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WE LOVE NR - Neo Rauch and the Deutsche Bank Collection
Collaboration: The Feminist Artists´ Group ff - Interview with Mathilde ter Heijne, Antje Majewski and Katrin Plavcak
The Question: Is Painting really forever?
To Be Just a Pair of Eyes - The other side of Jeanne Mammen
Friendly Monsters - Street Artist Fefe Talavera's Project for the Deutsche Bank Towers
Artists Make Tomorrow's Poland
The Artist and the Propaganda Machine: How Fernando Bryce Retells 20th-Century History
Three questions for Nicola Lees - An interview with the new curator of the Frieze Projects
Süden - The Villa Romana at the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle
Let’s talk: Angelika Stepken, Ingrid & Oswald Wiener on “Hot Feet”


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The Question:
Is Painting really forever?

Art critics have been proclaiming the end of painting since the age of modernism, but a new interest in the medium’s complex and conflicting tradition, as well as its possibilities, has recently emerged. This is evident in “Painting Forever!,” a large, joint project celebrating contemporary painting in Berlin. But what does the future of painting actually look like? ArtMag has asked the experts.

Ellen Blumenstein. © Edisonga

Ellen Blumenstein
Interest in the various artistic genres has much to do, as in other fields, with the latest trends—in both the art discourse and on the art market. I believe, though, that the discussion of the “end of painting,” which keeps recurring in waves, is one that is very much internal to the art world. Most people not professionally involved with art automatically associate “art” with “painting.” Painting, along with sculpture, is the artistic means of expression that conjoins technical skill, the possibility of examining the world that surrounds us, and our questioning of it, through the shaping of form, and a material presence in space. Every one of us can relate to that. It thus comes as no surprise that exhibitions of paintings have always been the institutional programs that attract the most visitors.

Ellen Blumenstein is chief curator at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art. In the context of “Painting Forever!” she is curating the exhibition “Keilrahmen” (Stretchers).

Hou Hanrou. Courtesy Auckland Triennial

Hou Hanrou
Painting as Catch 22: I have been asked to state my opinion on the question of the life and death of painting. And I have found that this is a question of Catch 22’s type, like Joseph Heller’s famous book lying on my desk at the moment. This question is always there, haunting the art world with passion, even hate and love, but can never be solved… but almost nobody can escape from it.
Today, paintings are gaining unprecedented economic and social values in the market and institutional spaces. But its ontological, existential, spiritual and hence artistic values are increasingly defied and even diminished. The art world and mass media recurrently raise the question of the death of painting, more than ever. It seems to be true that the more popular and expensive paintings are, the less influential in the art world itself they become. This once the most important incarnation of the invention of new canons of art is no longer representing the new, the avant-garde. Therefore, its cultural values are rapidly reduced. This paradox shows a more profound paradox of art in general: Who is defining the real value of art? The artists, professionals, the historians, the critics, the media, the institutions, or the markets (collectors and dealers)? The question remains open. But there is one interesting contradiction that can still guarantee the survival of paintings as a “genre” in the arts: its vitality relies on how much it can do away from the historical rules, canons and criteria of its own history and how much it is de-constructively influenced by other forms of visual and cultural expressions of the contemporary time—photography, film, video, conceptual art, design, advertisement, social and cultural theories and even political discourses… In a word, it’s in its own deconstruction, or “suicide,” that painting can still maintain its real vitality. Perhaps this is true for the whole contemporary art world, facing the rapidly and radically mutating world driven by the most contradictory forces of technologic progress and conservative defense of the values of established systems—economic and political, the expansion of some dominant “global models” and the insistence on “local singularities,” etc. In this context, as the most historically influential form of visual art expressions, painting has to perpetually encounter with its own fate and its continuous metamorphoses.
June 16, 2013, Mammoth Lakes, California

Hou Hanru is curator of the 5th Auckland Triennial (Auckland, New Zealand, May – August / Mai – August 2013) and a member of Deutsche Bank Global Art Advisory Council.

