Hans Haacke, Goat Feeding In Woods, 1970 © Hans Haacke / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

Hans Haacke, Goat Feeding In Woods, 1970 © Hans Haacke / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

Press Preview: Friday, 19 June, 11 am

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, information about the exhibition opening event and accompanying program will be announced separately soon.

Museum Abteiberg is showing the research exhibition HANS HAACKE: ART NATURE POLITICS from June 21 to October 25, 2020. Curated by Ursula Ströbele of the Study Center for Modern and Contemporary Art at the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte Munich (December 12, 2019 to February 7, 2020), it is now being installed in Mönchengladbach in collaboration with Felicia Rappe within the museum’s art of the 1960s and 1970s collection.      

Hans Haacke (b. 1936 in Cologne) is internationally known for his institutional critique that exposes sociopolitical interdependencies in the art (market) system. He advocates an “art of enlightenment” that brings alarming and illegal realities to the fore. The artist was awarded the City of Kassel’s Arnold Bode Prize in October 2019; that same month saw the opening of the comprehensive retrospective “Hans Haacke: All Connected” at the New Museum in New York, where the artist has lived since the mid-1960s. In autumn he will receive the Kaiserring, or Goslar Award for Modern Art, for the year 2020.

A number of Haacke’s lesser-known early works (made between about 1965 and 1972) explore animals and plants as agents in biological “real time systems” (Jack Burnham)—a group Haacke humorously refers to as his “Franciscan” works. The eponymous saint is known as an animal lover, ecologist and pacifist who communicated with animals and took care of them. These works in particular question the separation between culture and nature—now a potent issue in contemporary art. The exhibition combines an early artist film (1969) with a selection of photographs featuring these rarely shown biological, sculptural systems along with key publications in this context: The exhibition sheds light on systems theory and cybernetics—an important part of Haacke’s understanding of sculpture in those years—but also on ecology and environmental pollution as exemplified by his important 1972 exhibition Demonstrationen der physikalischen Welt: biologische und gesellschaftliche Systeme (Demonstrations of the Physical World: Biological and Social Systems) at Museum Haus Lange in Krefeld, a show that highlighted the political connections of Haacke’s work with nature. The interweaving of nature, society and politics has been a hallmark of the artist’s oeuvre ever since.

Haacke’s expanded understanding of sculpture also reveals itself in his time-based, physical objects wherein air, water and other liquids become both material and part of the work. Museum Abteiberg’s collection includes one such early participatory object by Haacke: a piece from 1965 that invites visitors to turn a cylinder made of acrylic glass (approx. 30 cm high, filled with two immiscible liquids), thereby setting its contents in motion. After many years out of the public eye, this permanent loan from the Etzold Collection will be on view once more in the context of the exhibition.

In 2000 Hans Haacke realized the fiercely debated work Der Bevölkerung (To the Population) in the northern atrium of the Reichstag building in Berlin. Members of the Bundestag were and still are invited to bring soil from their respective electoral districts to Berlin and to place it around the dedication lettering, which is projected directly on the floor. The biotope, which has been growing for almost 20 years, is left entirely to its own devices. The project echoes another, earlier project from 1970, namely a mound of fertile soil Haacke brought to the roof of his studio and allowed to become wildly overgrown (Bowery Seeds).

Museum Abteiberg is showing the site-specifically adapted work Wir (alle) sind das Volk (We (all) are the people) for the first time in North Rhine-Westphalia. Haacke conceived the work in 2017 for documenta 14 in Kassel. The banner with the inscription in twelve languages surrounded by rainbow colors is prominently displayed on the Mönchengladbach museum built by Hans Hollein. After stations in Chemnitz (art collections), Dresden (Academy of Fine Arts), Halle (Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design), Leipzig (Academy of Fine Arts), Weimar (Bauhaus University) and Zwickau (Marktplatz), among others, the conceptual work was recently shown at the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte in Munich with two flags and a banner displayed on the façade of the former Nazi Party (NSDAP) administration building, where the institute for art history is housed. Commemorating the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the artwork recalls the slogan “We are the people” from Monday demonstrations in Leipzig in 1989/90, which also became a rallying cry for German reunification. Haacke’s work remains highly relevant in light of the political situation in Europe today.

In its interweaving of art, politics and ecology, this research exhibition on Hans Haacke’s early work is a fitting parallel to GRIEF AND HOPE, a simultaneous exhibition at Museum Abteiberg devoted to the artistic work of Andrea Bowers (b. 1965 in Wilmington, Ohio, USA). Bowers’s exhibition explores issues of ecology, eco-feminism and the activists involved in today’s climate protection movements (March 15 to October 25, 2020).
The Haacke exhibition is supported by CONIVNCTA FLORESCIT, Verein der Freunde des Zentralinstituts für Kunstgeschichte e.V. (Munich) and Museumsverein Abteiberg e.V. (Mönchengladbach).

More Informations:

Contact: Uwe Riedel, Press and Publicity Dpt., riedel@museum-abteiberg.de, phone: +49 2161 252636.

You are also welcome to send questions of content directly to Ursula Ströbele: U.Stroebele@zikg.eu

For further information about the exhibition in Munich, see:

https://www.zikg.eu/aktuelles/veranstaltungen/2019/ausstellung-hans-haacke (in German only)

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Hans Haacke, Goat Feeding In Woods, 1970 © Hans Haacke / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020


Hans Haacke, Bowery Seeds, 1970, © Hans Haacke VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020


Hans Haacke, Live Airborne System, 1965/68 © Hans Haacke / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020


Hans Haacke, Wir (alle) sind das Volk, 2003-2017, Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, 2019 (Installationsansicht), Foto: Wilfried Petzi © Hans Haacke VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020


Hans Haacke, Wir (alle) sind das Volk, 2003/2017 © Hans Haacke / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020