Christine Mehring

  • Giuseppe Panza’s unauthorized and decommissioned 1988 fabrication of Donald Judd’s copper untitled, 1974, Sala Luigi di Pietro, Milan, 1988. © Judd Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS).


    IF YOU’VE HEARD ABOUT Giuseppe Panza di Biumo, chances are it’s thanks to Donald Judd. In 1990, the American artist published a four-part diatribe against the Italian art collector, first in the pages of the short-lived, small-circulation German art magazine Kunst Intern, then as a pamphlet circulated at the Venice Biennale. Judd’s charge was incendiary: Working from rudimentary plans acquired years before, Panza had fabricated Judd’s sculptures without the artist’s supervision or permission, using incorrect materials and hardware and without fully compensating the artist. What’s more, Judd


    Curated by Thomas D. Trummer and Rudolf Sagmeister

    Any history of public art must wrestle with the singular case of postwar Germany: The country developed a percent-for-art program during the reconstruction boom and continues to enjoy the support of a civically and culturally minded middle class, all against the backdrop of long-standing debates about how to come to terms with the past. This context led to ambitious initiatives, such as the decennial Skulptur Projekte Münster, founded in 1977 by Kasper König and Klaus Bussmann. It also shaped generations of esteemed artists, ranging from Joseph


    For decades, Franz West’s garish biomorphic sculptures, profane furniture­-cum-art, and irreverent participatory displays have been ubiquitous on the global contemporary art circuit. Following the Austrian artist’s death six years ago, and subsequent legal disputes over his estate, this retrospective promises to pause and take stock, to look at West’s art closely and assess it from an art-­historical distance. The curatorial duo taking on the task is poised to deliver: Christine Macel programmatically placed artistic practice back at the center of the

  • Conservation specialists work on the underside of Wolf Vostell’s Concrete Traffic, 1970, Chicago, April 5, 2016. Photo: Stephen Murphy. © The Wolf Vostell Estate.


    I’VE NEVER FELT such a rush of excitement as when I first saw Wolf Vostell’s Concrete Traffic, 1970, one summer day in 2011. There it was: a vintage Cadillac encased in a massive shell of concrete, sitting in an industrial wasteland on Chicago’s West Side, ceding its precarious nature as art even further to dirt and moss built up along the passenger and driver sides, patches obtrusively mismatched and I-beam crutches crudely pushed underneath its chassis—irredeemable, one imagines, even to the entropic vision of Robert Smithson. And yet this was unquestionably a twin of the German Fluxus

  • Franz Erhard Walther, 55 Handlungsbahnen (55 Action Paths), 1997–2003, sewn canvas. Installation view, Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Geneva, 2010. Photo: Ilmari Kalkkinen.

    “Call to Action: Franz Erhard Walther”

    Despite Walther’s studies at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in the early 1960s, a hotbed of European artistic talent that bred classmates such as Gerhard Richter; despite his subsequent four-year immersion in New York City, similar to stays that propelled fellow Germans such as Hanne Darboven to statewide institutional recognition; and despite his participation in seminal shows, including the Museum of Modern Art’s “Spaces” in 1969 and Harald Szeemann’s Documenta 5 in 1972, North America has still been slow to recognize Walther’s significance for the expansion of painting,


    PAINTINGS STILL WRAPPED in shipping materials and photographs strewn across the floor; a gate blocking access to key works; an exhibition design revolving around an outrageous invocation of the Holocaust: It is unlikely that such provocations could ever take place in a museum today. Yet each of these elements was sardonically deployed by Sigmar Polke in a midcareer survey, or antisurvey, of his work at the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf in 1976. Curated by Benjamin H. D. Buchloh but with an installation entirely designed by Polke, the Düsseldorf exhibition subjected the legendary artist’s own history and that of Germany to entropic unravelings and protean reconfigurations. Four years after Polke’s death and on the eve of the long-awaited, major monographic show “Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963–2010,” which opens April 19 at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, art historian Christine Mehring reconsiders this little-known episode, illuminating some of the most confounding aspects of a prodigious, labile body of work that both invites and defies the retrospective impulse.

