Bank Meets Workbench
The Press on Pawel Althamer’s Project Almech at the Deutsche Guggenheim
Pawel Althamer has transformed the Deutsche Guggenheim into an art factory. His exhibition "Almech" is a project that is continually changing: Every day, life-sized sculptural portraits are made of exhibition visitors, artists and curators, as well as employees of Deutsche Bank, the Deutsche Guggenheim, and the Guggenheim Foundation. Almech is the name of Althamer’s father’s plastics factory. The plant, situated in the Warsaw suburb of Wesola, opened a branch on Unter den Linden in Berlin about three months ago. Althamer brought workers and machines from Wesola to the Deutsche Guggenheim to produce some 100 sculptures out of white plastic and metal skeletons. The press is enthusiastic about Althamer’s experiment.
Monopol wants to know more. Pawel Althamer’s extraordinary project for the Deutsche Guggenheim prompted the art magazine to devote its "How did you do that?" section to the Polish artist. On two pages, accompanied by numerous photos, Althamer explains the technical processes of Almech and provides background information about the genesis of this collective work. Karin Schulze from Der Spiegel underlines the "utopian aspect" of Althamer’s works and their "participatory character," enabling those taking part to be "directors of and actors in their own screenplays." In addition, says Schulze, Almech is "an homage to the inventiveness and creative spontaneity of this small family business, which flourished until globalization ousted it from the market. It was no coincidence that his melancholy reverence for a small local company brought Althamer to an art space behind which the two powerful global players Guggenheim Foundation and Deutsche Bank stand. His Almech juxtaposes workbench and bank, pitting leisurely, transparent, tangible production against the abstract, fast-paced, inscrutable transactions of finance."
For Deutschlandradio Kultur, the project invites people to immerse themselves "in the collective spirit of a large social group portrait. It is a self-experiment that should definitely be tried." Handelsblatt is somewhat more skeptical: "The blinding white sculptures created this way look like bizarre amalgamations between Berlin Classicism and Gunther von Hagens’ plastinates. A great deal of effort with only a modest yield – but perhaps those taking part in this "participatory" project are of a different opinion." The Deutsche Guggenheim has been transformed into a "place of active production," writes Kunst Magazin, while Zitty asserts that Althamer is among the "most experimental contemporary artists."
In addition, two TV magazine programs reported on Almech. Arte Journal describes the process of manufacturing these "sculptures as invitations to dream," and Aspekte (ZDF) sent the "Tatort Kunst" reporter team to the Deutsche Guggenheim. They experienced how Althamer immortalized Dakis Joannou, his "friend and biggest collector," in the artist’s words, as a "Dakota chief" wearing opulent feathers. The two reporters were "extremely impressed." Internet media such as art-in-berlin and VernissageTV were also on hand. Art-in-berlin’s camera team documented the first production steps of Almech. In an interview, Friedhelm Hütte, Global Head of Art, Deutsche Bank, discusses the background to this project, the 17th work to be commissioned for the Berlin museum. On VernissageTV, curator Nat Trotman from the Guggenheim Museum in New York talks about the concept of the show.
"One thing is clear: The Guggenheim as an institution never before surrendered itself so much to an artist with an experimental commissioned work," says Gabriela Walde in the Berliner Morgenpost. In her opinion, Althamer is "not an artist who fosters elitism. In the tradition of Joseph Beuys, art is something like a social sculpture to him, accessible to everyone and negotiable. A kind of Solidarnosc, transcending social classes." In the Berliner Zeitung, Irmgard Berner writes the following about the constantly transforming show: "At first, the exhibition isn’t one at all. Althamer is more interested in using the process to create a social, real sculpture, which confronts people – visitors – with themselves." Nicola Kuhn from Tagesspiegel has a similar view: "The Deutsche Guggenheim got involved in a game, a work in progress, where one can only guess what the exhibition will look like at the end. (…) Althamer pulled off a coup whose complexity is revealed only gradually. His bold transfer, presenting manual work in the showroom of a financial institute, cheekily demonstrates how precious the raw material is that is currently being delivered from Poland to Berlin: art, creative potential."