We’ve had biennales, triennales… so now welcome on stage the quadriennale. But having visited a couple of shows at Düsseldorf’s Quadriennale 2010, I’m only left wondering “Why have it so infrequently?”
While many German cities have amazing art musuems, Düsseldorf has really outdone itself. Everytime I visit the country I seem to stumble across an incredible art show that feels miles better than most we get here in the UK. During my recent brief trip to Düsseldorf I got three.
To get around all of the city’s main galleries would take several days, with contemporary art particularly well represented with the K21 (a gallery of 21st century art), the newly refurbished K20 and even KIT, an art gallery in a tunnel under the Rhein.
I visited two Quadriennale shows, which despite having some overlapping content offered interesting insights into Düsseldorf’s art scene, with particular regards to photography. The city’s art school has produced some of photography’s most celebrated names, with an emphasis on architecture and urban imagery. Many of these – Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Thomas Struth, Thomas Ruff and Bernd and Hilla Becher – are among my favourite photographers, so it was exciting to visit the city that inspired them.
At the striking 1920s’ gallery NRW-Forum was a show called “The Red Bull”, addressing the transatlantic influence on photography in the 1970s and 1980s. Key to this cultural interchange was the relationship between American photographer Stephen Shore and the Bechers. Their common story began when the Bechers purchased a photo by Shore featuring a red VW campervan. They forged a strong friendship, and this exhibition examines how students on Bernd Becher’s photography course at the Düsseldorf art school were influenced by US subjects and image concepts, largely introduced through this relationship.
These themes were further explored with a show at the K21 looking at 1980s’ art from a Düsseldorf perspective. Needless to say, there was some repetition, but it was interesting to see photographic work placed in a wider context of painting, drawing and sculpture. Ten Düsseldorf artists are juxtaposed against international artists including Jeff Wall, Cindy Sherman, Richard Deacon and Jeff Koons.
A blockbuster like Tate Modern’s Exposed feels bloated, cliché and too focused on featuring star names to get people through the door whether they fit the exhibition’s remit or not. While not formally part of the Quadriennale, Intensif-Station (“Intensive Care”) at the K21 Ständehaus gallery in Düsseldorf is a collection of 26 artist rooms that shows how a huge show can alternately thrill and challenge. I particularly enjoyed the Burn film installation by Reynold Reynolds and Patrick Jolley – very disturbing. Hanging in the lobby is Monika Sosnowska’s The Staircase (pictured), remniscent of the Tate’s Turbine Hall commissions.
Der Rote Bulli runs until 16 January, 2011
Auswertung Der Flugdaten: Art of the 1980s from a Düsseldorf Perspective runs until January 30, 2011
Intensif-Station runs until September 4, 2011
Mokica Sosnowska’s The Staircase is on view until April 15, 2012. So plenty of time to get over there and see it!