Lothar Baumgarten


When Lothar Baumgarten applied the names of Indian tribes to the walls of the Guggenheim Museum, some visitors were offended. They didn’t understand why a German artist would tell Americans about their own history. The crux of the matter lies in how one approaches the artist’s use of words: the subject of this work is not American history, not the Indians or their customs; it is the words themselves. When Baumgarten uses words in his installations, he is not interested in what they signify, but, rather, in what social constructions they reflect.

On the interior walls of Portikus, pairs of words were painted in pairs of alternating colors, forming ellipses through their order, moving along the walls and around the corners. It has become very common to speak about language as a carrier of culture. Baumgarten—in his permanent installation in Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt or at

to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. Please sign in below.

Not registered for Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW and save up to 65% off the newsstand price for full online access to this issue and our archive.

Order the PRINT EDITION of the January 1994 issue for $17 or the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.