Diorama. Inventing Illusion

October 6, 2017 - January 21, 2018

From October 6, 2017 to January 21, 2018, the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt presents a major exhibition dedicated to the cultural history of vision. It focuses on the diorama, which is used to reconstruct and realistically stage events, stories, and habitats with the aid of various means. Invented in the nineteenth century by the French painter and photography pioneer Louis Daguerre as a playhouse enlivened with light effects, it, as a glass showcase became the presentation form par excellence for natural history museums. The diorama stages human knowledge of the world, not without influencing and perpetually challenging the viewer’s perception. Being the first comprehensive examination of the diorama, the exhibition highlights both the various stories behind the development of this form of presentation and the correlations and chronological developments that took place parallel to it. The diorama has been a crucial source of inspiration to this day: Numerous artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries address questions of staged vision in their works by questioning and dissolving the illusion of a reconstructed reality.
The exhibition at the Schirn presents the early forms of the diorama in religious art and its beginnings in the playhouse and showman art of the nineteenth century, and considers the diorama as the preferred form of presentation for museums conveying natural-historical and anthropological knowledge. The deconstruction of the diorama in today’s art is illustrated by large-scale installations, contemporary dioramas, sculptures, photographs, and films by such artists as Richard Baquié, Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, Mark Dion, Isa Genzken, Robert Gober, Mathieu Mercier, Kent Monkman, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and Jeff Wall. The presentation develops an overall chronological narrative that traces the cultural history of vision and of exhibiting from various perspectives.

Wirklichkeit oder Illusion: Die Schirn Kunsthalle widmet sich in einer großen Ausstellung der Idee des inszenierten Sehens.

Reality or illusion: The Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt presents a major exhibiton dedicated in the idea of staged vision.

An exhibition about the diorama is also an exhibition about exhibiting.

Katharina Dohm, Claire Garnier, Laurent Le Bon und Florence Ostende, Curators of the exhibition

WALL PANELS OF THE EXHIBITION "DIORAMA. INVENTING ILLUSION"

05.10.2017 | The exhibition “Diorama” offers the opportunity to step into the theatrical mechanisms of a diorama—a word which literally means “to see through.” This form of display is a staging device used to create a scene—real or unreal—in which historical figures or animal species are usually exhibited within their natural environment. The diorama, often conceived as a life-sized model, features a display case with a window, a painted background, and three-dimensional props in the foreground. Despite the physical barrier of the window, the viewer is projected into a virtual world that is also a metaphor of the exhibition itself.

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CATALOG ESSAY BY KATHARINA DOHM, CLAIRE GARNIER, LAURENT LE BON, FLORENCE OSTENDE

05.10.2017 | In a time when we are writing a history of closed, emptied and censored exhibitions, a show about the diorama almost automatically takes its place in the long list of impossible exhibitions. Often inextricably linked to its architecture, the diorama is an extremely complex exhibition form that sets the scene of a certain situation and its original environment. As a rule it consists of artificial decoration: a painted background, three-dimensional figures, scenographic elements and a pane between the scene and the spectators. Although the diorama embodies a centuries-old staging of “looking”, it still constitutes a blind spot in our cultural history. Having been widely used by natural history museums and acknowledged by contemporary artists, dioramas do not crop up in art history. Despite having played a significant role in literary and popular-cultural accounts in the 19th century, after 1900 the diorama was soon considered outdated.

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Diorama. Inventing Illusion

13.09.2017 | From October 6, 2017 to January 21, 2018, the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt presents a major exhibition dedicated to the cultural history of vision. It focuses on the diorama, which is used to reconstruct and realistically stage events, stories, and habitats with the aid of various means. Invented in the nineteenth century by the French painter and photography pioneer Louis Daguerre as a playhouse enlivened with light effects, it, as a glass showcase became the presentation form par excellence for natural history museums. The diorama stages human knowledge of the world, not without influencing and perpetually challenging the viewer’s perception. Being the first comprehensive examination of the diorama, the exhibition highlights both the various stories behind the development of this form of presentation and the correlations and chronological developments that took place parallel to it. The diorama has been a crucial source of inspiration to this day: Numerous artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries address questions of staged vision in their works by questioning and dissolving the illusion of a reconstructed reality. The exhibition at the Schirn presents the early forms of the diorama in religious art and its beginnings in the playhouse and showman art of the nineteenth century, and considers the diorama as the preferred form of presentation for museums conveying natural-historical and anthropological knowledge. The deconstruction of the diorama in today’s art is illustrated by large-scale installations, contemporary dioramas, sculptures, photographs, and films by such artists as Richard Baquié, Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, Mark Dion, Isa Genzken, Robert Gober, Mathieu Mercier, Kent Monkman, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and Jeff Wall. The presentation develops an overall chronological narrative that traces the cultural history of vision and of exhibiting from various perspectives.

