A History: Contemporary Art from the Centre Pompidou

Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany
25 Mar 2016 - 04 Nov 2016

A History: Contemporary Art from the Centre Pompidou

Ahmed Mater From the Real to the Symbolic City, 2012, © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Georges Meguerditchian/Dist. RMN-GP

With approximately 160 works by more than 100 artists from across the world, “A History: Contemporary Art from the Centre Pompidou”, originally curated at the Centre Pompidou, provides an incisive overview of artistic positions since the 1980s in painting, sculpture, installation, video, photography, and performance.

While “A History: Contemporary Art from the Centre Pompidou” provides an overview of contemporary art since the 1980s, the exhibition “Postwar – Art between the Pacific and the Atlantic, 1945–1965”, which will start October 14th, analyzes the time immediately after World War II. Both shows are followed by “Improvise NOW!”, an exhibition and series of concerts and talks, which seek to explore the vital links between music and modern/contemporary art. It looks at the junctures and seeming contradictions within the production and reception of improvisation by trying to renegotiate the importance of improvisation as a practice across all fields of music and other related forms of cultural production.

The Centre Pompidou’s collection of contemporary art has rarely been presented so comprehensively outside France. The selected works on view date from the 1980s to the present raising two significant questions: What factors are relevant for ensuring that art history is written in a specific way, and what does an everchanging understanding of the term ‘contemporary’ mean for public museums and their collections? Still, the concentration on EuroAmerican domains, which many museums formerly pursued in the acquisition of works for their collections, can hardly be sustained today and is no longer the aspiration of most museums. Globalization, with its expanded narratives, has recently become too determining for the position of contemporary art to ignore. Curator Christine Macel defines her intention accordingly: to present ‘one’ among many possible histories of contemporary art.

With the progression of globalization – understood here as the consolidation of economic, technological and financial systems, but also the questioning of linear history, and hegemonic cultural narratives – our perception of identity has changed. Since the first globally-oriented biennial in Havana in 1986, exhibition organizers and larger museums in Europe and North America have strived to display art created beyond the Western artistic circuit. The static understanding of identity as something based in origins and a “home base” has largely given way to a transnational and variable one. The turning point for Centre Pompidou was its 1989 exhibition “Les Magiciens de la Terre”, in which curator Jean-Hubert Martin aimed to confront the problematic phenomenon of “one hundred percent of exhibitions that ignore eighty percent of the world.” Half the participating artists came from non-Western countries, while the other half came from the West. In addition, all exhibiting artists were – without exception – still active, making the presentation truly contemporary. Since then, the Centre Pompidou, like many large museums, has had to confront the reality of the expanded circuits of contemporary art. Over the years the museum gradually changed its acquisition practices and has increasingly opened its focus toward Eastern Europe, China, Lebanon, the Middle East, India, Congo, Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon, Mexico and Brazil.

Meanwhile, our understanding of the term “origins” has continued to evolve. Consequently, the definition of “site-specific” has also changed. In the 1960s and 70s, artists of the Land Art movement still essentially regarded landscapes as post-industrial ruins. By contrast, Okwui Enwezor, director of Haus der Kunst believes that, in today’s artistic practice, space is defined by impermanence, by the mutability of politically and socially grounded positions, by aesthetic pluralism, and by cultural differences. Furthermore, colonial and postcolonial experiences shaped by traumatic historical events, home, exile, diaspora produced hybrid identities – such as African-American, EuroAmerican, Latino, Turkish-German, French-Arabic, AfricanBrazilian, etc. Consequently new forms of cosmopolitanism and provincialism jostle next to one another. It is no coincidence that the exhibition practice of today can already look back on a number of shows that focused on borders and issues of migration.

Against this backdrop of dynamism and permanent transition the exhibition is divided into seven chapters:

‘The Artist as Historian’

An interest in the historical document and a more general obsession with the past, have led to the nostalgic excavation and re-enactments of existing works of art. Artists from the Arabspeaking world are increasingly present in the art world; having borne witness to the Gulf War in 1991, these artists have developed new practices around the examination of history.


