“It is a time for fragments”, remarked the artist Marcel Duchamp to the author Anaïs Nin while she was visiting him in his Paris studio in 1934. He was referring specifically to the documentation of his work The Large Glass, for which he collected scraps of writing and graphic material in a green box. In a world whose unity and totality was being placed in doubt both by physics and societal upheavals, Duchamp felt that the fragment was the only viable form of artistic action.
In the Renaissance or Romanticism, the fragment expressed the desire for unity and totality, and was seen as a vestige of a former whole or as something that was yet to be completed. In keeping with this, motifs such as ruins and torsos hinted at an ideal of completion and perfection. By the 20th century, this desire had made way for the realisation that the world is always unfinished. There is always a perspective to add or another aspect to consider. In modern and contemporary artworks, parts, remnants, gaps and details no longer suggest a possible whole but reference the destructive and creative force of ruptures.
The collection display Time for Fragments looks into the diverse meanings of the fragmentary in the work of artists such as Joseph Beuys, Marianna Castillo Deball, Anish Kapoor, William Kentridge, Sam Taylor-Johnson, Cy Twombly and Andy Warhol.
A special exhibition by the Nationalgalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin