Bring on the new decade: An overview of our fantastic exhibition program.


Unexpected Unexplained Unaccepted

More than any other artist of his time, Richard Jackson (*1939) has focused his attention on the radical expansion of painting. The American artist pushes the formal boundaries of the picturesque and creates situations, which link the application of the paint through the use of machines to its processual aspect. For the first time, the Schirn is assembling five of his altogether twelve characteristic Rooms – room installations based on the principle of automated painting. Some of them are walk-in installations, while others can be viewed only through windows or peepholes. 

Jackson combines critical commentaries on painting with social contexts, pairing them with provocative wit and ambiguities, as well as references to iconic works by artists such as Marcel Duchamp, Jasper Johns, and Robert Rauschenberg. Inside the rooms, comic-like figures, animals, or objects become the protagonists in a unique process in which air compressors and pumps cause rich colors to flow through tubes and funnels, through ears, mouths, and other body orifices and spread them across the floor, walls, furnishings, and the protagonists themselves. The thematic rooms document a painting process which is detached from the artist and expands into the spatial. By the time visitors enter the space, it is all over. They become the investigators of the previous spectacular painting act and voyeurs of bizarre scenarios.

Richard Jackson, The War Room, 2006-2007, Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth, Installation view, photo: Joshua White
Richard Jackson, The Dining Room (Detail), 2006-2007, Courtesy the artist, Galerie Georges-Philippe & Nathalie Vallois, and Hauser & Wirth, photo: Guillaume Grasset


Surreal Worlds from Meret Oppenheim to Frida Kahlo

Goddess, she-devil, doll, fetish, child-woman or wonderful dream creature – in various guises, women were the central subject of male Surrealist fantasies. Initially it was often in the role of companion or model that female artists became part of the circle surrounding André Breton, the founder of the Surrealist group. However, upon closer examination it becomes evident that the participation of women artists in the movement was considerably larger than is generally known or reported. In a first-time major survey exhibition, the Schirn presents the contribution of women to Surrealism. Female artists differed from their male colleagues above all in their reversal of perspective: they questioned their own reflection or took on different roles in the search for a (new) model of female identity.

Contemporary political events, literature, and non-European myths and religions are among the subjects the women Surrealists examine in their works. The exhibition features female artists directly associated with the Surrealist movement, though sometimes only for a short period; they knew Breton personally, exhibited with the group, or considered Surrealist ideas from a theoretical point of view. Featuring some 260 remarkable paintings, works on paper, sculptures, photographs, and films by 34 artists from 11 countries, the exhibition reflects a diverse spectrum in terms of both style and content. The exhibition shows representative selections of works by the artists, while also reflecting networks and friendships among the women in Europe, the US, and Mexico.

Dorothea Tanning, Voltage, 1942 © The Estate of Dorothea Tanning/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019, photo: Jochen Littkemann, Berlin
Leonora Carrington, Autoportrait, à l'auberge du Cheval d'Aube, 1937/38 © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019
Leonor Fini, Chtonian Deity Watching over the Sleep of a Young Man, 1946 © Weinstein Gallery, San Francisco and Francis Naumann Gallery, New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019
Kay Sage, At the Appointed Time, 1942 © Estate of Kay Sage/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019


The expansive installations of Ramin Haerizadeh (*1975), Rokni Haerizadeh (*1978), and Hesam Rahmanian (*1980) transport the viewer into a highly distinctive world. Exuberant and almost baroque, their installations are nonetheless humorous, eccentric, and full of allusions. The base and center of the artistic trio is their house in Dubai in which they live and work together. It is here that all their films, installations, artworks, and exhibitions originate-frequently in exchange with friends or other artists.

In their definition of the collective, the Iranian artists all work in their own particular style, together and independently of each other. The surprising encounters thus created direct attention toward urgent contemporary political and social topics and question power mechanisms, as well as normative gender roles and the art world. The Schirn is presenting the first solo exhibition by the artists in Germany, in which they combine new and existing works to create a sensuous experience as part of their strategy to link different artistic realities.

Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh, Hesam Rahmanian, The Maids, 2012, Courtesy the artists, photo: Maaziar Sadr


The Schirn dedicates an exhibition to the fascination of espionage as source of current artistic inspiration. Espionage is linked to obtaining rare secrets or confidential information without the permission of the beholder. If in the past, national governments spied on individuals or states, in times of digital communication private individuals are in the capacity of revealing hidden governmental secrets or whistle-blowers fight their government’s spying their own citizens.

