International conference Elective Affinities. German Art Since the Late 1960s
With the final days of the exhibition “Elective Affinities. German Art Since the Late 1960s” approaching, on 18 and 19 August 2016 the Latvian National Museum of Art in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut Riga is organizing an international conference where various art experts, critics, collectors and artists from Latvia and Germany will participate. Conference venue: Goethe-Institut Riga, 1 Torņa Street (entrance from Klostera Street).
Until the 21st August, the ARSENĀLS Exhibition Hall of the Latvian National Museum of Art (1 Torņa Street, Riga) offers an impressive exhibition Elective Affinities. German Art Since the Late 1960s, which presents the work of 53 artists – one of the most prominent players of the art scene during the second half of the 20th century and the 21st century. Notable creative personalities include such masters as Georg Baselitz, Joseph Beuys and Anselm Kiefer, as well as the talents of the new generation – Alicja Kwade, Philipp Fürhofer, Bettina Pousttchi, Jorinde Voigt and others.
The curator Mark Gisbourne created the 77-piece selection by getting to know 45 different collections – collections of German galleries and museums, as well as several private collections in Germany, Switzerland, USA, and Israel. The exhibition panorama includes paintings, drawings, sculpture, photography, video installations and other examples of conceptual art. This is the first German contemporary visual arts retrospection of such large scale in Riga, which introduces with the most important tendencies and occurrences and characterizes the German art in the period from the 1960s till now.
For two days – 18 and 19 August – in Goethe-Institut Riga three panel discussions related to the exhibition will take place. Experts in the field will actualize the most important questions and problems that were brought up during the project. The curator Mark Gisbourne intends to structure this event as a conversational platform, which would allow a closer inspection of the global and local political, economic, social, technological, and cultural processes through the example of German art.
“Latvia has enough specialists who have a superior knowledge on the German contemporary art movements and trends, and who themselves are a part of these processes because Germany, especially Berlin, has become home for several Latvian artists and curators. Of course, art enthusiasts in Latvia can visit contemporary art exhibitions representing the actualities of German cultural life relatively rarely. Elective Affinities is an event that requires more explanation and contextualization because the range of subjects represented in the exhibition allows diverse and ambiguous interpretations, thereby contributing to the desire and need for a more detailed, objective and analytical insight into German art history and the contemporary art scene not only in Germany but also outside its borders,” says project manager, art scholar and curator Astrida Rogule.
Thanks to the support of the Goethe-Institut Riga and the exhibition sponsor Forta Medical Ltd. among the participants of the conference will be Latvian artists, art scientists and collectors – Jānis Borgs, Inese Baranovska, Astrīda Rogule, Prof. Jānis Taurens, Kaspars Vanags and Jānis Zuzāns, as well as German artists, curators, critics and art scene organizers – sculptor Prof. Christiane Möbus, whose works can be viewed in the show, the director of the Karl Hofer Foundation Dr. Sabine Ziegenrücker, art critic and curator Mark Gisbourne, exhibition centre Das Haus am Lützowplatz, Fördererkreis Kulturzentrum Berlin e.V. artistic director Marc Wellmann, Künstlerhaus Bethanien artistic director Christoph Tannert and gallerist Volker Diehl.
During the first part of each panel discussion the moderator will give a short insight in the discussion theme which will be followed by the commentary of each participant and opinion exchange. The reading and conversations will be conducted in German, Latvian and English. The conference will provide simultaneous translation into Latvian.
All interested parties are welcome to the Goethe-Institut conference!
The Redeeming Role of Art in the Making of Modern German) (the 60s and 70s)
Die erlösende Rolle der Kunst in der Entstehung des modernen Deutschland (die 1960er und 1970er Jahre)
Dr. Marc Wellmann, Creative Director of the Exhibition Centre Das Haus am Lützowplatz, Fördererkreis Kulturzentrum Berlin e.V., participant moderator;
Astrīda Rogule, art historian and curator, Senior Curator of the Contemporary Art Collection at the Latvian National Museum of Art, Assistant Professor of Latvian Academy of Culture, Project Curator for Elective Affinities. German Art Since the Late 1960s;
Prof. Christiane Möbus, sculptor and object artist, ex-Senior Head of Sculpture, Universität der Künste, Berlin;
Prof. Jānis Taurens, philosopher and researcher, Associate Professor of the Art Academy of Latvia
Each panellist will give a brief personal reflection on the subject and address the significant transition that German art made from the late 1960s onwards, that is considering it in the context of the post-Adenauer (Konrad Adenauer, Chancellor, 1949–1963) years in West Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland) and East Germany (from the later Walther Ulbricht into the Erich Honecker years, First General Secretaries of the Central Committee, (SED), Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR)).
The focus is on the role played by art and its cultural practices in the re-establishment and forging of a new sense of German identity. The panellists might consider the contrast between the New Left in West Germany (the Frankfurt School, Adorno, Marcuse, Horkheimer, Benjamin, Habermas, et al.), and the Stalinist and Post-Stalinist Communist Party Leftism of the DDR. What were the consequences of 1968 in Germany and Europe, the Baader Meinhof and Red Army Factions, the rise of Green Party and the Ecology Movement, etc.?
