거부의 사업가라고만 알려져 있는 현대 미술 컬렉터 다키스 조아누의 정체는 어딘지 모르게 신비로운 구석이 있다. 전시회 오프닝 행사나 기자회견에서 간단한 인사 연설을 하거나 주요 국제 현대 미술 박람회가 열릴 때마다 수많은 참관객들 사이에 묻힌 채 잠시 잠깐 나타났다가 연기처럼 사라지곤 하는 조아누는 아테네와 스위스 제네바를 오가며 거주하고 있는 데다 웬만해서는 언론매체의 개인 인터뷰에 응하지 않는 것으로도 유명하다.


모뉴멘트 투 나우 (Monument to Now)』 展 (22/6/2004 – 06/03/2005)이 열리고 있는 데스테 재단 현대미술관 외관 모습.

하지만 컬렉터로서 다키스 조아누의 명성이 처음 국제 미술계에 알려지기 시작한 때는 벌써 지금으로부터 20년 전인 1983년, 조아누가 사업을 통해 벌어들인 막대한 부를 활용해서 사들인 현대 미술 작품들을 소장 관리하고 상설 전시하는 현대 미술관인 데스테 재단 현대 미술관 (DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art  – 데스테란 그리스어 동사로 ‘보다 (to see)’라는 의미)을 설립하면서부터였다.

그러나 데스테 현대 미술관이 본격적으로 미술계의 관심을 끌기 시작한 것은 본래 있던 자리를 떠나 아테네시에서 최근 들어 급부상하고 있는 네오이오니아 (Neo Ionia)라는 트렌디한 상업구역에 옛 제지공장 창고를 뉴욕 건축가인 크리스찬 휴버트 (Christian Hubert)의 설계로 개조한 후 1998년 재개관하면서부터였다.

넉넉한 사유재산이 허락한 덕분에 조아누는 전세계적으로 지명도 높은 스타급 현대 미술 큐레이터들을 연이어 초청, 특별전시 기획을 통해서 자신이 그동안 수집해온 미술품들을 다각도로 해석하고 조명하는 전시회를 열어왔다. 니코스 차라람비디스는 이곳에 작품이 소장되어 있는 그리스 출신 현대 미술가이며, 최근 구미 현대 미술계에서 독보적인 위치를 점령한 미국 출신 행위미술가 매튜 바니 (Matthew Barney)는 지난 1998년에 이곳 데스테 현대 미술관을 통해 그리스 관객들에게 소개된 바 있다. 여성 현대 사진작가 피필로티 리스트 (Pipilotti Rist), 공상과학 만화를 모티브로 한 자화상 사진 작품으로 국제 미술 시장에서 주가를 올린 일본의 마리코 모리 등도 90년대 말 뉴욕, 런던, 도쿄 등 국제 미술 중심지에 이어 아테네를 거쳐갔다.

올해 데스테 재단 현대 미술관에서 아테네 올림픽 경기가 벌어지는 시기와 조율하여 ‘아테네 2004 문화’ 연합 이벤트의 일환으로 기획 전시 중(12월31일까지 계속)인 <모뉴먼트 투 나우(Monument to Now)> 展은 올해 그리스가 주최한 올림픽 경기 못지않게 화제를 불러일으킨 행사로 회자되고 있다.


마이크 켈리 (MIKE KELLEY) 작 Brown Star, 1991년, Stuffed animals, steel, strings. Photo courtesy: DESTE Foundation, Athens, Greece.

◈ 『모뉴멘트 투 나우 (Monument to Now)』 展: 그리스 방문객이라면 아테네 데스테 재단 현대 미술관이 선보이는 『모뉴멘트 투 나우』 展을 통해서 그리스 현대 미술계의 미래를 점쳐볼 수 있을 것이다.

이 전시는 요즘 전세계 곳곳에서 2년마다 거행되는 대규모 국제 미술 비엔날레를 뺨칠 만큼 작가들의 지명도, 작품 수준, 그리고 행사의 규모 면에서 컬렉터 다키스 조아누의 안목과 야심이 돋보이는 블록버스터급이다.

우선 이 전시를 기획한 큐레이터진만 봐도 그렇다. 뉴욕 뉴 뮤지엄의 큐레이터 댄 캐머런, 파리 퐁피두 센터 큐레이터 앨리스 진저라스, 이탈리아의 마시밀리아노 조니, 구겐하임의 낸시 스펙터, 그리고 뉴욕에서 온 화랑 딜러 제프리 다이치 이렇게 5인의 초호화판 기획진만으로도 데스테의 이번 『모뉴멘트 투 나우』 展이 현대 미술의 올림픽을 겨냥하고 있음을 충분히 짐작케 해준다.

나체 여성 모델들의 퍼포먼스 사진으로 유명한 바네사 비크로프트 (Vanessa Beecroft), 중국의 슈퍼스타 카이 구오-키양 (Cai Guo-Qiang), 논쟁성 짙은 설치물로 각광받는 마우리치오 카텔란 (Maurizio Cattelan), 아이슬랜드의 올라푸르 엘리아손 (Olafur Eliasson), 남아공의 양심을 미술로 표현하는 윌리엄 켄드리지 (William Kendridge), 악동 영 브리티시 아티스트 대미언 허스트 (Damien Hirst)와 크리스 오필리 (Chris Ofili), 일본의 슈퍼스타 다카시 무라카미 (Takashi Murakami), 아랍권 여성과 문화를 사진으로 논평하는 이란의 시린 네샷 (Shirin Neshat) 등은 이번 전시에서 선보이고 있는 현대 미술의 대명사급 작가들.

