Wartime art: bridge builders or “instruments”? | NDR.de

Status: 22.04.2022 15:56

The Venice Biennale begins – and the art show is also shaped by the war in Ukraine. Should it be political art or not? A conversation with the new director of the Bucerius Kunst Forum, Kathrin Baumstark.

Mrs. Baumstark, 2023 should be the year of women in your home. What does it mean specifically?

Catherine Baumstark: I would have preferred not to have titled it this year – at some point everyone would have thought of it themselves. Because it has nothing to do with gender, it has to do with prominent painters, artists and photographers. We start in February with Gabriele Münter. This is a big project of my heart, I have been working on it for several years. This great expressionist is finally coming to Hamburg, she has never appeared here before.

In the summer, Lee Miller, the photographer who started out as a model, joins us as a muse. They met Man Ray – this is the story that many people still remember. But she was in fact one of the greatest war photographers of the 20th century and was in a number of concentration camps that had just been liberated. Many may know the picture in Hitler’s bathtub. A very brave, great photographer we can show. This will be a retrospective that shows all of her work, from her quiet surrealistic natures in the 1920s to the war crimes committed by the Germans during World War II. But even the end of her life, when traumatized by war experiences she withdraws and puts the camera completely to one side.


VIDEO: Artist Artem Volokitin paints the war in Ukraine (5 min)

At this year’s Venice Biennale, the Russian pavilion will remain empty – the two artists have been withdrawn. For a long time it was unclear whether the Ukrainian contribution could happen despite the war. He can. The 78 water installation hoppers of artist Pavlo Markov arrived in Venice in time via adventurous routes.
The director of the Biennale, Cecilia Alemani, wants the Biennale to remain a space for dialogue. Pavlo Markov says: “Unfortunately, now Russian art has come to Ukraine with tanks and missiles. We are trying to save our culture from complete distortion. So I do not think I can talk to you now. The only place where “we can now have dialogue at the front.”
How do you see it? Wait for the bridge or continue the conversation?

tree size: I find it difficult to comment on this in my secure position here in Germany. I always find it very arrogant to judge. But I am someone who believes that dialogue is very important, that it is important to keep in touch, that it is important to be in touch with each other. I am not a fan of nationalists and such. So I believe that art is the field that should and should remain very free. Art in particular manages to enter into a dialogue beyond intellectual or national boundaries.

Is this topic being discussed a lot on the art scene right now?

tree size: Of course, it is clearly an issue. The Ukraine war may have accelerated this as a catalyst, but it has long been debated how much politics is the arts? Should it be political art? What are our topics? It is always a rope walk that walks. I consider social importance as something very important. In exhibitions of old masters, too, it is always possible and important to take a look at today. But I have always had reservations about the concept of political art. To me, political art is art that takes an opinion and then sometimes it can happen that art is no longer free.

This means that art can also be instrumentalized. Do you think there is a trend at the moment?

tree size: It seems to me like it is more of an exploration and testing. Of course there are also questions: Do we exclude it? Who to invite? This is not so difficult in the visual arts. Of course there are institutions that plan exhibitions with St. Petersburg, with Moscow – there the dialogue ended at some point. But it is also a big problem, especially in the performing arts or music. It’s a tough walk on the rope.

The interview led Eva Schramm.

additional information

Exterior view of the new Bucerius Forum at the Alter Wall / Adolphsplatz entrance.  © Bucerius Kunst Forum Photo: Ulrich Perrey

Each year, the Bucerius Kunst Forum displays four art exhibitions on topics from antiquity to the present day.

This topic in the program:

NDR Culture Ditari | 22.04.2022 | 4 p.m.

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