Tomas Schmit, Porträt, 1978, © Dagmar Gebers
The Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings) of the National Museums in Berlin and the Neue Berliner Kunstverein (n.b.k.) are currently devoting themselves to the German action artist and draughtsman Tomas Schmit (1943-2006). Since the Berlin Art Week (since 15.09.), both museums have been showing two large exhibitions in parallel until the beginning of January 2022 under the title that takes up Schmit’s credo: “sachen m a c h e n”. These exhibitions were realised in cooperation with the Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art and the tomas schmit archiv, Berlin.
While the n.b.k. focuses on Schmit’s Fluxus activities, the Kupferstichkabinett is hosting the first retrospective of his drawings in Berlin. The exhibition of around 170 exhibits with works from the museum’s own collection, supplemented by outstanding loans, reflects the diverse spectrum of Schmit’s language and drawing art spanning almost 40 years.
As a performer and organiser, Tomas Schmit had participated in the actions of the European Fluxus group until it gradually began to disband in 1964. From 1966 onwards, he devoted himself primarily to writing and drawing.
But the idea of the stage as a place where an action is performed in front of and with an audience did not disappear from his art.
Instead, drawing paper became the new site of his Fluxus-infused credo: “[…] sachen m a c h e n (> to do things), not depicting or commenting on or schematising or interpreting things, but m a c h e n” (> do). From then on, Schmit staged “the performance of drawing” on paper. The close interlocking of performance and drawing practice that characterises Schmit’s entire oeuvre is brought into focus for the first time in the exhibition at the Kupferstichkabinett.
The core of the exhibition is formed by Schmit’s works, which emerged from an eventful drawing practice that integrates chance events, such as blind drawing. They are characterised in a special way by “making things”. This thematic focus is surrounded by a chronological presentation of the artist’s works spanning all his creative phases. On display are examples of his early action literature as well as the pencil and crayon drawings on paper created from 1966 onwards, the editions of the 1970s, the drawings of the 1990s produced by calculating and dice games, the late ink drawings on museum board from 2003 onwards as well as digital drawings from 2004.
Serious and humorous at the same time, Schmit pursued the laws of life in his diverse work, in his actions, books, editions and drawings, looking at everyday life and directing his attention far beyond it to the theory of evolution, to questions of consciousness and perception. He was always accompanied and guided by the method deeply rooted in Fluxus, which he expanded over the years: not depicting, not commenting or imitating, but “making things”.
The exhibition is curated by Jenny Graser, curator for contemporary art at the Kupferstichkabinett. While the exhibition at the Kupferstichkabinett focuses on Schmit’s works on paper, the artist’s Fluxus activities are presented in parallel in the exhibition “Tomas Schmit. Pieces, Actions, Documents 1962-1970” at the Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (n.b.k.).
A comprehensive catalogue on the exhibition in the Kupferstichkabinett will be published during the exhibition period by Hatje Cantz Verlag, ca. 256 pages, ca. 250 illustrations, ISBN 978-3-7757 5126-1, bookstore price: 48 €, museum price: 35 €. In the coming year, the n.b.k. will publish Tomas Schmit (n.b.k. Ausstellungen Band 25) by Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther und Franz König, Cologne.
Both exhibitions will be accompanied by an extensive programme of events on Tomas Schmit and the consequences of Fluxus. A film evening is planned at the Arsenal cinema (22.10.2021) and a symposium at the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin (23.10.2021).
Wednesday, 15. September 2021 – Sunday, 9. January 2022
Kupferstichkabinett: Tue-Fri 10am – 6pm, Sat + Sun 11am – 6pm
Neuer Berliner Kunstverein: Tue-Sun 12-6pm, Thu until 8pm
Kupferstichkabinett, in the Gemäldegalerie, Matthäikirchplatz, 10785 Berlin-Tiergarten
Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (n.b.k.), Chausseestraße 128-129, 10115 Berlin-Mitte