On its 25th anniversary, the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin is showing the exhibition “Church for Sale” with works from the Haubrok Collection and the Nationalgalerie Collection. The artists represented in the show approach art as a political activity undertaken against ubiquitous violence and aggression, marginalisation and the lack of protection of common goods essential to life. In their works, the artists address the vulnerability of human existence in its social and cultural contexts and examine power structures in the private and public spheres.
Image above: Edgar Arceneaux, Church for Sale, 2013, watercolour on paper, 28 x 35.6 cm Haubrok Collection © Edgar Arceneaux
The exhibition in the museum’s Historical Hall takes its name from a series of works by Edgar Arceneaux from 2013, which shows billboards from the bankruptcy-threatened city of Detroit advertising the sale of church properties and, thus, the community-forming meeting rooms they provided. “Church for Sale” brings together works of art that explore the tension between toughness and vulnerability in different social contexts. Via economical means, without visual opulence or an extravagant use of materials, the artists address fundamental political and social issues whose relevance can be transferred to diverse contexts. The explosive nature of the featured works often only becomes apparent at second glance. The show includes sculptures, photographs, graphics, wall and video works by Edgar Arceneaux, Siah Armajani, Christoph Büchel, Tom Burr, Claire Fontaine, Jenny Holzer, Alfredo Jaar, Emily Jacir, Carolyn Lazard, Park McArthur, Rodney McMillian, Bruce Nauman, Cady Noland, Ruben Ochoa, Santiago Sierra and Kara Walker
The artists, who come from different generations, utilise the elementary forms and serial arrangements of 1960s Minimalism to raise social, economic and political concerns. They transfer found images and commercially available objects into the realm of art, opening up horizons of meaning that go beyond their original use. The artists stage activities in front of the camera that vividly demonstrate social inequality or the dubious nature of political promises, and create images that bear witness to a resistance to degradation and exclusion. In doing so, they also broach the issue of survival strategies that go beyond racial prejudices, armed conflicts, normative body images and the monetisation of public spaces
The exhibition’s architecture, conceived by the architectural practice b+ (Arno Brandlhuber, Florian Jaritz, Gregor Zorzi), addresses the exhibition’s themes with critical reference to the development plan drawn up for the area around the Hamburger Bahnhof and to the continuing lack of clarity concerning the future of the ensemble of buildings used by the Museum für Gegenwart, consisting of the historic main building and the Rieckhallen. The two-dimensional line arising from the alignment of the adjacent buildings’ boundary in the development plan is translated into a three-dimensional wall that divides the historic hall in two along its northsouth axis. The wall has been constructed from a reusable material commonly used to enclose building sites. This architectural intervention can be understood as a reference to the fact that the sustainable safeguarding of the museum as a public space and a place that is accessible to all in order to experience art, enjoy reflection and engage in polyphonic discussions cannot be taken for granted.
The exhibition continues the collaboration between the Nationalgalerie and the Haubrok Foundation that began in 2009. Since then, a long-term loan agreement has led to 13 outstanding works from the Haubrok Foundation being displayed in the Hamburger Bahnhof and other Nationalgalerie locations. These include works by Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset, Olafur Eliasson, Paola Pivi, Gregor Schneider, Tino Sehgal, Andreas Slominski and Florian Slotawa.
Curated by Gabriele Knapstein; Assistant Curator: Franziska Lietzmann
Exhibition dates: Sunday, 28 November 2021 – Sunday, 18 September 2022
Opening hours: Tue, Wed, Fri 10am – 6pm, Thu 10am – 8pm, Sat + Sun 11am – 6pm
Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin