The Most Famous Collector Of African American Art Is Using The Past To Reframe A Better Future


For more than 40 years, Bernard and Shirley Kinsey have amassed one of the largest private collections of Black paintings, letters, books and other artifacts to teach the next generations what history has erased.

Bernard Kinsey was born to educate. His father, Ulysses B. Kinsey, was the living embodiment of W.E.B. DuBois’ philosophy that a solid liberal arts background was the path to true freedom for Black Americans. After graduating from Florida A&M University in 1941, U.B Kinsey set aside his dream of becoming an attorney to teach at his alma mater, the all-black Industrial High School in Palm Beach, Florida.

That same year, he and other teachers sued the Palm Beach County school board so Black students could attend classes as long as whites and also fought for equal pay for Black teachers. Kinsey’s side won the class-action suit, which was represented by future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and, as Bernard Kinsey notes, “that case became one of the building blocks for Brown v. The Board of Education 13 years later.”

Now 76, Kinsey owns an original copy of the brief from that landmark 1954 Supreme Court case, which ruled that “separate-but-equal” education was unconstitutional and became one of the pillars of the civil rights movement. The Brown brief is part of The Kinsey Collection, an extraordinary repository of art, books, documents and artifacts that chronicle Black America from 1595 to the present.

A former Xerox executive and philanthropist, Kinsey—along with his wife, Shirley—started collecting African American artifacts to fill gaps in their son Khalil’s knowledge of Black history. “We saw that Khalil was not getting the right education as it relates to his blackness and in terms of making sure that he understood that he came from a great place,” Kinsey explains. “The whole idea of the Kinsey Collection is achievement and accomplishment.”

‘Bernard and Shirley Kinsey’ and ‘Khalil Kinsey’ by Artis Lane, Canadian (b. 1927) (Oil on Canvas)


Their humble intent to show their son that he was more than the legacy of hurt, shame and anger of slavery, has far exceeded the Kinseys expectations. The collection, which he conservatively estimates to be worth more than $10 million and does not have a permanent home, has been seen by some 15 million viewers from Washington D.C. to China since when the family began displaying the collection in traveling exhibits in 2006.

Among the more than 700 treasures the Kinseys own are Phillis Wheatley’s 1773 book Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, the first book of poetry published by an African American woman, letters from Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, quilts by Bisa Butler, paintings by Richard Mayhew, Alma Thomas, Ernie Barnes, Norman Lewis, and Jacob Lawrence, prints by Ava Cosey, letters from Zora Neale Hurston, and commissioned pieces from friends, such as sculptor Artis Lane.

“[She] is very special to us because we became friends with her before we ever owned any of her pieces,” Shirley Kinsey says. “We used to say we didn’t know if we could afford her because she had done a bronze portrait of Rosa Parks. College friends commissioned her to do a portrait of me and Bernard for our 35th wedding anniversary, she said she always wanted to paint us but didn’t know how we’d feel about it because we said we didn’t want to be hung on a wall. She said, ‘Be casual, because I want to paint you as I know you.’”

Letter from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to his literary agent, 1957, Letter from Malcolm X. to Alex Haley, December 3, 1963.


To know the Kinseys—who have been married for 53 years—is to understand that theirs was a partnership from the very beginning. They met at a 1963 civil rights protest. Shirley had been arrested and Bernard was part of a Florida A&M University student group handing out supplies to jailed protesters. After Shirley served her three-day sentence, the couple courted over “library dates,” which was a euphemism for leaving campus to watch movies. Since the college cafeteria closed early on Sundays, Bernard made a routine of bringing over shrimp burgers each week. “My friends would tease me about getting to have something to eat that late at night and they told me he loved me before he ever said it,” Shirley Kinsey, now 74, recalls.

Throughout his life, Bernard Kinsey has sought to elevate the black experience and advocated for people who looked like him. After graduating from FAMU, he landed a job at the National Parks Service in 1966, one of the first African Americans employed at the federal agency. After a brief stint overseeing Grand Canyon National Park, he left for a position at Exxon in South Central Los Angeles, 18 months after the Watts Riots.

Kinsey excelled in the position for five years—where his job, among other things, was to make sure the company was in good standing in the mostly Black and Hispanic neighborhood—but he sought more tech-focused work and was lured by Xerox, which was looking for affirmative action hires.

