Chinese Summer

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The name of the exhibition Chinese Summer is a metaphor for a nation and art scene that have seen explosive growth over the last two decades. China is now one of the most important industrial and economic forces on the planet and this has been matched by overwhelming artistic and cultural production that in recent years has moved from a local situation to a position on the global stage.

The pioneering generation of artists came to public attention during the 1980s, when there was a creative explosion in China. This spearheaded the artistic revolution that continues through to the present day. These first-generation artists emerged out of an extended period of cultural isolation and a closed regional context characterised by a highly traditional way of conceiving and appreciating art. They abandoned traditional formal approaches and adopted many of the radical aesthetic and conceptual paradigms of the Western avant-garde. Spread thinly throughout the nation and working in self-organised clusters, talents were home-grown and their progressive activities were not the product of an institutional system but the result of the will to advance cultural dialogue.

The Chinese artists who emerged at the beginning of the new century highlight the tremendous creativity of those who are breaking new territory in international contemporary art. These artists tend to adhere to a tradition of post-conceptual art premised upon ideas and artistic concepts rather than materials or formal techniques. Their works are realised as installations, films, sculptures, photographs, computer graphics and paintings. Audiences are confronted with a variety of works that tell stories about universal topics of power and politics, identity, history, memory and nostalgia. Other works take on abstract notions like time, unpredictability, chance and illusion. Like the society in which they live, the artists are acutely aware of their place in history, and there is a profound intermingling of joyfulness and unadulterated aspiration with serious social and political questions.

The Chinese contemporary artists from these different generations are all in one way or another caught in a productive tension between tradition and modernity – between being global citizens and denizens of an unprecedented period of vitality on the Asian mainland. They situate their practice in a reaction to the social and spatial infrastructure of their country, but they are also citizens of the world, as we can see from the many foreign iconographical references in their work. Eminently original, poetic, dramatic and even frightening, these ambitious works narrate transcultural fictions.

Artists:
Ai Weiwei, Cai Guo-Qiang, Cao Fei, Chu Yun, Duan Jianyu, Hu Xiangqian, Huang Yong Ping, Kan Xuan, Liu Chuang, Liu Wei, Lu Chunsheng, Madein Company, Pak Sheung Chuen, Qui Anxiong, Sun Xun, Xu Zhen, Xue Tao, Yang Fudong, Zhang Ding, Zhang Huan, Zhou Tao og Zhou Zixi.

Curators: Gunnar B. Kvaran and Therese Möllenhoff

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Richard Prince – Works from the Astrup Fearnley Collection

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During the 1970s, the artist Richard Prince turned to the content of lifestyle magazines, cataloguing clichés and stereotypes and transforming them into the iconography of his own work. Rephotographing photographs from these publications, or re-framing photographic elements, he questioned the notion of intellectual property, a radical artistic gesture at the time. As a descendent of Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol, and after Pop art had magnified critical interest in consumerist culture, Prince’s “rephotographs” could be seen as a cynical representation of reality, and as a piercing inquiry into the ethos of the American vernacular. His work was not just about copying and the act of appropriation: it was also an existential gesture made by a realist artist, speaking through a figurative language of his relationship to his subject matter. Such works sealed his reputation as a leading manipulator of social and cultural symbols.

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Cindy Sherman – Works from the Astrup Fearnley Collection

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The American artist Cindy Sherman (b.1954) is one of the most important American “Appropriation” artists that revolutionized the international contemporary art in the end of the 70ties. These artists borrowed ideas, processes, images or pre-existing objects by exposing them as they are, or by transforming them and re-contextualizing them to give them a new meaning. Cindy Sherman re-enacts feminine stereotypes of art, films, and advertising in photographs in which she stages herself wearing various, often burlesque, disguises.

This exhibition, entitled Cindy Sherman in the Astrup Fearnley Collection, presented a selection of works from our collection showing her ground breaking photographs from the late 70ties and the development of her art until these recent years.

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Nate Lowman – Works from the Astrup Fearnley Collection

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Nate Lowman (b. 1979) moves within the American art world, and consumer and media society more generally, continually rearranging the visual signifiers he encounters. He gathers the raw materials for his art from news, popular media and art history and digests them through his own reading, thoughts and feelings. Mixing images of famous and ordinary people, including his own relatives, he creates narratives by means of vast collages made on the wall and single paintings. Allowing one signifier to slip into another, he conjures a multiplicity of possibilities and a rich, open-ended story. This art of selecting, curating, orchestrating and manipulating mirrors contemporary American society.

The exhibition includes many of Lowman’s important works from the past 14 years, ranging from silk prints and sculptures to his distinctive alkyd paintings and large wall collages, combining material appropriated from popular culture with his own paintings and sculptures.

