Day 8Tuesday, March 9, 2010
The Marx Collection
The Hamburger Bahnhof is the third location of Berlin’s Nationalgalerie. With a collection of works dating from 1960s to the present, the Hamburger Bahnhof is one of the largest and most prominent contemporary art gallery’s worldwide. The size of the building itself was quite overwhelming; endless amounts of art work to see everywhere. My interest in the Hamburger Bahnhof was in their permanent collection; The Marx Collection. The Marx collection has three linking rooms full of works from Rauschenberg to Warhol. The curator of the Marx Collection, Heiner Bastian, assembles and circulates the permanent collection to bring together works that are interrelated in terms of theme and motive. The theme of the show throughout the reading week dealt with Vanitas; visual themes and symbols reflecting the shortness of earth dominated things and world wealth and satisfaction of sensual desires.
Warhol’s works take over this collection. His works Camouflage, Ten-Foot Flowers, Mao, Cangney, Ambulance Disaster, Double Elvis, Big Electric Chair, and Multicoloured Marilyn are works that dominate in this showing. Influenced by celebrities of his time, Warhol explored the theme of vanitas. From political figures, celebrities, to patterns and flowers, Warhol dominates the silkscreen mass-produced art process. By manipulating icons through repetition, colour, and creative pattern devices he achieves this media visual overkill status with his work. My favourite within this collection was his political work ‘Mao’ taking up an entire wall of the gallery space. Mao Tse-Tung becomes a pop icon through Warhols display. This large-scale painting had a repetition even on the wall in which the painting was hung; repetitive purple Mao face sketches similar to a wallpaper format.
Mao is one of a series of silk-screened portraits of Chinese Political Leader, Mao Zedong. Founding the People’s Republic of China, ruling as Chairman of the Communist Party, Mao was an inspirational leader for millions of Chinese. In 1973 Warhol produced a Mao masterpiece using a portrait of this leader with a smile, but still serious facial expression to emphasize his political position. Measuring roughly 15 feet tall, with rough brushstrokes on top of a photographic image of Mao, this large work is quite powerful.
The work within the Marx Collection gallery space takes up an entire wall. The silkscreen portrait is in black and yellow with green, blue and red paintbrush marks on top of Mao’s face as well as his clothes. There are bold brushstrokes within the background of the work that appear sporadically placed. The painting is hung on a wall with white and purple wallpaper that is a repetition of the portrait of Mao himself. The repetition pattern is a rough sketch of Mao’s face filled in with a solid purple hue. The wallpaper itself makes the painting ‘pop’ due to the smart complementary colour choices of yellow and purple. The repetition of Mao’s face puts importance on his portrait and his position as a political leader.
The remaining paintings, sculptures and mixed media works throughout the Marx display juxtapose themes of idolizing, whether it is a Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe portrait or a plaster version of Nefertiti. The mixed ideas of mythology with mass consumption silk-screens create a dynamic feel in a gallery space. I thoroughly enjoyed the set of a gallery, having sculpture, mixed media and paintings in the same area. It made for an interactive experience while viewing the work.
Overall the Hamburger Bahnhof was my favourite gallery. It was an incredible experience to see contemporary artwork in the flesh. It gave a great variety in terms of past and recent contemporary artists of the times.
With over 150 international artists represented, this gallery had the most range including painting, photography, installations, sound, performances, and readings. The architecture was another very interesting aspect of the gallery. The actual building was designed by Josef Paul Kleihues, and originally built as the terminal of the Hamburger Berlin railroad line. An interesting concept and setting for a contemporary gallery.