For a long time it had been quiet around the Neue Nationalgalerie, apart from temporary interventions. There was the fundraiser for Ukraine, the series “Sound in the Garden” or a performance during Berlin Art Week. What was striking was how it was expressly emphasized each time that it would be an initiative by Klaus Biesenbach. That seemed like self-promotion for the director of a state museum.
“Stop, Repair, Prepare: Variations on ‘Ode to Joy’ for a Prepared Piano” is the name of the latest act that Biesenbach is now presenting: a performance by the artist duo Allora & Calzadilla from Puerto Rico (until October 30th, eight times a day, respectively . 30 minutes). In the glass hall of the Mies van der Rohe building, a dainty pianist slipped through a hole in the black body of his grand piano.
Now he pulls the instrument across the floor on rollers, a Sisyphus in the piano. He bends over the keys and plays the fourth movement of Beethoven’s 9th symphony – the Ode to Joy – upside down and backwards. The music is pleasure and burden at the same time.
Beethoven’s Ninth originated from Turkish dance and was loved by dictators and revolutionaries alike. A composition with scars. But when the first visitors see the adaptation of Allora & Calzadilla in the Neue Nationalgalerie, both children and adults remain open-mouthed.
The performance could also be a thank you
Biesenbach acquired the performance for the New York MoMA in 2009 with the help of the collector Julia Stoschek. The current performance should be a small thank you: from Biesenbach to Stoschek, who gave the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation the tip to ask Biesenbach for the post of National Gallery Director. Or vice versa, because Julia Stoschek sits on the board of trustees of the Friends of the National Gallery, she owns a video of the performance.
With the first Berlin performance of “Ode to Joy”, Biesenbach now presented his somewhat airy program for the next two years. In the basement, the current presentation of the collection is replaced by a second chapter entitled “Ordeal”. More than thirty years after reunification, the new look at German-German art of the post-war period promises to be exciting. Overall, the exhibitions should become more feminine.
In November, Monica Bonvicini confronts the mighty architecture of Mies van der Rohe with the battle cry “I do you”. The sculptor won the National Gallery Prize in 2005, now she’s entering the league of the classics.
Also planned is an exhibition by the Hungarian painter Judit Reigl, whose temperamental abstractions aroused curiosity at the Museum Barberini. Performance veteran Tehching (Sam) Hsieh, a collaborator of Marina Abramovic, is getting an appearance next fall. In 2024 the photographer Nan Goldin, who was a guest in the Mies building in 1994 with her “Ballad of Sexual Dependence”, and Lygia Clark, representative of the enchanting neoconcretismo, Brazilian modernism, will follow.
But first of all, in the performance of Allora & Calzadilla, the little human pushes his heavy grand piano through the sacred hall and tries to beat divine sparks out of the keys. Upside down and mirrored. It could be a lot easier though.
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