Artwork of the Month

ifa presents an exhibit from its Touring Exhibitions. In the Touring Exhibitions ifa presents contemporary art from Germany worldwide. After years of travelling through international museums, the exhibitions are transferred to the ifa's art collection, which houses several thousand works of art—works ranging from Rebecca Horn to Gerhard Richter, from Helga Paris to Marcel Odenbach.

With the exhibition 'Weltreise' (Travelling the World), curated by Matthias Flügge and Matthias Winzen, for the first time a comprehensive and at the same time exemplary insight into ifa's exhibits was given. The exhibition was opened in 2013 at ZKM in Karlsruhe, and has since been presented at nine locations—as its journey around the world continues!

The series 'Artwork of the Month' is intended to expand access to ifa's invisible art collection and offer a glimpse 'behind the scenes'. The 'Artwork of the Month' will be presented as the original in ifa Gallery in Stuttgart and will be published digitally.

September 2020
Gabriel Rossell Santillán: Obsidiano

Obsidiano von Gabriel Rossell Santillán
Gabriel Rossell Santillán, 'Obsidiano', 2006, photo: ifa © Gabriel Rossell Santillán

Video Installation, Mini DV on DVD, Obsidian Stone, Laptop and Labyrinth

The obsidian is not a metaphor. Facing a lap-top, the volcanic stone is the projection surface for a ceremony in the Dahlem Archive, which should only be seen through relations in opacity; the images projected were not meant to be shown in direct light or unfiltered, or exposed to mass-media. Like a painting from the Dutch school, only a few viewers can approach the installation. Obsidiano takes the video back to the space of painting, even though film as a medium was meant to project moving images to the masses. Due to the reduced viewing space and the video’s short duration, the public is obliged to move towards the obsidian and to rotate. In this way, the installation’s screening inverts the role of film (for example, cinema): Instead of reaching the masses, the obsidian attracts the viewers to it, taking them to the temporality of ceremonial space.

The chants of Mara’akame1 Dionisio in Berlin’s anthropological museum made the institution tremble. During the ceremony, the museum was stripped bare from the aura of classification and knowledge that it usually represents. Dionisio’s presence transformed the space in which the offerings and ceremonial utensils were located and thus took off the museum’s mask of 'otherness'.

'Obsidiano' opens a ceremonial space between the obsidian and the lap-top, a space in which the viewer’s body becomes a medium for interaction, allowing participation and exchange. Through the body, the viewers sense how colonial structures fracture, social relations transform and social representations are re-made.

The installation 'Obsidiano' was created in 2006 and acquired in 2016 for the exhibit 'Politics of Sharing: On Collective Wisdom'. The exhibit was developed as a co-production between the ifa Galleries and the Artspace Auckland in New Zealand. In January 2021, 'Obsidiano' will be shown again at the ifa Gallery Stuttgart in the context of the exhibit 'A Natural Order of Things. Lothar Baumgarten. Gabriel Rossell Santillán'.

Text: Andrea Meza Torres
Andrea Meza Torres completed her doctorate at Humboldt’s Institute of European Ethnology (Berlin); from 2016 to 2018 she was Postdoctoral Fellow at the CEIICH of the UNAM, in Mexico City, where she researched about the topic 'Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue from a Decolonial Perspective'.

1 Mara’akame (which has been translated into Spanish as 'Cantador' by the Wixáritari community) is a person with a special task within the Wixáritari community. A Mara’akame communicates with other subjects through singing in ceremonies. The subjects can be of  human or non-human nature, alive or not alive.

August 2020
Joseph Beuys: 'Ich kenne kein Weekend' (Never Heard of Weekends)

Maggi bottle, book (Kant, Critique of Pure Reason)
multiple, 95 copies
15 x 20 x 20 cm

A Maggi bottle next to the Critique of Pure Reason. It is not exactly easy to relate the two objects that Joseph Beuys juxtaposed in the edition work Ich kenne kein Weekend.
The Critique of Pure Reason, the main epistemological work of the important German Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant, published in 1781, and Maggi, a seasoning that was an essential item in any West German household of the 1970s, when the artwork was created.

