21. January 2015

Curator Martina Weinhart does the gallery walk in the trendy district of Flingern in Düsseldorf, where several galleries are offering an interesting range of contemporary art.

Gallery walks have proved to be a success. Galleries everywhere are joining forces, be it in Vienna, Zurich, Cologne, Frankfurt, or in Dresden. The Gallery Weekend in Berlin has long since left the city's annual art show far behind. And it pays off for visitors. The presentations are more ambitious, concise, and people less often have the feeling of being buried under a mountain of art. They can visit exhibition after exhibition at their own pace. The Rhineland has time and again demonstrated that it has something to offer as an art venue, and certain remigration tendencies from Berlin have just recently become apparent. The Berliners have their Kreuzberg, and Düsseldorfers have their Flingern--a former working-class neighborhood that has become Düsseldorf's trendy district. Acker, Linden, and Birken streets are now lined with designer stores, cool bars, and a whole slew of interesting galleries that now join forces once a year for a collective gallery walk. Galleries such as Kadel Willborn, a newcomer from Karlsruhe, Linn Lühn, Cosar, or Van Horn, who are committed to presenting young art, group around the scene's doyen, the Konrad Fischer Galerie, founded in 1967 after Fischer gave up his promising career as a German Pop artist by the name of Konrad Lueg to establish one of the most successful galleries in Germany.

Iris Kadel and Moritz Willborn are exhibiting Vlassis Caniaris, the "Greek Kienholz," who like his fellow artist from America devotes himself to the more abysmal side of society in his large-scale sculptural tableaus and smaller assemblages of objects. Caniaris, born in 1928, cast a critical eye at the realities of life. One of the most well known artists of his generation in his home country, outside of Greece he is now a popular insider's tip among artists. The political situation in Greece resulted in his spending many years in exile, ultimately bringing him to Germany, where he created works that dealt with the economic miracle and its consequences. In Berlin, where he landed after receiving a grant from the German Academic Exchange Service, he produced one of most significant bodies of works, "Immigrants," between 1971 and 1976. For the exhibition he conducted interviews with immigrants, trade union members, and economists. Today, his works provide a striking panorama of the social conditions that prevailed at the time. In one corner, a headless "Witness" (1980) hovers over visitors' heads and looks at what seems to be a carelessly discarded, rusty bicycle. An almost monumental "Interior" (1974) consisting more of meager belongings than anything else comes together in the entrance area. The bulk trash includes torn-out PVC flooring, an empty hamster cage, and the chassis of an old stroller.

The Konrad Fischer Galerie has the courage to present a void by concentrating on two sound works. One room features Bruce Nauman, the American Old Master of Conceptual Art, with a more recent work from 2011. (The gallery's first exhibition in its present spaces in 1974 was devoted Nauman.) One hears the words "For children, for children, for children" in an endless loop. Upstairs, one hears the impressive sounds of a melancholy work by the Berlin-based Scottish artist Susan Philipsz, who won the renowned Turner Prize in 2010 for a work in which she used her own voice. For "War Damaged Musical Instruments (Shellac)" she went out in search of music instruments now kept in military archives that had been damaged in World War I. She discovered things such as a cornet from a British freighter that had been sunk by a German submarine, or a shot-up clarinet. Due to the damage, but also so that the instruments' reflections would not give away their location, trumpets or cornets were often covered with a coat of shellac, and for this reason alone they have a very individual sound. Philipsz recorded the signal that announced the end of a battle, split it up, and thus abstracted it.

The Galerie Van Horn run by the Düsseldorfer Markus Karstiess also devotes itself to artistic research as an artwork. From a place near Rome, he set out on a search for a missing work by the late Land Art artist Robert Smithson. While his legendary "Spiral Getty," a monumental spiral that Smithson produced for the Great Salt Lake in Utah, has been taken care of and preserved, his "Asphalt Rundown" from 1979, which he realized near Rome, was full of rubbish and overgrown with plants. The film "Was die Erde sieht" (What the Earth Sees) in the gallery shows how Karstiess uses his bare hands to dig in a mound of earth in search of traces of this work. He finally discovered what he was looking for, and besides the film he presents an assortment of ceramic casts of the remains of what he found as well as a previously never shown documentation of Smithson at work that the Italian photographer Claudio Abate captured with his camera in black and white. Karstiess's archeology raises crucial questions--about artistic work, about its associated processes. It inquires into how art is handled that is situated beyond a painted picture on the wall, something that requires reexamination over and over again.