Broken Music Vol. 2
70 Years of Records and Sound Works by Artists

17.12.2022 to 14.05.2023
Hamburger Bahnhof – Nationalgalerie der Gegenwart

Vinyl records – sound pressed onto a black plastic disk. Their history is an eventful one. From the beginning, its inherent contradiction was fascinating: a solid object which however contains disembodied sound. From very early on, artists realised the creative potential that records offer and turned them into artistic objects: they designed record sleeves for record labels and documented the sound of their compositions, performances, readings and installations in the grooves of the records. In doing so, they often viewed the acoustic content and the visual appearance of the records as one.

In 1989, a travelling exhibition started in West Berlin, which had its finger on the pulse of the time. The person behind it: Ursula Block, owner of ‘gelbe MUSIK’ (1981 – 2014), a small yet world-famous record store in Berlin-Wilmersdorf: everyone visiting the city would drop by, including influential artists and musicians such as John Cage, Yoko Ono, Sonic Youth and Björk. It was the golden age of records, and Block’s exhibition Broken Music. Artists’ Recordworks was enthusiastically received by an interested audience. Since then, the vinyl record has been regarded as a key medium for the multifaceted exchange of art and music.

Following this influential exhibition, Broken Music Vol. 2 looks at artists' engagement with the vinyl record over the past seven decades. The exhibition presents 700 records, arranged in ten chapters, to explore the development of the record as an artistic medium from the post-war period to the present and draws links with the fields of music in composition and improvisation, pop, punk and techno. The exhibition’s panorama is expanded by sound works from the National Gallery's extensive collection, including spacious sound installations and immersive media works. By highlighting the interactions between the record and the fields of music, performance and sound art, colours are transformed into sounds and sounds into pictures. The show features iconic covers by artists from Andy Warhol to Barbara Kruger as well as intensive sound installations by Christina Kubisch and Susan Philipsz; recorded performances and readings from Anne Imhof to Jimmie Durham make the records come alive for a contemporary audience.

Once a mass product, the record seems to have been written off in the digital age, but it has never lost its fascination. Today, it is once again gaining growing popularity as a niche product and a collector’s item. In many ways, Broken Music Vol. 2 celebrates the resilience of the vinyl record. At the same time, the exhibition is also a tribute to all the artists and vinyl enthusiasts in Berlin and beyond who continue to be devoted to this object.

The records in Broken Music Vol. 2 come from the National Gallery's collection, which managed to acquire an extensive collection of records from Ursula Block in 2019 with the help of the Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung and the Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung. Thanks to the support of the Friends of the National Gallery and numerous donations, this collection has now been expanded and updated.

With works and records from various artists, including:
Saâdane Afif, Fatima Al Qadiri, Kai Althoff, Laurie Anderson, Katja Aufleger, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Harry Bertoia, Claus Böhmler, Henning Christiansen, Pauline Curnier Jardin, Katharina Fritsch, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Douglas Gordon, Romuald Hazoumè, Anne Imhof, Rolf Julius, Milan Knížák, Käthe Kruse, Christina Kubisch, Hans Peter Kuhn, Bernhard Leitner, Robert Lippok, Christian Marclay, Luzy McKenzie, Michaela Melián, Piotr Nathan, Carsten Nicolai, Emeka Ogboh, Nam June Paik, Raymond Pettibon, Susan Philipsz, Wolfgang Tillmans, Jorinde Voigt, Andy Warhol, Lawrence Weiner


The exhibition is curated by Sven Beckstette and Ingrid Buschmann, curators at the Hamburger Bahnhof – Nationalgalerie der Gegenwart.

A special exhibition by the Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Carsten Nicolai, bausatz noto ∞, 1998/2015, exhibition view "Broken Music Vol. 2", Hamburger Bahnhof - Nationalgalerie der Gegenwart, 17.12.2022-14.5.2023
© Nationalgalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Thomas Bruns

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Spotify playlist for the exhibition “Broken Music Vol. 2”