If these were the issues served as the background of what were the changes in aims and practices in the contemporary art movements of the time, for example the new provocative expressionist tendencies, the use of new and radical material approaches (Beuys), the gradual abandonment of post-war ‘informel’ and the passing of post-war phenomenological tendencies (the Zero Group, Düsseldorf, 1958–1966), the consequences of Fluxus and the newer expressive forms of figurative art (painting) that dealt directly with recent German history (Baselitz, Schönebeck, Lüpertz and Kiefer, et al., made evident in the historical points of departure for Elective Affinities. German Art Since the Late 1960s.
The Internationalisation of German Art (1980s 'The Kohl Years')
Die Internationalisierung der deutschen Kunst (1980er Jahre, die ‘Kohl-Jahre’)
Christoph Tannert (Berlin), curator and critic writer, Creative Director of the Künstlerhaus Bethanien, participant moderator;
Jānis Borgs, art historian, critic and curator, former Director of the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art;
Inese Baranovska, art historian, critic and curator, Head of the Museum of Decorative Art and Design, lecturer on Contemporary Arts at the Art Academy of Latvia;
Dr. Sabine Ziegenrücker (Berlin), art historian and critic, Director of the Karl Hofer Stiftung
Each panellist will give a brief personal reflection on the subject matter and address the significant transition that German art made through the 1980s and into the 1990s, in what is commonly called ‘The Kohl Years’. One might consider the advent of the ‘Greens’ as an established Party Parliamentary Party in the Bundesrepublik (1980), and the shift to the right with the election of Helmut Kohl (1982), the same year as the controversial and successful Zeitgeist exhibition at Martin-Gropius-Bau, in Berlin.
The late 1970s and 1980s saw large scale cultural expansion policies of building an increased number of autonomous West German Modern and Contemporary Art Museums (Abteiburg, Mönchen Gladbach; Kunstmuseum and Kunsthalle, Bonn; Neue Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart; ZKM, Karlsruhe; Neue Pinakothek and Pinakothek der Moderne, (eventually 2002), Munich; Schirn Kunsthalle, the Museum für Moderne Kunst, and Museum für angewandte Kunst, in Frankfurt; Sprengel Museum, Hannover; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; K20 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Grabbeplatz often called ‘Schmalanbach’s Mausoleum’, Düsseldorf; and several others) added to this there was an increasing commercial success of German artists internationally, with a particular emphasis placed on and between Cologne / Düsseldorf (then the main German art centres of contemporary art) and New York, USA. Allied to this was an open and active policy of cultural support by the German Federal State (often through the auspices of the Goethe Institute) as part of an international promotion of German art, and increasingly so from the end of the 1970s through the 1980s to the mid-1990s. After the Berlin Wall came down and re-unification of the Two Germanies took place, the emphasis gradually began to move eastwards towards Berlin, and later still to cities like Dresden and Leipzig.
Was there a takeover and therefore something of a displaced history as regards our understanding of the former art practices of the DDR, and what was the status of the former art centres of East Germany (East Berlin, Dresden, Halle, and Leipzig) and is still a relevant question? This question may be addressed by Christoph Tannert whose exhibition Gegenstimmen: Kunst in der DDR, 1976–1989 (Voices of Dissent in the GDR 1976–1989), has opened at the Martin-Gropius-Bau, in Berlin (16 July – 26 September 2016).
Art Strategies within Post-Unification Germany (1990s through the Millennium to today)
Kunststrategien im vereinten Deutschland (1990er Jahre bis zur Jahrtausendwende)
Mark Gisbourne (Berlin), art critic and curator, Curator of the exhibition Elective Affinities. German Art Since the Late 1960s, participant moderator;
Jānis Zuzāns, entrepreneur, art patron and collector, member of the Tate Modern Russian and Eastern Europe Acquisitions Committee;
Volker Diehl (Berlin), owner of the Galerie Volker Diehl, specialising in Eastern European Art;
Christoph Tannert (Berlin), curator and critic writer, Creative Director of the Künstlerhaus Bethanien;
Kaspars Vanags, Riga and Berlin-based art curator, critic and culture-theoretician, Curator of the Latvian pavilion Armpit at the 56th Venice Biennale (2015), responsible for creative concepts for the future Latvian Museum of Contemporary Art, Head of ABLV Charitable Foundation Arts Programme
This will be an open debate with short statements by the participants as to the new directions in German art over the last twenty years. It will address issues like the re-orientation of the art world in Germany towards Berlin as the current dominant centre of German art making (if not art selling), certainly in scope of the number of contemporary art exhibitions annually that almost rival London in number. The role of the project space and the project concept will be discussed in the context of Berlin. The re-emergence of Dresden and Leipzig, particularly in terms of their respective art academies and influence over the last fifteen years.
The issue of large scale and franchised galleries that have increasingly come to dominate the international art market might be discussed. With new media how and in what ways is German art being mediated and assimilated today? Is there a return to an active engagement with culture and politics, and where can we place politics within contemporary art practices after the subjectivity of the dominant expressive subjectivities of 1980s and 1990s? Is there any future for a radical art practice today, when everything is so rapidly eviscerated and assimilated? As Hito Steyerl (a leading young artist, also present in the current Berlin Biennial) asks what is or can be the function of art in an age of disaster capitalism? Or / And are we passing through as contemporary theory has suggested to a new political art that is born of post-democracy?
Questions as to the former art practices of Ost-Deutschland and the possible reintegration of the West and East German Art should not be ignored.