Friday, October 1, 2010

Willem de Rooij Intolerance Neue Nationalgalerie Staatliche Museen zu Berlin by craniv boyd

Willem de Rooij Intolerance Neue Nationalgalerie Staatliche Museen zu Berlin


The main floor of Mies van de Rohe´s iconic museum building in former West Berlin, is darkened. The shades are drawn over the floor to ceiling window walls and in the hush that frequently resides in dimly lit spaces stands a wide grey rectangular monolith.


This temporary structure occupies the middle of the green stone floor. From the distance of the front entrance one cant be quite sure just what this box is doing there, its function remains partially obscured by a collapsing mobile wall behind the admissions desk. Proceed past this and it is clear at once, the purpose behind this large grey volume.


 29 objects are mounted on, or housed in vitrines in this structure, it is a work called "Intolerance" the orchestrator of this arrangement is Dutch artist Willem de Rooij who has organized an exhibition that draws on the public collections of several prominent museums worldwide to bring together the 17th century bird paintings of Dutch painter Melchoir d´Hondecoeter, (1636-1695). De Rooij juxtaposes these paintings with mantels and helmets made from the feathers of hundreds exotic birds. These objects Hawaiian in origin come to the Neue National Galerie by way of loan agreements with several ethnographic and natural history museums the world over. 


"At a time in which the cultural climate is increasingly subordinated to private interests, `Intolerance´ reflects on the relevance and use of public collections."


The works in the exhibition with extends itself in a three volumed catalogue with essays by various contributing theorists including Mr. de Rooij , photographic documentation of the installation on view in the Neue National Galerie, a catalogue resoné of both the Dutch painter d´Hondecoeter, a catalogue resoné of all bird gods; bird feather capes and bird feather helmets known to date.


Seeing paintings of fighting birds fighting chickens and exotic birds is strange especially for an exhibition of contemporary art. I suppose it is a new kind of institutional critique that is supported vehemently by the institutions. What art institutions are more institutional than the Metropolitan museum in New York  city , the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, and of course the Neue National Galerie in Berlin?

However novel the collision of 17th century Dutch painting and Hawaiian religious cultural artifacts from back in the day, the premise of the show and the quiet effect that the museum gets when the shades are down adds up for a rather dry, cerebral experience. I cannot locate private interests in this nor does it make such a convincing argument for new uses and "relevance" of public collections. It would be unfair not to acknowledge that the coming together of this art one could not see together normally because of conceptual and geographical distances from one another is a rare and precious experience. by craniv boyd ©

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