Modern Vulnerabilities

By Siegal, Nina | International New York Times, March 14, 2016 | Go to article overview

Modern Vulnerabilities


Siegal, Nina, International New York Times


"Show Your Wound," the curated contemporary art section at the fair, aims to change the perspective for visitors expecting a locus of commerce.

Visitors to The European Fine Art Fair this year will be able to look inside the mind of the Dutch contemporary artist Folkert de Jong. Literally.

The Amsterdam-based sculptor has collaborated with radiologists in Utrecht to create an M.R.I. scan of his head, which he has used to make a holographic 3-D image of his skull. He has also created a bronze cast of a skeleton, which exploded during casting, and a hospital gurney covered in a glass vitrine that contains a replica of the cremains of a Formula One racer killed in a 1973 race.

Mr. de Jong created the series for "Show Your Wound," the curated contemporary art section at the fair, known as Tefaf. The title comes from the work "Zeige deine Wunde," created in an underground pedestrian passage in Munich 50 years ago by the German Fluxus artist Joseph Beuys.

Woundedness, or the wound itself, was a recurring theme for Beuys, who was a member of the Hitler Youth, volunteered for the Luftwaffe at age 19, was badly injured in the war, had a mental breakdown in 1950s and suffered a heart attack in 1975. Later, as one of the most influential artists and art theorists of the 20th century in Europe, Beuys explored questions of humanism, empathy and cultural mythologies.

Mark Kremer, the Dutch curator of "Show Your Wound," said he was attracted in particular to the title of the Beuys work, because he wanted to bring the notion of vulnerability and empathy into the context of an art fair, which is often seen merely as a locus of commerce and conspicuous consumption.

"My first thought was, Tefaf is about beauty and costly things, but maybe we can change the perspective a little bit," Mr. Kremer said over tea at a cafe in Amsterdam. "One perspective would be to look at art in relation to ethics and how you can lead your life and what you can offer to others, how you can reach out, or how you can approach art with a sense of empathy."

Tefaf provided Mr. Kremer with a list of contemporary art galleries the board wanted to invite to participate in the fair, and each gallery had the opportunity to suggest one of its artists. Mr. Kremer and the galleries selected seven artists to participate.

The section draws from living artists represented by galleries that have never shown at the fair. Some artists, like Mr. de Jong, created new works, while others are presenting existing creations, including Helmut Federle, a German artist whose abstract canvases explore signs, symbols and spirituality.

Mr. Federle, 71, said that he was not directly influenced by Beuys, but that he felt Beuys's work was relevant to all art. …

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