Villa Romana Fellows 2019
Five Artists Receive a Stipend to Stay at the Renowned Artists' House

The new Villa Romana Fellows have been announced: KAYA (Kerstin Brätsch and Debo Eilers), Marcela Moraga, Christian Naujoks, and Rajkamal Kahlon will live and work at the Deutsche Bank Foundation-sponsored artists’ house in the hills of Florence from February to November 2019. The very different positions selected represent current tendencies on the international art scene, for example the trend toward joint projects, the investigation of urban space, the combination of art and music, and a subjective approach to history and archive material.  This year’s jury for the Villa Romana Fellowships consisted of the artist Maria Thereza Alves and Eva Birkenstock, the director of the Kunstverein for the Rhineland and Westphalia in Düsseldorf.

The Villa Romana Fellowship entails a ten-month residency at the artists' house Villa Romana in Florence, a free studio, and a monthly grant. It is not only the oldest German art prize but also the longest-standing cultural commitment of Deutsche Bank and its foundations. The bank has supported the renowned contemporary art award in Germany since the end of the 1920s. In recent years, the Villa Romana, under the helm of Angelika Stepken, has established itself as a vital platform for artists of various generations, scenes, and nationalities. The Villa Romana has been a guest in Berlin in three exhibition projects: In 2008, the Deutsche Guggenheim presented the exhibition Freisteller featuring paintings, installations, and videos by Villa Romana Fellows Dani Gal, Julia Schmidt, Aslı Sungu, and Clemens von Wedemeyer. 2010 the Haus am Waldsee presented works by eight Romana Fellows in the exhibition Alloro. And in 2013, the exhibition project Süden (South) brought the lively atmosphere of the Villa to the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle.

KAYA is the most well known position. The joint project of Kerstin Brätsch and Devo Eilers was initiated in 2010 and was already represented at the Whitney Biennial in New York. Both artists work independently and collaboratively. Kerstin Brätsch, who is represented in the Deutsche Bank Collection, makes painting for the digital age in which everything is called into question: the urge to express oneself, the idea of the ingenious artist, the brushstroke on canvas. She examines distance and ambivalence, as well as the circulation and reproduction of images and gestures. KAYA also questions conventional views of authorship. While Brätsch, who was born in Hamburg and has lived in New York since she completed her studies at Columbia University, stands for changeable, body-related painting, the Texan Debo Eilers, also a New York resident, tends to work sculpturally. In 2015, they organized KAMP KAYA at the KUB Arena of Kunsthaus Bregenz. In 2017, KAYA exhibited at Museum Brandhorst in Munich.

Collaborative projects also play an important role for Christian Naujoks. The sound artist and  composer appears both in exhibitions and in performances and concerts. He often cooperates with other artists, currently with Ei Arakawa, who was among the participants in the Globe art and performance festival marking the opening of the Deutsche Bank Towers in Frankfurt, and Sarah Chow at the Kunstverein in Düsseldorf, and last year with Ei Arakawa and Dan Poston at Skulptur Projekte Münster. On his debut album from 2009 there is already a mixture of genres—classical, club sounds, New Music, and minimalism. As a result, he has played at such disparate venues as the club Berghain in Berlin and the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg. For his compositions, Naujoks appropriates prototypes of different genres and puts them in new contexts.

Investigations of urban space are at the center of the work of Marcela Moraga. She studied in Chile and Germany and lives in Berlin today. Her performances, videos, and examine how public spaces are organized and used as well as the relationship between culture and nature. She focuses on ephemeral, undefined urban spaces, using interventions to activate new relationships between residents and the city. Moraga also works with textiles, which she perceives as interwoven spaces and which can be read as object, architecture, or three-dimensional image. She has had solo exhibitions in Berlin, Santiago de Chile, and Hamburg and has participated in many international group shows.

Like many current artists, Rajkamal Kahlo explores the question of how archive material can be read anew. Khalon, who studied in California and New York and today lives in Berlin, works with pictorial material of colonialism, with “ethnological” and ethnographic books, panel paintings, and colonial military strategy books. She varies representations of the “exotic other,” appropriating, transforming, and destroying them. She is interested in rehabilitating bodies, histories, and cultures that were once violently suppressed or extinguished. The Weltmuseum in Vienna invited her in 2017 to participate in the exhibition Staying With Trouble, which is still on view. For the show, she interpreted photographic collections.