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Dan Colen – Works from the Astrup Fearnley Collection

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This exhibition of works from the Astrup Fearnley Collection brings together a corpus of Dan Colen’s paintings made from oil, chewing gum, confetti, flowers and lemon juice, as well as sculpture, photograph and film. Embodiments of moments that have taken on aesthetic form, the works present fragmented stories told in the first person about the artist and his immediate environment. They are dialogues with society and commentaries on art history that often reference political issues, mixing high and low cultural values.

Over the last decade, Colen has developed a coherent body of work that uses hyperrealism, trompe l’oeil and illusionism as its points of departure, and which refuses to be dictated by expectations of one unified artistic language. These technically accomplished works become subtly cynical when references to popular culture meet art-historical precedents. The hyperrealistic pictorial language intricately combines reality with fantasy, and religious metaphysics with Walt Disney and graffiti.

Colen is part of the art scene that developed around New York’s Lower East Side at the beginning of the new century. Informally known as the ‘Bowery School’, it also included artists such as Nate Lowman, Aaron Young, Ryan McGinley, Gardar Eide Einarsson, Banks Violette, Dash Snow, Agathe Snow, Hanna Liden, Lizzie Bougatsos and Adam McEwen, who all in one way or another share an engagement with their city and with urban culture in general. Their narratives – with their savvy, sincerity and social alertness – revolve around the social fabric that determines contemporary life.

The Astrup Fearnley Collection contains key works spanning 12 years of Dan Colen’s oeuvre. The exhibition shows a selection of his experimental and hyper-realistic paintings, sculpture, installation and film.

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Jeff Koons – Works from the Astrup Fearnley Collection

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Jeff Koons belongs to a long tradition of artists who work with readymade objects and images. He was one of the main figures in the group of Appropriation artists in New York during the late 1970s, developing a highly conceptual art.

At first, he presented displays of appropriated everyday objects – domestic appliances, basketballs, diving equipment, plastic bath toys – and objects based on popular aesthetic references, often referred to as ‘kitsch’. By executing his objects and images with a high level of material perfection and blowing them up in scale, he elevated the humble originals to the level of high art.

Behind each series and object lies a story that operates on many different levels, including the artist’s personal narratives. Taken all together, they constitute a body of work expressing fundamental themes related to man and society. Repeatedly in Koon’s work, the viewer is confronted by reflections on social aesthetics, self-acceptance, willpower, sexuality, immortality and death.

Koons is highlighting in his art the need to reject all ideas of blame and culpability, which consciously or unconsciously determine our actions, and to break away from social and cultural taboos and intellectual oppression.

“Just as Warhol proposed real news images and iconic pictures as art, Koons appropriates the aesthetics and social and cultural conventions of the masses in order to ‘penetrates mass consciousness’ and propose a populist notion of beauty as art. ‘Where I differ’, he says ‘is that Warhol believed you could penetrate the mass through distribution and I continue to believe you penetrate the mass with ideas’. One could add that Koons’s creative act is also – and not least – a political act, aimed at re-evaluating the cultural references of a class that for too long had been regarded as a cultural outsider.”

– Gunnar B. Kvaran, in his introduction to the exhibition’s mini catalogue

This exhibition presents a selection of works from the collection, which shows Koon’s works from the late 80’s and the development of his groundbreaking oeuvre.

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Frank Benson – Works from the Astrup Fearnley Collection

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Through the years he has developed an important body of sculptures and photographs. However, it is not a large body, since the artist has a perfectionist, slow and meditative relationship with time within his creative processes.

Benson’s early sculptures were smaller, composed of different elements that created narratives with a ‘surrealistic’ flair. Then came Human Statue (2005), a sculpture of a man pretending to be a statue. This hyperrealist work introduced a series of human-scale figurative sculptures on which he has been working for the last ten to fifteen years. Human Statue has an unnerving presence, due to the attitude and abstruse expression of the model. This is characteristic of the recent sculptures, where the models play an active role. In Human Statue (Jessie) (2011), the artist emphasises the gestural and physical qualities of the choreographer and dancer Jessie Gold. Human Statue(Juliana) (2015) is based on artist Juliana Huxtable’s self-portraits, which go beyond realism. All these sculptures of human figures have a very strong and active relationship with the space surrounding them.

“All of the figurative sculptures I’ve made depict dynamic individuals from different disciplines who have specific traits and talents that I wish I possessed – so in a sense, I’m building my own Pantheon of people who I admire and respect.”
– Frank Benson in conversation with Travis Diehl.

The aesthetic development in the appearance of Benson’s figure sculptures is interesting to follow especially after he adopted 3D modelling programmes. This has given the figures a more constructed and distanced look and an ‘écriture’ that adds to the works a clear touch of originality and gives them a unique place within a long line of figurative sculptures in art history.

