New art - formerly known as: New art
Apparently remakes are not confined to the world of movies. Berlin’s Circleculture Gallery currently exhibits eleven paintings by a selection of contemporary artists set with the challenge of re-imagining the works of some of the greatest talents in the history of art.
“The idea for it all came to me in my sleep,” says Johann Haehling von Lanzenauer, the gallery’s curator. “I woke up at 3am and had the concept fully formed in my head. I immediately typed it up and then sent out emails to fifteen artists from all over the world. Eleven agreed to contribute.”
The artists can be loosely grouped in the urban art genre, a broad and often confusing designation encompassing a wide variety of art forms, including street art, graffiti, graphic design and fashion. The diversity of urban art is well represented by the artists exhibiting at Circleculture. Multi-talented Frenchman Jaybo Monk for example has a background in street art and is not averse to painting on Coca-cola cans and cigarette packs. Helle Mardahl is a trained fashion designer, and eccentric New Yorker Judith Supine creates his colourful collages from gaudy paints and sleazy magazines.
The exhibition itself is intriguing. It features interpretations of works by Gustav Klimt, James Ensor, Damien Hurst, Henri Matisse, Pierre Soulages and Andy Warhol, among others. But most of the artists chose not to stick with the original’s format or materials. Stencil artist xoooox remade Picasso’s Francoise on a series of planks. Monk, who tackled Théodore Géricault’s massive Le Radeau de la Meduse (491 x 716 cm), painted it on a much smaller scale. And Berliner Christian Awe cut up three of his own paintings to make his homage to Henri Matisse.
The new works almost always differ vastly from the original in content. While it is always possible to see traces of the original, almost every painting also lends something new. Kevin Earl Taylor took elements from Gustav Klimt’s Death and Life and rearranged them into a metaphor for the ability of modern science to drastically prolong human life. Adriana Ciudad replaced the characters in Ensor’s Death and Masks with people she personally knows. And Supine kept so little of Hans Memling’s Tommaso Portinari and his Wife that Haehling and his staff faced a problem: “He wouldn’t tell us which work he was referring to and none of us had a clue. We had to ask around quite a bit until we found someone who could identify the original.”
The result of such experimentation is wildly entertaining. And even though the originals are not on display, the exhibition feels like a stroll through art history, beginning with the 15th century (with Supine’s take on Memling) and ending with the exciting diversity of urban art. “That is just what I intended,” says Haehling. “I wanted to acquaint the fans of urban art that are not that familiar with art history with some of its masters – and I also wanted to acquaint people with urban art.” Well done.
Exhibition: January 21 to March 5 2011 / Tue - Sat 12 - 6 PM, Circleculture Gallery, Berlin, Germany.
Works by Stefan Strumbel, Anton Unai, Jaybo Monk, Christian Awe, Marco “Pho” Grassi, xoooox, Jonthan Yeo, Kevin Earl Taylor, Adirana Ciudad, Judith Supine, Helle Mardahl.
Curated by Johan Haehling Von Lanzenauer
Words by Marcus Jonas
Pictures: courtesy of Circleculture Gallery, Germany.