this issue contains
>> Comeback of Sculpture
>> Isa Genzken's Sculptures
>> Tony Cragg: Interview
>> Manfred Pernice: Portrait

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From Stumbling Block to New Star
Sculpture’s Back – with a Vengeance

The video boom; all the hype surrounding art photography and painting was yesterday. Now, the art world is celebrating a “Return to Sculpture.” Following the Fine Art Fair Frankfurt in April of this year, a series of important art events are all under the sign of sculpture – ranging from Isa Genzken’s work for the German Pavilion at the Venice Biennale to "Skulptur Projekte Münster ’07". Tim Ackermann tracked down the new urge for the three-dimensional.

Works by Ina Weber, „Quality Street" - Fine Art Fair Frankfurt 2007
Courtesy Fine Art Fair Frankfurt

"Sculpture," Ad Reinhardt once said, "is what you trip over when you step back to look at a painting." The Minimalist painter and biggest riot rhetorician of the New York School has been dead for four decades now, while the three-dimensional in art unerringly continues to celebrate its success – from Oldenburg’s hamburgers to Beuys’ lard corners to Koons’ rabbit and Hirst’s shark. And yet: over the past several years, it looked very much as though the art market was about to take Reinhardt’s aphorism by word. Painting set the pace, first and foremost the New Leipzig School. At the art fairs, sculpture seemed at best fit to be obstacles preventing collectors from tearing the paintings off the walls in a rush of excitement. A golden age for all artists capable of holding a brush.

Birgit Dieker, Olga, 2006/07,
„Die Macht des Dinglichen" at Georg-Kolbe-Museum, Berlin
Courtesy Galerie Volker Diehl

Yet times have changed: 2007, it seems, is turning into the year of the third dimension. Already in April, the Fine Art Fair Frankfurt, sponsored by Deutsche Bank, attracted attention with a completely different concept: for the first time, only a single discipline was shown – sculpture – while in Berlin, a recent exhibition at the Georg Kolbe Museum focused on the Power of the Real. Here, too, exclusively sculpture was shown. And soon, the "sculptress" Isa Genzken will present her project for the German Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, which she also realized with the support of Deutsche Bank. Just two weeks later, all eyes of the art jet-set will turn to tranquil Munster, where every ten years the relationship between art and public space is investigated. Skulptur Projekte Münster is the title of the show considered to be the most important of its kind internationally. And the Deutsche Guggenheim will soon be working on its own expanded concept of sculpture, when Phoebe Washburn presents her cross between greenhouse and overall installation there this summer. Sculpture, sculpture – everywhere you look.

Yehudit Sasportas, The Shadow's Wall, 2006
Courtesy Galerie EIGEN + ART Leipzig/Berlin &
Sommer Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv

Times have changed, and no one knows for sure when it started. Maybe it really was Gerd Harry Lybke, who’s been stubbornly invoking the "return of sculpture" for over two years now. The star gallery dealer is motivated by his own interests, of course, because the painter stars he represents such as Neo Rauch, Tim Eitel, and Matthias Weischer can’t keep up with the demand. Despite this, the Saxonian trendsetter once again seems to be right on the money. The fact that the popular advocate of Leipzig-made canvases featured exclusively three-dimensional works in his fair booth at the last Art Forum Berlin – including a window wall by Yehudit Sasportas and a baroque-looking figure by Stella Hamberg –was worth at least a few lines of text in almost all the culture sections of the newspapers. Thus, the Art Forum 2006, at which other gallery dealers like Michael Schultz, Barbara Thumm, and Sies & Höke reserved larger areas for the "sculptors," couldn’t be termed the beginning, but perhaps it’s the breakthrough of this newly emerging trend.

Harald Klingelhöller, WHY POP, 2007,
Installation view: „Sicht Weisen – Kunst auf der Talachse", Wuppertal 2007
Photo: © Medienzentrum Wuppertal, Antje Zeis-Loi

Proclaimed by gallery dealers, fortified by important exhibitions – it’s no accident that sculpture is undergoing a Renaissance on the art market. Thus, Alberto Giacometti’s bronze figure L’homme qui chavire was recently auctioned off at Christie’s for $18.5 million – a posthumous record for the Swiss sculptor, who died in 1966. The same auction brought in $9.8 million for Projet pour un monument by Joan Miró – eight times the highest price ever paid for a sculpture by the Spanish artist. One of the reasons for the current boom might be the frequently voiced conjecture that the collectors’ walls are full of paintings by now, and that they only have the floor areas of their apartments to work with. What’s far more likely is that the run on objects operates according to simple market rules. Elaborate sculptures are significantly more expensive than paintings, even in the galleries’ primary prices. Not to mention photography. This is why sculptures enjoy success particularly in economically friendly times, and if a cliché can adequately describe the current mood on the art market, then for the moment we’re looking at an unbridled cash flow.

Albert Hien, „Quality Street" - Fine Art Fair Frankfurt 2007
Courtesy Fine Art Fair Frankfurt

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