Anselm Kiefer, Barren Landscape, 1987-1989.
The Astrup Fearnley Collection - Rotation #1 Exhibition @ Dronningens gt. 4, Oslo.
Visited on Sunday 18th January 2009.
The Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art houses an exceptional collection of international contemporary art that for the next two years will go on a temporary rotating display within the museum. It is not a historical collection nor does it aspire to present specific artistic movements or overviews. Rather, it can be described as a carefully selected cluster of major works by leading international contemporary artists. What constitutes the selection criteria is information that I was not able to decipher from its web page or museum guide, I did however enjoy the seemingly arbitrary selection of contemporary art.
The current exhibition includes artists such as Allora & Calzadilla, Matthew Barney, Frank Benson, Cao Fei, Paul Chan, Chu Yun, Gardar Eide Einarsson, Olafur Eliasson, Gilbert & George, Douglas Gordon, Shilpa Gupta, Guyton \Walker, Damien Hirst, Anselm Kiefer, Ann Lislegaard, Liu Wei, Bjarne Melgaard, Shintaro Miyake, Adam Putnam og Yang Fudong.
I took delight in seeing many early Damien Hirst artworks such as his butterfly series I Feel Love from 1995, and Leukaemia 2003 from his Cancer Chronicles. The later piece hangs in the gallery looking like a monochromatic black painting but upon close observation it becomes evident that the blackness is not made with thick paint; it is composed instead of thousands of flies affixed to the surface with resin. Encased in glass these picture surfaces also deal with the death of painting, a discourse that Hirst is only too familiar with. Hirst is an interesting character and it is probably best that I do not start on a rant about his 'interesting' art practices. This article titled Inside Damien Hirst's factory http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/arts/article-23410356-details/Inside+Damien+Hirst%C2%B4s+factory/article.do covers a lot of ground. All gibes put aside, I think most artists would tear off their left leg to be in his position.
Another courageous piece in the exhibition that attracted my attention was the wonderful reconstruction of famous buildings of the world made entirely of stitched pig skin by Liu Wei titled Love it, Bite it!. I guess this piece appealed to me because the sewn nature of the work had a delicate handi craft aesthetic only to be subverted by the very materials used. It is Liu Wei's way of saying that the world has gone mad with affluence, corruption, and aggression. Animal hide is used as a symbol of the dog treats that are feed to animals which presents at the same time a spectacular and comical vision of the world.
Other works worth mentioning are from Anselm Kiefer. In Zweistromlan/The High Priestess (1985-89) he has constructed about 200 oversized books, constructed from lead. Each book in the library weighs approximately 300 kilos and although Kiefer maintains that they can be pulled off the shelves, opened and read, their weight and size make this an almost impossible task. The books contain trivia about the world - maps, pictures and materials including dried peas - yet this remains hidden from our eyes. The gigantic library can thus be read as a metaphor about the impossibility of knowledge and a reminder about the heavy burden of our past.