Betty, we meet again
As a huge fan of German art, I was very excited to see Gerhard Richter, Panorama, his retrospective at the Neue Nationalgalerie. The entire ground level was dedicated to this show, in contrast to the last time I was here. As I have mentioned before, Berlin’s permanent collections are constantly being moved around,
so the massive Jenny Holzer that I had previously viewed here no longer took over the entire ceiling like a ticker showing the stock exchange. At the time, that was the sole piece of art on this floor when you first entered.
The space is now filled with over one hundred works from Richter, including his blurred portraits, grey paintings, and also included newer works he completed in 2011. I cannot express what an amazing show this was! One thing I learned about Richter is that he was still studying art when he was thirty, his success was not instant. I find that very motivating, both in terms of my age and also in gaining recognition. This show was in conjunction with Richter’s 8oth birthday. Fortunately, he did not have to wait until after his death, like Van Gogh.
The exhibit also featured panes of glass layered to create the “Richter Effect”. This instantly blurred the reflected image. This was a fun look at how Richter began to see the world. The blurry images he creates leaves the viewer in a state between dreams and reality. Is this a real memory?
More current work from Gerhard Richter
His more recent work has left the image completely. Another contrast is the bright colors he has chosen to incorporate. This is much different from his previous work, in particular, the Gray Series. The main subject is the composition itself. However, common themes are still carried across his works. The most prevalent is his trademark blurry atmosphere. Representative of an image or not, Richter still uses this device to conceal the reality of these dream like worlds, often war-torn and chaotic.This is actually the second Gerhard Richter show I had seen. A few years ago I went to a Surrealist exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art and there was a small Richter show that didn’t seem to be advertised too heavily. At that time I wasn’t familiar with his work and saw Betty for the first time. I thought she was amazing. It was great to visit with her again, but this time in this extraordinary exhibit, getting to see so much more of his work.
While obviously, Gerhard Richter was the star, I cannot ignore the great art on the lower level. Another rotation of the German permanent collection, it was a very impressive exhibit. Bruce Nauman, Picasso, Andy Warhol, Max Beckmann, Basquiat, Christo …all great examples of art. It is always an amazing experience to study art that you had only seen in books or in slides. Being a part of something so big, full of expression and creativity, that has been my goal in life. I know that sound simplified, but this is what gets me up every morning. And I love every minute of it.
Time in Berlin for me will always include visiting the fantastic museums and galleries here. One of my all time favorite museums that I have ever visited is the Hamburger Bahnhof, the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin
It’s a little bright, but that is a Dan Flavin hanging around
Berlin’s art has a turbulent past since Hitler stole most of the art work in both private and public hands and distributed them throughout Europe. That was in the 1940’s, and I still today read articles about art pieces in dispute that often end up in court. The courts side with the heirs, and the art is returned or an agreed upon amount is negotiated for a permanent purchase. Generally if it is a government run museum, it rarely goes to court, the museums will normally return the piece once the provenance has been established. Due to a number of issues, the massive collections owned by the state of Germany do not all have a permanent homes and have been moved around every time I return to Berlin, the Hamburger Bahnhof being one of many rotating locations.
The Hamburger Bahnhof has an amazing collection of Anselm Keifer,
Robert Rauchenburg, Dan Flavin, Joseph Bueys, Andy Warhol…the list of contemporary masters could go on and on. The first time I visited in 2008, the huge changing front room was exhibiting their full collection of Keifers and it was amazing. His imagry is very haunting and powerful. The second time I came in 2009, it was filled with a huge sound installation by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller titled The Murder of Crows. Coincidently, last year they did a residency at Artpace in San Antonio and I experienced several more sound pieces by the duo there.
Huge Sound Installation, db (decibel) by Ryojii Ikeda
I was a little disappointed with the upstairs this visit. The amazing contemporary collection including several Bruce Nauman and Matthew Barney pieces was replaced by a huge sound installation titled db (decibel). All the art was replaced with a white room, black paintings, and the loud, constant buzz from a speaker about 5′ x 5′ at the other end of the room. While I love sound installations, this one was a little too far for me to appreciate. This piece had to do with symmetry and complementary relationships. However, I was not inclined to visit the other side of the second floor, apparently a black room with a white search light. So I did not ever discover what that sounded like. At least many of my favorite artists were still on display in other rooms.
There are quite a few Dan Flavins on display, both inside and outside of the building. I have noticed when Flavin is included in a collection, he is INCLUDED in the collection. I don’t believe I have ever seen just one Flavin displayed. If the Museum likes him, they love him. They will purchase several pieces, including many permanent pieces incorporated on the outside of the buidings, as the Hamburger Bahnhof had comissioned.
And as usual, Joseph Beuys has taken over the entire lower level with his huge sculptures of fat. One of my favorite Beuys pieces to experience is watching him talk to a dead hare in his famous piece, How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare. The museum posesses a copy of the original peformance in 1965. A couple of years ago I saw a recorded re-creation of this performance by Marina Abramovic. For the Guggenheim, she re performed seven pivital performance pieces by those preceding before her (which also included Vito Acconci’s Seedbed). A great performance piece should evoke emotion from the viewer, to affect them in some way, even if it’s just more questions. The Hamburger Bahnhof is an incredible museum. I would never miss an opportunity to explore their collection and temporary exhibits.