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Roman Ondák's Project for the Deutsche Guggenheim
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do not walk outside this area
Roman Ondák’s Project for the Deutsche Guggenheim

After Wangechi Mutu (2010) and Yto Barrada (2011), Deutsche Bank has selected Roman Ondák to be “Artist of the Year” 2012. The 1966-born Slovak is one of the most exciting protagonists on the young Eastern European scene. Now, his spectacular project “do not walk outside this area” is on view at the Deutsche Guggenheim.

Roman Ondák - Deutsche Bank "Artist of the Year" 2012

It’s a typical situation during an airplane flight: suspended somewhere between boredom and relaxation, you look out the window and happen to see this strange warning written on the wing: DO NOT WALK OUTSIDE THIS AREA. Who is this prohibition directed at? At any rate, the sentence seems particularly absurd during the flight. But it’s this very sentence that provides the title to Roman Ondák’s current project, which he conceived especially for the Deutsche Guggenheim. And indeed, an airplane wing plays a key role here: the path through the installation leads over the gigantic wing of a Boeing 737-500, which connects the two exhibition rooms like a bridge.  

The show presents works on paper and installations based on the subject of traveling, for instance Balancing at the Toe of the Boot—a series of seven postcards and sixteen fictitious newspaper articles made in 2010 for the exhibition Un’Espressione Geografica in the renowned Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin. In the show, which was curated by Francesco Bonami to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of the state of Italy, 20 international artists dedicated themselves to a single region of the country—for Ondák it was Calabria. Together with his wife Mária, he traveled through the south of Italy and sent postcards to Bonami with the single sentence “WE ARE STILL ALIVE.” This was meant as an homage to the conceptual artist On Kawara, who sent a legendary series of telegrams reading “I AM STILL ALIVE. ON KAWARA” to his friends in the 1970s. Likewise, this laconic statement by the Ondáks comes across as an ironic allusion to the widespread cliché of Calabria as the breeding ground of organized crime.

In order to move back and forth between the two parts of the exhibition, the visitor has to climb over the Boeing wing and cross the line with the warning DO NOT WALK OUTSIDE THIS AREA. Exhibition visitors are thus forced to tread upon the very area that one can normally only see from inside the airplane. Thus, Ondák’s wing is not a pristine sculpture, but a utilitarian object that one should walk on. The airplane wing serves as a gangplank, but also as a runway for our ideas, memories, and fantasies. In an age of global mobility, the artist invites us to embark on an inner imaginary journey.

“do not walk outside this area” is the third exhibition of an “Artist of the Year” at the Deutsche Guggenheim. The series began in 2010 with the New York-based Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu. After its premiere in Berlin, her exhibition project My Dirty Little Heaven was shown in several other international exhibition venues, as was Yto Barrada’s show Riffs (“Artist of the Year” 2011). After its sojourns at the WIELS in Brussels and the Renaissance Society in Chicago, Riffs travels to furter renowned art institutions: IKON Gallery in Birmingham, MACRO in Rome, and the Fotomuseum Winterthur . Like the corporate collection, the Deutsche Bank award is committed entirely to contemporary work. On the recommendation of the Deutsche Bank Global Art Advisory Council, to which the renowned curators Okwui Enwezor, Hou Hanru, Udo Kittelmann, and Nancy Spector belong, the honor is bestowed on promising international artists. The prizewinners must have already created a unique and exceptional oeuvre in which works on paper or photography—the two points of concentration of the Deutsche Bank Collection—play a key role.

The award is not financial in nature, but is an integral part of Deutsche Bank’s art program that has been opening up the world of contemporary art to the public for the last thirty years—through Deutsche Bank’s own substantial collection, exhibitions, and joint projects with its partners. The “Artist of the Year” is featured in a solo exhibition at the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin, and the exhibition subsequently moves on to other international institutions. An exclusive edition designed by the artist and a catalog appear concurrently with the exhibition. In addition, on this occasion a selection of the artist’s works on paper are acquired for the Deutsche Bank Collection.

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Deutsche Bank Collection goes App / Curator Joan Young on Gabriel Orozco’s Commission for the Deutsche Guggenheim / Everyone is a Performer: Roman Ondák's "do not walk outside this area" at the Deutsche Guggenheim / Grammar of the Everyday: Notes on Roman Ondák / Deutsche Bank Once Again Main Sponsor of ART HK / No Place like Home - The 2012 Whitney Biennial / Sober Beauty: The Photographs of Berenice Abbott / Curtain up - The Premiere of Frieze New York / Gate to the Present - Wilhelm Sasnal in the Haus der Kunst in Munich / “Color in outer space is nonsense, in any case.”: Tracing Thomas Ruff’s Work / An interview with Brendan Fernandes
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