this issue contains
>> Drifter: An Interview with Peter Doig
>> Magical Mystery Tour
>> Interview Ilya and Emilia Kabakov
>> Time Travels: Abetz & Drescher

>> archive

Magical Mystery Tour
Young Painting and the Re-Invention of the Past

In search of things past: whether it's Peter Doig's mysteriously melancholic landscape images, Karen Kilimnik's impressions of old New York, or contemporary German painting's bent for the Neo-Romantic idyll - times are getting harder, and young artists have begun turning back to the styles and standards of by-gone eras. "Second Modernism" and "New Romanticism" are the catchwords currently used to describe this return to introspection, sensuousness, and visual opulence. Yet does quoting the past really testify to a nostalgic longing to flee from the world in search of ideals or the hope of rescue? Oliver Koerner von Gustorf on artistic strategies of repetition and remembrance.

James Ensor: Masken, dem Tod gegenüberstehend, 1888
Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund
(c) VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2004

Modern Modernism
Even to the exhibition's organizers, the success is almost uncanny. Day after day, visitors line up in endless queues in front of the New National Gallery in Berlin, putting up with hours of waiting to get a glimpse of the masterpieces of New York's Museum of Modern Art. Even if big American names like Pollock, de Kooning, or Rauschenberg can be seen here, it still seems as though MoMA in Berlin chiefly signalized European Modernism's return to the German capital. Masses crowding around Rousseau's The Dream, James Ensor's symbolist death dance, Monet's Water Lilies, or standing reverently before Matisse's Dance - paintings that have been reproduced million-fold on postcards, posters, and gift articles. In Berlin, however, the originals seem to have retained their full aural effect nonetheless. Not only are people with an otherwise limited interest in art suddenly raving about Rousseau or van Gogh, while book counters are being rearranged to make space for coffee-table volumes on Matisse and Picasso - this year's heavily criticized Berlin Biennale, which opened the same time as the MoMA show, also demonstrated that young artists are becoming increasingly involved with the works of their predecessors.

Mamma Andersson: Nordic Pavillion, 2004
Courtsey Magnus Karlsson Gallery, Stockholm, © Karin Mamma Andersson

"For us, Modernism is like a mother. I return to it again and again," as Karin Mamma Andersson, a Swedish artist included in the Biennale, explained in an article in the March issue of the German art magazine. In her dreamlike paintings, such as Stairway to Heaven, Andersson quotes 20th-century art history in an associative way, elevating motifs by Edward Hopper or Francis Picabia as though on an imaginary Mount Olympus. Andersson is part of a current trend among a younger generation of artists who are returning to Classic Modernism as their second home. "Modernism is our antiquity," Roger M. Buergel, the director of the upcoming Documenta 12, remarked in an April interview with Spiegel magazine, in which he outlined a few basic features that will determine the art event of 2007: a commitment to sensuous pleasure, all-embracing concepts of beauty, contemplation versus agitation. Even if conceptual art has been dead for decades, the art forms of the post-war era possess a special justification, constituting a completed epoch that young artists feel they can turn back to.

Tim Eitel: Abend, 2003
Courtesy Galerie EIGEN + ART Leipzig/Berlin, Photo: Uwe Walter

Tim Eitel: Untitled, from "In der Galerie für zeitgenössische Kunst", 2000
Deutsche Bank Collection
Courtesy Eigen + Art, Berlin /Leipzig, (c) Tim Eitel,Berlin

"Contemporary painting don't inspire me very much," remarked the 32 year-old Tim Eitel in Berlin's Tagesspiegel . Eitel's intense involvement with artists as apparently irreconcilable as Caspar David Friedrich and Piet Mondrian, the cool Modernist melancholy adhering to his figures immersed in art or park landscapes have brought him international success - together with the other proponents of the "New School of Leipzig Painters" that formed in Berlin's artist-run Liga Gallery. The magically charged realism, the synthesis of fiction, architecture, landscape, history, and zeitgeist celebrated by young German artists such as Tilo Baumgärtel or Norbert Bisky, have become a synonym for a young German painting that uses both constructed and construed pasts as a projection field for a present-day perception of reality.

Monika Baer: Zurück aus der Zukunft, 2002
Collection of Mark and Polly Addison
Courtesy Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin

Monika Baer: Untitled, 1994
Deutsche Bank Collection
Courtesy Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin

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