Both objects are roughly the same size and colour-matched. On the typical yellow Reclam book-cover the viewer can see a red stamp: 'BEUYS: Ich kenne kein Weekend' ('Never Heard of Weekends'), which corresponds to the red of the Maggi bottle. Formally, the objects are on an equal footing; yet the milestone in the history of philosophy is not usually found next to a spice bottle in the kitchen. By placing the two 'ready-mades' next to one other, Beuys invites the viewer to think the objects together. He spices Kant’s ideas with simple everyday culture. He breaks open categories and hierarchies.
In his theory of 'social sculpture', Beuys sought to integrate everyday life into art. His statement 'Everyone is an artist' places on each of us the responsibility to change society with our own creative actions every day of the week.

Ich kenne kein Weekend is currently on tour with the exhibition Travelling the World. Art from Germany. In 1990 Götz Adriani curated for ifa the monographic exhibition Beuys, Drawings - Objects – Prints, which was on tour until 2004. Further works by Beuys could be seen in the ifa touring exhibition 'Fluxus in Deutschland' ('Fluxus in Germany') (1995-2012).

ifa is looking forward to the Beuys Year 2021, when the artist and his work will be honoured on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his birth.

Never Heard of Weekends by Joseph Beuys
Joseph Beuys, 'Ich kenne kein Weekend' (Never Heard of Weekends), 1972, photo: Uwe Walter © VG Bild-Kunst Bonn, 2020, for Joseph Beuys

July 2020
Karin Sander: 'Wandstück' (Wall Piece)

Wall Piece by Karin Sander
Karin Sander, 'Wandstück' (Wall Piece), 1994, photo: Maximilian Bauer, © (Karin Sander) VG Bild-Kunst Bonn, 2020

Wall paint, polished
42 x 59.4 cm

Karin Sander's work 'Wandstück' is inconspicuous and hardly even noticeable. The artist has polished a rectangular surface on a wall to a high gloss. Light falling on it is reflected by the mirror-smooth spot.

Neither paint nor pigment was used to create an image. Instead, the artist sanded away a very thin layer of wall with extremely fine sandpaper. This process emphasizes the peculiarities of the wall, putting its properties into question. The wall, traditionally the bearer of the picture, becomes the picture itself – picture and wall lie on the same plane. Where does artwork begin and what is wall? With her works Sander repeatedly questions and renegotiates the basic conditions of art.

Sander has created polished wall pieces for the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, and for the Stuttgart State Art Gallery. They have become a kind of trademark of hers.

Sander has also created a version of 'Wandstück' for ifa Stuttgart. She selected a wall in the walk-through area in front of the 'Weltraum', a room of ifa in which public events take place. Other works of art by Karin Sander were represented in the ifa touring exhibition 'Embodied Logos: 14 women artists from Germany', and are also currently on display in the exhibition Travelling the World. Art from Germany.

June 2020
Diether Roth: 'Gemischter Kopfsalat' (Mixed Head Lettuce)

Screen print, lithography, etching in zinc and drawing, in twelve colours on Hahnemühle laid paper
69.5 x 89.5 cm

This doesn’t look like a tasty, healthy salad. If we strip off the individual layers of Dieter Roth's 'Gemischter Kopfsalat', do we get to the heart of the work, to the issues that have occupied the artist throughout his life? Or do we end up standing in front of just a collection of confused ideas?

Alone the different printing techniques and number of colours used depict the complex nature of the work: screen printing, lithography, etching in zinc and drawing, in twelve colours on Hahnemühle handmade paper. The layers superimposed on each other result in an impenetrable tangle of information. The round shape that fills the print is reminiscent of the two halves of a brain. In the course of viewing the image, we see new details, but have difficulty extracting them from the grey matter. Just as it is sometimes with our own thoughts.

Dieter Roth was at home in all the genres of art. He worked as a visual artist, book designer, musician and filmmaker, poet and author. He became known for his works made of transitory materials that undergo a process of gradual change and decay. In the print 'Gemischter Kopfsalat', he addresses these processes of dissolution on a visual level.

