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Exhibition at Kewenig brings together works by Jannis Kounellis, El Anatsui and Anish Kapoor
El Anatsui, AG + BA, 2014. © El Anatsui Courtesy Kewenig Berlin | Palma Photo: Stefan Müller

BERLIN.- Kewenig is presenting the unique exhibition “A Journey”, in which - for the first time - these three international artists with strong reputations are united together. In close collaboration with El Anatsui and Anish Kapoor, whom the gallery is showing for the first time, the exhibition is a composition in itself, and also a journey into the future. The show includes a large-scale installation by Jannis Kounellis, surrounded by four new sculptures by Anish Kapoor, and three ‘fabrics’ by El Anatsui.

Ghanaian El Anatsui (*1944) has until now been an artist mainly shown in the context of so called ‘African Art’, although his work contains far more universal aspects. The shimmering metallic woven fabrics made of bottle tops, interrogate the history of colonialism and draw connections between consumption, waste, and the environment. But at the core the works are distinguished by their own unique formal language, diverging from traditional craftsmanship, and are instead pure painterly sculptures. As an architect of evanescent illusions and visual experiences, his works correspond deeply with the Arte Povera legacy that has marked the gallery since its beginnings, but also blur the lines between traditional concepts of painting and sculpture. Anatsui says: “The amazing thing about working with these metallic ‘fabrics’ is that the poverty of the materials used in no way precludes the telling of rich and wonderful stories”.

The Greek born Jannis Kounellis (1936 – 2017), one of the principle pillars of the gallery and a founding father of Arte Povera, has long acquired the status of a steadfast figure within the movement. Michael Kewenig and Kounellis travelled the world, working together and shaping the gallery’s history, but both died unexpectedly this year. Their spirit and aesthetic vision however remain perceptible in the gallery space. Combining art and history with the immediacy and tangibility of the present, was one of Kounellis’ great talents. The large-scale installation, consisting of hand sewn shells on canvas on a wooden cross, can be seen as a ‘nature more’ metaphor to urge us to enjoy life. This single work is placed centrally to bolster all three artists together in the exhibition, in direct visual contact with the installations by Anish Kapoor and El Anatsui.

Indian born Anish Kapoor (*1954) considers himself ‘a painter who does not paint’ and thus highlights his position between the classical artistic genres. Being one of the most influential artists of his generation, he has chosen to show in Berlin his most recent works, viscous, amorphous blood-red silicone figures. In contrast to the materiality of these sculptures stands a new version of his well-known ‘Mirrors’ that unusually does not give the viewer a reflection back onto themselves, but blocks their view and distorts the space around him leaving a sensation of disorientation. The artist himself describes his spellbinding mirrors as “Perceptually…very confusing. It’s as if one’s looking at space… kind of tumbling into itself.”

Not only are the geographic distances between these artists vast, also conceptually this exhibition traces the long journey to where the gallery is now. It is a journey coming and learning from the past, creating experiences for today and leading us to an uncertain future full of ideas, however always remaining in dialogue with the artists and their work.

El Anatsui, born in Anyako, Ghana in 1944, lives and works in Nsukka, Nigeria. His works have been part of major solo exhibitions, including the travelling exhibitions Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui, organised by the Akron Art Museum, Akron, OH, USA (2012-2015); El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote To You About Africa, organised by the Museum for African Art, New York, NY, USA (2010-2012); and A Fateful Journey, the National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka, Japan (2010-2011). He participated in the Venice Biennale in 1990, 2007, and 2015; the Paris Triennial in 2012, and the Marrakech Biennale 6 in 2016. A large-scale public installation was commissioned and presented on the façade of the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 2013. He was awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, the Venice Biennale’s highest honour in 2015. He holds honorary doctorates at Harvard University, Cambridge MA, USA and The University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa.

Anish Kapoor, born in Mumbai, India in 1954, lives and works in London, UK. Major solo exhibitions include Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Roma (MACRO), Rome, Italy (2016); Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC), Mexico City, Mexico (2016); Château de Versailles, France (2015); Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands (2015); The Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center, Moscow, Russia (2015); Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain (2010); the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin, Germany (2013) and the Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK (2009). He represented Britain at the 44th Venice Biennale in 1990 (further participations in 1982, 1993 and 2011), was part of documenta IX in Kassel in 1992, won the Turner Prize in 1991 and has an honorary fellowships from the University of Wolverhampton, UK (1999), the Royal Institute of British Architecture, London, UK (2001) and an honorary doctorate from the University of Oxford, UK (2014).

Jannis Kounellis, born in Piraeus, Greece in 1936, lived and worked in Rome, Italy since 1956, and passed away on February 16 of this year, aged 80. Recent institutional exhibitions include: the Museo d'Arte Contemporanea Roma (MACRO), Rome, Italy (2016); the inaugural exhibition of MECA Museo-Espacio, Mexico (2016); the Musée de la Monnaie, Paris, France (2016); the Museum of Contemporary Art, Herning, Denmark (2009); the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Germany (2007); the MADRE Museo d'Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina, Naples, Italy (2006); the Galeria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome, Italy (2002) and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain (1997). Kounellis took part at the Venice Biennale several times, as well as documenta 5 in 1972, documenta 7 in 1982 and documenta 14 in 2017.

All three artists are represented in major institutional collections around the world.

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