With the 2015 exhibitions ‘Dark Pop’ and ‘Yes!Yes!Yes! Warholmania in Munich’, Museum Brandhorst immersed itself in Pop Art. ‘Schiff Ahoy – Contemporary Art from the Brandhorst Collection’ provides a counterpoint, taking works of minimal and post-minimal art, Arte Povera, and conceptual art as its point of departure. With approximately 150 works from the collection on display, ‘Schiff Ahoy’ [Ship Ahoy] confirms the continued relevance that art from the 1960s and early 1970s holds for contemporary artists working today.
During this time, artists such as Carl Andre, Joseph Beuys, James Lee Byars, Andre Cadere, Mario Merz, Ed Ruscha, Niele Toroni, Richard Tuttle, and Lawrence Weiner experimented with new materials, production methods and working environments, but also with a new conception of the body. They called into question the static and final nature of a work, aggressively confronted the role of the viewer, and engaged with alternative artistic formats and channels of distribution. These impulses continue to be provocative and fruitful today, revealing numerous points of connection between the collection’s holdings dating from 1958 to the present.
Beyond any parallels in content, what links the current artistic works to their forerunners is an interest in the reinterpretation of historical precursors – a characteristic exemplified in the piece that lends the exhibition its title: ‘Schiff Ahoy – Tied to Apron Strings’ (1989) by Lawrence Weiner. The 13-piece collage series is based on pages taken from the book Die Siegesfahrt der Bremen (1940). Written in a heroic and patriotic tone, the book chronicles the daily experiences of a captain. Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, Commodore Ahrens sailed Norddeutscher Lloyd’s high-speed steamer ‘Bremen’ from the U.S. to the ship’s National Socialist homeland, and thus into a fatal future, which ended with the emergence of a new world order in 1945. In 1989, at a moment when this postwar world order and its division of the globe into ‘East’ and ‘West’ began to crumble, Weiner’s choice of this book dismantled the hegemonic efforts of ideological systems that, he implied, were ‘tied to apron strings’.
The mobilisation of (art-)historical contexts determines the selection of works for today’s exhibition. Thus, the recently acquired ‘Sitzgruppe Heimo’ (1996) by Franz West and Heimo Zobernig emphasises the supposed theatricality of minimal art. Visitors are invited to sit on the chairs designed by West. A ‘white cube’ is set up in front of the chairs – an object that represents, in hermetic minimalist terms, the gallery space itself. The work ‘Sitzgruppe Heimo’ invites us to consider an array of questions in an intelligent and playful manner. Questions like: Who is this white cube directed at? What does it signify, what does it have to say? Is it an autonomous space or an object on a stage? And, if so, does such a frontal encounter still permit a meaningful relationship between a work of art and the viewer? These considerations set the tone for the works that visitors encounter at the museum’s entrance level. A common element in the works is the figure of the viewer. This becomes evident in classic minimalist works such as Carl Andre’s ‘FeCuND’ (1986), on display for the first time since the museum’s opening, and Heimo Zobernig’s untitled mirrored wall-work from 1999 – from the Sammlung Moderne Kunst in the Pinakothek der Moderne – which sets visitors squarely within the picture. The emphasis on physicality also plays out in the mysticism of James Lee Byars, as well as Richard Tuttle’s emphasis on energetic qualities in his semi-abstract forms. Today, a younger generation of artists has re-discovered esotericism and alchemy, renewing the topicality of these works.
In ‘Schiff Ahoy’, a special focus is placed on recent acquisitions of the past two years, most of which are presented to the public for the first time. With works by Kerstin Brätsch, Josh Smith, R.H. Quaytman, and Heimo Zobernig, ‘Schiff Ahoy’ marks the expansion of the museum’s collection to include current artistic production.
This emphasis will be continued this year with solo exhibitions by Kerstin Brätsch and Seth Price, and occurs within the context of the museum’s own collection history, which has grown since the 1970s with the art of its time.
Curator: Patrizia Dander
The exhibition is supported by PIN. Freunde der Pinakothek der Moderne e.V.
Please find our exhibition wall texts here (PDF).