The year began with a lockdown, but the Schirn exhibition program is already waiting in the wings. And we can hardly wait to open our doors again.


Ancient forests in remote regions, majestic vistas in 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 Harris, Edwin Holgate, Arthur Lismer, Tom Thomson, and F. H. Varley ventured, full of pictorial experimentation, away from urban centers and deep into 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 Frankfurt Book Fair, the 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, including “The West Wind” (winter 1916–17) by Tom Thomson, “Blunden Harbour” (ca. 1930) by Emily Carr, “Terre Sauvage” (1913) by A. Y. Jackson, and “Mt. Lefroy” (1930) by Lawren Harris. Featuring some 90 paintings and sketches, as well as films and documentary material, this comprehensive exhibition will examine and critically review the works by artists around the Group of Seven, which are extremely popular in Canada. As a counter-narrative that holds equal resonance in Canada, Indigenous perspectives are explored in the show, such as those of the Algonquin-French artist Caroline Monnet or the Anishinaabe filmmaker Lisa Jackson.

Lawren S. Harris, Mt. Lefroy, 1930 © Family of Lawren S. Harris
Tom Thomson Autumn's Garland, 1915-1916, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa Photo: NGC

For Caroline Monnet, the Atlantic Ocean links the two sides of her identity, shaped by her Algonquin ancestry in Canada and her French ancestry in Europe. The Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt presents, in its Rotunda, Monnet’s immersive video work “Transatlantic”, which documents the artist’s twenty-two-day journey by cargo ship from Europe to Canada. Mirrored at the center and accompanied by a soundtrack of Morse code and radio frequencies in a filmic montage, the images of the Atlantic crossing exert a forceful pull. This contrasts with the static equilibrium of the three concrete spheres of “Proximal I, II, III” (2018/2020) which, in the Schirn, are combined with the video work to create a powerful installation.

The spheric sculptures refer, among other things, to the lunar cycles that play a central role in the Algonquin tradition. The installation illuminates the impact of colonial history between Europe and North America, covering trade and migration as well as traumatic experiences of Indigenous peoples. The theme of representing Indigenous peoples and cultures in present-day society runs through all of Monnet’s work. At the Schirn, Monnet’s installation “Transatlantic” enters into a dialogue with the paintings of Canada’s Group of Seven, which are simultaneously presented in the exhibition “Magnetic North: Imagining Canada in Painting 1910–40”.

Caroline Monnet, Photo: Sebastien Aubin
Caroline Monnet, Transatlantic, 2018 © Caroline Monnet
Caroline Monnet, Transatlantic, 2018 © Caroline Monnet

Gilbert & George have been creating art together now for over half a century. Their outstanding body of work is still as explosive as it is significant. The Schirn is dedicating an extensive retrospective to the visually powerful and sometimes provocative universe of this eccentric, London-based artists, showing works from 1971 until 2019. As both subject and object of their own work, Gilbert & George form a complete artistic unity that draws no distinction between art and life. As “living sculptures,” they embody their art and are both topic and focal point of their large-format collages and screened pictorial worlds.

Their work revolves around death, hope, life, fear, sex, money, and religion. These are also societal issues, which they depict in all their contradictions: at once joyful and tragic, grotesque and serious, surreal and symbolic. Gilbert & George deal with everything that makes us uneasy. Their goal, however, is not to shock, but rather to make visible what is happening in the world, according to their motto “Art for All.” From punks to hipsters, from authorities to outsiders, and from headlines to advertising—Gilbert & George have something to say about it all. By challenging our picture of the world, their works demonstrate, time and again, how forward-thinking they are.

Gilbert & George, LEAFAGE, 1988, Courtesy of Gilbert & George

No other German woman artist of Classic Modernism has achieved the same legendary status as Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876–1907) in the public awareness. Within a few years of her death, traveling exhibitions were organized through various German museums. The extensive retrospective at the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt is dedicated to Modersohn-Becker’s entire oeuvre and shows how radically she defied the social and artistic conventions of her time, thus anticipating central developments of modernism. In her unique works, Modersohn-Becker created timeless images of universal validity. In addition to succinct series and pictorial motifs, the exhibition also focuses in particular on the artist’s remarkable painting style and her artistic methods, as well as on the ambivalent reception of her work. With some 120 paintings and drawings from all her creative phases, the Schirn presents a contemporary view of the works of this early representative of the avant-garde, whose quality continues to fascinate viewers to this day.

PAULA MODERSOHN-BECKER, Self-portrait on the sixth anniversary, May 25, 1906, Museen Böttcherstraße, Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum, Bremen

Kara Walker is one of the most prolific US-American artists of our time. Her monumental, wall-spanning silhouettes and expansive sculptures, focusing explicitly and provocatively on racism, sexuality, oppression, and violence, have made headlines. For the exhibition “A Black Hole Is Everything a Star Longs to Be” the artist has, for the first time, opened up her extensive archive of drawings and is presenting 650 graphic works and a selection of films. The fact that Walker works on paper is central. She makes use of the most varied styles, techniques, and references with great virtuosity.

Her intimate sketches and notes are a site for the execution of graphic thought processes and also a means of satire and caricature, imagination and subversion. Walker relentlessly shakes up historical images, examining racism and sexual violence with radical openness and drastic imagery. In doing so, she repeatedly references historical as well as contemporary events—from slavery to the presidency of Barack Obama. The artist makes visible the conflicts and traumas that persist to this day and ruthlessly negotiates the emergence of both collective and individual identity.


For the past nine years, the film and video art series Double Feature has formed a regular part of the program of the Schirn Kunsthalle Frank­furt. 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.

In 2019 the public can look forward to contri­bu­tions from artists including Michael Riedel and Kristina Kilian. 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.


Ugo Rondinone adds a poetic dimension to everyday objects and phenomena. In typically Minimalistic arrangements, he puts a tree, a clock, the sun or a rainbow in new contexts by means of repetition, isolation, or reduction, creating atmospheric ambiences. The Schirn is dedicating a large survey exhibition to Rondinone that will showcase key paintings, sculptures, and video works by the renowned Swiss artist. Devised specifically for the Schirn, his new installation extends along the entire length of the gallery and into the Rotunda.

The exhibition “Life Time” combines fundamental themes that have shaped the work of the conceptual and installation artist for the past thirty years: time and transience, day and night, reality and fiction, nature and culture. Rondinone has repeatedly referred to the iconography of Romanticism in his works and used quotes from literature and pop culture. The starting point of his multimedia oeuvre is the transformation of the outside world into a subjective, emotional inner world. He develops experiential spaces in which the viewer actually becomes part of the installations and their immersive structures.

Ugo Rondinone, life time (Rendering), 2019, Courtesy of the artist and Studio Rondinone

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, in which Chagall focused more and more on the Jewish world, numerous self-portraits, his orientation toward allegorical and Biblical themes, and the important designs in exile for the ballets “Aleko” (1942) and “The Firebird” (1945). The exhibition also addresses the artist’s recurring preoccupation with his hometown, Vitebsk, and main works such as “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.


In order to slow down the further spread of the corona virus together, the SCHIRN is closed until 9 May 2021. All events are also cancelled during this period. Due to the current situation, short-term changes in the exhibition program cannot be ruled out.

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