Abstraction as a World Language. Form, Magic, Symbols

from: 21.05.2006 to: 15.10.2006

In this exhibition, European and North American abstract art of the 20th century meets works of old art from Africa, America, the South Sea, Asia, and Europe from a variety of collections of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (National Museums in Berlin).

The designs from these very different cultural groups cover a spectrum from ornament to stylised figurative representations and the magic of the independent abstract art object. Often, the forms of artistic expression bear astonishingly close resemblance to each other. Yet, this apparent proximity is partially a result of a European perception which spontaneously applies its aesthetic criteria to these works.

With over 80 works, the exhibition highlights a surprising affinity, while also pointing up the differences of cultural ideas. For abstraction, as a "world language", has universal features, but it is not a continuously universal language. Certain basic phenomena of artistic expression suggest a common ground, but on closer examination they prove not identical: they are rather "words" of similar sound but individual meaning. The exhibition thus puts the questions of form and content in art in an interesting new light.


Ethnologisches Museum