What was Modern Art? is an ethnographic exhibition on the „What is Modern Art?“ exhibition that took place in Berlin twelve years ago (2006). It observes this exhibition as a cultural event by means of an exhibition as a medium.
„What is Modern Art?“ (2006) gathered a series of exhibitions and events that have in the previous two decades contributed to the development of a specific practice within the art context that is based on anonymity and copying. It included the “Collection of Drawings” with the glimpses of the 19th century Parisian art scene followed by the display of paintings and artefacts from the Salon de Fleurus (NY) recreating the early collection of 20th century modern art assembled by Gertrude and Leo Stein where works by Cezanne, Matisse and Picasso were exhibited together for the first time. Following it is the Moderne Kunst remembering the Folkwang Museum in Hagen, one of the earliest museums of modern art and perhaps the first that included works by Gauguin and Van Gogh. All this is followed by the International Exhibition of Modern Art, an exhibition inspired by the 1913 Armory Show consisting of numerous copies of 20th century modern art from Post-Impressionism to Conceptual Art but in reverse chronology (from Kosuth 1905 to Cezanne 2013). Related to this were two smaller exhibits: “The last futurist Exhibition” by Kazimir Malevich dated 1985 and “Recent Paintings” by Piet Mondrian dated 1963-1996 and discussed in the lecture “Mondrian ’63-‘96” by Walter Benjamin. Finally, the large “Documenta 2” exhibition took a closer look at this major post-war exhibition staged in Europe in 1959 that for the first time brought together modern art from Europe, Abstract Expressionists from the USA and Russian/Soviet avant-garde through one painting by Malevich (Eight Red Rectangles). These projects examine not only the concept of uniqueness of the author and original, but also (the making of) art history and art itself, focusing on some major exhibitions, collections and institutions central to 20th century art, using copies to (de- and re-) construct their specific historical contexts and narratives.
„What is Modern Art?“, organized by Inke Arns and Walter Benjamin in collaboration with the Museum of American Art, was the first comprehensive exhibition that brought together these various projects and presented them at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien, the Gallery 35 and the Museum of American Art in Berlin.
While the 2006 Berlin exhibition presented selected memories on modern art in a reflective way, the current exhibition at Škuc Gallery, with its ethnographic approach, could be termed „meta-reflective” or what Benjamin calls „remembering the remembering itself“.
What was Modern Art? at the Škuc Gallery includes not only a selection of works from the 2006 show, but also related documents, photos, and press coverage. They are exhibited not as works of art, but rather as cultural artefacts that can be interpreted as meta-art.
Exhibition opening: Tuesday, 11 September at 8 pm.
Wednesday, 12 September at 5 pm: Museum of American Art- A Story. A presentation by its Technical Assistant.
What was Modern Art? is prepared by the Archive of the Museum of American Art-Berlin in collaboration with the Škuc Gallery in Ljubljana.
Photos of the exhibition: Klemen Ilovar.