“Neue Welt”

Frankfurter Kunstverein

Let’s say this much up front: In the welter of theme-based exhibitions, “Neue Welt” (New world) is exceptional. But why? After all, it is concerned, as the curator, Nicolaus Schafhausen, states in the catalogue, with “the redefinition of the public sphere, the positioning of the individual in a spectacularized society, and the effects of a globalized economy”—that is, with themes that nowadays nearly every ambitious exhibition pursues, though usually with only middling success.

What concerns Schafhausen is the redefinition of the public sphere as a “metaphor for a complex system of interlocking spheres,” including that of art. This public sphere has long since metamorphosed into a spectacle encompassing the entire globe, in which anyone can take on the role of star—for a limited amount of time (fifteen minutes, it’s been said). And so, right at the beginning of the exhibition,

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