Abstract art was never dead. Since its revolutionary beginnings at the dawn of the twentieth century, it has repeatedly flourished and survived all animosities, even bans. And more than that: Today in particular, artists and museums are increasingly devoting themselves to this theme, in the world’s most important art metropolises and in unprecedented diversity.
Aspects of contemporary abstract art, coupled with historical reminiscences, are the focus of the third exhibition showcasing works from the Deutsche Bank Collection at the PalaisPopulaire. The selection includes some 180 works from 1959 to 2021. In keeping with the collection as a whole, the works on view are globally oriented, created by 51 artists from fourteen countries.
On display are not only drawings and photographs— as in the two previous exhibitions—but also, for the first time, significant paintings and prints. Including the latter medium in the show is particularly appropriate, as silk screen, with its industrial, anonymous color surfaces, is the ideal technique for implementing constructive or concrete pictorial ideas. Also in line with this theme is the work in series with geometric variations, changing perspectives, and color schemes.
The title Ways of Seeing Abstraction is derived from John Berger’s popular BBC television series and publication Ways of Seeing from the 1970s. In relation to the exhibition, it refers to the artists’ diverse “ways” of creating non-representational visual worlds and to the equally varied ways that viewers can perceive and interpret them individually. In this regard, the selection of artists presented and their works is based on the very personal view of the curator, Friedhelm Hütte, who has been responsible for the Deutsche Bank Collection for many years now and has thus had a decisive influence on the incorporation of abstract tendencies of contemporary art in the collection.
Visitors can discover new things in relation to the artists represented and experience familiar things in unusual contexts. The presentations in the two open galleries lead to expansive compositions in which each work has its own significance, but ideally interacts with the architecture and enters into dialogue with the neighboring works, enabling further levels of perception across stylistic and temporal boundaries.
Like the Deutsche Bank Collection, Ways of Seeing Abstraction is globally conceived with a selection of rather unknown or rarely shown works by internationally renowned artists such as Gerhard Richter and Tadaaki Kuwayama, and a number of new discoveries and rediscoveries including the positions of Rana Begum, Jennie C. Jones, Kapwani Kiwanga, and Wilhelm Müller.
The exhibition intentionally dispenses with categories such as Constructivism, Abstract Expressionism, Informel, Hard Edge, Concrete Art, and Neo Geo. It shows that younger artist generations, in particular, not only use elements of these now historical styles as their reservoir of forms, but also reinterpret and combine them with current, even political content.