‘The Artist as Archivist’

A passion for the archive initially led to a demand for completeness and later to an acceptance of the fragmentary, resulting on the one hand in concurrence of taxonomic efforts and endless accumulation, and, on the other, in an insight into the accelerated loss of memory. On a higher level, both coincide: Archives are especially useful in helping to identify and address wounds in the collective memory.


‘Sonic Boom’

Trying to capture the sensation of listening to music in an image has a long tradition. Yet, even for artists who take their works to the edge of physical dissolution, listening often moves to the fore. Further, changes in the music industry and music production have reinforced the permeability of art and composition.


‘The Artist as Producer’

The “Traffic” Generation The concept of artwork is transformed through its dematerialization. An awareness of temporality, volatility, and process shifts to the foreground. Artists develop new forms of collaboration and collective creation, and make aesthetic use of clips, sampling, and film narrative (which is also regarded as an exhibition platform). As a result, copyright as an object of reflection has come into focus.


‘The Artist as Documentarist’

As Close as Possible to the Real The proliferation of the Internet in the context of a market economy and consumer society has led to a greater interest in the real, in the status quo of the observer and the reporter and generally in an engagement with all areas of human life. The artist takes on the role of a witness who accepts the subjectivity of his observations.


‘Artist and Object’

Between 1980 and 1990, artists turned to an exploration of the everyday and the object; the 1990’s can be considered as the ultimate epoch of the aesthetic of the mundane. The now-famous video, “The Way Things Go” by Fischli and Weiss (1986-87) sings this song of songs to the everyday. No less iconic is Gabriel Orozco’s modified Citroën (La DS, 1993). The confrontation with consumer society is manifested in photography in detailed and richly colored compositions like Gursky’s “99 Cent” (1999), and in sculpture with the integration of found objects. The common denominator is the attention artists pay to excessive consumption – as an opportunity or as a fact.


‘The Artist and the Body’

Video and photography seem to be particularly fitting mediums for artists whose works include a performative element. The theme of the human body – wounded or damaged by oppression – returns as a theme with a vengeance. Many works with erotic and sexual overtones emerge. New technical possibilities, either through plastic surgery or image manipulation, bring the grotesque into the fold.

The presentation at Haus der Kunst is curated by Christine Macel (Centre Pompidou, Paris) with Julienne Lorz (Haus der Kunst, Munich).

The catalog “Une histoire. Art, architecture, design des années 1980 à nos jours,” (edited Christine Macel) will be supplemented by an insert in German, published by Hirmer; 39.90 €.

Participating artists are, among others: Pawel Althamer, Maja Bajević, Yto Barrada, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Taysir Batniji,  Christian Boltanski, Erik Boulatov, Mohammed Bourouissa, Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, Sophie Calle and Greg Shephard, Mircea Cantor, Chen Zhen, Hassan Darsi, Destroy All Monsters, Atul Dodiya, Marlene Dumas, Ayşe Erkmen, Fang Lijun, Harun Farocki and Andrei Ujica, Samuel Fosso, Michel François, Coco Fusco und Paula Heredia, Regina José Galindo, Kendell Geers, Liam Gillick, Fernanda Gomes, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Renée Green, Subodh Gupta, Andreas Gursky, Hans Haacke, Petrit Halilaj, Edi Hila, Gregor Hildebrandt, Thomas Hirschhorn, Nicholas Hlobo, Carsten Höller, Pierre Huyghe, Fabrice Hyber, Isaac Julien, Oleg Kulik, Glenn Ligon, Robert Longo, Sarah Lucas, Gonçalo Mabunda, David Maljković, Chris Marker, Ahmed Mater, Mike Kelley and Paul McCarthy, Annette Messager, Rabih Mroué, Zanele Muholi, Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba, Roman Ondák, Gabriel Orozco, Damián Ortega, Philippe Parreno, Nira Pereg, Dan Perjovschi, Wilfredo Prieto, Tobias Putrih, Walid Raad, Sara Rahbar, Tobias Rehberger, Nick Relph und Oliver Payne, Pipilotti Rist, Chéri Samba, Anne-Marie Schneider, Santiago Sierra, Mladen Stilinović, Georges Tony Stoll, Wolfgang Tillmans, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Danh Vo, Marie Voignier, Akram Zaatari, Zhang Huan



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