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>> Curator Jürgen Bock on "Drawing a Tension" / The Press on "Freisteller"
>> Liz Christensen on "Feeling the Heat" / Angelika Stepken on "Freisteller"

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"Creative Think Tank of Contemporary Art"
The Press on Freisteller at the Deutsche Guggenheim



The commissioned work by Phoebe Washburn was a sign of what was to come. The Deutsche Guggenheim is focusing more on young art. And this was the case with Freisteller, a show in which the Berlin museum presents works by this year's Villa Romana Fellows. The Villa Romana Prize has been awarded to outstanding young artists since 1905. It’s not only the oldest German art award, but also the longest existing cultural commitment on the part of Deutsche Bank and its foundation. The group show at the Deutsche Guggenheim met with mixed reviews in the media – some critics missed a clear concept, while others felt the heterogeneous positions reflect the vitality of up-and-coming German artists.

"A refreshing new contemporary impulse" at the Deutsche Guggenheim – that was Art in Berlin's assessment of the current show featuring the Villa Romana Fellows. Other media also found the presentation of the works by the young fellows convincing. For Art Daily, the exhibition demonstrates that a tradition-rich institution like Villa Romana "can succeed in becoming a creative think thank of contemporary art." The online newspaper added that the connection between the artists' house and the Deutsche Guggenheim "establishes a public forum that is capable of authentically reflecting a vital, internationally-oriented art scene in Germany."

Jens Hinrichsen of the Tagespiegel newspaper said that the Berlin exhibition venue was "unusually open" in mounting the exhibition. He believes that this attitude is extremely appropriate "for an inevitably heterogeneous group exhibition" with the "cleverly chosen" title Freisteller. "In graphic design, 'Freisteller' designates a pictorial motif removed from its background that can be put in new contexts. This applies to many contemporary artists, especially the four born between 1974 and 1977 who have lived and worked in the Villa Romana in Florence since February."

For the curator of the show, Angelika Stepken, the title has another level of menaing apart from the link to graphic design. In Deutschlandradio Kultur she explained the exhibition thus: "The title Freisteller was selected because it can relate to four different positions. Because it is a term suggesting that the artists are 'freigestellt,' or freed from their normal lives for ten months and primarily living in Florence." However, the author of the feature, Carsten Probst, thinks her show lacks a clear concept. "The presentation has no general theme, and how can it: The artists have only known each other for a few weeks." He added: "The meaning of such presentations lies instead in the growing interest of the market in young artists."

While Gabriela Walde from the Berliner Morgenpost views the Deutsche Guggenheim as one of the "city's most interesting exhibition venues," she was not convinced by the current exhibition. "These four artists were thrown together under the title Freisteller, but the only connection between them is that they 'freistellen,' or 'set at liberty,' old contexts (of meaning) in their works in order to create new ones. That is a lot of freedom, but it's too bad that it doesn't lead to any great insights."

Kito Nedo from art sees things differently: "Different media of contemporary art production are collected in the manageable museum on Unter den Linden in a virtually exemplary way." "With the (…) exhibition at the Berlin Guggenheim branch, the work of the stipend recipients attracts more attention. Both Deutsche Bank, which sponsors Villa Romana long with the German federal government, and the artists' house itself must be very happy about this, because both can sharpen their profile as promoters of young and promising artists." And Nedo approves of the Deutsche Guggenheim's plan to present works by the current fellows each year: "One can only hope that with Freisteller an annual Villa Romana exhibition will be established in the German capital."

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