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Human Images for Martians

Press reactions to the Cracow exhibition "Man in the Middle", and "Design Seen at MoMA" in Berlin's Kunstgewerbemuseum

Almost 100 works from the Deutsche Bank Collection are currently being shown in the International Cultural Center in Cracow, Poland. Indeed, the cultural exchange between the two countries seems to be a lively one: it's already "the fifteenth exhibition of German art we've had," writes the Gazeta Wyborcza Krakau, to which the Rzeczpospolita remarks that "sonorous artists' names" and "enchanting works" were selected. Above all, however, the exhibition's title, Man in the Middle, animated Polish art critics to once again reflect upon the human image as it has been expressed throughout the 20th century. For the Gazeta Krakowska, studying the works of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Otto Dix, Oskar Kokoschka, and Franz Erhard Walther demonstrates that art's investigation of the human being has "often been ambivalent and has varied widely."

Piotr Sarzy´nski resolutely investigates this variability in modern art. In his article for the Polytika newspaper, he asks: "What would a Martian say about human existence if a UFO accidentally landed somewhere among these pictures?" Sarzy´nski likes the art of the early 20th century, which "addressed the imperfect human, lost in the universe and unsure

of his true goal," as well as the works from the Deutsche Bank Collection, which "reflect this struggle in an impressive way." All the same, he's skeptical when it comes to the social status ascribed to the painting of the recent past: "Video and installation artists have long been addressing the dangers associated with genetic engineering. These themes are still sorely missed in painting." This is why Sarzy´nsky warns against expecting the exhibition to provide too concise an image of the human being, regretting the absence of artists "who have been striving over the past few decades to say something truly important about human beings: Nan Goldin, Ronald Kitaj, Mimmo Paladino, or Maria Lassnig."

The MoMA in Berlin is growing. Since mid-May, Berlin's Kunstgewerbemuseum has been showing products of 20th-century industrial design in Design Seen at MoMA - an "augmentation of the larger show that's worth seeing," as Claudia Schwartz writes in the Neue Züricher Zeitung. More than anything else, she's impressed by the

presentation: "Thanks to the MoMA winds, fresh air seems to have blown through the otherwise fairly stale institution, which presents less a critical examination than a generously staged reencounter with certain highlights." Among them are pieces such as Eileen Gray's lamp design Tube Light from 1927 or Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Chair (1929), which more than any other object embodies "the high art of sitting."