Astrup Fearnly Museum by architect Renzo Piano is one of the largest contemporary art museums I’ve visited so far.
Upon approaching the building I saw a bridge connecting two parts of the building which in comparison with Snøhetta’s Oslo Opera building connected the two part glass structure of the building with each other mainly using the materials wood and glass. In this manner there it created the sensation of openness a welcoming invitation to come inside and explore the building as well from the inside. In the back yard I saw a sculpture by Indian artist Anish Kapoor represented by Lisson Gallery, London: https://www.lissongallery.com
The main spaces however, are clearly distinct in terms of opening up to the sides and creating a vast feeling expanding to all sides of the space housing and counterpositioning contemporary art known to picture the art scene of the ‘Here and Now’ created anew with possibility to still get the insight from the artists first of hand. In a conversation with my flight seating neighbour we discussed the term contemporary and what it means yesterday and I could explain that contrary to the timewise adjacent Modernism the art has actually been created anew and quoting an article titled ‘Comrades of time’ by philosopher and art critic Boris Groys in the E-flux Reader ‘What Is Contemporary Art’? he stated as well already inherent in the title of his text that we are able to still be together with the artists defined as ‘Comrades’ of our current day-to-day life. Quoting from his article he says: Contemporary art deserves its name insofar as it manifests its own contemporaneity – and this is not simply a matter of being recently made or displayed. Thus the question ‘What is contemporary art’ implicates the question ‘What is the contemporary?’ How could the contemporary as such be shown? 1)
Adding to this notion I have curated a group exhibition at my then gallery space Para_SITE which was founded to showcase contemporary art mainly students of the art universities for Applied Arts & Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna and the FH Joanneum in Graz, Austria where the gallery was based in the city centre. The translation to German with a term I created was ‘Zeitgenöss_innen’ by choice gendering as in my curatorial practise I tried to equal both female as well as male artists being able to present their work in the small white cube space presenting themselves to the public for the first time or at first in a commercial context that supported their work with small or none at all commissions as funded by the local funding boards and the BMUKK today Bundeskanzleramt therefore being able to support the artists in this manner with sales solely benefiting themselves. To summerise in short ‘Comrades of Time’ equals ‘Zeitgenöss_innen’ inherent both comrades as Genöss_innen and ‘of Time’ Zeit’ reflecting the term ‘Zeitgenössisch’ in English ‘Contemporary’.
The art experience at Astrup Fearnley makes as well supported by the building itself best use of the curatorial concept presenting Contemporary Art counterpositioning and streching it like a conceptual web allowing for different settings depending on the point of view within the space and the location the visitor directs her or his gaze towards the curatorial positioning. Wandering around in the exhibition I realised that no matter where I stood the presentation of a handful of contemporary works always created a perfect setting allowing for several encompassing and clearly structured settings. The presentation was based on colour coding, sculpture versus painting or print works and conent-wise across the two open floors of the show. These curatorial concept I am using as well in my own curatorial practise as well connecting the three floors of my art space the landmark Bell Tower by means of Deja-vues reminding of the seen when walking from the ground floor to the second floor like a web created by the visual complexities of the human eye, just recently in Anna Werzowa’s exhibition ‘Creation by Nature’ making us experience her body of work by means of ‘Sichtachsen’ like being an insect exploring a space as we showcased her work incorporating her insects being presented using a technical as well as natural historic approach.
In the exhibition Private Passion New Aquisitions in the Astrup Fearnly Collection the curatorial display by Gunnar B. Kvaran opened up various assemblages of the works presented relating to each other nearly endlessly communicating with each other.
Like in my personal approach to art critisism and curatorial practise I choose one work to depart from on my personal journey or more concret my personal story I am telling about the experience when walking through the art display. This as well is incorporated in my ‘Art Ark/ Brückenschlag der Kunst’ educational programme as part of every exhibition in the framework of ‘Zu Gast am Schlossberg’ in English ‘Visiting Schlossberg Mountain’ opening up several stories to be told by means of the subjective approach by every visitor. Like the French philosopher Michel Foucault wrote the positioning and inherent spacial setting created new stories to be spread by word of mouth adding to the experience of the visit of galleries or in my case independent art space using the Bell Tower and creating a marketing possibility stronger than any other means of communication. The invisible web created by us as curators leads to an infinite communication about the art and every personal view is since the foundation of the exhibition series incorporated in my personal curatorial guided tours through the exhibitions as well being mentioned in the limited edition AØH Art Publication realised in the framework of every exhibition.
At the museum in Oslo the invisible web was enlarged by the museum guards wearing jackets with the printed text ‘Let’s Talk Art’ inviting to engage in discussion about what’s on view in a very reduced manner not forcing or inflicting an opinion on the viewer. This is as well my own approach simply being there when needed other than that experiencing the exhibition in solitude. Challenging for myself as an exhibition guide and guard at the same time engaging with the visitors on a personal level especially those who were bias last in Werzowa’s display and by means of an always doggerent approach suiting the requirements by the individual visitors creating an art experience that viewers can benefit from personally. As inherent in the commercial world the ‘Buyer is queen or king’ added to by myself ‘Everyone is treated equally be it doctor or professor as well as homeless or beggar. Funilly enough I habe tge experience that those dressed like homeless are most likely to buy art, probably like in my case that expensive clothing is not as important as the addiction to add to ones art collection.
