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City in Sight
How Artists View the Century of the Cities

With around 70 international artists and 280 high-caliber works from the Deutsche Bank Collection, the exhibition “Stadt in Sicht” (City in Sight) at the Museum am Ostwall in the Dortmund U lets visitors experience how artists of the 20th and 21st centuries have seen the world’s cities.

The masters of German Expressionism, photographers of the “Dusseldorf School,” young artists from India, Slovakia, or Iran: each of them shows us urban spaces from new and unusual perspectives. Particularly for younger generations of artists, the city is a place to experiment, to formulate criticism, to archive, intervene, and to think things to conclusions. This multiplicity of artistic perspectives and strategies aims to inspire visitors to the exhibition Stadt in Sicht (City in Sight) at the Dortmund Museum am Ostwall to think about the future of today’s cities. A first step in this direction is a more conscious perception of urban space, its architecture, and its people.  

The exhibition location itself already shows how vastly our idea of urban life has changed. The former Union Brewery in the center of Dortmund, the “Dortmund U,” has been an art and cultural center since 2010 that houses the Museum am Ostwall and numerous other institutions. The impressive building has quickly risen to become one of the city’s newest trademarks, and it stands for the structural transformation of the Ruhr Valley and the search for new solutions for living, working, quality of life, and culture.

The oldest work in the show leads us more or less straight back to the place itself: Josef Albers, born in Bottrop, became world-famous with his abstract paintings of squares within squares. In his lithograph series of 1917, however, he realistically depicts the worker’s settlements that are typical for the Ruhr Valley. The show’s newest work, on the other hand, is a far more dystopian vision: Rob Voermans Thistlegarden # 2 (2011) portrays a scene reminiscent of New York. In the midst of a geometry of skyscrapers, an organic, parasitic anti-architecture flourishes. Like a gigantic alien being, it has taken root in the city’s remaining vegetation, proclaiming its downfall and the dawn of a new era. A century lies between these two works, one hundred years during which life in the metropolis has become one of art’s major themes. The exhibition from the Deutsche Bank Collection, however, is not organized chronologically, but rather leads the viewer thematically through a century of urban life. The excursion takes us with Otto Dix and George Grosz into the nightclubs and cafés of 1920s Berlin, or, with the Iranian photographer Shirin Aliabadi, into Teheran’s streets, where young women partying in their cars. Whether it’s Imi Knoebel projecting crosses of light onto building facades in the 1970s, the Moroccan Yto Barrada photographing new buildings in Tangiers like sculptures, or the Indian artist Dayanita Singh letting the mega city Mumbai resemble an organism riddled with nerves and arteries: the exhibition shows how artists present the city in a distorted or aesthetic way, or actually intervene with their work.

At the end of the show are the visions and utopias “the exhibition sends its visitors home with,” as Prof. Dr. Kurt Wettengl, the Director of the Museum am Ostwall, explains. Among these are the futuristic designs of Buckminster Fuller, who dreamed of a more socially just world during the Cold War era, and the collages of the young Danish artist Jakob Kolding, who affords us an Alice-in-Wonderland-like peek into another reality behind the modernist satellite city.

“Stadt in Sicht”, city in sight—this doesn’t merely mean that we should see the city with other eyes. The title of the exhibition in the Dortmund U suggests that in terms of the future of the city, we are in the midst of a journey. Where this journey leads—and the show also demonstrates this—also depends on whether each of us seizes the chance to help shape the city of tomorrow.

Stadt in Sicht - Von Feininger bis Gursky
Werke aus der Sammlung der Deutschen Bank

20. April – 04. August 2013
Museum Ostwall im Dortmunder U

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