ZURICH.- The Kunsthaus Zürich
presents the thematic exhibition Riotous Baroque. From Cattelan to Zurbarán. Manifestations of Precarious Vitality. Curated by Bice Curiger, it brings together some 100 works of art from the 17th century and the present day.
Even before her appointment as Director of the 2011 Venice Biennale, Bice Curiger was working on a concept for an exhibition that would place contemporary paintings, sculptures, films and installations opposite art from the 17th century. The presentation at the Kunsthaus Zürich focuses on the riotous aspect, as Curiger investigates the vitality, existentiality and proximity to life that is a recurring theme of literature on the Baroque. The exhibition therefore sets out to extricate the concept of the Baroque from the history of style. In so doing, it breaks with myriad clichés: here, the Baroque is not about pomp, ornament and gold, but rather manifestations of precarious vitality vitality lost, projected, lived, rediscovered and threatened; a vitality in which death is omnipresent.
NOT A NEO-BAROQUE STYLE
The juxtaposition of Old Masters and contemporary art harbours temptations that the curator studiously avoids. Curiger eschews trite analogies, formal comparisons, contrasts of motifs or the invocation of purportedly eternal values. Her selection does not set out to proclaim a neo-Baroque style. These are artists to whom the customary Baroque label cannot be attached: Maurizio Cattelan, Robert Crumb, Nathalie Djurberg, Urs Fischer, Tobias Madison, Paul McCarthy, Boris Mikhailov, Marilyn Minter, Albert Oehlen, Cindy Sherman, Juergen Teller, Diana Thater, Ryan Trecartin, Oscar Tuazon, all of whom are showing new or recent works in the exhibition.
WORKS ON LOAN FROM LONDON, VIENNA AND MADRID
The 17th-century works selected are ones that, to this day, speak to the viewer with a conspicuous directness. They have been loaned by prestigious museums such as the Prado in Madrid, the National Gallery in London, and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna; there are also some surprising items from private collections. The emphasis is on the Dutch, Italian and Spanish masters: Pieter Aertsen and Monsù Desiderio, Dirck van Baburen, Adriaen Brouwer, Gerrit van Honthorst, Alessandro Magnasco, Bartolomeo Passerotti, José de Ribera, Jan Steen, Abraham Teniers, David Teniers the Younger, Simon Vouet, Jusepe de Ribera, Francisco de Zurbarán and many others.
CONTEMPORARY ART ASKS NEW QUESTIONS OF OLD MASTERS
This encounter between Baroque art and selected works by contemporary artists is based most closely on a montage technique influenced by film. It is designed to enable the two realities, with all their differences and affinities, to cross-fertilize, permeate each other and invite us to view them in new ways. Old Masters are not randomly mixed in with contemporary art. Each period is given space to develop. Yet at the same time, the contemporary works can be relied upon to throw up new questions for the historical works to answer. Indeed it is this approach, which also challenges the routine conventions of Old Master presentations, that gives Bice Curiger who freely admits that she is not a Baroque specialist her reason to tackle such a project. And, as usual with her exhibitions, she does not approach history as a progression from past to present, but rather looks back on it from a contemporary perspective, exploring the coarseness, earthiness, religiosity and sensuality, the grotesque, burlesque and virile a spectrum of sub-topics that she dramatizes through the grouping of the works on display.
The Museo Guggenheim Bilbao has responded enthusiastically to the presentation, and will be showing the Kunsthaus exhibition itself in 2013. The Kunsthaus will be lending some items from its own Baroque collection to the show in Spain.