This created perfect grounds for a renewed interest in the mechanisms of secrecy. International artists such Simon Denny, Rodney Graham, Gabriel Lester, Metahaven, Trevor Paglen, Noam Toran, Suzanne Treister and Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas address the topic from a contemporary perspective with their works touching aspects of espionage such as surveillance, paranoia, threat, camouflage, cryptography, manipulation, cold-blood and betrayal. The exhibition presents a multitude of artistic strategies as well as unexpected objects and touches the ‘golden age’ of espionage during the Cold War as well as the context of media super-exposure.

Noam Toram, Still from If We Never Meet Again, 2010, Courtesy the artist, photo: Per Tingleff
Noam Toram, Polygraph, from the project Après-coup, 2011, photo: Raphaelle Muëller


Imagining Canada in Painting 1910–1940

Ancient forests in remote regions, majestic vistas of the Arctic, the magic of the northern lights—Canadian modernist painting conceives a mythical Canada. At the beginning of the twentieth century, artists such as Franklin Carmichael, Emily Carr, J.E.H. MacDonald, Lawren S. Harris, Edwin Holgate, Arthur Lismer, Tom Thomson, and F.H Varley ventured, full of pictorial experimentation, away from urban centers and deep into the nature. They sought to create a new pictorial vocabulary for a young nation coming into its own cultural identity. In a captivating visual language, these paintings and sketches epitomize the dream of a “new” world, constructing the idyll of a magnificent landscape beyond the reality of the Indigenous population, modern city life, and the expanding industrial exploitation of nature.

On the occasion of Canada being Guest of Honour at the 2020 Frankfurt Book Fair, the Schirn will be presenting major aspects of Canadian modern landscape painting from a current-day standpoint, bringing together principal works from major Canadian collections, which are on view in Germany for the first time. Featuring some 80 paintings and 40 sketches, as well as photographs, films, and documentary material, this comprehensive exhibition will examine and critically review the works by artists around the The Group of Seven, which are extremely popular in Canada. As a counter-narrative, that has equal resonance in Canada, the show will include Indigenous perspectives and address issues surrounding the formation of national identities.

Emily Carr, Blunden Harbour, ca. 1930, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, photo: NGC
Lawren S. Harris. Lake and Mountains, 1928 © Family of Lawren S. Harris, Photo Art Gallery of Ontario, 48/8


For the past eight years, the film and video art series Double Feature has formed a regular part of the program of the Schirn. Once a month, artists present their own production followed by a film of their choice. In an interview, the authors of the film discuss their works as well as current trends in film and video art. Over 70 artists have already presented their works in the Double Feature series. Also in 2020 outstanding personalities have been invited to the Schirn, including the current holder of the Prix de Rome, Rory Pilgrim, and the Director of the Birth Rites Collection, Helen Knowles. A particular highlight will be a mini- retrospective of the hitherto little-known filmic work of Thomas Bayrle.

The interviews with artists who have already participated, including Monira Al Qadiri, Alexandra Bachzetsis, Gerard Byrne, Pauline Curnier Jardin, Eli Cortiñas, Beatrice Gibson, Andrew Norman Wilson, Damir Očko, Mario Pfeifer, Lili Reynaud-Dewar, Ani Schulze, Timur Si-Qin, Paul Spengemann, Pilvi Takala, and Holly Zausner can be accessed via the Youtube Channel of the Schirn under the title Double Feature Interview. The Schirn Magazine also regulary offers discursive contributions focussing on Video Art to accompany the Double Feature series.

Rory Pilgrim, The Undercurrent (video still), multimedia installation, 2019-ongoing. Courtesy: the artist and Andriesse Eyck Galerie
Rory Pilgrim, The Undercurrent (video still), multimedia installation, 2019-ongoing. Courtesy: the artist and Andriesse Eyck Galerie


Marc Chagall (1887–1985) is regarded as the poet among the artists of modernism. In a major exhibition, the Schirn sheds light on a so far little-known side of his oeuvre: Chagall’s works of the 1930s and 1940s, in which the artist’s colorful palette becomes darker. The life and work of the Jewish painter were profoundly affected by the art policies of the National Socialists and the Holocaust. By the early 1930s, Chagall’s works were already examining the increasingly aggressive anti-Semitism in Europe, and he finally emigrated to the United States in 1941.

During these years, his art works touch on central themes such as identity, homeland, and exile. With more than 100 haunting paintings, works on paper, photos, and documents, the exhibition traces the artist’s search for a pictorial language in the face of expulsion and persecution. It presents important works from the 1930s, like “The Falling Angel” (1923/1933/1947). Altogether, the Schirn will provide a new and highly relevant view of the oeuvre of one of the most important artists of the twentieth century.

Marc Chagall, The Falling Angel, 1923-33-47, Kunstmuseum Basel, deposits from private collection, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019, Photo: Martin P. Bühler