    SOMETIME IN THE EARLY 1970S, art historian Benjamin H. D. Buchloh approached Sigmar Polke about curating the German artist’s first retrospective. He was firmly rebuffed. To the thirtysomething Polke, a retrospective was tantamount to a “gravestone,”1 not so much marking accomplishment as signaling the end of an artist’s prime. But Polke eventually agreed to present a Werkauswahl (selection of works) on the condition that he be involved in choosing the objects and be in charge of the hanging. Buchloh therefore did not think twice when the artist requested a carpenter to assist him with the final

  • View of restored second floor, 101 Spring Street, New York, 2013. Photo: Josh White. Art: © Ad Reinhardt; Donald Judd Furniture™ © Judd Foundation.

    the Judd Foundation’s 101 Spring Street


    SOME TWENTY YEARS after purchasing 101 Spring Street in November 1968, Donald Judd recalled thinking at the time that “the building should be repaired and basically not changed. It is a nineteenth-century building.” This attitude marked Judd as a collector of architecture, as it were, for he acquired buildings not only to use them but also to draw attention to their historical value and preserve their material and spatial qualities. Whether authored designs (such as 101 Spring Street, which was completed by architect Nicholas Whyte in 1870) or vernacular structures (such as the

  • “For the Time Being”

    The Lascaux caves prove wall painting to be civilization’s most durable art form. But in the modern era, which freed art from its ritual context and made it into a circulating commodity, wall painting became an ephemeral medium, as the title of these joint exhibitions suggests. Complicating that premise, the two shows will include newly commissioned temporary wall works by such artists as Arturo Herrera and Karin Sander as well as reconstructions by key practitioners of the medium, such as Lawrence Weiner and Blinky Palermo. The hosting institutions promise both

  • Franz West, Curaçao, 1996, steel, fiberboard, plastic, papier-mâché, gauze, paint, acrylic, curaçao, 57 1/8 x 104 3/4 x 48".

    “Franz West: Wo ist mein Achter?”

    “Few artists have as radically collapsed the presentation of their art with its making and meaning as Franz West.”

    Few artists have as radically collapsed the presentation of their art with its making and meaning as Franz West. His installations, which combine furniture, designed wall segments, or complete rooms with “artworks” proper (his own or those of historical figures or contemporaries), insist on the inseparability (the shared formal vocabulary and shared contexts) of art, design, and their display. Centered on these so-called Kombi-Werke, this exhibition, “Where is my Eight,” which was conceived with the artist before his passing this summer and is cocurated

  • Wols, Untitled, 1942–43, pen and ink on paper, 7 7/8 x 5".

    “Wols: Die Retrospektive”

    “The discrepancy between Wols’s reputation in Europe and stateside is hard to overestimate.”

    The discrepancy between Wols’s reputation in Europe and stateside is hard to overestimate. A household name there, the French-German Informel artist Wolfgang Schulze (1913–1951) long stood as proof that New York had not stolen the idea of modern art. In the United States, he at best remained obscure, at worst was belittled by the likes of Donald Judd, who issued this jab: “Most Americans, critics and painters alike, are not even sufficiently impressed by Wols’s threat to Pollock’s position to be interested in the argument.” With his first comprehensive

  • Stanton Macdonald-Wright, Conception Synchromy, 1914, oil on canvas, 36 x 30 1/8".

    “Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925”

    “Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925” will be—surprisingly—the first large-scale survey of its kind at MoMA (the very bastion of modernism) since Alfred Barr’s “Cubism and Abstract Art” in 1936.

    It’s been one hundred years since Wassily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, and Piet Mondrian abandoned the depiction of objects in the world. With due fanfare, the Museum of Modern Art will reexamine the beginnings of abstraction, at once marking the centennial of that watershed moment and inadvertently reminding us of the subsequent backlash, as “Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925” will be—surprisingly—the first large-scale survey of its kind at MoMA (the very bastion of modernism) since Alfred Barr’s “Cubism and Abstract Art” in 1936. Marshaling four hundred works, both

  • Model of the Haus der Kunst in the pageant “Great Events in German History,” Ludwigstraße, Munich, 1933. Photo: Paul Ludwig Troost. From “Histories in Conflict: Haus der Kunst and the Ideological Uses of Art, 1937–1955.”

    “Histories in Conflict: Haus der Kunst and the Ideological Uses of Art, 1937–1955”

    These days, most young artists from Germany have shed the “German artist” label that for decades confined their art to an Adornian working through of the past. Perhaps no institution better embodies the con- straints of German memory culture than Munich’s Haus der Kunst, completed in 1937 as a leading example of National Socialist architecture and a showcase for yearly Great German Art Exhibitions. What can possibly, responsibly, relevantly be shown in its halls today? Reflecting Okwui Enwezor’s recent appointment as director, the upcoming exhibition