Julia’s Child

Left: Julia Stoschek and artist Marina Abramović. Right: Julia Stoschek, Stoschek Collection director Monica Kerkmann, MoMA director Glenn Lowry, and MoMA PS1 director Klaus Biesenbach. (All photos: Louisa Elderton)

SOMETIMES THE UNIVERSE throws you a curveball. Like at the ten-year anniversary exhibition of the Julia Stoschek Collection in Düsseldorf, where, standing in front of Ed Atkins and Simon Thompson’s SKY NEWS LIVE, a gripping newsfeed depicted the unfolding results of the British general election. Having witnessed from afar the Westminster, Manchester, and London Bridge attacks, sandwiched by Theresa May’s hard-line Brexit rhetoric and her snap election, I was ready to give up when reading a poll predicting the biggest Tory landslide since Thatcher. (No prizes for guessing my politics.) But as we’ve learned, never tune out too soon.

Stoschek and collection director Monica Kerkmann greeted me at the museum’s entrance, the former dressed in an elegant white off-the-shoulder jumpsuit, dabbing running mascara from her eyes, overwhelmed that her birthday coincided with the anniversary exhibition. Titled “Generation Loss” and curated by Atkins—who had just flown in from Berlin, sleep-deprived but elated about the birth of his baby girl just five days prior—the show marks Stoschek’s decade-long commitment to moving-image works, which has included the launch of private museums in Düsseldorf and Berlin and the acquisition of over 750 works by mostly European and American artists. The show highlights the challenge of artwork degradation and platform obsolescence, and spans the entire history of the medium.

The exhibition comprises a series of rooms containing two projections each and separated by thick, soundproof glass walls. One could gaze through them to see a mass of moving images, a flickering snapshot of the vast collection. Highlights included Barbara Hammer’s 1990 work Sanctus, featuring moving x-rays, and Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg’s unnerving clay animation We Are Not Two, We Are One. There was also Cao Fei’s 2007 animated work RMB City—A Second Life City Planning by China Tracy, and Ian Cheng’s live algorithmic simulation Emissary in the Squat of Gods, which requires a connection to a complex external server.

Left: Bruce Nauman's Walking in an exaggerated manner around the perimeter of a square, 1967-68, and Patty Chang's Fan Dance, 2003. Right: Sianead Sullivan and Laura Catania.

The VIP private view, dinner, and afterparty featured some of the biggest names in the international art world, most of whom had arrived from Documenta 14 in Kassel or Skulptur Projekte Münster. Sipping on Pimm’s and champagne in the collection’s courtyard were artists Andreas Gursky; Britta Thie with her Botticelli-esque hair; Lucy Raven, whose installation 20th Century Lights was commissioned especially for the show; and Marina Abramović, whose white ensemble perfectly complemented Stoschek as the two embraced affectionately. Berlin-based collectors Christian and Karen Boros were there, en route to Art Basel, which they have attended unfailingly for the past twenty years, as were the Zabludowicz Collection’s Lizzie Neilson and Maitreyi Maheshwari, who discussed their upcoming artist residency in Las Vegas, and Galerie Neu’s Thilo Wermke and Supportico Lopez’s Gigiotto del Vecchio. Chris Dercon was still riding the ripples of his new position at the Volksbühne Berlin, and KW director Krist Gruijthuijsen arrived following a talk about Australian art at ARNDT Art Agency.

Dinner for over 250 guests was served in Stoschek’s private apartment at the top of the museum. I sat next to Future Gallery’s Mike Ruiz, who praised the collection’s rigor, and Lara Asole from Pilar Corrias Gallery, there during a brief break from installing Philippe Parreno’s stainless-steel Christmas tree Fraught Times at Art Basel Unlimited.

As we tucked into the burrata, deep-fried zucchini flowers, and steak, MoMA director Glenn Lowry stood up to tell us about how Stoschek collects “with an elegance of thinking that distinguishes her from every other collector I know… with a conviction that we are all here on this planet for a reason.” Then it was MoMA PS1 director Klaus Biesenbach’s turn: “She’s fast, she’s curious, she has something magical,” he said, reminding us that she had “been a patron saint and an angel for KW”—the Berlin contemporary art institution that he founded in the early 1990s. A very jolly Atkins completed his own speech about traversing the passages of generations: “It’s Julia’s birthday—and I just had a baby girl!” And at that, a three-tiered birthday cake emerged.

As we mingled on the rooftop, observing the full moon presiding over Raven’s installation, guests discussed routes to the afterparty at Stahlwerk, where Peaches was playing alongside main DJ act ÂME. I chose instead to sneak off for an intimate nightcap in a local beer hall with Atkins, Raven, KW curator Anna Gritz, and the Zabludowicz gang. Wouldn’t you have done the same?