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DIORAMA. INVENTING ILLUSION, exhibition view © Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, 2017, Photo: Norbert Miguletz

DIORAMA. INVENTING ILLUSION, exhibition view © Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, 2017, Photo: Norbert Miguletz

DIORAMA. INVENTING ILLUSION, exhibition view © Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, 2017, Photo: Norbert Miguletz

DIORAMA. INVENTING ILLUSION, exhibition view © Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, 2017, Photo: Norbert Miguletz

DIORAMA. INVENTING ILLUSION, exhibition view © Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, 2017, Photo: Norbert Miguletz

DIORAMA. INVENTING ILLUSION, exhibition view © Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, 2017, Photo: Norbert Miguletz

DIORAMA. INVENTING ILLUSION, exhibition view © Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, 2017, Photo: Norbert Miguletz

Jean Paul Favand, Naguère Daguerre 1, 2012, Canvas 19. Century, digital light installation, 270 x 410 cm, Musée des Arts Forains, © Jean Paul Favand, Photo: Jean Mulatier

Jean Paul Favand, Naguère Daguerre 1, 2012, Canvas 19. Century, digital light installation, 270 x 410 cm, Musée des Arts Forains, © Jean Paul Favand, Photo: Jean Mulatier

Alaska-Schneeschaf, Denali National Park, 1997, 400 x 190 x 238 cm, © Übersee-Museum, Photo: Matthias Haase

Rowland Ward, Leopard and Bushbuck, 1904, Diorama, 113 x 236 x 70 cm, Domaine royal de Randan, Randan (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes)

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Original Forest in Northern Pennsylvania, 1980, silver gelatin print, 119,4 x 210,8 cm, © the artist, Courtesy Sugimoto Studio

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Earliest Human Relatives, 1994, silver gelatin print, 42,3 × 54,3 cm, © the artist, Courtesy Sugimoto Studio

Arno Gisinger, from the series "Faux Terrain" and Betrachterbilder", installation view © Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, 2017, Photo: Norbert Miguletz

Richard Barnes, Man with Buffalo, 2007, Inkjetprint, 137,2 x 167,7 cm, © Richard Barnes

Mathieu Mercier, Untitled (pair of axolotls), display case, neon lighting, soil, aquarium, water, two axolotls, 219,5 x 180 x 330 cm, Centre d’Art contemporain d’Ivry, courtesy the artist & Mehdi Chouakri, © VG Bild-Kunst, 2017,photo: André Morin/le Crédac

Mark Dion, Paris Streetscape, 2017, exhibition view Dioramas, Palais de Tokyo (14.6.–10.9.2017), different materials, 180 x 250 x 150 cm, Courtesy Mark Dion / Galerie in Situ – Fabienne Leclerc, Paris, Photo: Aurélien Mole

Jeff Wall, The Giant, 1992, Leuchtkasten mit transparenter Fotografie, 39 x 48 x 13 cm, Privatsammlung, © Jeff Wall

Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, Diorama, 2012, mixed media, 5 sections, each approx. 100 x 100 x 100 cm, © the artist, courtesy of Sadie Coles HQ, London

Kent Monkman, Bête Noire, 2014, Acryl on cancas, different materials, 487,7 x 487,7 x 304,8 cm, Image courtesy of the artist

CATALOG OF THE EXHIBITION

In addition to the wide range of dioramas portrayed, the catalogue texts are unbelievably diverse. They range from the detailed analyses by Carl Akeley, the inventor of the dioramas at the American Museum of Natural History, to a letter by Anselm Kiefer to the curator and Donna Haraway’s famous text on the “teddy bear patriarchy”