Collection of Contemporary Art

John Dewey, Who?
New Presentation of the Collection of Contemporary Art

The Mu­se­um Lud­wig col­lec­tion in­cludes the most im­por­tant artists of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry and con­tem­po­rary art. The works of mod­er­nism and art from 1945 to 1970 are ar­ranged chrono­log­i­cal­ly from the up­per­most to the mid­dle floor. The con­tem­po­rary art in the stair­well and on the base­ment lev­el forms the back­bone and foun­da­tion of the mu­se­um, look­ing in­to the past and the fu­ture. At the same time, the col­lec­tion pre­sents the di­verse me­dia and con­cep­tu­al man­i­fes­ta­tions of con­tem­po­rary art, which do not fol­low a firm­ly estab­lished canon and can­not be cat­e­go­rized in­to styles.

In or­der to con­vey the wide range and di­ver­si­ty of sub­ject mat­ter of the con­tem­po­rary art col­lec­tion at the Mu­se­um Lud­wig, the pre­sen­ta­tion on the base­ment floor will change about ev­ery two years. Since the 20th of Au­gust 2020, the Mu­se­um Lud­wig is show­ing a new pre­sen­ta­tion of its col­lec­tion of con­tem­po­rary art on the base­ment lev­el, fea­tur­ing fif­ty-one works by thir­ty-four artists for the third time. The works on dis­play span all me­di­a—­paint­ing, in­s­tal­la­tions, sculp­ture, pho­tog­ra­phy, video, and works on pa­per.

In pre­vi­ous pre­sen­ta­tions of con­tem­po­rary art, in­di­vi­d­u­al art­works such as A Book from the Sky (1987–91) by Xu Bing and Build­ing a Na­tion (2006) by Jim­mie Durham formed the start­ing point for is­sues that de­ter­mined the se­lec­tion of the works. This time the work of the Amer­i­can philo­so­pher John Dewey (1859–1952) and his in­ter­na­tio­n­al, still pal­pa­ble in­flu­ence in art ed­u­ca­tion serve as a back­ground for view­ing the col­lec­tion. The ex­hi­bi­tion ad­dress­es the fun­da­men­tal top­ics of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween art and so­ci­e­ty as well as the pro­duc­tion and re­cep­tion of art. Dewey’s be­lief that art is of great so­cial im­por­tance is al­so the ba­sis of the Mu­se­um Lud­wig’s mis­sion to be a live­ly place for en­coun­ters and exchange. It ap­peals to an au­di­ence that is as di­verse and nu­mer­ous as the art it hous­es. Part of the cur­rent ex­hi­bi­tion of con­tem­po­rary art is an archive pre­sen­ta­tion that traces John Dewey’s life and work and ex­amines his spheres of in­flu­ence. In ad­di­tion, the fea­tured artists were asked about their art studies and teach­ing: What did they learn about artis­tic work and be­ing an artist while study­ing art? To what ex­tent has it in­flu­enced their artis­tic prac­tice and un­der­s­tand­ing of art? What do they try to con­vey to their stu­dents, or what goals do they as­so­ci­ate with teach­ing art? Ex­cerpts from the artists’ re­spons­es of­fer spe­cial in­sight in­to their work. John Dewey’s think­ing and work in­spire the se­lec­tion of the works in the new pre­sen­ta­tion on vari­ous lev­els: In what ways are in­di­vi­d­u­al and so­cial ex­pe­ri­ence dis­tilled in the works? In what form do they ex­press­ly or in­di­rect­ly re­fer to so­cial de­vel­op­ments? What op­por­tu­ni­ties do they of­fer for in­volv­ing vis­i­tors?

With the ti­tle of her work Pre­sen­ta­tion of an Ear­ly Rep­re­sen­ta­tion, Gül­sün Kara­musta­fa un­der­s­cores her fo­cus on the mul­ti­lay­ered na­ture of con­vey­ing and view­ing art. In a larges­cale re­pro­duc­tion, it shows an Ori­en­tal­ist mo­tif from the six­teenth cen­tu­ry based on de­scrip­tions by a Eu­ro­pean trav­el­er: wo­m­en in Eu­ro­pean cloth­ing or un­clothed are treat­ed like goods by men in a bazaar. Kara­musta­fa con­fronts the pic­ture with ques­tions that peo­ple of­ten pose to her as an artist from Is­tan­bul and which con­vey im­plic­it as­sump­tions and val­ue judg­ments.

Art is ex­pe­ri­ence, and en­gag­ing with it leads to new ex­pe­ri­ences: What Kara­musta­fa’s work re­flects al­so cor­re­sponds to John Dewey’s cre­do. For him, art played an im­por­tant role in ed­u­ca­tion be­cause art­works con­vey di­verse so­cial con­di­tions in a va­ri­e­ty of ways. Tr­isha Ba­ga’s Mol­lus­ca & The Pelvic Floor from 2018 is another ex­am­ple of this. Vis­i­tors can im­merse them­selves with all their sens­es in a mul­ti­me­dia in­s­tal­la­tion that leads in­to a Si­cilian grot­to, through the artist’s cave-like stu­dio, to the Philip­pines, or in­to the vast­ness of the cos­mos. Based on her per­so­n­al ex­pe­ri­ences, Ba­ga ad­dress­es fun­da­men­tal ques­tion­s—­for in­s­tance, on the re­la­tion­ship be­tween body and tech­nol­o­gy—and al­lows vis­i­tors to ex­pe­ri­ence them in the in­s­tal­la­tion.

