A Poetic Journey through Space
Berlin Celebrates Otto Piene

He was a romantic idealist, a pioneer of multimedia art, and, working in close cooperation with scientists, a mentor of a generation of artists today who work and do research scientifically, ecologically, and technologically. Without Otto Piene and the ZERO group he founded with Günther Uecker and Heinz Mack, the sensational projects of Olafur Eliasson and Thomas Saracceno would surely be viewed differently today. In his work, Piene also anticipated the idea of the “collective,” of producing and experiencing art together with others, which is so relevant for today’s artistic practice. Like the art of ZERO, Piene’s work breaks down borders, ideologies, and nationalities.

Starting July 17, the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle, in cooperation with the Neue Nationalgalerie, is offering visitors the opportunity to rediscover Piene. The More Sky exhibition at the two venues documents how Piene developed a completely new, multimedia art form from his painting in the late 1950s. Early light prints, smoke drawings and light sculptures, some of them from the Deutsche Bank Collection, enable visitors to experience Piene’s experimental spirit in the KunstHalle. He pushed forward the limits of art using diverse means, painting with grids, smoke, and fire. He combined perforated screens with lamps and foils to create his first Archaic Light Ballets, from which he developed light sculptures starting in 1960 and whole kinetic environments—like the “light room” in which visitors are inundated by different light patterns and sequences. Piene created a large light room expressly for the KunstHalle. The exhibition also includes videos of his performances and “sky events,” for which he suspended over 300-meter-long illuminated polyethylene tubes in the sky, for example at the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972.

Piene also broke new ground with his slide performance The Proliferation of the Sun. In 1967, it was conceptualized for the Black Gate Theater in New York. Containing more than 1,000 hand-painted slides, slide projectors and carousel slide projectors unleashed a visual storm. Now the work can be experienced in a reconstructed version in the Neue Nationalgalerie from 10 pm to 3 am every night during the show. Piene described the performance as “a poetic journey through space.” The interplay with Mies van der Rohe’s visionary architecture gives it a new dimension.   

The exhibition kicks off on the evening of July 19, 2014, when a spectacular sky art event will be held outside the Neue Nationalgalerie with the support of Deutsche Bank. With three up to 90-meter-high, illuminated star-shaped sculptures, including Berlin Superstar, which Otto Piene showed for the first at the Technical University of Berlin, the artist will light up the night sky over Berlin.

Otto Piene. More Sky
7/17 – 8/31, 2014
Deutsche Bank KunstHalle / Neue Nationalgalerie