Sunday, December 1, 2013

Kandinsky at the Neue Galerie

An exhibit of 80 works of art the Neue Galerie give us a tour of “Vasily Kandinsky: From Blaue Reiter to the Bauhaus, 1910-1925”.

The exhibition starts in a small gallery at the beginning of the suite of rooms devoted to the show.  Here one becomes totally immersed in a later period of Kandinsky’s work with a reconstruction of the mural project of the 1922 , made for the Juryfreie Kunstschau (Jury-Free Art Show) in Berlin, shortly after Kandinsky joined the Bauhaus.  After the art show it was intended for the entrance to the new modern art museum, but, with no money in the Weimar Republic after World War I, the museum was never built and the murals were dismantled and lost. This installation, however, helps to show a gesamtkustwerk, as well as put Kandinsky’s later abstract work into context.

Photography courtesy of Hulya Kolabas

Kandinsky was born in Moscow in 1866 and when he came to Germany he became a major exponent of two important movements in contemporary art.  One was the Blaue Reiter, which I love, and the other was the Bauhaus.  Franz Marc is the foremost exponent of the former and he and Kandinsky met in Munich at a New Year’s Eve party in 1911 and formed a close bond.   The Blaue Reiter was named after those wonderful colored horses in Franz Marc’s work.  The artists of this school associated the color blue with spirituality, relating it to the blue of the Madonna’s robes.  One of the iconic images of horses is in the exhibition and illustrated here.

Taken from the installation photography courtesy of Hulya Kolabas

Kandinsiky’s transition from Blaue Reiter to pure abstraction is not as radical a transition as one might think if one keeps in mind that a devastating world war intervened.

In 1913 Kandinsky arrived in New York and participated in the New York Armory show.  There he established some very important connections with people like Solomon R. Guggenheim and Edward R. Campbell founder of the Chevrolet Motorcar Company.  When Campbell asked the artist in 1914 to create a design scheme for the foyer in his Park Avenue Apartment Kandinsky extended his painting into architectural work. The panels in the exhibition show how Kandinsky was one of the first artists who did not just want to paint a picture to hang on a wall but rather create an environment that the viewer would be drawn into.

Taken from the installation photography courtesy of Hulya Kolabas

I have always thought of the Neue Gallerie as a gesamtkunstwerk using all the arts to make its point.  Everything there relates to German and Austrian art of the late 19th early 20th century.  Their bookshop only sells books and cards relating to that period.  It is all part of the whole. In that same way Kandinsky thought of including all the arts in a single work.  He called his paintings symphonies of color and form and often gave his compositions musical titles such as “Fugue”.

As you may already know The Neue Galerie was created through a partnership between Ronald S. Lauder, the younger son of Estée Lauder and Serge Sabarsky the Viennese Stage Designer turned art dealer par excellence.  He introduced Ronald to the world of turn of the last century’s German and Austrian art.  Ronald became a great collector in many fields but most notably in this one.  Therefore, it is not surprising that one of the largest (6.3 x.9.8 foot) and most important paintings in the exhibition Composition #V, 1911, is borrowed from his private collection.  The picture was shown in the first exhibition of the Blaue Reiter School and one reviewer called it, “simply the most magnificent Kandinsky you’ll ever see.”  It is the prime focus of the final gallery of the show.

Photography courtesy of Hulya Kolabas

The Neue Galerie has done a Kandinsky exhibition in the past but this one shows the artist in a different light.  Just as we have had many shows of the work of Van Gogh or Picasso seeing an artist from a different angle is always an eye opening experience.  The curator of an exhibition is like the editor of a book and is key to the final result.  Dr. Jill Lloyd is responsible for this triumph, which remains open until February 10, 2014.

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