Survey Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Alchemy. The Great Art

06.04.2017 to 23.07.2017
Kulturforum

This large-scale exhibition at Berlin’s Kulturforum illuminates the deep relationship between Art and Alchemy on an exhibition space of 800 square meters. More than 200 works representing over 3,000 years of art and cultural history from the collections of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin will be on display, supplemented by outstanding loans from renowned international institutions.

Alchemy is a creation myth and therefore intimately related to artistic practice – this idea permeates all eras and cultures, shaping Alchemy’s theoretical underpinnings as well as artistic creativity. An exhibition dedicated to the art of Alchemy is consequently predestined for the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, whose diverse collections stretch over time from pre- and early history to the present. Alchemy is a universal theme for a universal museum.

The term ‘Alchemy’ is derived from the Greek chēmeía (‘metal-pouring’, i.e. smelting or alloying) and has been disseminated across the Western world since the twelfth century through the translation of Arabic texts. Handicraft related to Alchemy, however, existed long before the human historical record. Blacksmithing and metallurgy in the Babylonian Empire, the imitation of precious metals and gemstones in what was known as the ‘temple industry’ and the dyers’ trade in Ancient Egypt, the Greek natural philosophers’ material conversion processes, and Chinese and Indian pharmaceutical practices and immortality myths can serve as early protoalchemical evidence.

In medieval Europe, Alchemy was known as Ars magna (the Great Art), and its practice produced artistic effects. The idea that Alchemy is the art that most closely imitates nature was debated at the universities in Paris and Oxford by scholars like Thomas Aquinas and Roger Bacon. Contrary to the popular misconception that the aim of alchemists was primarily chrysopoeia (the making of gold), there were numerous adepts who strove for nothing less than the imitation of the divine act of creation itself, a goal that spurred them on to attempt not only to imitate nature, but ultimately even to surpass it. This drive to transmute naturally-existing matter into a man-made concoction still influences artists today, especially contemporary artists who understand the processual transformation of material as an integral part of their work.

Beginning in the late Middle Ages, art created its own visual language that continues to shape our perception of Alchemy even today. Mythical creatures from the animal kingdom, two-headed hermaphrodites, homunculi in glass vials, and godlike alchemist-creators at work crafting an artificial world based on their imagination are the protagonists of magnificent illuminated manuscripts and alchemical tracts from this period. These images have even filtered down into our contemporary daily lives. The mythology of alchemy is used effectively in scenes in Frankenstein, in adaptations of Goethe’s Faust, in the appraised American television series Breaking Bad, and in the manga Fullmetal Alchemist.

The exhibition Alchemy. The Great Art is divided into three sections which trace these different manifestations in artistic and handicraft practice and visual culture from antiquity to the present: CREATION is dedicated to the origins of Alchemy, and shows the influence of alchemical technologies on artistic practice. CREATOR centres the alchemists themselves, presenting them at work and illustrating their creations both allegorically and practically. And CREATURE focuses on the products of the magnum opus, or Great Work – the successful conversion of a base substance into gold, and the spiritual transformation of the adepts, which can be seen in the image of the homunculus, the philosopher’s stone, or as visualizations of the process that leads to an all-transforming transmutation. It becomes clear that Alchemy remains to this day far more than a fantastic pipe dream of making gold: Alchemy is a creation myth and therefore intimately related to artistic practice.

On display are paintings and miniatures, drawings and prints, scrolls, manuscripts and laboratory books, photographs and cyanotypes, chemograms and scanographies, sculptures, installations and videos, fake gems and artificial gold, stoneware and porcelain, gold-ruby glass and jewellery. Works of modern and contemporary art include those by Carl Andre, Joseph Beuys, Fischli/Weiss, Heinz Hajek-Halke, Anselm Kiefer, Yves Klein, Jeff Koons, Alicja Kwade, Bernhard Prinz, Sarah Schönfeld, Gerda Schütte, Harry Smith, Natascha Sonnenschein, Rudolf Steiner, and Maria Volokhova.

As a prologue to the exhibition and on the occasion of the 67th Berlinale, US-American artist Joe Ramirez presented the world premiere of The Gold Projections from 7 to 19 February 2017. The material and filmic quintessence of the two-week performance will be included in the Alchemy exhibition.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue or alchemical card box to highlight, by cross-referencing, the diversity of the individual works and their rich interconnectivity across time, cultures, and geographical areas.

