In this new recurring feature, art editor Aaron Rosen will interview curators about their current projects. Eva Fischer-Hausdorf is the Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at Kunsthalle Bremen, Germany.
Image: What exhibition are you currently curating?
Eva Fischer-Hausdorf: The title is Icons: Adoration and Worship, and the show will run from October 2019 through February 2020 at the Kunsthalle Bremen. It will examine how the concept of the icon unites aspects of worship, the sacred, and the idea of transcendence. It focuses on the exploration of the spiritual, mystical, and emotional power of art—and how the qualities of traditional icons continue to live on in the spiritual presence and auratic power of many modern and contemporary works of art.
Image: How have you decided to organize the exhibition?
EFH: Different aspects of the “iconic” will be explored in seven sections, including its origins in the Byzantine icon and its succession in contemporary art. We will have sections focused on abstraction and spirituality as well as meditation and contemplation. One particularly interesting section will be the disappearing icon and images of nothingness in art, from the Reformation until today. Then there is art as an object of veneration and adoration, which we see in everything from the “readymade” to stardom. Lastly, we want to ask: how do artists imagine themselves religiously? Are they creators, priests, saints, or shamans?
There will be a lot of variety; we’ll have religious icons and reliquaries as well as modern masterpieces. Some names will be extremely recognizable to the general public such as Kandinsky, Rothko, and Warhol; others like Hilma af Klint, Niki de Saint Phalle, and Isa Genzken still deserve wider recognition. We also want to use popular objects to create a contrast between traditional notions of the iconic in art with the proliferation of icons in everyday life and the media.
Thomas Struth. Hermitage 3, St. Petersburg, 2005. Chromographic Print. 45×45 in.
Image: Why is this exhibition important for viewers to see?
EFH: For the first time, the Kunsthalle Bremen is undertaking a single exhibition that will occupy the entire museum. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the space this way. The central curatorial decision was to present only a single masterpiece or small related group of works in each of the galleries. We hope this means visitors will experience the power of the works on an intense aesthetic, spiritual, emotional, and intellectual level. With this show, we want to transform the museum into a place of reflection and contemplation.
Image: Do you think it will change people’s perception of religion, art, or both?
EFH: Since the modern age, art has taken over the role of religion. We can describe art as a faith-based system which combines, to paraphrase philosopher Simon Critchley, “an uneasy godlessness with a religious memory.” Our exhibition is conceived as a unique aesthetic experience that I hope will give visitors a better understanding of art as, in Hans Belting’s words, the “sole modern heiress of religion.”
Eva Fischer-Hausdorf is curator of modern and contemporary art at Kunsthalle Bremen. She has recently organized shows including the site-specific installation Nachwirkung by Thomas Hirschhorn, a show on the French avant-garde film Last Year in Marienbad, and Max Beckmann: The World as a Stage.
Aaron Rosen is the visual art editor of Image and Director of the Henry Luce III Center for the Arts and Religion at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. He is the author and editor of many books, including Art and Religion in the 21st Century.