During the last fifteen years, Astrup Fearnley Museet has closely followed Benson’s progress and production, and we have been able to include an important body of his works in our collection. The exhibition will for the first time show all of these works together and give a good insight to his artistic production.

Exhibition catalogue: A mini catalogue with specially written texts is published in connection with the exhibition. Read an interview with Frank Benson by Los Angeles-based art writer Travis Diehl and an essay by Kelly Taxter, Benson’s former gallerist and now curator at The Jewish Museum in New York.

Curator: Gunnar B. Kvaran

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Olav Christopher Jenssen – Works from the Astrup Fearnley Collection

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Parallel to the development of Pop art, Minimalism and Conceptual art in the 1960s, a new expressionism emerged in Europe with works by Georg Baselitz, Bernd Koperling and Markus Lüpertz, to name a few. However, it wasn’t until the 1980s that Neo-Expressionism became the dominant artistic movement, with artists such as Jörg Immendorff, Anselm Kiefer, Per Kirkeby, together with younger painters like Martin Kippenberger, Albert Oehlen and the Transavanguardia artistsSandro Chia, Francesco Clemente and Enzo Cucchi.

Neo-Expressionism had important resonances in the Nordic countries and Olav Christopher Jenssen was one of the main actors. However, as the art world became more complex and fragmented, and deeply influenced by Conceptual art in a wider sense, Jenssen soon abandoned any unified notion of style to invent different forms and chromatics, from the spontaneous and direct to the geometrical and calculated. For nearly 30 years, he has created series of abstract paintings exploring the floating line, as well as a corporal engagement within the process of painting, constructing balanced structures in a dialogue with art history. With great sensibility and skilfulness, he approaches and withdraws from representation, flirting with landscapes and cityscapes, or signs of nature, always leaving his own and personal traces and marks. In each of the series there is formal and chromatic invention of great originality, which the artist pushes until a climax is reached, and then begins over and over again, with each series carrying fragments of past memories. Titles like MetronomeLackmus Painting and Talpa Painting inspire associations or prolong the creative gesture as well as covering up its tracks.

Jenssen is a key artist in the Astrup Fearnley Collection. The Collection includes a large number of his works from a variety of periods, giving a comprehensive picture of his artistic journey through the years.

Curator: Gunnar B. Kvaran

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Private Passion – New Acquisitions in the Astrup Fearnley Collection

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Art collecting is a passion. The collector finds a work of art, falls in love with it, and cannot let it go. And that process repeats itself again and again. The role of collectors in western culture is complex. They explore art history in their own way, picking and choosing, taking a stance. Like artists, collectors act as individuals. It is their personal taste that determines the selection.

In recent years there has been an increasing desire among private collectors to build and establish their own museums that can rival not only other private collections but also public museums in terms of acquisitions, exhibition making and knowledge production. In fact, private collectors are now more than ever preoccupied with telling their own stories of contemporary art. Today, we have an interesting polyphony of voices that are creating diverse micro-narratives in a variety of formats, scales and structures, offering a range of different meanings for contemporary art.

Hans Rasmus Astrup, the man behind the Astrup Fearnley Collection, is one of these passionate collectors. His clear intentions and structured approach to building a group of international contemporary artworks have resulted in an ambitious, coherent collection that is both world class and complementary to those of other museums in Norway and the Nordic countries in general.

This exhibition will present a large and varied selection of Norwegian and international art works that have been acquired during the past few years.

Curator: Gunnar B. Kvaran

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Anselm Kiefer – Books and Woodcuts

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Through their materiality and aesthetic, books were the first support for his artmaking, and writing every day in a journal has made it possible for the artist to reflect on his work and to engage in research that is closely connected with his thinking. The present exhibition, Anselm Kiefer – Books and Woodcuts, aims to show – modestly in light of how vast his body of work is – the artist’s many connections with poetry, myths, Sumerian and Biblical stories, tales, history, philosophy, Kabbalah, alchemy, and more.

While the early books were a place where the artist expressed ideas, associations and thoughts, the subsequent tomes quickly became a place for exploration in which the succession of pages made it possible to construct a narrative and situate it in time. The subjects elaborated there were then rescaled within his body of work, notably in his output of woodcuts. This art of printmaking, which he launched when he began producing books, has allowed him to envision narrative forms in a completely different space from that of the painted canvas.

The present show, the result of a collaboration between Jan Michalski Foundation for Writing and Literature in Montricher, Switzerland, and Astrup Fearnley Museet, features a series of books dating from 1969 to 2017, and an accompanying selection of woodcuts together with paintings and sculptures. The most recent of these books and woodcuts are being shown here for the first time.

Curators: Natalia Granero and Gunnar B. Kvaran

The exhibition will be shown at the Fondation Jan Michalski 7 February–7 April 2019.

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