The Miracle in the Shoe Insole
Works from the Prinzhorn Collection

27.11.2014 to 06.04.2015
Sammlung Scharf-Gerstenberg

The Miracle in the Shoe Insole is the largest Berlin presentation of the Prinzhorn Collection in 35 years. With a selection of around 120 masterpieces, the exhibition provides an impressive overview of Hans Prinzhorn's collection, which he used as the basis for his 1922 book Die Bildnerei der Geisteskranken (Artistry of the Mentally Ill).


The result of a commission from the university psychiatric clinic in Heidelberg, the book quickly became a bible in the world of contemporary art. Hans Prinzhorn, himself an art historian and medical doctor, developed a general theory of artistry that engaged with the psychological "roots" of the creative, a subject that greatly interested the artists of the period. Expressionists like Ernst Ludwig Kirchner or artists associated with the Blauer Reiter such as Wassily Kandinsky or Paul Klee were interested in the emotional and psychological aspects of the artistic, as were the late symbolist Alfred Kubin and the surrealists.

The surrealists, whose work makes up the core of the Scharf-Gerstenberg Collection, in fact declared madness one of their ideals. In 1924, their spokesman André Breton praised the all-encompassing power of madness in his First Manifesto of Surrealism, and in 1928 made the encounter with the schizophrenic Nadia the centre of his eponymous novel. Salvador Dalí, in turn, invented the "paranoiac-critical method," which used phenomena of madness as a tool of irrational cognition.

The fact that all historical works of the Prinzhorn Collection were created without the influence of mind-altering medicines and far from any therapeutic measures still contributes to their fascination today. They attest to attempts at maintaining control over a world that has come apart at the seams with the means offered by the imagination. In these works, the world is interpreted, news is received and transmitted, old orders are destroyed and new ones created, uncanny elements are banned, visions declared. Here, great events like the military campaigns of Napoleon are just as important as the sweat marks on a shoe insole.

This exhibition will be shown next at the Prinzhorn Collection in Heidelberg from 30 April to 15 August 2015.

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