Curator and artist Walter Seidl writes about collecting conceptual art from Eastern Europe presented at this year’s edition of viennacontemporary.
For more than a decade, the interest in conceptual art practices from Eastern Europe, especially those of the 1970s, has been at stake when it comes to private, independent, corporate or museum collections. Mostly, it has not been an exclusive but integrative focus while trying to rediscover artists and their doings that belonged to an avant-garde secluded due to external political forces at the time of their making. That these artistic practices have been of interest more than ever before is testified by the displays of major museum collections from institutions such as Tate Modern, Centre Pompidou, or MoMA. Strolling through the collection section of the new Blavatnik building at Tate Modern, there are rooms and segments dedicated to individual artists such as Július Koller, who recently had his most comprehensive retrospective exhibition at Vienna’s mumok. While his work is also on display at Beaubourg but not yet in the collection of MoMA, Tate Modern dedicates an extraordinary room to the work “The Solemn Process” by Romanian artist Ana Lupas, with photos of straw wreaths dating back to the 1960s, which the artist preserved in metal casing. Lupas’ presentation is one of the current highlights as she is internationally less present than her meanwhile notorious colleague Geta Brătescu. However, both were already presented together in 2008 in an exhibition curated by Silvia Eiblmayr at the Taxispalais Gallery in Innsbruck.
In general, the re-examination of the work by female artists has been a research strand that is visible throughout international exhibitions. Jana Želibská also belongs to this generation, a Slovak artist who started to work with environments in the late 1960s and who has been represented at the Czechoslovak Pavilion of this year’s Venice Biennale. Her work is likewise in the collection of Tate Modern and represented at this year’s edition of viennacontemporary.
Concerning the work of male counterparts, who were engaged with notions of space and abstraction, there has been a prominent Croatian scene of artists with protagonists such as Julije Knifer or Ivan Kožarić, both members of the Gorgona Group. They are likewise represented at viennacontemporary, while Knifer is currently also shown in the section “A View from Zagreb: Op and Kinetic Art” at Tate Modern, which always dedicates a room to a period of new approaches to art making in a country that has been in dialogue with the international strands in art.
In line with international museum or private collections, the upcoming edition of viennacontemporary features a plethora of artists from Eastern Europe, who have worked during the 1970s and whose work and conceptual practices have been reappraised and are presented on this occasion, not only in the individual gallery booths, but also as part of the main focus on Hungary, with artists such as this year’s documenta participant Katalin Ladik, moreover Dóra Maurer, Miklós Erdély, or Tamás Szentjóby, among others.
Walter Seidl, lives in Vienna. Studied cultural studies (MA) and contemporary history (PhD) at universities in Graz, Seattle (photography), Paris and New York. Seidl works as artist curator and artist. His photographic and video-based work deals with the transformation of image politics and the identity constellations inherent therein.
Seidl curated numerous exhibitions throughout Europe, North America, Hong Kong, Japan, and South Africa. His writings include various catalog essays for artist monographs, exhibition reviews, and criticism. Seidl contributes to several international art magazines, most frequently to Camera Austria, springerin and Život umjetnosti.
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21 – 24 September 2017
Marx Halle Vienna