Our World is Burning
Current Exhibitions Reflect the Situation in Society

Museums have closed almost everywhere in the world due to the COVID-19 virus outbreak. But in the hope that art can soon be experienced again, we want to draw attention to exhibitions by Deutsche Bank partner institutions. While they deal with grief and loss, they primarily want to encourage people to change, to take political action, or simply to feel beauty.

Almost 25 years after the end of apartheid in South Africa, the Cape Town-based artist Kemang Wa Lehulere set out to trace the consequences of racial segregation. There is something archaeological about his work. He not only combs through old houses or abandoned villages for relics of the past, but also unearths forgotten stories, and overlooked artists. Deutsche Bank's “Artist of the Year” 2017 has created a poetic, touching oeuvre from these finds. In his installations, drawings, and performances, he not only shows what has been lost and destroyed, but also how art, poetry, and music offer resistance. Today, Wa Lehulere is one of the most internationally acclaimed South African artists. He closed his studio in 2018, because of the pressure on him to keep up in the art business. For the project Laying Bare, he re-erected his studio for five months in a museum, Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town, complete with art production, works, and staff. Among other things, the exhibition is about subverting the conventional hierarchies in art production and creating new experiences and more “social imagination” for the artist and visitors alike. Currently, works by Wa Lehulere can also be seen in the group exhibition Beyond the Black Atlantic at Kunstverein Hannover.

The Gulf region is more embattled than virtually any other area. Images of wars, burning oil fields, as well as complex conflicts have shaped the early 21st century. Our World is Burning, a group show at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, alludes to the humanitarian catastrophes caused by the conflicts in the Middle East, as well as to a world that is literally on fire, with forest fires blazing from Australia to the Amazon. However, the fire motif is not only an expression of a dangerous situation, but also a reference to the rousing power of the democratic “Arab Spring” movement, which had a strong influence on the art scenes of the region and in Turkey. Many artists from the Deutsche Bank Collection, including Shirin Neshat, Wael Shawky, and Kader Attia, are participating. With Yto Barrada and Basim Magdy, two of Deutsche Bank’s “Artists of the Year” are represented. Like John Akomfrah and Raqs Media Collective, they deal in their work with the repercussions of the Anthropocene—the age in which mankind became the most important geological and biological factor.

“For me, virtuality is a means to express myself, to understand reality, which is what I’m interested in,” says Cao Fei. “I use writing and film too, but we are living in an age of rapid technology and in this context, we need to know that virtuality has changed the way reality works. And to do this we need to be part of it.” Already in her early work, Cao Fei dealt with China’s industrialization and virtual dreams that go hand in hand with alienation in the working world. Her photographic works from the project Whose Utopia? (2005/6) are currently on view in the exhibition Time Present – Photography from the Deutsche Bank Collection at the PalaisPopulaire in Berlin. London’s Serpentine Gallery is showing Blueprints, a major retrospective of the Chinese multimedia artist’s work. In London, Cao Fei’s video and immersive works are the main focus, including well-known works such as Whose Utopia, a current new edition of the Second Life project RMB-City (2008), and LA Town (2014). Her new films Asia One (2018) and Nova (2019) are also presented. The centerpiece of the exhibition is the spectacular VR installation The Eternal Wave (2020).

We live in turbulent times, in which societies are changing at tremendous speed. But this change is not always easy to cope with. Whether it’s the loss of a loved one through separation or death, saying farewell to ideals and visions, or the loss of home and familiarity—we all have painful experiences of disappointment and failure in our lives. Art reacts to this. With Mourning. On Loss and Change, an entire exhibition devoted to this theme is now on view at the Hamburger Kunsthalle. Alongside Andy Warhol, Félix González-Torres, and Philippe Parreno, many artists from the collection are participating in the show, including Adrian Paci, Rosemarie Trockel, and Thomas Schütte. It’s pure therapy.

Finally, two further recommendations for exhibitions with works by artists from the Deutsche Bank Collection in Berlin: The Dutch photographer Viviane Sassen, whose works are currently on exhibit in Time Present at the PalaisPopulaire, can also be seen this spring in the stunning exhibition Body Performance at the Museum für Fotografie. The other participants include Vanessa Beecroft, Yang Fudong, Inez & Vinoodh, Jürgen Klauke, Robert Longo, Robert Mapplethorpe, Helmut Newton, Barbara Probst, Cindy Sherman, Bernd Uhlig, and Erwin Wurm. In April, Katharina Grosse, one of the most important contemporary German painters, will transform the historic hall of Hamburger Bahnhof and its exterior into a single dynamic image for the exhibition It Wasn’t Us. Her painting installation, as the press release says, “radically destabilizes the existing order of the museum space.” Which is perfectly in line with the times.

Kemang Wa Lehulere
Laying Bare: Studio Process at the Museum

Until May 10, 2020
Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town

Beyond the Black Atlantic
Until April 26, 2020
Kunstverein Hannover

Our World is Burning
Until May 17, 2020
Palais de Tokyo, Paris

Cao Fei
Blueprints

Until May 17, 2020
Serpentine Gallery, London

Mourning
On Loss and Change

Until June 14, 2020
Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg

Body Performance
Until May 10, 2020
Museum für Fotografie, Berlin

Katharina Grosse
It Wasn’t Us

Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin
April 24 – October 4, 2020