The works on show range from an early painting by Georg Baselitz - "Ein Grüner zerrissen", 1968, not yet upside-down! - to our most recent acquisition, a group of works by Katharina Grosse of 2013.
Drawing on the breadth of the collection, the exhibition presents key aspects of recent and contemporary artistic practice, shedding light on the broad range of different media and techniques used to address a wealth of themes. There is art attacking the image of women, art asking existential questions and art questioning its very own raison d'être. The autonomy of colour is a theme as is the intuitive experience of light and space.
Visitors will find themselves drawn in and challenged in equal measure. Those who are willing to engage are richly rewarded. Each of the spaces allows viewers to experience the power of art to alter, sensitise or intensify their (self-) perception or body-awareness. We hope you'll enjoy the experience and guarantee a new insight or two.
* 1938 in Großbaselitz
In the late 1960s, Baselitz began literally turning his motifs upside down, thus ultimately reinforcing the autonomy of the artwork. In the series Remix (2005‒2007; loan of the "Freunde der Staatsgalerie", donated by the "Konrad-Kohlhammer-Stiftung" 2007) the mature artist entered into competition with himself. He declared his own works, for example the infamous Big Night in a Bucket, milestones of art history to which reference was obligatory.
* 1961 in Freiburg i. B.
In Grosse's work, colour condenses in everything from the balloon to the heap of earth to the canvas, spreads out in space, is unleashed. Within the canvas as well, the colour zones create new relationships to the (pictorial) space, thus challenging the viewer's perception.
* 1959 in Münster
Stadtbäumer's theme is the human body and its often alarming alienation. As in the sculptures on display here, for example, isolated extremities are depicted and oral orifices reveal uncanny inner life. Stadtbäumer's Red Arm (1989/90) shows every vein, every wrinkle, and is distinguished by an uncommon presence thanks to its colour. At the same time, its lifelike quality is belied by its presentation form, as if suspended from a meat hook.
* 1941 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA
Nauman's radical, multimedia-based œuvre revolves around the conditions ‒ and above all the hardships ‒ of human existence. Beginning with his series of eleven colour photographs (1966‒67), the (artist's own) body becomes the artwork. Again and again, Nauman explores the equivocality of language. This concern condenses in an Artist's Room featuring language games, holograms, anagrams, etc. Welcome (Shaking Hands) illustrates how quickly a gesture of mutual acceptance can turn into open aggression.
* 1955 in York, Pennsylvania, USA
As in Jungle (2005), Koons frequently devotes himself to popular figures from the history of art and culture, which he wrests from their familiar contexts. What are the seahorses, for example, doing next to nuclear physics professor Dr. Bruce Banner, who, following a lab accident with gamma rays, transforms into the green monster Hulk (seen here) whenever he is agitated or excited? They are swimming animals that test the boundaries of kitsch and aesthetic in the art context ‒ and are grounded again by a historical motif: a schematically illustrated coach.
* 1933 in New York City, USA; † 1996 ibid.
Flavin worked with indirect light, in which cases the luminaries themselves remain hidden from view, but also with direct light. The latter applies to the Flavin Artist's Room, where a short strawberry-coloured neon tube sits atop a long, light pink strip of light. Together they create a rosy glow that prickles and flatters and gently casts itself onto the floor. Surreal, or perhaps even ... sacral? Of course not! You can't miss the words "Mercury Lighting Products" on the sockets ‒ pure mass merchandise after all. As Flavin himself put it, "You see what you get" is the principle underlying his works.
* 1952 in Schwerte
Rosemarie Trockel devotes her attention tongue in cheek to stereotypes of Occidental femininity. In her "knitted paintings" she moreover explores a paradox of modern art: the material represents nothing but itself, but the narration does not end at the fabric's edge. In an ironic homage to Niele Toroni, whose trademarks are serial brushstrokes, she replaces the brush and canvas ‒ the sublime (masculine) artwork ‒ with ... knitwork. Here the feminine aesthetic satirizes the masculine as a cliché.
* 1939 in Dresden as Ralf Winkler
Penck's distinctive stick figures are his trademark. Again and again he addresses the relationship between the individual and society. His aim in doing so is the production of "standarts" ‒ the creation of a universal pictorial language. This leads to two-dimensional images which, as in Standart (1971), are covered with archaic signs. The theme of (the East-West German) division is manifest here as an existential physical experience.
* 1960 in Leipzig
Already in his diploma thesis, Rauch struck a blow for figurative painting. Guardian of Order (2008), donated to the Freunde der Staatsgalerie by Rudolf and Ute Scharpff, is a typical work: several persons are engaged in action in a convoluted pictorial space constructed primarily of opaque surfaces and interspersed with surprising colour accents. Even if the individual figures are depicted realistically, there is no narrative thread connecting the elements of the scene.
* 1956 in Essen
The serial accumulation of like things, confusing proportions and a monochrome palette serve to make familiar figures seem surreal, disconcerting ‒ and suspect. Fritsch makes use of this effect in Display Stand with Madonnas (1987‒89), an allusion to the serial production of devotional objects: the yellow Madonnas forming this tower-like display are replicas of the statuettes marketed at the pilgrimage site of Lourdes as, for example, plastic water bottles.
* 1945 in Donaueschingen
Taking the Heroic Symbols (1969) as a point of departure, representative works of the 1970s and ʼ80s are on view here ‒ works in which Kiefer explores German history, myths and concepts. In his own conception, Anselm Kiefer is not a painter but a sculptor, and ‒ as in Little Panzerfaust Germany II (1979) ‒ he formulates his images between the immediate presence of the painting material and the powerful themes he evokes by way of his titles.
* 1944 in Reichenberg, Tschechien
The donation of twenty artist's books by Ingrid Hartlieb is one of the most recent additions to the Staatsgalerie collection. A selection of the books is now on view in the Hugo Borst Room. There the visitor has the opportunity to retrace the evolution of Hartlieb's works from 1978 to 2013 as in a diary. "The drawing is the closest to the idea", postulates the artist, who initially assembles her sculptures from sections of tree trunks, squared timber and offcuts before taking a chainsaw in hand to give them their final shape.
* 1957 in Bensberg
Sander's Wall Pieces (1994‒96) do not enhance space materially, but give it a new voice in its existing ‒ or minimally reduced ‒ form. As in the example in the Staatsgalerie's ascending rotunda walkway once again brought into focus by the "Artists' Rooms" presentation, the section of wall has been polished to a mirror finish. The surrounding space is thus set in motion: depending on the viewer's position, its (architectural) elements and the movement taking place within it at a given moment project ever-changing pictures on the shiny surface ‒ an effect the artist conceives of as the "aesthetic of reduction".