Flash News: Baselitz in Bilbao – Rencontres d’Arles


Baselitz and his Heroes in Bilbao

On the 1st of July, the « Descente » exhibition with about 80 works by Georg BASELITZ ended at the Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery. On the walls of the magnificent gallery in Pantin, visitors could see the artist’s large upside-down nudes that were first shown at the 2015 Venice Biennale. After Frankfurt, Stockholm and Rome, the Heroes series painted in 1965/66 is exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao until October 22nd, 2017.

Born Hans-Georg Kern in 1938 in the village of Deutschbaselitz, the artist grew up in a destroyed and defeated Germany. His sculptures cut with a chainsaw and his paintings of upside-down disfigured characters express the violence of the Post-war years. His style is brutal and energetic: brush strokes and fingerprints are visible, the paint is applied in thick layers and the motifs are rough and ready, like the African art the artist loves and collects.

In 2013, the Guggenheim Museum exhibited Nine Discourses on Commodus by Cy Twombly and the series Mrs Lenin and the Nightingale by Baselitz alongside each other. These works were a new take on history, where personal artistic narratives were put into the mouths of historical personalities. Here the distorted figures of Heroes or The New Types express an extraordinary tension between violence and melancholy, grandeur and agitation. This disillusioned and sceptical attitude directly stems from the European context of the Cold War and an immediate past that remains to be explored, in total discrepancy with the optimism of the German economic miracle of the Sixties. Always torn between the need for peace and harmony on one hand and anger and rebellion on the other, Baselitz uses the figure of the artist to express these antagonisms. The Blocked Painter from 1965, for example, wears a uniform like most of his heroes, who thus give up part of their individuality, while the painter’s uniform is in tatters and his badges have faded. The artist thus freed himself from the constraint of a social or political label, which he abhorred, at the cost of a struggle that left him visibly hurt, but free. The exhibition traces an ideal continuous line between the past and the present, offering a selection of paintings from the Remix cycle, a series of paintings that Georg Baselitz began in 2005, and which reinterprets some of his Heroes.

These multiple exhibitions over the last few years are a sign of his success. The artist is in rude health, jumping from being ranked 125th in 2016 to 28th this year. Last March, the work Mit Roter Fahne, a large format work from the Heroes period, sold for more than $9. 1m at Sotheby’s London, setting a new record for a work by Baselitz. The art market seems to contradict what the artist says about wanting to paint « ineffective paintings »…


Les Rencontres d’Arles

In just 15 days, the major international contemporary photography event in Arles has recorded a 15% increase in attendance compared to the previous edition. Witnessing the increasing public interest in this medium, the 48th edition curated by Sam Stourdzé offers a rich programme of about thirty exhibitions, grouped in eight main themes (Arles Books, Emergences, Grand Arles Express, projections, etc.). After having brought Africa into the spotlight in 2016, Les Rencontres are exploring Latin American photography this year with a focus on Colombia. For the occasion, more than 30 South American photographers are on show, including 28 Colombian artists as part of La Vuelta exhibition: the projects mainly explore the armed conflict that affected the country for 60 years, as well as its social, economic, and political changes and shifts in culture and identity. Another part of the programme focuses on the Experience of the land, seeking to examine the impact and influence of changes in borders and urban development on the cultural landscape.

Mathieu Asselin’s photographic survey of the Monsanto company is exhibited under the theme Désordres du monde (Disorders of the world). Je vous écris d’un pays lointain (I am writing from a distant country) presents 66 Iranian photographers focusing on the year 1938, including the famous Shadi Ghadirian, one of the first female Iranian photographers and visual artists, who exhibits a series entitled Qajar, mixing ancient and contemporary Iranian history. Relectures focuses on ‘off the wall’ uses of the photographic object by the artist Jean Dubuffet. Among the many other exhibitions, Les Rencontres also shows Mathieu Pernot’s work on Les Gorgan , a Roma family he has photographed since 1995; L’incurable égoïste (The Incurable Egoist) , a retrospective of Masahisa Fukase as well as Audrey Tautou’s self-portraits.

If the 2017 edition stands out for record number of museum and historical exhibitions, its prizes have been awarded to works addressing contemporary issues. The new Prix Découverte, awarded to the work of a photographer sponsored by his gallery, was notably won by Carlos Ayesta and Guillaume Bression, from the Parisian gallery 247 for their joint work on Fukushima.

It would be impossible to quote them all, as Les Rencontres d’Arles are brimming with countless works and artists. Over the years, despite its detractors, this event has become a unique platform and the photography market is doing all the better for it. It has even been boosted by the growing number of international fairs, institutions, museums and galleries engaged in promoting this medium. This sector is undeniably in good shape, combining the unexpected success of new talent as well as safer choices.