Rita Kersting

Rita Kersting
Once painting was no longer bound to architecture as fresco, and the picture became mobile, the field expanded and the style was emancipated. Even today, painters are still experimenting with paint on canvas and creating landscapes, genre scenes, portraits, squares, abstract gestures, patterns ... Most of the colorful images currently finding their way into living rooms and sometimes into museums are boring. Joseph Beuys: “The error already begins when someone goes out to buy a stretcher frame and canvas.” Jörg Immendorff and Blinky Palermo studied with Beuys! The great painting of the past centuries has decisively shaped our cultural development and shows that, despite its material limitations, this medium serves as a mirror of its times and offers a fertile basis for artistic exploration – in all media. Of special interest are artists who don’t believe in painting, but instead treat it as an issue to be grappled with: Julia Schmid’s highly topical, fragmented pictorial scenes; Francis Alÿs’s The Green Line or his “Rotulista” pictures; the ink compositions Wade Guyton delegates to the printer; Jeremy Deller’s or Lucie McKenzie’s wall paintings; Imran Qureshi’s portraits; the scenes by Amelie von WulffenMonika Baer’s concept paintings; Glenn Ligon’s text consolidations; Pamela Rosenkranz’s skin-colored images. Or Antje Majewski’s tool paintings: not a paintbrush to be seen anywhere.

Rita Kersting is curator of contemporary art at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. In 2011 she curated the show “About Painting," for / für abc – art berlin contemporary.

Udo Kittelmann. Photo Mathias Schormann

Udo Kittelmann
“Painting Forever!”—a statement that looks to the future as well as back to the past. It patently makes reference to the multiple occasions in the course of the twentieth century, and still today, on which the medium has been “declared dead.” At the same time, I believe that this postulate of the everlasting nature of painting also alludes to its eternal “implicit horizon”*, which resonates from the past to influence developments of the future. Painting can accordingly be seen as a bedrock full of reference points—ones that in fact apply to every form of artistic practice. With this in mind, I don’t believe that “Painting Forever!” is necessarily an optimistic prediction, but rather a conclusion derived from over 100 years of art history. That painting has been subjected to a constant need to legitimize itself as a medium of contemporary artistic practice is likewise a testament to art-historical developments, above all since the establishment of Conceptual Art as a counter-pole to the Abstract Expressionism of the 1950s and 60s. The challenge facing painting ever since is to create its own, new conditions under which it can continue to assert itself next to other forms of expression. That it succeeds at doing so time and again is for me a clear sign of the necessity of painting’s existence for both art and its viewers.

* Avigail Moss, Kerstin Stakemeier, Painting – The Implizit Horizon, 2013, and the eponymous symposium that took place in 2010 at the Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht.

Udo Kittelmann is director of the Nationalgalerie Berlin, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. He is curating the show “BubeDameKönigAss” (JackQueenKingAce) together with Melanie Roumiguière at the Neue Nationalgalerie as part of the project “Painting Forever!”.

Thomas Köhler. Photo Harry Schnitger

Thomas Köhler
Painting is immortal. In particular in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, it has repeatedly reinvented itself. Starting in the early 1920s, avant-garde painting constantly explored new avenues. Beyond mere decoration, painting was now about painting in relationship to space. El Lissitzky’s Proun Room is legendary. It represents a world of its own, a space with mysterious objects and geometric forms, some of them three-dimensional, some of them painted. The painting entered into a symbiosis with the space and became an installation. The architect Gerrit Rietveld, whom El Lissitzky fostered, took these ideas a step further and implemented radical color concepts in his architecture. After World War II, there were artists such as Lucio Fontana who radically challenged the conventional aesthetic practice of painting, struggling with the flat surface of the canvas and focusing on the space behind it in order to open it up sculpturally. In the 1960s, this development continued to be pursued by Palermo, Sol LeWitt, and others. A few examples demonstrate the constant process of transformation painting has always been subject to. A dynamic inherent to painting lets it live on while playing with the conventions of the genre.

Thomas Köhler is director of the Berlinische Galerie. For the project “Painting Forever!” he is curating the exhibition “Franz Ackermann” at his museum.

