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Haus der Kunst opens 'Archives in Residence: euward Archive'
euward 2014. Installationsansicht Buchheim Museum, Bernried am Starnbergersee © Euward Archiv, Atelier Augustinum.

MUNICH.- As part of the “Archives in Residence” series, Haus der Kunst is presenting the euward Archive. The euward is the first art prize of international standing for art in the context of cognitive impairment. The exhibition intensifies existing collaborations with euward and the Munich Academy of Fine Arts. With the Freie Bühne München as a further cooperation partner, Haus der Kunst places a forward-looking focus on inclusion and diversity.

The exhibition is an invitation to put our cultural self-image to the test, to reflect on our ideas of an inclusive culture and a diverse society and to revisit established ways of interpreting normality and otherness.

With its documents, applications, photographs of artworks, film material and press articles, the euward Archive is a source of previously unrelated art history(s) by actors whose presence has been overlooked by both the art and academic worlds, with a few exceptions. In the meantime, however, it is receiving increasing public attention. With the exhibition at Haus der Kunst, part of these archive holdings will be presented to the public for the first time.

The Munich Augustinum Foundation has awarded the euward (“European Art Award”) since 2000 in order to promote “outstanding work by artists with intellectual disabilities” and to sustainably develop “public awareness of the cultural achievements of the disabled.” The award was established by the art historian and educator Klaus Mecherlein, who has headed the studio of the Augustinum Curative Education Center since 1995.

For centuries, “intellectual disability” was considered an incurable psychiatric illness. Until well into the 1970s, most people with such conditions lived in psychiatric facilities. The development of their artistic work, therefore, has been linked to the history and reception of art created in psychiatric institutions. Walter Morgenthaler and Hans Prinzhorn were among the first to recognize the artistic power of such work. At the end of the 1940s, Jean Dubuffet built up a collection of “Art Brut”, which he did not, however, consider on a par with his own art. At documenta 5 (1972), Harald Szeemann initiated a new discourse on border crossers in art with the Wölfli Room.

The euward has also sought exhibition opportunities in the context of contemporary art. In 1999, in advance of its first call for proposals, the Augustinum Foundation sent an inquiry to Haus der Kunst. The rejection letter from the museum’s then-director, Christoph Vitali, reveals a hierarchical understanding that corresponded to representatives of classical modernism and its canon: disability, regardless of its nature, is a criterion foreign to art. Vitali’s successor Chris Dercon integrated the euward as a guest project into the program between 2004 and 2010, thus advocating an expanded concept of art. Haus der Kunst has thus far been the most renowned exhibition space in which the euward has been able to present itself within the contemporary museum landscape. In 2021, the works of the nominees and the winners will be shown again in the Haus der Kunst.

From the beginning, the Augustinum Foundation has been committed to recruiting internationally active cultural workers and artists for the selection of applications submitted from all over Europe. Their “visual language,” as noted in the minutes of the first meeting of the board of trustees, was to “logically display an affinity for the work to be judged.” The first jury included Marlene Dumas, Leiko Ikemura, Jerry Zeniuk, and Arnulf Rainer. Rainer, in particular, became a key figure in the mediation and representation of the euward as a serious art prize in the first few years of its existence.

The euward Archive is being presented in the Archive Gallery of Haus der Kunst in the broader context of the institution’s history. Opened in 1937 as the “House of German Art”, the exhibition space was the main institution for the advancement of National Socialist art. Nazi art policy employed a pseudo-medical vocabulary and, using photographs, made direct comparisons between mentally and physically disabled people in an effort to defame modernism, thereby venturing into the perilous terrain of “racial hygiene” and “hereditary health”.

In cooperation with the curator, students at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts developed a spatial concept that defines both areas – the documentation of the institution’s history and the presentation of the euward Archive – and simultaneously creates visual references. The heart of the exhibition is a video projection based on the euward image archive. Members of the ensemble of the Freie Bühne München, the first inclusive theater in Bavaria, recited quotes by the artists for the projection and will design part of the accompanying program for the exhibition.

For some of the artists, drawing and painting are the only mediums they have to communicate with the “outside” world and to ensure themselves of their existence. The works are moving and fascinating. “When I had seen all the pictures,” wrote actor Edgar Selge, who has been a patron of the euward since 2014, “I had the impression of having looked into a past in which there had once been people [...] and I became painfully aware of how little we know of one another, how lonely our egocentricity has made us, how autistically our daily routine is structured. And the predominant feeling remaining with me was the longing to listen to one another once again.”

Curated by Sabine Brantl

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