Astrup Fearnly is currently housing a collection display under the title ‘Private Passion New Aquisitions in the Astrup Fearnley Collection’ and a survey with seminal works by German artist Anselm Kiefer curated by Natalia Granero and Gunnar B. Kvaran travelling to the Fondation Jan Michalski from 7th February until the 7th of April 2020. In the second adjecent space as well works by British artist Damien Hirst are on view which steem from his participation in ‘Sensation’ at the Royal Academy in 1997 marking the beginning of Britain’s art movement YBA (Young British Art) portraying the contemporary art scene of the late 90s in the United Kingdom mainly backed by Marketing Mongul Charles Saatchi. Years later after my thesis on the Investment strategy when buying Austrian Contemporary Art under the title ‘Is Austrian Contemporary Art a Good Investment’? leading to my answer to YBA and creation of the movement YACA (Young Austrian Contemporary Art) as the result of my research concluded in it being a good investment but the marketing and spread of notion as well as ankering in the public notion nationally but as well focusing mainly on internationalisation like once achieved by ‘Actionism’ in the 60s till 90s that gained international respect by means of attracting attention by performance art e.g. by Peter Weibel & Valie Export.
Anselm Kiefer’s Personale at the Astrup Fearnly Museum presented large scale works overwhelming both in size and strength maling us small besides them.
Relating to knowledge by means of showing journals and large scale sculptures of books the impression is created that reading books results in accumulation of knowledge making our life and the time spent worthwile. At the same time being monumental in size reflecting that knowledge is infinite as well creating a slightly pressuring sensation from my personal view. The pressure and at times depression knowledge about worrying content can lead to especially when portrayed in a ‘reisserisch’ writing style by some boulevard and yellow press news media frightening the public results in wrong impressions leading to fright and panic in our society. Secrets we often stumble upon or are leading to change and necessity to adapt to a new approach in our day-to-day life, like one might say: What we saw with a distant view years ago only known from far away countries informed about in television and daily press now happens right in front of our doorsteps. Like we donated around Christmas to children and as well as elderly or the poorest in need happens today right on our doorsteps and becomes frightening as we need to really face it not just write a cheque and not be further involved.
Once before we were made aware of war and destruction during the fachist and Nazi times all accross the world, now we face fugitives dying on their way to reach secure and peacful lands being followed and imprissiond in their homecountries only because they state their personal views with society that suffers from repression and dictatorship.
Do we pay our debts to society to quiet our conscience or simply buy food for the homeless with a friendly supporting conversation like in my case better than the payment which might reach organisations but not the suffering?
Key to the approach to provide shelter and support is in- not exclusion and our willingness to help by being open to the new that reaches us like here in Austria still our haven and island of security and peace. Why not share it with the suffering by being open to change and diminish our predigist. This is meant to be a credo by both locals as well as those asking for help. Racism is always both sided which I know from personal experience being treated racist by people from foreign countries still I stay true to my way to treat everyone equally not drift into being bias towards people from foreign countries strange to ourseves and our way of living.
Anselm Kiefer’s work left the impression on me that today’s world needs a more open approach towards inclusion in contrary to fierce rejection of things alien to our own culture and way of living. Standing between his large-scale sculptures amd manuscripts I felt like a little sandkorn in the wide array of the universe of wisdom. Inspired by his work I got a book with a text about his work and a small childrens’ tale Niels Holgerson which seemed related to the wide openess of the Nordic landscapes that this book is set in.
The next exhibition titled ‘The Great Exhibition’ will be by Gilbert & George who are represented by my new co-operation partner Lehmann Maupin based in London, Hong Kong & New York: https://www.lehmannmaupin.com/
The App of the Astrup Fesrnley Museum that can be downloaded for free gives further educational insight in the exhibitions on view or for those of us that prefer the analogue world like me, engage in a discussion with the museum guides as offered: ‘Let’s talk Art’!
All my best,
Daniela Haberz, M.A.
Curator & Independent Art Critic
1) Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, Anton Vidokle: e-flux journal, What is Contemporary Art?, art. Boris Groys: Comrades of Time, p. 22, Sternberg Press New York, 2010
Copyright visual material & review: Daniela Haberz, M.A. for AØH Art Consultancy Haberz E.u.
Daniela Haberz, M.A.
AØH Art Consultancy Haberz
Schörgelgasse 32, 8010 Graz, Austria
Mobile: +43 (0) 664 182 8678
Contact Anish Kapoor
Lisson Gallery, London
Contact Gilbert & George
Lehman Maupin Gallery, London/ New York