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Fifteen Years of Collecting at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg - Against the Grain
Damien Hirst, A Hundred Years, 1990.
WOLFSBURG.- The foundation of the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg in 1994 simultaneously marked the launch of its mission to build a permanent collection. Today, along with the museum’s exhibition programme, the collection enjoys an international reputation and is one of the outstanding cultural features that contribute to the City of Wolfsburg’s appeal.

To mark the museum’s 15th anniversary, Markus Brüderlin, the director of the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg since 2006, has chosen to present the collection in a new light. The exhibition 15 Years of Collecting – Against the Grain has therefore been conceived as a distinctive, informal juxtaposition of older and younger artists and works rather than the customary chronological display.

With its specific focus on acquiring key pieces and groups of works by international artists, the collection of the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg has set itself apart from those of other German museums since its inception. The year 1968 marks the starting point of the collection and, as it were, the emergence of the new avant-garde. A solid foundation of late modernist art was laid during the first years of the collection with the acquisition of pivotal works of Minimal art, conceptual art, Arte Povera, body art and media art. Artistic bridges have subsequently been built between positions such as Anselm Kiefer, Gary Hill, Gerhard Merz or the British artist duo Gilbert & George and artists of the late 1980s such as Cindy Sherman and Allan McCollum. The pieces in the collection by Nam June Paik and Gary Hill are remarkable pioneering works of media art. By mounting the first major retrospective of Douglas Gordon’s work in 2007, the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg recognized an artist whose sculptural elaboration of video art gave fresh impetus to the medium, while early exhibitions and acquisitions of works by artists of the 1990s who went on to become leading international figures – including Jeff Wall, Olafur Eliasson, Andreas Gursky and Neo Rauch – are further examples of the museum’s pioneering achievements in the realm of contemporary art.

15 Years of Collecting – Against the Grain opens with the works that form the cornerstones of the collection and explores recent positions in relation to artists at the forefront of late modernism: Carl Andre, Mario Merz, Jan Dibbets and Bruce Nauman. The aim of juxtaposing these older and newer works is not only to highlight the specific character of the collection but also to identify and illustrate ruptures and developments in the history of art over the last forty years. For example, geometric abstract paintings by the American artist Sarah Morris are contrasted with Carl Andre’s field of stereometric wooden blocks, whose serial structures respond in turn to Allan McCollum’s Over 10,000 Individual Works laid out on a table.

With the opening of the Zaha Hadid Lounge in one of the museum wings in 2001, the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg ventured into the area between art and architecture/art and design, a line of approach that was also adopted in the exhibition Interieur/Exterieur. Living in Art. This show featured the monumental, space-within-a-space installation Visiona 2 by the Danish designer Verner Panton, which was purchased for the collection with the generous support of the Friends Association. Here it is presented opposite Tobias Rehberger’s installation Decke Büroräume 1. Stock (Lévy, Schuppli, Hirsch, Ritschard, Pakesch) from 1998, extending and highlighting the interaction between art and design. This focus continued in 2007 with the opening of the Japan Garden, which forms part of the emerging dialogue on modernism in the 21st century and also reveals the close ties between the museum collection and the building itself.

The main focus of the exhibition is on works that have been acquired since 2006. Among these is Gerhard Merz’s temporary spatial installation An Etienne-Louis Boullée III. His glowing temple of light and four monumental colour panels are juxtaposed with Lawrence Weiner’s word piece Bent & Broken Shafts of Light, which evokes light and colour purely through a spatial display of texts. The closing highlight of the exhibition is Lalibela Kabinett by Philip Taaffe, a pictorial tower of 384 ornamental leaves that was created in the context of the major retrospective of the American artist’s work held here in 2008.

Franz Ackermann | Carl Andre | Nobuyushi Araki | John M Armleder | Richard Artschwager | Christian Boltanski | Stanley Brouwn | Hussein Chalayan | Tony Cragg | René Daniëls | Thomas Demand | Jan Dibbets | Olafur Eliasson | Peter Fischli/David Weiss |

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