Magazine article Artforum International

"The Reality of Lowest Rank"

Magazine article Artforum International

"The Reality of Lowest Rank"

Article excerpt

Making Central Europe central--how's that for a change? The focus of this exhibition, whose full title was "The Reality of Lowest Rank; Luc Tuymans: A Vision of Central Europe," was art originating in Poland, expanding from there in widening geographical circles to other Central European countries (Lithuania, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Romania, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic) and the rest of the world (with works by the likes of Alex Katz and Takashi Murakami). The story was told by Luc Tuymans, who has for many years been traveling through these countries and is in touch with many artists in the region, and his fellow Belgian painter Tommy Simoens, with a section on animation selected by film curator Edwin Carels.

The show was divided among five sites in the historic center of Bruges and included work by forty-four artists. It began at Stadshallen on Markt with a pair of paintings by Andy Warhol showing his mother, and the Gluckspfennig (Lucky Penny) from 1943 that German artist Andreas Slominski found in the concentration camp at Buchenwald in 1996. The portraits and the penny define the two poles--the banality of everyday life, and the Holocaust--about which the works of the other artists in the show are grouped.

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In his encounters with the art of Central Europe, Tuymans was struck by the fact that everyday life was the most common motif. While in the United States after World War II artists were paying homage to exalted heroism of painting itself, here the main focus was on the quotidian and its Kafkaesque absurdities. Tuymans finds his observation confirmed by Polish artist Tadeusz Kantor, whose formulation "the reality of the lowest rank" he adapted for the title of the show, and he presents Warhol--whose mother was from Slovakia--as the one who imported the mundane back into the art of the West. …

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