Benjamin Paul

  • TRACE VALUE

    ENVELOPES, FLYERS, invoices, Post-Its, magazines: Visitors to German artist Karin Sander’s 2011 installation Kernbohrungen (Core Drillings) at the Neuer Berliner Kunstverein found nothing to look at except paper detritus scattered haphazardly across the floor. Those patient enough to linger, however, might have witnessed an occasional document falling through the air; glancing upward, these viewers could clearly see where the clutter was coming from: five holes in the ceiling, each about a foot in diameter. Sander connected the exhibition space with the administrative offices situated directly

  • Bernhard Fuchs

    The photographs of Bernhard Fuchs are out of time, but not nostalgic. They are neither classicizing nor do they revisit a romanticized image of a glorious past. Rather, Fuchs displays a world apart, seemingly removed from contemporary concerns. This attitude already characterized the series of books this student of Bernd Becher has produced since the 1990s, each of which, often focusing on his home country of Austria, is dedicated to a single theme, such as landscape (Waldungen [2014]), farmyards (Höfe [2011]), and even cars (Autos—Fotografien [2006]). It was once again evident in the

  • “HANNE DARBOVEN: CORRESPONDENCES”

    A room covered by Hanne Darboven’s Konstruktionen of 1968 can be a numbing experience, with row after row of framed sheets of graph paper conveying delicately drafted numbers and letters. Studied more closely, though, the works become intimate, even moving. Unlike her Minimalist pals, Darboven was never taken by the elimination of subjectivity. With her striking, idiosyncratic handwriting, Darboven literally draws attention to herself, as if to propose that subjectivity inheres in art whether Darboven wants it to or not. In

  • “Marcel Odenbach: Proof of Nothing”

    Though it is tempting to call Marcel Odenbach a pioneer, this designation might imply that his work is done. Born in 1953, he is not only a forefather of video art and a cofounder, with Ulrike Rosenbach and Klaus vom Bruch, of the 1970s producer group ATV, he is also—still—a protagonist of political art. For his generation in West Germany, addressing the political through art meant working through the complex process of dealing with the country’s Nazi past. More recently, Odenbach, who now lives in Ghana part-time, has begun to focus on colonialism in

  • “Unveiled: Berlin and Its Monuments”

    IN A HAUNTING SCENE from Good Bye Lenin! (2003), a comedy set in the early 1990s amid the profound political and cultural changes sweeping through recently unified Berlin, a piece of a monumental torso, one arm outstretched, from a gigantic statue of the Soviet leader is helicoptered along the former Stalin Boulevard. Passing the movie’s protagonist, a committed Communist, the petrified revolutionary seems to have been gently lowered from heaven, as if to reach down for a final handshake before vanishing—like socialism—for good. The scene refers to the 1991 demolition of the Soviet

  • Paolo Veronese

    IN 1855, the Swiss cultural historian Jacob Burckhardt published one of art history’s foundational texts, Der Cicerone: Eine Anleitung zum Genuss der Kunstwerke Italiens (Cicerone: Introduction to the Enjoyment of the Art Works of Italy). The book turned the emerging field away from an understanding of art as a passive reflection of religious and political conditions, toward a view of a liberated pursuit of aesthetic goals. Burckhardt, focusing on the Italian Renaissance, chose as one of his exemplars an artist largely overlooked today: the Venetian painter Paolo Veronese. Burckhardt hailed

  • Alexander Nagel’s Medieval Modern and Amy Knight Powell’s Depositions

    Medieval Modern: Art Out of Time, by Alexander Nagel. London: Thames & Hudson, 2012. 312 pages.

    Depositions: Scenes from the Late Medieval Church and the Modern Museum, by Amy Knight Powell. New York: Zone Books, 2012. 369 pages.

    YOU MAY HAVE NOTICED ALREADY: The Renaissance is finally contemporary again. Documenta 12 staged a dialogue between the venerable old-masters collection at Schloss Wilhelmshöhe and newly commissioned works, and at the 2011 Venice Biennale, Tintoretto was granted the place of honor. Now Alexander Nagel, one of the luminaries of Renaissance art history, and rising scholar

  • the Gemäldegalerie

    THIS SUMMER, old-master paintings were—for once—a hot topic. The Gemäldegalerie, the branch of Berlin’s state museums long celebrated for its world-class collection of late-medieval to eighteenth-century art, might soon have a new purpose: housing a collection of Surrealist art recently donated by prominent Berlin collectors Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch. Lacking sufficient exhibition space to display these works or funds for a new building, the city’s foundation of state museums, the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, decided to use the Gemäldegalerie to display the Pietzsch Collection,

  • “The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bernini”

    THE FIRST OBJECT one encounters when entering “The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini” is a hoax. Donatello’s Reliquary Bust of San Rossore from around 1425 displays a bearded man with a furrowed brow who humbly gazes at the floor, absorbed in what appear to be troubled thoughts. This rendition is so intimate and lifelike that we are easily convinced it is an accurate portrait not only of Rossore’s physical features but also of his personality. Yet Donatello did not depict the saint from life: Rossore was an early Christian martyr, whom he could not have known.

    To open a presentation

  • BENJAMIN PAUL

    NO DOUBT, THE THREE TINTORETTOS that curator Bice Curiger and her team selected for the main room of the Central Pavilion in Venice look splendid—not least because these late-sixteenth-century paintings were specifically restored for the Biennale. But to make Jacopo Tintoretto the point of reference in an exhibition titled “ILLUMInations” is misleading. Light always plays a pivotal role in the work of the Venetian painter, yet it hardly possesses the clarifying power to which the title of the 2011 Biennale alludes. Tintoretto rejected humanism’s empowering of the subject. He led the way to

  • Marc Bauer

    MARC BAUER’S DRAWINGS constantly call themselves into question. Made largely with pencil, they nevertheless lack contours, renouncing what was long held to be the medium’s prime strength: its ability to delineate forms with high precision. The Swiss artist’s lines are so out of focus, in fact, that they barely give shape and definition, blending into one another to the point where they are on the verge of dissolving into a mist of gray. With all their blurring and smudging, his drawings instead seem to emulate painting, with its far more opaque surfaces. In this, Bauer plots a new twist in the

  • “Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice”

    EMULATION HAS LONG BEEN recognized as a major creative stimulus, but there has recently been increased interest in rivalry, on view, for example, in the 1999 landmark show “Matisse and Picasso”—and again this coming spring in “Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice” at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the first exhibition to look at the three Venetian giants entirely through the lens of their complex, at times fierce competition. The fifty-six paintings in the show, which is co-organized with the Musée du Louvre in Paris and includes many loans from Venetian churches and