“Even with a B.S in mathematics and an MBA from Pepperdine University going to a liberal company like Xerox it took 12 interviews to be hired,” Kinsey says. “I interviewed for the top job with 100 employees. After 12 interviews I ended up a field service manager with 12 technicians. I found that my managers didn’t even have a college education, in nine months I blitzed the job and they gave me the job I should have had.”

Eventually, he rose to become a vice president of Xerox. Along the way, he cofounded the Xerox Black Employees Association, which paved the way for the company’s first Black female CEO Ursula Burns in 2010. “We have a saying: ‘leave the door open and leave the ladder down,’” Kinsey says. “In other words, at Xerox you couldn’t be successful by yourself, you had to bring brothers and sisters with you, that was part of the ethic that we formed back in 1971.”

‘Hence We Come,’ Norman Lewis


Just as Kinsey was retiring from Xerox in 1991 another incident of racial violence gripped Los Angeles and galvanized civil rights activists across the country: the brutal police beating of Rodney King. Although King survived and was later awarded $3.8 million for the injuries he sustained, the officers involved in the attack—which was captured on video—were acquitted and the city erupted in violence.

Kinsey responded to tragedy by once again finding a way to uplift the local Black community. He postponed retirement to help found Rebuild LA, a revitalization project for which Kinsey generated more than $380 million in investments from the private sector for inner-city Los Angeles.

“After the ’92 riots, 2,000 building burned, 50 people were killed and police were shooting real bullets, nothing close to what we’re seeing now,” Kinsey says, “and it was unbelievable, anything you could think of was gone. We had to bring those businesses back and they didn’t want to come back because they had lost so much.”

Kinsey leaned on the world he knew best: Corporate America. “If you don’t solve the problems of the poorest among us how are we ever going to solve these other problems,” he says. “Enlightened executives have tremendous resources that they can apply and begin to deploy some of these resources differently. You have to make sure that Black folks, African Americans are the ones in receipt of it, and you’re going to get some backlash.”

The History of the Rise, Progress, and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African Slave-Trade by the British Parliament, by Thomas Clarkson, 1808, ‘Frederick Douglass,’ 2003, Tina Allen,


Reinvesting in the Black community is just one part of the path forward. Some of the work also requires acknowledging Black’s contributions to America and throughout the diaspora. And this is where the Kinsey Collection has had a tremendous impact.

“The myth of absence” permeates all aspects of American life, Kinsey notes. From corporations to the White House, there is a notion that Black people are invisible. The myth suggests that “Blacks are not a part of the dialogue, the picture, the narrative of this country.” The art and artifacts in the Kinsey Collection reveal the breadth and depth of the Black journey and offer insight and hope for overcoming America’s systemic racism.

“I love seeing Black Lives Matter because it shows we have agency,” Kinsey says. “Black citizenship is not valued at the same level as white citizenship is, and we absolutely know it.”

Many of the names of African American achievers have been lost or intentionally written out of history. The Kinseys have created a platform for unknown artists lost to whitewashed history, deliberately featuring those who have been erased and overlooked.

‘Folk Singer,’ 1953, Charles White


“In his work, Bill Dallas is an activist of sorts,’ Shirley Kinsey says of the Black painter whose Blue Jazz is featured in the collection. “He’s been involved in a type of protest there because he feels he’s never been accepted as a good artist.”

While the fight for justice and equality has been ongoing, Kinsey says he’s never seen an awakening quite like this current movement. “I hope we’ll be able to get at [police reform] while we have this momentum because white America has a way of going back to sleep on this [race] question and the energy that’s being expended right now,” Kinsey says. “I love what I see because there are so many people involved in this struggle all over the world.”

As communities around the world awaken to the struggles that Black people face, Kinsey believes that part of how America heals is through art and reclaiming the narrative that positions Black people as less than.

“There was a time that as a Black teen I started getting close to certain pitfalls and traps,” Khalil Kinsey, who now manages and curates the collection, says of his parents’ mission to educate him on Black history. “But these foundational elements always kept me from making certain decisions.”

‘As Violence,’ 1973, Phoebe Beasley, American


He says many of his Black friends weren’t as lucky to have this positive influence and often didn’t have an outlet for their feelings about injustice and experiences of racism. Years before the killing of George Floyd, it was Phoebe Beasley’s 1973 painting As Violence that embodied the rage and despair many young Black Americans experience.

