The Absurd Beauty of Space
Seven Artists v.s Ungers

Curated by Alexander Klar and Jan Steinke
Hamburger Kunsthalle
4 September 2020 – 9 May 2021

With Jan Albers, Sol Calero, Dana Greiner, Dominik Halmer, Franziska Reinbothe, Helga Schmidhuber und Claudia Wieser

Space, precious space
Creating and exhibiting art in the shadow of the pandemic means dealing unexpectedly with questions that one had never really considered before. Recent conversations have invariably culminated one way or another in an examination of the omnipresent Covid-19 situation. Worldwide debates have broken out on the question of wearing face masks, virology is the science of the hour, and a sense of ethics is suddenly more urgent than ever as a basic prerequisite for human coexistence. And in the midst of all the discussions surrounding these difficult times, the question is bound to arise as to the value and relevance of art. To get right to the point: art has a different value and relevance than we as a society might want it to have at the moment, and it in fact has nothing whatsoever to do with the system that many are now desperately citing as its justification. Art is thinking rendered visible, it is a pure assertion of itself. But art can also be filled with meaning, the meaning that we, the viewers, assign to it and which its authors have assigned to it. We give space to this art, and space is the subject of this exhibition – more precisely the spaces designed by Oswald Mathias Ungers. It is the absurd new beauty of the space that we are in such dire need of right now that gives this exhibition its very special pertinence.
Curated by Alexander Klar / Jan Steinke

Caribbean palm trees, colourful decor, plastic chairs – the museum as wellness oasis? Sol Calero (b. 1982 in Caracas, Venezuela, lives in Berlin) provides no framework that would separate us from her art. Her immersive environments – here a currency exchange office and in the second room a terrace – envelop us completely. Our field of perception is filled with painterly and sculptural elements that we can use as if this were an everyday setting. But what kind of space is this really? The artist has chosen an aesthetic that could be described as “exotic”, a word mainly used by us Europeans to describe something foreign, overseas, a far-away place of longing. Calero’s declared intention is precisely to question this clichéd notion of identity and nationality. For years Venezuela has been suffering under a severe economic crisis. In Casa de Cambio, the artist creates a social environment that highlights the country’s current hyperinflation while contrasting it with our own yearning for exotic climes.

Installation views, Casa de Cambio, 2016 and El Patio, 2018, Mixed Media, includes: paintings, poster, structure, furniture, plastic plants; All photos by Fred Tott