Anna Laudel Contemporary Gallery hosts inaugural show “When Did We Stop Playing…”
Curated by Isabel Bernheimer, the founder of Bernheimer Contemporary, the group show “When Did We Stop Playing…”, on display until 12 February 2017, marks the first exhibition at Anna Laudel Contemporary’s new gallery space in Istanbul.
Anna Laudel Contemporary: contemporary art, jewellery, shop and artist residency programme
Anna Laudel Contemporary, formerly ART350 gallery, was founded in 2012 by the German textile magnate Anna Laudel with the aim of supporting the work of Turkish and international artists. The new five-story gallery space also hosts an Artist in Residency programme, an Art Shop and a jewelry concession of luxury Danish jewellery brand Monies through the first commercial outlet of the design label within Turkey. The gallery’s multidisciplinary approach to exhibiting and dealing in both contemporary art objects and luxury design and fashion items can be seen as part of a trend in the global art capitals of galleries diversifying to survive the vicissitudes of the contemporary art market.
In the context of Turkey, the political instability has affected the commercial art world with various international events being closed, including the cancellation of 2016’s Çanakkale Biennial and Moving Image due to political unrest. Speaking to Art Radar about the lasting effects of unrest on the local art scene, Anna Laudel Gallery Director Ferhat Yeter commented:
The political situation affects not only young art initiatives, but also the entire art scene. A feeling of paralysis, powerlessness is spreading throughout the artistic scene, which as a result produces even stronger art and pushes the discourse with the political situation. In challenging situations, like today, individual business professionals, like Anna Laudel, should be supportive for the artistic and cultural environment of this country.
As well as hosting an exhibitions programme, Yeter is planning to develop the space into a centre for public art discussions, workshops and interdisciplinary readings. There are also plans to launch a new Artist Residency Programme with the aim of nurturing the talent of local, regional and international artists.
When did we stop playing…
Curated by Isabel Bernheimer, the founder of Bernheimer Contemporary, the group show “When Did We Stop Playing…” marks the first exhibition at Anna Laudel Contemporary’s new gallery space. The group show features the work of Peter Alasztics, Blue and Joy, Daniele Sigalot, Alexander Deubl, Swaantje Güntzel, Felix Höfner, Sebastian Klug, Jan Kuck, Milana Schoeller, Ludovic Thiriez and Johannes Vetter, all of whom are under permanent contracts with Bernheimer Contemporary.
Speaking to Art Radar about the genesis of the collaboration between Bernheimer Contemporary and Anna Laudel Contemporary, the gallery’s director Ferhat Yeter commented:
The collaboration with “Bernheimer Contemporary” was already planned for the longer term and with the new location we were able to realize the exhibition with 10 artists and more than 60 works of art and carry the current Zeitgeist from Berlin to Istanbul. Together with the new location and the new name, as Anna Laudel Contemporary, we would like to expend our outreach and stay more connected with the international art world as well as providing a prominent contemporary exhibition platform. This opening exhibition is a milestone for us to present our aim to do more international collaborations and work with international artists as well as artists from Turkey.
Curator Isabel Bernheimer told Art Radar about the exhibition’s theme of ‘play’:
‘When did we stop playing?’ aims to explore the great, universal game of life in our shared, contemporary existence. Sometimes we make the rules of this game, but most of the time we are being ruled by it. As we deem our lives to be more important and more serious, we begin to a sense of playfulness. Yet a life without joy is not worth living. That is why I felt it was time to ask ourselves, in all seriousness, when did we stop playing? All the selected art works has something to say about the dichotomy of play being at once both genuine and joyful but always responsible and suspenseful.
Paper airplanes: between art and advertising
The exhibition contains a number of works that explore the tropes and objects associated with childhood play. Relevant in this respect is Italian duo Blue and Joy’s (Daniele Sigalot and Fabio La Fauci) work No Matter Where the Wind Blows (2016), comprised of 135 aluminium paper planes stuck in the wall. The duo has been working with different representations and installations of paper airplanes since 2014, when their iconic tiny aluminum planes were chosen by the Italian fashion powerhouse FENDI to launch their new collection.
Sigalot and La Fauci began their collaboration in the advertising industry, where they quickly made a career moving from Milan to Barcelona and eventually to London, where they were hired by Saatchi & Saatchi in 2006. Once at the top of the advertising chain, they quit their job to focus full time on their collaborative artistic project. In 2008 they moved to Berlin where they opened their studio ironically naming it “La Pizzeria” in order to stick to the cliché of Italians being good only in the food business.
Since then the Blue and Joy project has developed a varied artistic language: testing through a variety of materials, often innovative, multiple and interdisciplinary techniques, always resulting in visually striking installations. Ironic and conceptual, the Blue and Joy project seeks to provide constant confrontation about communication. Their work, which moves across commercial fashion and art worlds, is representative of the repertoire of practices represented by Bernheimer Contemporary and Anna Laudel Contemporary.
Other artists in the exhibition also see play as something related to the games, objects and imaginative capacity of our early years. The works of Ludovic Thiriez – a French artist living and working mainly in Budapest – were chosen for this exhibition as the artist has been exploring childhood as a source of inspiration for many years. Thiriez explores the games invented in early childhood, exploring their connection with adult life. The artist asks how these games represent an important precursor to the social models and moral structures we have built.
For the artist, the dynamics never quite leave us: sometimes we behave like grownups and reflect on our lives, sometimes we are selfish and careless, critical or romantic. In his “prologue” series, Thiriez uses memories of childhood and attempts a series of illustrations of the aesthetic potential of childhood imagination: Thiriez’s pictures explore a strange and fantastic world, amalgamating European and tropical plants, animals from the forest, Hungarian symbols and abstract gestures. In the same way that ivy grows on a wall, these motifs grow organically on the canvas creating a balanced composition.
Play and critique
In correspondence with Art Radar, Bernheimer and Yeter both highlighted the work of conceptual artist Jan Kuck (b. 1978, Hannover) in the exhibition as particularly interesting for its analysis of the contemporary world. Many times the conceptual artist’s “design objects” are conceived not as functional in design terms but to solve conceptual problems. His work It’s worth it is a sculpture that departs from the idea of a “Zero Euro Coin”. Made from concrete and measuring 40 centimetres in diameter, the work explores strategies for playfully materialising the sometimes elusive economic and political issues such as the current crisis in Europe. Other works, such as Speech is Silver (2014) – an installation with golden megaphones – also give bombastic form to the “immaterial”, exploring topics of consumption and overproduction, luxury and language.
In German artist Swaantje Güntzel’s Microplastics III Discofish (2016), a plaice fish has been covered with glitter particles extracted from beauty products – a photograph of its treated body displayed in order to, as stated on the artist’s website, “address the alienated relationship between humanity and nature by exposing the inconsistencies of our actions and the hypocrisy of our value system”. A few of the works in the exhibition, such as Güntzel’s glitzy taxidermy made from the corpse of an animal, perform their critique through rhapsodic gestures that border on repeating the injustices they seek to condemn through play. The exhibition thus might also inspire another similar question: when should we stop playing?
The exhibition frames the relationship between ‘play’ and ‘art’ as intrinsic – a dynamic operating across the artworks gathered in the exhibition as they move between the critical and the frivolous. The question ‘When did we stop playing?’ suggests that artists never stop playing, and that critiques of social, economic and political structures are often enacted through play. In the current context in Turkey, whereby play and critique are increasingly curtailed, the initiation of a discussion around how play functions and what it can contribute to an art practice, and a social forum, is an important one.
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