Roth was engaged in several exhibitions for ifa, including 'Fluxus' and Travelling the World. Art from Germany. 'Gemischter Kopfsalat' was created as a print run for ifa.

Mixed Head Lettuce by Dieter Roth
Dieter Roth, 'Gemischter Kopfsalat' (Mixed Head Lettuce), 1977, © Dieter Roth Estate, Courtesy the Estate and Hauser & Wirth

May 2020
Rosemarie Trockel: Siesta

Siesta by Rosemarie Trockel
Rosemarie Trockel, Siesta, 2000, photo: Bernhard Schaub, © (Rosemarie Trockel) VG Bild-Kunst Bonn, 2003

Acrylics and pencil on paper
53.5 x 75.6 cm

Cut-up thoughts by An Paenhuysen

A young man having a siesta with his hand on a gun.
He is not the only sleeper in the ifa-touring exhibition 'Rosemarie Trockel': a man stretched out on top of his car, a boy resting his head on the table, a skull with eyelids closed.

In the history of art, the horizontal, resting depiction of men is rare. Also the famous sculpture 'The Thinker' of Auguste Rodin, in seating position, is not entirely passive: the arms are muscular, indicating action.

In the north-Italian town Cividale del Friuli, I passed by the Duomo. There are angels depicted on the frescos with their eyes closed as if sleeping. Sleeping angels. Isn't everyone an angel while they are asleep?

To watch someone sleeping is special. The sleeping person is not really there in the physical world but is somewhere else, in a different state of being.

The wading bird falls asleep as soon as it encounters contradictory impulses. 'Sleep is undoubtedly the most sensual form of protest,' says an Anonymous Anarchist in a fanzine.

In 1999, at the Venice Biennial, Rosemarie Trockel installed cots in the German pavilion in which visitors could take a nap. The installation was called 'Sleeping Pill'. Are some things better experienced in a drowse?

An Paenhuysen is art historian and art critic. Since 2016 she travels with the exhibition Rosemarie Trockel. Selected drawings, objects and video works, giving talks, workshops and guided tours. The ifa-exhibition is on tour since 2003.

The exhibition was supposed to open on 29 May 2020 at the Zarya Center for Contemporary Art in Vladivostok, Russia. Due to the Corona Pandemic, this venue had to be cancelled.

April 2020
Judith Raum: 'Bauhausraum' (Bauhaus Space)

An artistic research project on the Bauhaus textile workshop

Swaths of fabrics, yarns, woven materials – textiles are often regarded as pure decoration. Against this way of seeing them, the artist Judith Raum sets her extensive research and artistic installations on textiles, not only reactivating the peculiarities of historical fabrics by lavish re-weavings but also revealing them as carriers of political and social narratives.

The installation 'Bauhausraum' was developed for the ifa touring exhibition 'The Event of a Thread. Global Narratives in Textiles' and approaches the history of the weaving and textile workshop of the Bauhaus on different levels. Raum travelled to international archives to study historical documents and remnants of materials from the workshop: in this way she studied not only its extraordinary success story but also the history of its tradition. The result of her detailed research is six chapters that invite visitors to touch, listen, see and read an extensive multi-media installation and, above all, to let the materials speak for themselves and to hear the voices of the weavers through quotations. The work treats not only the relationships between craft, artistic medium, and the changing aesthetic programme of the textile workshop as a mirror of the different political visions of the Bauhaus directors, but also the question of (the reputed) gender equality at the Bauhaus.