Hans-Joachim Müller
Painting has both an easy and a hard time of it. It has been declared dead so many times and yet has proved impossible to kill. For a time it looked as though the painted picture might be go under completely in the wake of the technical image. But during the heyday of renouncing painting, people tended to forget that going on the defensive had never done the old medium any harm and that painting had no need of the youthful charm of its electronic rival in order to continually exercise fresh fascination on its viewers.
One might say that the market needs painting. Paintings are the collector’s item par excellence, the traditional artistic goods that you can take home with you, hang on the wall, stack up as inventory. That may be true, but it doesn’t really help much to explain things. The electronic image can also be stored in a well-organized system—in the Cloud. Might it be the case that painting derives its unassailable dignity from its own innate history? Anyone who paints a picture has had his own experience of time, has grown quite a bit older while painting.
And painting itself is an age-old art. It doesn’t have to be immortal. It is absolutely sufficient for it to demonstrate with every new picture—more sensually than any other medium—that there is after all no such thing as progress in art. Traditionally, we see art history as taking us from the Dark Ages to the bright spotlight of Modernism, where the human imagination has supposedly reached its historical apogee in the virtuoso play of emancipated form. We should finally be in a position today to write an art history that doesn’t merely pile new on top of new, but observes the unceasing ramifications of the old, which tells of how art began with painting on stone and on cave walls and in fact never grew beyond it.
All the same, painting still fulfills today the unquenchable thirst for the original. This guarantee of originality forms the basis for the incredible authority of the medium, for its aura. And it is this very aura that has continually plunged painting into the plight of having to justify itself. The twentieth century resorted to desperate, ultimately triumphant efforts to finally shed the legacy of this aura. Virtually every avant-garde movement had the goal of pulling the rug out from under the putative bourgeois celebration of the unattainable art original, of making all the fuss over the uniqueness of the picture look absurd. Even painting subjected itself to this kind of ridicule—all the while only avoiding the question of what makes for the indestructibility of painting pictures. It can’t be a kind of cultural law that we simply can’t stop plying the same old craft. Perhaps we just need painting in order, in the midst of today’s constant stream of image-creating algorithms, to rescue the unpredictable picture as enduring object of knowledge and experience.

Hans-Joachim Müller is a freelance writer for FAZDIE ZEIT, and art. Das Kunstmagazin.

Eva Scharrer

Eva Scharrer
Isn’t it high time to take our leave of the supposed linearity of (art) history, with one style or medium continually replacing another? Painting has been around for as long as humans have inhabited the earth. The seemingly eternal or at least regularly recurring debate on the alleged “death” of painting is by contrast a relatively recent development. It is the discourse bequeathed to us by a European avant garde in the early twentieth century that itself is now part of history, a discourse that surfaced time and again in the course of Postmodernism, especially in the 1970s and 90s. This discourse, which stamps painting as bourgeois, too amenable to market demands, too oriented on the unique work of art, and no longer in keeping with the times, was perhaps justifiable, and also meaningful, in its day. However, the avant garde then met its end before painting did. What’s more, the oft-invoked end of painting has never much impressed those who paint—and demonstrably has not affected the art market either. (It’s probably much easier to live with a picture in the long run than with for example a video installation.)
Certainly, it is a good thing and very important that painting is frequently confronted with the emergence of new media and discourses that pose ongoing challenges to its standing. Photography, film, and computer technology have influenced and altered painting (and vice-versa), as have Conceptual Art and the Readymade, Action Painting, Pop Art, mass media, the Internet, and many other developments. Painting has thus continually been expanded and its boundaries dissolved, and not only in material terms. And yet it still continues to assert itself even in its “post-medium condition” as an autonomous art form, even beyond any conceptual underpinnings. Particularly in our digital age, painting’s intractable crafted-ness, its specific materiality or “residual specificity” (Isabelle Graw) have only gained in significance.
I would like to concur with the three painters Majewski, Plavcak, and Sarti, who in the Painting Forever! catalogue plead for painting to be seen not merely as an artistic medium but as a universal form of expression that is part of what it means to be human.

Eva Scharrer is a freelance curator and critic. She is curating the exhibition “To Paint Is To Love Again” for the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle as part of the project “Painting Forever!“.

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On View
It´s About Freedom - Philip Guston´s Late Works in the Schirn / In Search of Impossible Art - The Zacheta Presents the Views Nominees for 2013 / To Paint Is To Love Again - The Deutsche Bank KunstHalle Celebrates Painting
Wolves in Brisbane - Cai Guo-Qiang's "Head On" at the Gallery of Modern Art / A Place of Art Production and Exchange - Villa Romana at the Bundeskunsthalle / Views 2013 - Lukasz Jastrubczak Wins the Most Important Prize for Young Polish Art / Regarding the Other - Lorna Simpson at the Haus der Kunst / Women Artists in London - The Highlights of Frieze Week 2013 / Jubilee in Regent’s Park - 10th Year of Deutsche Bank’s Partnership with Frieze London / Stitching Instead of Spraying - New Art for Züri West / Britain's Got Talent - Deutsche Bank Award Winners Announced in London
"Breathtaking in Part" - The Press on Frieze London and Frieze Masters / "A Great Start" The Press on the First Exhibition at the KunstHalle
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