Power Art at Reichstag

Posted on December 18, 2011

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This morning I joined a Kunst und Architekturführung at the Reichstag building. When I stood on the roof next to Norman Foster’s dome, I realised Hans Haacke’s work Der Bevölkerung (see also this post) must be visible on Google Earth, and indeed it is:

The poor legibility is mainly due to the work itself: the vegetation in the soil around the text is left to grow wild. Here is a picture of what it looks like from the roof:

Also visible from the roof of Reichstag is a work by Dutch artist Auke de Vries, although you need a proper lens to catch it on a photo:

It’s the little thingy that sticks out on the bottom left of the yellow building. The piece is part of the Daimler Art Collection at Potsdamer Platz, that was realised around ten years ago. Here you can see what the work looks like from street level.

But anyway, art at the Reichstag: the tour was very proper and informative, but the whole thing provoked some more thoughts on the problematic nature of these situations, in terms of realising good art works. All artists had been asked to respond to either the history of the building or to German history in general.

Gerhard Richter’s work was quite blatant and over dimensioned:

(apologies for the X-mas tree in front, this picture is also part of the ongoing series ‘when Christmas gets in the way of things’). Still it is not as much a ‘Richter’ as this was a ‘Boltanski’:

It had the names of historical Abgeordneten on metal boxes, formed into a corridor in the basement. Also the Jenny Holzer was an unmistakable ‘Holzer’:

Featuring the transcription of fragments of parlaimentary meetings held in the building over time – so no truisms here.

Baselitz apparantly never wanted to make a work especially for the building, which he felt would compromise his intentions for making art. So the committee chose something he had finished already: two paintings that respond to graphic work by Caspar David Friedrich, part of a larger series.

There were many more pieces, some interesting ones of lesser know artists and also some that didn’t manage to persuade me. I think in many respects the Hans Haacke piece is the most interesting one there, since even within this highly state and power related, highly high-profile and high-security environment it manages to question this power. It provoked a lot of debate right within parlaiment when it was realised, and it continues to engage new people, when new Abgeordneten bring a sack of soil from their home town to spread out around the text.

But maybe the most powerful work related to the Reichstag remains to be Christo & Jeanne Claude’s wrapping of the building in 1995:

And a big part of its power is derived from the fact that they fund their own projects. It is their initiative, as is the case with Lars Rambergs piece Zweifel (see this post). And look at all the people flocking around to see it.

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