On display in The Event of a Thread. Global Narratives in Textiles (since 2017)

Installation 'Bauhaus Space' by Judith Raum

Judith Raum, 'Bauhausraum' (Bauhaus Space)

Installation view, Kunsthaus Dresden 2017, photo: Ludger Paffrath, © ifa / Judith Raum
Installation 'Bauhaus Space' by Judith Raum

Judith Raum, 'Bauhausraum' (Bauhaus Space)

Installation view, Kunsthaus Dresden 2017, photo: Ludger Paffrath, © ifa / Judith Raum
Installation 'Bauhaus Space' by Judith Raum

Judith Raum, 'Bauhausraum' (Bauhaus Space)

Installation view, Kunsthaus Dresden 2017, photo: Ludger Paffrath, © ifa / Judith Raum
Installation 'Bauhaus Space' by Judith Raum

Judith Raum, 'Bauhausraum' (Bauhaus Space)

Installation view, Kunsthaus Dresden 2017, photo: Ludger Paffrath, © ifa / Judith Raum
Installation 'Bauhaus Space' by Judith Raum

Judith Raum, 'Bauhausraum' (Bauhaus Space)

Installation view, Kunsthaus Dresden 2017, photo: Ludger Paffrath, © ifa / Judith Raum

March 2020
Wolfgang Tillmans: Domenico, Planet

40.5 x 30.2 cm

At the centre of the picture stands a young man in a classic full-body portrait. A construction fence divides the scene into two spheres: bulk rubbish and residential buildings in the background, the portrayed person seemingly isolated in the foreground. He is wearing flashy clothing and accessories characteristic of the techno scene. He looks directly at the viewer out of two pairs of glasses, one of which has orange lenses. His top, adorned with of a zipper of glittering orange polyester yarn, and the rusty orange pile of bulky rubbish behind him, give the perception of the whole photograph the tint of orange.

Wolfgang Tillmans is one of the most influential representatives of contemporary photography. His pictures examine his immediate environment with an enquiring and exploring gaze. Tillmans became known to a broader audience in the early 1990s primarily through the unconventional photographs of his friends and acquaintances from the techno and gay scenes. His photos have been published in style and fashion magazines such as i-D and Spex.

The photograph 'Domenico, Planet' dates from this period. ifa showed Tillman’s work from 1995 to 2012 in the touring exhibition 'Bildermode – Modebilder. Deutsche Modephotographien von 1945-1995' (German fashion Photography 1945-1995). They are currently touring the globe in the exhibition Travelling the World and the African continent in the monographic exhibition entitled Wolfgang Tillmans: Fragile.

Photography Domenico, Planet by Wolfgang Tillmans
Wolfgang Tillmans, Domenico, Planet, 1992, © Wolfgang Tillmans

February 2020
Hanne Darboven: 'Schreibschrift' (Script)

Hanne Darboven from the series 'Schreibschrift' (Script)
Hanne Darboven, from the series 'Schreibschrift' (Script), 1972, © (Hanne Darboven) VG Bild-Kunst Bonn, 2020

Pencil on Paper
29.5 x 21 cm

The central term in Hanne Darboven’s work is 'being active', based on her daily practice, which seems well-nigh indefatigable. In the 1972 work 'Schreibschrift' we see waves of handwriting that cover standard lined paper from top to bottom. Letters and linguistic levels of meaning are lost in 'endless script swings', relinquishing their content in favour of pure form.

The relationship between form and meaning is dissolved; writing time expands into space and becomes visible. Seeing, perception, comes to the fore. Darboven follows a fixed ordering principle and sees her work as a documentary activity, 'a record in the sense of existence; it is a working through' (Darboven, 1966). The ifa accompanied the joint Biennale contribution by Darboven, Gotthard Graubner and Wolfgang Laib in 1982 and devoted a monographic touring exhibition to Darboven from 1995 to 2004.

January 2020
Günther Uecker: 'Spirale' (Spiral)

Nails and canvas on wood
160 x 160 x 15 cm

'Perhaps the surface of an image can be compared to a water surface touched and constantly changed by wind and weather.'
Günther Uecker quoted in 'Günther Uecker: Der geschundene Mensch. 14 befriedete Gerätschaften', Stuttgart, 1993, p. 23 (exhibition catalogue)

'Spirale' combines two of the central elements of Günther Uecker's artistic style: the spiral and the nail. To capture the three-dimensional square and person-sized mural in digital form, as here, the viewer would have to take a few steps back from the work. Only then do the individual nails, hammered into the wood in a uniform way, form a two-dimensional image. With the distance, the metallic hardness of the nails blurs into a soft and dynamic-looking whole. Not only by the direction of the spiral, which begins or ends in the lower edge of the picture, but also by the incidence of light on the surface, the rigid work conveys the visual impression of movement. The circular, object-like relief creates a contemplative undertow.

