Otto Piene. More Sky

17.07.2014 to 31.08.2014
Neue Nationalgalerie

A collaborative exhibition between the Nationalgalerie - Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle.

Few artists have dedicated themselves to experimental, genre-defying work as ardently as Otto Piene, one of the great artistic figures of the 20th century. As a cofounder of the international ZERO movement, by the 1960s he was already playing a crucial role in the redefinition of classical forms of art including painting and sculpture. His smoke pictures and fire paintings as well as his light installations and light ballets evoke a Romantic longing for harmony with nature, incorporating the elements of motion, light, time, and space into the work itself. After staging various projects in public places throughout Germany and the United States, Piene moved to the States at the end of the 1960s, where a number of further decisive opportunities awaited his artistic experimentation. Since the beginning of the 1970s, the artist has collaborated with technical engineers at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS, MIT, Boston) to develop a number of interdisciplinary projects and events. This work is distinguished by its placement in the public arena, its strong orientation towards process, and its ephemeral quality. It is through the transience of his projects that Piene reveals the breadth of his artistic vision, one that remains influential and relevant for current discourse on art today.

With three projects on display in the summer of 2014, the Nationalgalerie in Berlin and the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle intend to pay tribute to Otto Piene's continued experimentation. The focus of the exhibition is on his early artistic development in the 1960s and early 1970s. 

Neue Nationalgalerie

The Neue Nationalgalerie will present a recreation of the large projection installation "Proliferation of the Sun". Otto Piene initially developed the project for a small stage in New York at the end of his time with ZERO in 1967, and performed it again that year in Nuremberg, Cologne, and Dortmund. The piece featured handpainted slides of shimmering, coloured circular shapes that were projected in an open showroom to resemble planets or suns. As Piene describes, the projections allow for a "poetic journey through space". The spectral colour experience will be particularly impressive within the large hall of the Neue Nationalgalerie. Moreover, the change in scale from the original slide projections will provide an interesting tension between Piene's idealistic and utopian visions and the austerity of Mies' architectural design.

With the support of Deutsche Bank, on 19 July 2014 from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. the Neue Nationalgalerie will also host a Sky Art Event. Beginning in the late 1960s, the artist's attempt to overcome the rigid borders of traditional painting through the use of light, smoke, and fire, and his collaborative projects with technicians and other artists culminated in these "Sky Art Events". One such event involved Piene's "air sculptures", floating illuminated objects or filled balloons. Piene developed these objects within ZERO's milieu and began to release them into the sky over buildings, stadiums, and city squares in 1968. For the 2014 exhibition in Berlin, Otto Piene suggested allowing three large "air sculptures" to float above the roof of the Neue Nationalgalerie.

Deutsche Bank KunstHalle

The exhibition at the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle focuses on interdisciplinary and ephemeral projects within Otto Piene's early work. At the centre of the exhibition are important pieces from the ZERO years, which are represented not as the culmination of Piene's work, but rather as points of departure for the artist's subsequent, varied artistic development. Early collotypes and light graphics, memorable smoke paintings and light sculptures, and an extensive cycle of works in the graphic medium all attest to the artist's experimental interaction with the elements of air, fire, light, and colour, and his continual attempt to blur the boundaries between various forms of art.

The exhibition in the Neue Nationalgalerie has been made possible by the Verein der Freunde der Nationalgalerie. The Sky Art Event takes place with support from the Deutsche Bank AG.

Udo Kittelmann, Director of the Nationalgalerie
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie / Juliane Eirich
Udo Kittelmann, Director of the Nationalgalerie
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie / Juliane Eirich

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