July 25th 2018

“It’s About Time”

July 4th 2018

Exhibition at Somerset House, London

all posts title image
Mischa Kuball, “lost artefacts, lost presence”, Exhibition view KunstFestSpiele Herrenhausen, Arne-Jacobsen-Foyer, Hannover, 2021


June 21st 2021


I remember clearly meeting Mischa Kuball at the opening of the Venice Biennale in 2009. It was a warm afternoon, which was not unusual with the Biennale over the years. I have been to every one since John Armleder’s Swiss Pavilion in 1986. John Gibson and I were there because Armleder showed in those early years in John Gibson Gallery on Broadway at Prince Street. I learned from a seasoned dealer that just being in the Giardini and hanging around with the artist you were representing was the easiest way in the world to meet and talk to people. It was just like that. Nothing special. Art was the pretext that brought everyone to this small collection of pavilions in Venice.

Mischa Kuball, “lost artefacts, lost presence”, 2021

Twenty-three years later (2009) it was a very different art world; I left New York in 1995, spent a decade at LISSON and was in Paris as partner at ROPAC. I remember feeling a bit footloose and fancy free that year. In 2007 it had been very tense, openings of several artists meant great focus because there were dinners and receptions for Richard Deacon and the Kabakovs. In 2009 there was nothing particular to be responsible for, so I was enjoying the freedom and walking around with then Director of the Sprengel Museum in Hannover, Ulrich Krempel, with whom I was collaborating on the traveling exhibition of Richard Deacon, and later in 2012 with the traveling exhibition “Return to Painting”, by Kabakov. 

It was a moment to catch ones breath, I went back through the archives and discovered that Daniel Birnbaum was curator that year. Of the artists he showed in the Arsenale I remembered a remarkable tribute to Chen Zhen who had died prematurely in 2000. It is funny what the mind remembers: an elaborate seemingly childlike installation of Hans-Peter Feldmann, the large presentation of Gutai. Joan Jonas having her moment of recognition, Aleksandra Mir, Gordon Matta-Clark. Stopping to get a bottle of water, just outside the Italian Pavilion we stopped to speak with Mischa Kuball. 

Mischa Kuball, “lost artefacts, lost presence”, 2021


I remember at that moment saying something about having met him in New York in the 80’s; he mentioned coming to John Gibson. That was the start of walking and talking. His work was well-known in the realm of public art; he had a large reputation and had made work I followed from a distance. This kind of artist was out of my radar in those years, because in large galleries one was rather blinkered. Eyes and brain tethered to the group of artists represented by the gallery. Loyalty was everything as was deep focus. So I missed a lot in those decades, and I am only now waking up to how wide the art world was outside of my direct line of vision.

Portrait of Mischa Kuball

That early summer in Venice I remember feeling intrigued by things I didn’t think at all resembled the artists I knew. There was beginning to be a feeling that everything was speeding fast forward. This was just a year after the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the Damien Hirst sale at Sotheby’s. Certain things were in the air. It felt as if something was shifting. Mischa Kuball was interesting to think about in this context for me because his work was outside the box. It didn’t fit somehow neatly because his interests were in the public domain, art as a social construct, and his research and text writing attest to his dialectical position. 

Something about this settled in the back of my mind, and in the period since starting JSVCprojects it has been easier to walk through doors into the parts of art that don’t fit into the white cube. Ironically even when they do sometimes the works can be both dialectical and still objects of importance on a wall in a gallery. Not everything needs to be enacted in a public thoroughfare, or using public buildings and streets. But I have to say, looking at Mischa Kuball’s works over the years, I can safely say, hand over my heart, this kind of work is damn exciting. Fearless to go into the streets and ask the public to come over and walk from here to there in a certain way, or propose with a billboard or text above a train station that they think about something new as a proposal. His ability to make suggestions and then let people get on board energizes and animates the field.