An exhibition organized by the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin in cooperation with the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles

Curators Berlin: Jörg Völlnagel together with Veronika Tocha
Curators Los Angeles: David Brafman together with Rhiannon Knol
Project Management: Andrea Müller
Curatorial Assistant and Lecture Program: Jadwiga Kamola

Offers for

© Alchemie. Die Große Kunst, Ausstellungsansicht, © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / David von Becker

26.04.2017 16:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Curator tour

© bpk / Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, Foto: Jörg P. Anders

29.04.2017 14:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Public tour

© Natascha Sonnenschein / VG Bild- Kunst, Bonn 2017

06.05.2017 13:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Workshop (one-day)

© bpk / Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, Foto: Jörg P. Anders

06.05.2017 14:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Public tour

© bpk / Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, Foto: Jörg P. Anders

13.05.2017 14:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Public tour

© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Rathgen-Forschungslabor

18.05.2017 18:30 Uhr
Kulturforum
Exhibition talk

© bpk / Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, Foto: Jörg P. Anders

20.05.2017 14:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Public tour

© bpk / Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Foto: Jörg P. Anders

21.05.2017 15:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Tandem guided tour

© bpk / Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, Foto: Jörg P. Anders

27.05.2017 14:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Public tour

© bpk / Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, Foto: Jörg P. Anders

03.06.2017 14:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Public tour

© Natascha Sonnenschein / VG Bild- Kunst, Bonn 2017

08.06.2017 18:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Workshop (one-day)

© bpk / Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, Foto: Jörg P. Anders

10.06.2017 14:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Public tour

© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Rathgen-Forschungslabor

15.06.2017 18:30 Uhr
Kulturforum
Exhibition talk

© bpk / Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, Foto: Jörg P. Anders

17.06.2017 14:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Public tour

© bpk / Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Foto: Jörg P. Anders

18.06.2017 15:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Tandem guided tour

© bpk / Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, Foto: Jörg P. Anders

24.06.2017 14:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Public tour

© bpk / Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, Foto: Jörg P. Anders

01.07.2017 14:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Public tour

© Natascha Sonnenschein / VG Bild- Kunst, Bonn 2017

06.07.2017 18:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Workshop (one-day)

© bpk / Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, Foto: Jörg P. Anders

08.07.2017 14:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Public tour

© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Rathgen-Forschungslabor

13.07.2017 18:30 Uhr
Kulturforum
Exhibition talk

© bpk / Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, Foto: Jörg P. Anders

15.07.2017 14:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Public tour

© bpk / Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Foto: Jörg P. Anders

16.07.2017 15:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Tandem guided tour

© bpk / Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, Foto: Jörg P. Anders

22.07.2017 14:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Public tour

© Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin / Valerie Schmidt

06.06.2017 11:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Workshop (several days)

© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Valerie Schmidt

29.04.2017 14:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Workshop (one-day)

© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Valerie Schmidt

06.05.2017 14:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Workshop (one-day)

© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Valerie Schmidt

13.05.2017 14:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Workshop (one-day)

© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Valerie Schmidt

20.05.2017 14:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Workshop (one-day)

© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Valerie Schmidt

27.05.2017 14:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Workshop (one-day)

© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Valerie Schmidt

03.06.2017 14:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Workshop (one-day)

© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Valerie Schmidt

10.06.2017 14:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Workshop (one-day)

© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Valerie Schmidt

17.06.2017 14:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Workshop (one-day)

© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Valerie Schmidt

24.06.2017 14:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Workshop (one-day)

© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Valerie Schmidt

01.07.2017 14:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Workshop (one-day)

© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Valerie Schmidt

08.07.2017 14:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Workshop (one-day)

© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Valerie Schmidt

15.07.2017 14:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Workshop (one-day)

© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Valerie Schmidt

22.07.2017 14:00 Uhr
Kulturforum
Workshop (one-day)

© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Valerie Schmidt
Alchemistenküche – Magische Geheimnisse: Tricks der Alchemisten


Workshop

© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Valerie Schmidt
Transformationen: Auf der Suche nach dem Weltgeheimnis


Workshop

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© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Uli Klose
Kulturforum


Joe Ramirez. The Gold Projections
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Foto: David von Becker
Kulturforum

The Gold Projections: gilding process, projection, transformation from 7 to 19 February 2017

Visitor entrance

Matthäikirchplatz
10785 Berlin


U-Bahn U2 (Potsdamer Platz)
S-Bahn S1, S2, S25 (Potsdamer Platz)
Bus M29 (Potsdamer Brücke); M41 (Potsdamer Platz Bhf / Voßstraße); M48, M85 (Kulturforum); 200 (Philharmonie)

Sun 11:00 - 18:00
Mon closed
Tue 10:00 - 18:00
Wed 10:00 - 18:00
Thu 10:00 - 20:00
Fri 10:00 - 18:00
Sat 11:00 - 18:00

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Alchemy. The Great Art
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