Deutsche Bank honors its "Artists of the Year" 2021 with a joint exhibition at Berlin's PalaisPopulaire

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Deutsche Bank honors its "Artists of the Year" 2021 with a joint exhibition at Berlin's PalaisPopulaire
Installation view "Artists of the Year – Maxwell Alexandre, Conny Maier, Zhang Xu Zhan”, PalaisPopulaire 2021/2022. Photo: Mathias Schormann. Zhang Xu Zhan, courtesy of the artist and Project Fulfill Art Space.

BERLIN.- Deutsche Bank honors its three “Artists of the Year” for 2021—Maxwell Alexandre, Conny Maier, and Zhang Xu Zhan—and devotes a joint exhibition to them at the PalaisPopulaire from September 15, 2021, to February 7, 2022.

Exactly ten years ago, Deutsche Bank launched its “Artist of the Year” series. On the occasion of this anniversary, and on the recommendation of the advisory curators Victoria Noorthoorn, Hou Hanru, and Udo Kittelmann, the bank is now honoring three artists simultaneously for the first time: Maxwell Alexandre (Brazil), Conny Maier (Germany), and Zhang Xu Zhan (Taiwan). “What all three have in common is that they came to contemporary art via unusual paths and bring very specific life experiences, worldviews, and cultural influences with them,” says Britta Frber, Chief Curator of Deutsche Bank’s art program and also responsible for the current exhibition of the three artists at the PalaisPopulaire.

Maxwell Alexandre was born in 1990 in Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro's largest favela, where he still lives today. The paintings and installations by the artist, who is of African descent, revolve around community and violence, hip-hop and spirituality. His multi part series Forbes Under 30 from the 500 Year Party cycle explores Brazilian media imagery. Alexandre repeatedly repaints the cover motif of the 2019 Brazilian edition of Forbes magazine, which named him one of the 90 most successful Brazilians under thirty, changing the shades of the protagonists’ skin colors. It is a serial meditation on systemic racism, the Brazilian elite, and class.

Conny Maier is the first German artist that Deutsche Bank has honored as "Artist of the Year" in the ten years the award has been presented. The Berlin-born artist is one of the most important discoveries in the current German painting scene. Maier’s figurative, colorfully luminous paintings draw on very different influences: the expressionism of the “Brcke,” Picasso and Gauguin, as well as the current discourses on painting that have been held since the "new figuration" of the 1980s. Maier’s art reflects a world shaped by representation and materialism, in which people seem to lose control. A central motif of her work is the relationship between culture and nature. Maier humorously and subtly exposes the romantic and heroic transfiguration of this struggle for dominance and submission.

Zhang Xu Zhan was born in Taiwan in 1988 into a family that has been making and trading traditional paper figurines for over a century. These figures, used in religious ceremonies and funeral rituals in Taiwan, are made of papier-mch and elaborately decorated. His stop-motion films, staged in immersive installations, take us into the realm of nature spirits and demons. In doing so, they touch on such universal themes as death, transience, and the quest for community. Zhang Xu, who has a keen interest in spirituality, folklore, and anthropology, transfers his family’s traditional handicrafts into the global art world of the twenty-first century. His work addresses the idea of a universal art of the realm between cultures, traditions, and new technologies.

Three publications on the exhibition will be published by Kerber Verlag in January.

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