The 2004 inaugural exhibition, ‘The Friedrich Christian Flick Collection at the Hamburger Bahnhof,’ marks the collection’s first, thematically-driven presentation. Shown within the public sphere for the first time, this extensive selection of 400 works is spread out to encompass the entirety of the space offered, occupying both the Hamburger Bahnhof and the newly-developed space of the adjacent Rieckhallen.
With unprecedented breadth and quality, the exhibition manages to convey a sense of the historically-important chapters which helped define visual culture in the last two centuries. Its vision, in the spirit of the Museum’s dedication to ‘Gegenwart,’ (the present,) seeks to simultaneously look forwards from this historical standpoint to the art of today. Thus, whilst pivotal figures such as Francis Picabia, Marcel Duchamp and Alberto Giacometti are meticulously represented, the work of important contemporary artists, such as Bruce Nauman and Paul McCarthy, are also subjected to rigorous theoretical framing. With no specific focus on medium, movement or specific chronologies, the displays from the Flick Collection’s extensive archives seek to unpick the intellectual, thematic and thought-provoking threads which weave themselves through each chapter of the exhibition.
The initial landscape of the exhibition remains intensely thematic and essayistic in its approach. Yet while works are grouped in accordance with common themes, such as Martin Kippenberger, Paul McCarthy and Duane Hanson’s preoccupation with ‘The Creation Myth,’ the works of pivotal artists, such as Jason Rhoades, Rodney Graham and Bruce Nauman, are granted individual attention. Nauman, in particular, is represented in the exhibition with an unrivalled group of works; collectively seeking to communicate the artist’s intensely prolific train of thought and myriad of processes. Spread throughout the exhibition, Nauman’s work forges its own epicentre in the central space of the Kleihues Hall. Elsewhere in the exhibition, this concept of ‘process’ is granted a platform for discussion with works by Nam June Paik, Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Roman Signer and Dieter Roth taking centre stage.
The ‘performative turn’ and arts’ continuous investigation into site-specificity are boldly addressed throughout the exhibition; manifesting themselves within both the performance-as-medium works by Nauman and Diana Thater, (amongst others,) and the identity-constructing, metamorphic imagery of artists such as Cindy Sherman. A section devoted to the investigation of the ‘spatial turn,’ aptly titled ‘The Third Space’ seeks to disentangle the blurred boundaries between art and architecture undertaken by artists Gordon Matta-Clark, Jeff Wall and Rachel Khedoori. Elsewhere, site-specific installations such as Pipilotti Rist’s ‘The Room’ (1994) reflect the constructed psychologies existing between public museum and private space; an issue which finds itself simultaneously discussed in works such as Khedoori’s ‘Pink Room’ (2000) and Dan Graham’s architectural treatise, ‘Homes for America’ (1966.) The often-uneasy relationship between artists’ works on display is also addressed in the museum’s decision to entwine the repertoire of Martin Kippenberger with that of his contemporary, Franz West, in a specific section titled ‘Service Area.’
Whilst some artists critique the conceptual limitations of space, others within the exhibition focus their attention inwardly; towards their own bodies and that of the human race at large. This section, entitled ‘Bodily Inscriptions,’ uses the vast plethora of representational possibilities available as its theoretical starting point. Here, sexuality and the sexist gaze implicit within works by McCarthy and Richard Prince respectively, find themselves juxtaposed with the violence and self doubt of Larry Clark and Mike Kelley. As well as this bodily self-awareness, which stemmed from the durational video works of Bruce Nauman and Fluxus filmmakers also on display, the exhibition also presents a group of artists whose self-questioning extends into the world around them. Grouped under the rhetoric of ‘Being Satisfied Here and Now,’ this section features works by Isa Genzken, Wolfgang Tillmans and Thomas Struth. The imagination of the self is the key to these artist’s investigations. Whilst Tillmans’ documentation of the 1990s’ techno scene relies on his status as an initiated, hip insider, Genzken’s monolithic blocks are the produce of a hermetic self-containment. These two artists, deliberately placed in close proximity with one another, coax out a variety of thoughtful dialogues.
To compliment the exhibition’s web of thematic enquiry, a comprehensive catalogue will be published, detailing all artists and works selected for the inaugural exhibition.