LUENEBURG.- Halle fur Kunst Lueneburg
and the Museum of American Art Berlin present the exhibition Kabinett der Abstrakten Original and Facsimile. With the rebuilding of El Lissitzky´s Cabinet, which was once produced as a display room for abstract art, the exhibition presents 'the first attempt to overcome the fixity of the gallery display and the semi-stasis of the period room' together with its reconstructed historical and political context.
The Abstract Cabinet emerged out of a close collaboration between the director of the Provinzialmuseum Hanover Alexander Dorner of the years 1925 to 1937 and the prominent Soviet Avant-garde artist El Lissitzky. Immediately after the opening in 1928 the cabinet became one of the most important exhibits of the Provinzialmuseum. Alfred Barr, the former director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, stated that 'The Gallery of abstract art in Hanover was probably the most famous single room of twentieth century art in the world.' He was not the only one to see it this way, moreover the Cabinet influenced the thinking on exhibiting practices among museum professionals worldwide.
With the rise of National Socialism in Germany, it became impossible for Alexander Dorner to keep the Abstract Cabinet open for the public. As a result of a governmental decision the Cabinet was finally dismantled in 1936. After the Entartete Kunst exhibition in 1937, which included pieces once displayed in the Cabinet, those artworks were confiscated and eventually destroyed, while Dorner fled to America. The spread of Fascism provoked a temporary end of modern art in Europe.
It was not until a decade after the war that the memories and the narratives on modern art began to be recovered in Europe. But in the US, to which central protagonists of the pre-war avant-garde had migrated, it was the MoMA canon established with Alfred Barr backing the belief in the political and artistic superiority of abstraction which kept the awareness of the importance of the Cabinet alive. Back in Europe, it was much later that the memory of the cabinet returned and it was not until 1962 that it was featured with two large photos in the exhibition Die Zwanziger Jahre in Hannover at the Kunstverein Hanover. In 1968 the Cabinet was reconstructed within its original space but without the original works. This installation was subsequently transferred to the Sprengel Museum in Hanover, where it can still be seen today.
The exhibition Kabinett der Abstrakten - Original and Facsimile is an attempt not to reconstruct, but to re-remember this important achievement of twentieth century modern art, including the broader context of its appearance and disappearance. By working with copies of the destroyed paintings, we are following Dorner's idea on original and facsimile as well as Walter Benjamin's thought that 'copies are memories'. To create a complex space of memory, the exhibition works with various kinds of reference material and display techniques including paintings, books, catalogues, film footages, and sound. To quote again Walter Benjamin: 'The artifacts at this exhibition are not works of art. These are rather souvenirs, selected specimens of our collective memory.'