On display in

  • 'Poesie durch Material. Licht und Bewegung. 26 Objekt-Künstler aus der Bundesrepublik Deutschland' (Poetry through material. Light and movement. 26 object artists from the Federal Republic of Germany) (1974-1977)
  • 'Günther Uecker. Der geschundene Mensch' (Günther Uecker. The Human Abused) (1993-2016)
  • Travelling the World. Art from Germany Artworks from the ifa Collection, 1949 to the Present (since 2013)
Spiral by Günther Uecker
Günther Uecker, 'Spirale' (Spiral), 1973, photo: Uwe Walter, © (Günther Uecker) VG Bild-Kunst

December 2019
56th Studio/Saran Yen Panya: Cheap Ass Elites

Cheap Ass Elites by 56thStudio
56thStudio / Saran Yen Panya, Cheap Ass Elites, 2015, photo: Saran Yen Panya, © 56thStudio

Plastic baskets, glazed rubberwood
32 x 48 x 30 cm

High culture meets one-euro shop: the work 'Cheap Ass Elites', which was purchased as part of the touring exhibition 'Pure Gold', is dedicated to upcycling and combines plastic baskets with wooden chair legs in Victorian style to create new furniture: a humorous juxtaposition of 'high' and 'low' in sociological and design terms. The design objects were fashioned by 56thStudio, a creative agency, founded by Saran Yen Panya from Bangkok, Thailand, which is committed to the communicative potential of design.

On display in Pure Gold (since 2017)

November 2019
Sigmar Polke: 'Polke als Palme' (Polke As a Palm Tree)

Print of photo
29.8 x 20.8 cm

'Polke als Palme' (1966) dates from the artist’s early photographic period, in which he primarily arranged still lifes. The work is part of the series '…höhere Wesen befehlen' (Higher Beings Command), which preceded the famous picture 'Höhere Wesen befahlen: rechte obere Ecke schwarz malen!' (Higher Beings Commanded: Paint the upper right corner black!) from 1969.

Polke, dressed only in underpants and adorned with large paper fronds, turns into a palm tree, a motif of longing in the post-war years of the German 'Economic Miracle'. The artist places himself as a medium in the service of higher beings, parodying the conventions of artistic creation.

Like many of his fellow artists at that time, Polke rebelled against the principles of his teachers and turned away from the concepts of an autonomous work of art and individual artistic genius.

The cooperation between ifa and Sigmar Polke has a long history. In 1973 ifa acquired 'Polke als Palme' for the exhibition 'Graphic of the 70s'. In 1986 it supervised Polke’s contribution to the Venice Biennale. And since 1996, forty gouaches that Polke painted for ifa have been on display in the monographic touring exhibition Music from an Unkown Source.

Polke as a palm tree by Sigmar Polke
Sigmar Polke, 'Polke als Palme' (Polke as a palm tree), 1966, © (Sigmar Polke) VG Bild-Kunst Bonn

October 2019
Fritz Klemm: 'Papier auf Papier' (Paper on paper)

Paper on paper by Fritz Klemm
Fritz Klemm, 'Papier auf Papier' (Paper on paper), 1984, © Fritz Klemm

140 x 100 cm

First, there is a black image. Structures are hidden and at the same time form new connections. Lines run across the surface and shape spaces of ideas. Papers overlap like palimpsests.

The Mannheim-born artist Fritz Klemm created the work 'Papier auf Papier, schwarz' in 1984 – at the age of 82. The work, which Klemm developed after his retirement from the State Academy of Fine Arts in Karlsruhe, comes from what Jürgen Partenheimer calls a 'late early work'.

Since the mid-1980s, the work was part of the ifa-touring exhibition 'Prinzip Collage', which was shown at over 50 locations worldwide until 1991.