Another ex­am­ple is Ju­lia Sch­er’s in­s­tal­la­tion Se­cu­ri­ty by Ju­lia X from 1991, a si­m­u­lat­ed surveil­lance sys­tem with cam­eras and mon­i­tors. The artist in­volves the vis­i­tors in her in­s­tal­la­tion by re­cord­ing them with surveil­lance cam­eras and si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly dis­play­ing the im­ages on the mon­i­tors. Sch­er has dealt in­ten­sive­ly with surveil­lance tech­nol­o­gy since the mid-1980s. She is in­ter­est­ed in the psy­cho­log­i­cal and so­ciopo­lit­i­cal ef­fects of the cul­ture of surveil­lance that is now a part of our lives.

Dewey as­sumed that a di­verse en­vi­ron­ment cont­in­u­al­ly chal­lenges peo­ple and mo­ti­vates them to fur­ther de­vel­op­ment. He viewed this as the pr­e­requisite for en­light­ened, self­con­fi­dent in­di­vi­d­u­als who see them­selves as part of demo­crat­ic pro­cess­es in a plu­ral­is­tic so­ci­e­ty. Be­cause art it­self is dis­tilled so­cial ex­pe­ri­ence, it has an im­por­tant ed­u­ca­tio­n­al role. For this rea­son, artists such as Os­car Muril­lo em­pha­size the im­por­tance of Dewey’s writ­ings in their work. The in­s­tal­la­tion Col­lec­tive Con­s­cience (on­go­ing since 2015) ap­peals to shared re­spon­si­bil­i­ty in an im­me­di­ate, sen­su­al way: the grand­s­tand-like woo­d­en con­struc­tion not on­ly serves as seat­ing for life-size dolls in work cloth­es, but al­so in­vites vis­i­tors to sit down next to them. By do­ing so, they com­plete the pic­ture, which stands for a col­lec­tive con­s­cience and soli­dar­i­ty.

As a prag­mat­ic philo­so­pher who di­rect­ed his think­ing at the so­cial ef­fects of his phi­lo­so­phy, John Dewey’s fo­cus from the very be­gin­n­ing was ed­u­ca­tion. He for­mu­lates the cen­tral role of art in his writ­ings Democ­ra­cy and Ed­u­ca­tion (1916) and Art as Ex­pe­ri­ence (1934). Dewey is not on­ly known as a co-foun­der of the New School for So­cial Re­search in New York. Es­pe­cial­ly in the field of art ed­u­ca­tion, his in­flu­ence ex­tends from Black Moun­tain Col­lege to the Cal­i­for­nia In­sti­tute of the Arts and the Whit­ney In­de­pen­dent Study Pro­gram. Dewey’s work al­so left traces around the world through his trav­els and stays abroad. He spent three months in Ja­pan and two years in Chi­na be­tween 1919 and 1921. In 1924, along with five other in­ter­na­tio­n­al aca­demics, he was com­mis­sioned by the Re­public of Turkey, new­ly found­ed in 1923, to for­mu­late re­c­om­men­da­tions for com­pre­hen­sive ed­u­ca­tio­n­al re­form, and he trav­eled the coun­try for three months. He al­so visit­ed the So­vi­et Union in 1928. His im­por­tance for re-ed­u­ca­tion in West Ger­many af­ter 1945, a demo­crat­ic ed­u­ca­tio­n­al ini­tia­tive by the Al­lies aimed at de­naz­i­fi­ca­tion, and for pri­mary school re­form there is less well known.

Artists: Kai Al­thoff, Ei Arakawa, Ed­gar Arce­neaux, Tr­isha Ba­ga, John Baldes­sari, An­drea Bütt­n­er, Erik Bu­la­tov, Tom Burr, Michael Buthe, John Cage, Miri­am Cahn, Fang Li­jun, Ter­ry Fox, An­drea Fras­er, Dan Gra­ham, Lubai­na Himid, Huang Yong Ping, Al­lan Kaprow, Gül­sün Kara­musta­fa, Martin Kip­pen­berg­er, Jut­ta Koether, Maria Lass­nig, Jochen Lem­pert, Sarah Lu­cas, Os­car Muril­lo, Ker­ry James Mar­shall, Park McArthur, Mar­cel Oden­bach, Ro­man On­dak, Ju­lia Sch­er, Av­ery Singer, Di­a­mond Stingi­ly, Rose­marie Trock­el, Car­rie Mae Weems, Josef Zehr­er

The new pre­sen­ta­tion of con­tem­po­rary art is sup­port­ed by the Ge­sellschaft für Mod­erne Kunst am Mu­se­um Lud­wig.

Cu­ra­tors: Dr. Bar­bara En­gel­bach and Jan­ice Mitchell

The Mu­se­um Lud­wig will be post­ing about the ex­hi­bi­tion on its so­cial me­dia chan­nels with the hash­tag #ne­uprae­sen­ta­tion. Face­book/In­s­ta­gram/Twit­ter/Vimeo: @Mu­se­um­Lud­wig­se­um-lud­