New exhibition at Hamburger Kunsthalle: 'Vija Celmins │ Gerhard Richter: Double Vision'

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New exhibition at Hamburger Kunsthalle: 'Vija Celmins │ Gerhard Richter: Double Vision'
Vija Celmins (*1938), Pink Pearl Eraser, 1967. Acryl auf Balsaholz, 10,2 x 53,3 x 20,3 cm. National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. Gift of Edward R. Broida, 2005.142.8 © Vija Celmins, Courtesy the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

HAMBURG.- A major double show at the Hamburger Kunsthalle brings together for the first time the work of two of the most internationally renowned artists of their generation: Vija Celmins (b. 1938 in Riga) and Gerhard Richter (b. 1932 in Dresden). The transatlantic dialogue promises to reveal some surprising parallels – not only shared themes and the use of photographic templates but also an interrogation of the elementary conditions of representation. What is reality, what is representation? And how can human perception, how can seeing itself, be made visible? Vija Celmins’s impressive paintings and drawings are all too rarely exhibited in Europe, and the Hamburger Kunsthalle would like to contribute to greater public awareness of her work. At the same time, juxtaposing such a strong female position with the work of Gerhard Richter, so often presented as a singular phenomenon, provides an opportunity to look at his oeuvre with a fresh eye.

The exhibition comprises some 60 paintings, drawings, prints and objects by the two artists, who live in New York and Cologne, respectively. The spectrum ranges from works dealing with everyday objects, to an engagement with war and migration, and onward to philosophical reflections on art. Fascinatingly realistic seascapes await discovery, along with studies on the colour grey and a wide variety of reflections and duplications that explore the reality of the image. A direct dialogue between the works of Celmins and Richter enables a comparative view, with small interspersed chapters shedding light on key aspects of their practice.

The duo exhibition brings together outstanding international loans from the Art Institute of Chicago; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Glenstone Museum, Potomac, Maryland; the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas; the Museum MMK für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main; the Herbert Foundation, Ghent; the Nationalgalerie Berlin; the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart; and many more.

This broad selection offers viewers the unique opportunity to see several major works by the two artists side by side, for example Vija Celmins’s »Heater« (1964), »To Fix the Image in Memory« (1977–82) and »A Painting in Six Parts« (1986–87/ 2012–16), and Gerhard Richter’s »Schärzler« (1964), the large installation »4 Panes of Glass« (1967), »Seascape (Sea-Sea)« (1970) and »Mirror, Blood Red« (1991).

Deceleration, fixation, specification and proximity are the essential modes shaping Celmins’s art. They stand in sharp contrast to Richter’s agitation, volatility, blurring and distance. And yet these two divergent approaches betray a common interest, something that Vija Celmins and Gerhard Richter share equally: the constant contemplation in and through art of the cognitive possibilities of perception.

In the atrium of the Gallery of Contemporary Art, a Picture Workshop set up especially for the exhibition offers visitors the opportunity to make their own artwork. At an art education table, tips on observing and drawing will introduce participants to Vija Celmins’s and Gerhard Richter’s working methods, after which they can use pencil on paper or a digital drawing program on an iPad to try them out for themselves. Every third Sunday of the month, the Picture Workshop will take the form of an »Open Studio« led by two art educators, who will offer inspiration to children and their chaperones and demonstrate artistic techniques. Accompanying the exhibition, the Hamburger Kunsthalle app offers a 40-minute audio tour for adults in German, English and plain language (German) (as free download or on a loan device for 4 euros).

A catalogue published for the exhibition, entitled Vija Celmins | Gerhard Richter; Double Vision and edited by Brigitte Kölle for the Hamburger Kunsthalle, will feature texts contributed by Juliane Au, Hubertus Butin, Vija Celmins, Johanna Hornauer, Brigitte Kölle, the Gerhard Richter Archive and others. (Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther und Franz König, Cologne, 2023, 256 pages, German/English). The catalogue will be available for 34 euros in the museum shop or at and in bookstores.

Curator: Dr. Brigitte Kölle | Research Assistant: Dr. Johanna Hornauer

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