Emil Nolde – A critical approach by Mischa Kuball,
Draiflessen Collection gGmbH, Mettingen, 2021


Imagine how pleased I am too now, after many more years visiting Venice, to be working with this great artist in the peak of his career. He has a significant body of work under his belt, just several weeks ago, there were two important projects at the same time in Hanover and Wolfsburg.

Just a quick note, in the sequence of photographs included here, we chose as well a catalogue for an important exhibition that closed last winter, but I thought it important to present it in this context, Emile Nolde, A Critical Approach, has already garnered quite a bit of discussion since its presentation at the Draiflessen Collection, Mettingen. We will return to the topic of this brilliant research driven investigation of the new revised historically accurate position of Nolde in the art world during his lifetime and see how this has/had influenced or not his works and their position and influence – at a later date.

Emil Nolde – A critical approach by Mischa Kuball,
Draiflessen Collection gGmbH, Mettingen, 2021

Today I wanted to begin by showing you images of Kuball’s recent video installation “lost artefacts, lost presence” that was for a short moment in the Arne Jacobsen Foyer, Hanover. It had a pop-up lifespan between May and June of this year while it revealed a river flowing through space just below the ceiling. Priceless cultural assets appeared to fall before your eyes into a never-ending stream of transience. 

This unusual space between the Grosser Garten on one side and a busy road with a tram on the other, between the Baroque Galerie and the rebuilt palace, this Arne Jacobsen Foyer was an ideal space for Kuball, whose conceptual work investigates architectural spaces and their social and political contexts. Here he used a historically charged passage whose significance he deconstructed in this video work, “lost artefacts, lost presence”. Aside from the function of the foyer as an interlude between history and the present, between original and copy, the artist raised the question of provenance of these passing objects. Are they being brought back to their original homes, or are they lost to all cultures forever. What is our position on the edge of this debate or in its center. 

Emil Nolde – A critical approach by Mischa Kuball,
Draiflessen Collection gGmbH, Mettingen, 2021


This summer there is a large and important exhibition in Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg ReferenzRäume which you can see until September. I will visit in mid July in case anyone wants to join me. Here curator Holger Broeker has given the artist wide latitude to offer large scale installations that allude to the media-technological development of our society from Plato’s deluded cave dweller to the cognizant space traveller.

Mischa Kuball, ReferenzRäume,
Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther und Franz König, Köln, 2021

At the same time the work juxtaposes classical metaphors of light and its concept of enlightenment with the experience of social/political spaces. Where public and private space is interconnected utterly. I am smiling because the exhibition presents a series of works under the collective title “public preposition”, developed since 2009 (the year we met in Venice). This is Kuball’s ongoing investigation of public space, that questions our perceptions of seemingly familiar environments and creates moments of irritation.

I don’t want to go into this right now, would rather see the exhibition first hand and report back; but want to entice you to make an effort to come in July with me to experience it. Curator Holger Broeker writes, “The ongoing character of “public preposition”as an open project series enables the possibility of developing new works or publications from the documentation of projects.”

Mischa Kuball, ReferenzRäume
Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther und Franz König, Köln, 2021

Order this spectacular book. Edited by Andreas Beitin, Holger Broeker and Fritz Emslander published as an artist’s book by Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther und Franz König. The publication with its extensive pictorial section designed by the artist, is the first comprehensive compendium on Kuball’s work since 2007. Texts by Lilian Haberer, Daniel Horn, Christina Irrgang and Marcus Steinweg offer an in-depth examination of central themes in the artist’s work. German/English 360 pages, 500 illustrations.

The exhibition has been organised in collaboration with the Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen.

Mischa Kuball, ReferenzRäume,
Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther und Franz König, Köln, 2021

Photo captions:

1-3 Mischa Kuball 2021, “lost artefacts, lost presence”, Exhibition view KunstFestSpiele Herrenhausen, Arne-Jacobsen-Foyer, Hannover, 2021
Room / Video installation Projection on the ceiling 46 x 2,5 m

Photo: © Helge Krückenberg / KunstFestSpiele 2021 © Archiv Mischa Kuball, Düsseldorf / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021