작가들이 표방하고 있는 각기 색다르고 다양한 국적, 문화적 배경, 주제, 매체 등 어느 모로 보나 요즘 우리가 살고 있는 글로벌 시대를 한 전시로 압축해놓고 있다고 해도 좋을 것이다. 지난 10여 년간의 현대 문화 특성을 교배 (Cross-Fertilization) 또는 혼성(Hybrid)이라고 본 아테네 사업가 다키스 조아누의 지적은 그의 이번 소장품 전시회가 잘 대변해주고 있다.

* 이 글은 본래 NOBLESSE 2004년 10월호 124페이지에 실렸던 글을 다시 게재하는 것임을 밝혀둡니다.


Vienna and Body Art

Vienna News

« John Baldessari, “I am Making Art”, black and white video, 1971.

The body is the all-time favourite hit theme in Vienna. Vienna, arguably, being the cradle of post-war Europe body art and performance responsible for Fluxus movement, exhibitions dedicated to Wiener Aktionismus, or Viennese Actionism were widely in evidence. Hermann Nitsch, whose historical St. Marx performance orgy of blood and dead animals in the 1960s, had his retrospective show at Essl Collection (until 11 January). Günter Brus, another pillar figure for this movement whose works marked by self-inflicted injury and brutality to the extreme, had his first Retrospective at Albertina (7 November – 8 February). Another Actionist and founder of utopian artists community Friedrichshof Commune, Otto Muehl undisclosed painting works since his gestural action of destroying easel canvases in 1962 (Otto Muehl. Life, Art, Work – Action Utopia Painting 1960-2004 at MAK,).

Today, Vienna is clearly moved away from the radicalism of the 1960s and the 1970s. The fourth sequence of the five-part ‘Performative Installation’ Body Display: Body and Economy at the Secession, for one, puts the question of body and matter of money in a contemporary on-stage context. John Bock’s inexpensively-constructed installation, adorned with sex toys and disjointed limbs and torsos of dolls, is a metaphor of bodies helplessly exposed to vulnerability. The gap between artist´s aspirations and realities becomes once again visible in the display of Austrian Svetlana Heger’s body, transformed into an advertising billboard for luxury brands.

That bodies Speak has been known for a long Time – indeed, and exactly with that title Dass die Körper sprechen, auch das wissen wir seit langem, an exhibition at Generali Foundation examined the theme with 23 artists. In Kunsthalle Wien, one finds St. Sebastian : A Splendid Readiness for Death, an enlightening exhibition on the representation of the arrow-punctured Catholic gay martyr and patron saint of plague and AIDS, surveying the aesthetics of sado-masochism, physical torment, and death. Within all these displays of flesh and blood, Innocy, a cuddly monster made by Japanese artist Shintaro Miyake (Krinzinger Projekte), earned sympathy when he made a surprise appearance cum performance at Vienna’s traditional Café Prückl, the favorite café of art students, right next to MAK, where director Peter Noever continued his blame game against the government for freezing his budget.

Arts Secretary Franz Morak for his part invited criticism from the artists’ community with a newly proposed social security plan that would result in reduced benefit, particularly for artists with low level of output. Not all is lost, though, as Vienna’s City Cultural Council boasted that it secured its annual funding of €1.2 million at hand for disposal to initiate a public arts project called Kunst für öffenlichen Raum, (Art for Public Space, that is). Also financially troubled Künstlerhaus, whose entrance door remained shut since last October(after its last show Abstract Now), said it will resume its contemporary arts exhibitions from April. In the meanwhile, Viennese galleries are anticipating a radically new version of KunstWien art fair from the year 2005 (prospective fair days are 20-24 April). Ths annual art fair of regional scale suffered drastic fall in attendance and sales as the event dates collided with London’s new Frieze Fair.


Eva Hesse: Transformations, Kunsthalle Wien in Museumsquartier, 5 March – 23 May 2004. ‘The Sojourn in Germany 1964/65’ – so goes and subtitle of the show, and it will feature over 60 drawings, collages, gouaches, and reliefs as well as sculptures Hesse produced during her one year stay in Kettwig(near Essen), Germany, where the artist presumably had an impetus to move on to minimalistic tendencies. Also included in the exhibition are personal documents such as calendar notes and travel diaries to catch a glimpse at the artist’s inner conflicts and developments.

From the Pages of My Diary, Atelier Augarten Zentrum für zeitgenössische Kunst der Österreichen Galerie Belvedere, From 20 February and onward. This on-line arts project initiated by Atelier Augarten, contemporary exhibitions center within Austria’s National Galerie Belvedere, presents the works of various artists of the moment in series throughout this year. Featuring artists include: Christy Astuy, Tatiana Bazzichelli, Betty Bee, Roberto Cascone, E.G.Ø, Frank Gassner, Marcus Geiger & Marcus Geiger, Gelatin, Francesco Impellizeri, Lucia Leuci, Marko Lulic, Ezia Mitolo, Vegetali Ignoti, Erwin Wurm. www.casaluce-geiger.net

Art & Rebellion (Viennese Actionism Archive), MUMOK (Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien), MUMOK Factory, 12 February – 25 April 2004. As any serious museums and private collections in Vienna, MUMOK in Museumsquartier holds a comprehensive Viennese Actionism collection and auxiliary documents which has been put to permanent show since last summer. This show features archived documents, including photos, original manuscripts, notes, personal sketches and publications obtained from recent purchase (Friedrichshof Collection) and gifts from artists (Günter Brus and Hermann Nitsch).

* This article originally appeared in the Contemporary magazine issue no. 62 in 2004.

John Baldessari, I Am Making Art, 1971, videostill, Generali Foundation Collection, Vienna, © Generali Foundation.