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MoMA announces major exhibition exploring the work of German artist Kai Althoff
Kai Althoff. Untitled, 2011. Oil, synthetic polymer, tempera, and varnish on fabric and silk. 53 1/4 x 59 3/4 x 2 3/8 inches (135.3 x 151.8 x 6 cm). © Kai Althoff.

NEW YORK, NY.- The Museum of Modern Art presents Kai Althoff, the artist's first major monographic exhibition at a U.S. institution in a decade, from September 18, 2016, through January 22, 2017. The exhibition will feature more than 200 works from all periods in Althoff's career, in a range of mediums including painting, drawing, collage, sculptural objects, video, and sound. Drawing from public and private collections worldwide, the selection of works will be displayed in an immersive environment designed by the artist that will serve as a framing narrative for the bodies of work in the show. Kai Althoff is organized by Laura Hoptman, Curator, with Margaret Ewing, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Painting and Sculpture.

Kai Althoff (b. 1966, Germany) is one of the most consummate—and unpredictable—artists of his generation. He emerged in Cologne in the early 1990s, making objects using materials associated with handiwork—cut paper, ceramic, painted fabric—while at the same time producing precise, minutely drafted drawings of fantastic characters and situations that recalled an impressive range of styles from children's book illustration to 1970s graphic design. In the mid-1990s he began to experiment in earnest with combinations of unconventional mediums and exhibition formats, creating all-encompassing environments. Inspired by his personal fantasies and proclivities, Althoff created increasingly elaborate stories, which unfolded in installations that might include finely detailed drawings; collage; woven textiles, knitted fabric; soft sculpture; paintings; writing; video; fragrance; and song.

Althoff's works often mix crafts like weaving, and ceramic work with fine-art languages like painting, drawing, and sculpture. Their painstakingly handmade quality gives them an intimacy and a finely wrought beauty more common to religious objects than contemporary art. Each object Althoff makes is imbued with great personal significance that is reflected in his fervent attention to aesthetic detail; however, he is less interested in producing private talismans, than in making artworks that resonate with whoever may encounter them. "To me, the only thing that is interesting is to get to a depth that I can touch people," he said recently, "Emotions are the only thing I care about."

This desire to connect to people, places, and beliefs is made manifest in Althoff’s fascination with how passion and faith can create a sense of belonging. Themes of communal devotional activity are woven throughout his oeuvre, which includes admiring depictions of families, fraternities, soldiers, and religious adherents among other groups. For Althoff, artmaking is an expression of love, but it is also a means to being loved. It is this search for acceptance and longing for welcome that has produced a 25-year body of work that is polymathic, consummate in skill, deeply personal, and utterly unique.

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