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Jenny Holzer’s “Men Don’t Protect You Anymore” on Display in the Kolonnadenhof on the Museumsinsel in Berlin

06.03.2020

International Women’s Day, 8 March 2020, marked the close of the special exhibition Fighting for Visibility: Women Artists in the Nationalgalerie before 1919 at the Alte Nationalgalerie. The theme of the visibility of women artists remains evident in the public space through the outdoor presentation of Jenny Holzer’s work Men Don’t Protect You Anymore in the Kolonnadenhof (Colonnade Courtyard) in front of the museum.

The 7.5 x 25.5 cm aluminium plaque bearing the words “MEN DON’T PROTECT YOU ANYMORE” is part of the Survival series Jenny Holzer created from 1983 to 1985. Following in the tradition of Piero Manzoni’s apparently empty pedestals, the plaque is mounted on a sculpture plinth in the Kolonnadenhof, similar to an object caption, for an extended period. Set in a prominent location, it comments on the gender debate as well as the visibility of women artists.

Since the 1970s, American artist Jenny Holzer (b. 1950) has been experimenting with the use of language in public space. Initially she placed posters of her Truisms – thought-provoking, seemingly accurate one-liners – throughout New York’s cityscape. Subsequently she chose increasingly prominent places, for instance Times Square, to display her ambivalent statements on illuminated billboards. Jenny Holzer has been represented in the collection of the Nationalgalerie since 2001 with a light installation especially designed for the Neue Nationalgalerie.

The Kolonnadenhof

The Kolonnadenhof was the brainchild of Karl Friedrich Schinkel, the architect of the first museum on the Museumsinsel. In 1880, the courtyard garden was designed by former Tiergarten director Eduard Neide and, now as a historical garden, it is listed as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

For some ten years now the Nationalgalerie has been regularly inviting contemporary artists to create a work of art to adorn a pedestal in the Kolonnadenhof for an extended period of time. Following Jonathan Meese with Humpty-Dumpty-Maschine der totalen Zukunft (2010) and Joep van Lieshout with The Monument (2015), Jenny Holzer is the first woman artist to provide a work for this space.

Fighting for Visibility. Women Artists in the Nationalgalerie before 1919

The exhibition and accompanying scholarly publication provide the first extensive study dedicated to all the works in the Nationalgalerie produced by women painters and sculptors before 1919. It is a revision of the museum’s collections viewed under the important aspect of current discourse about equal rights.

The exhibition shows more than 60 paintings and sculptural works in the collection created over a 140-year period by women artists, all of which date before 1919. Some of the works have been an integral part of the permanent exhibition for decades: paintings by Caroline Bardua, Elisabeth Jerichau-Baumann and Sabine Lepsius, for instance. Others will be shown at the Alte Nationalgalerie again after years of slumbering in storage, including works by Friederike O’Connell and Paula Monjé, both of whom were portraitists and history painters.