“It conveys frustration without an outlet, and the influence of American violence,” Khalil Kinsey continues. “It’s the reflection of young people who understand that they’re under siege but don’t know how to articulate it in other ways.”

Through his life’s work and his collection, Bernard Kinsey hopes that Black people will continue to exercise agency and become the authors of their own stories. Above all, he longs for fiscal policies that demonstrate Black lives, in fact, matter.

“It’s amazing to me still, two young kids from Florida, who came to California to do what we’re doing. I don’t take it for granted, and we have to share it,” Shirley Kinsey said. “When we’re gone this will carry on.”

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Discover Hilma af Klint Pioneering Mystical Painter and Perhaps the First Abstract Artist


In a post last year, Colin Marshall wrote of the Swedish abstract painter Hilma af Klint, who “developed abstract imagery,” notes Sweden’s Moderna Museet, “several years before” contemporaries like Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, and Kazimir Malevich. Much like Kandinsky, who articulated his theories in the treatise Concerning the Spiritual in Art, af Klint “assumed that there was a spiritual dimension to life and aimed at visualizing context beyond what the eye can see.” Influenced by spiritualism and theosophy, she “sought to understand and communicate the various dimensions of human existence.”

Born in 1862 and raised in the Swedish countryside, af Klint began her studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm after her family relocated to the city. “After graduating and until 1908,” Moderna Museet writes, “she had a studio at Kungsträdgården in central Stockholm.


She painted and exhibited portraits and landscapes in a naturalist style.” But as a result of her experiences in séances in the late 1870s, af Klint became interested in “invisible phenomena.”

In 1896, Hilma af Klint and four other women formed the group “De Fem” [The Five]. They made contact with “high masters” from another dimension, and made meticulous notes on their séances. This led to a definite change in Hilma af Klint’s art. She began practising automatic writing, which involves writing without consciously guiding the movement of the pen on the paper. She developed a form of automatic drawing, predating the surrealists by decades. Gradually, she eschewed her naturalist imagery, in an effort to free herself from her academic training. She embarked on an inward journey, into a world that is hidden from most people.

During one such séance, in 1904, af Klint reported that she had “received a ‘commission,’” Kate Kellaway writes at The Guardian, “from an entity named Amaliel who told her to paint on ‘an astral plane’ and represent the ‘immortal aspects of man.’”


From 1906 to 1915, she produced 193 paintings, “an astonishing outpouring,” which she called “Paintings for the Temple.”

Hers is a strange story. Even in a time when many famous contemporaries, like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, professed similar beliefs and spiritual practices, not many claimed to be taking dictation directly from spirits in their work. The question af Klint raises for art historians is whether she was “a quirky outsider” or “Europe’s first abstract painter, central to the history of abstract art.” Her mystical eccentricities constitute a large part of the reason she has remained obscure for so long. Rather than seek fame and acclaim for her originality, af Klint stipulated when she died in 1944 at age 81 that “her work—1,200 paintings, 100 texts and 26,000 pages of notes—should not be shown until 20 years after her death.”

Still, it took a further 22 years before her work was seen in public, at a 1986 Los Angeles show called “The Spiritual in Art.”


While her peers developed large followings in their lifetimes and took part in influential movements, af Klint cultivated a private, insular world all her own, not unlike that of William Blake, who also remained mostly obscure during his life, though not necessarily by choice. Her choice to hide her work came out of an early encounter, Dangerous Minds notes, with Rudolf Steiner, “who was similarly following a path towards creating a synthesis between the scientific and the spiritual” and who told her “these paintings must not be seen for fifty years as no one would understand them.”

Now that af Klint’s work has been exhibited in full, most recently by the Moderna Museet, curators like Iris Müller-Westermann believe, as Kellawy notes, “that art-historical wrangles should not get in the way of work that needs to be seen.” Although af Klint may not have played an integral historical role in the development of abstract painting, her expansive body of work will likely inspire artists, scholars, and esoteric seekers for centuries to come.


Learn more about af Klint’s work at Moderna Museet, the Hilma af Klint Foundation website, The Art Story and Dangerous Minds.

By: Josh Jones 

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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By now, many people are familiar with the story of Swedish painter and occultist, Hilma af Klint (1862-1944). Subject of several major museum exhibitions—including most-attended-ever exhibits at the Guggenheim, New York and the Moderna Museet, Stockholm—her vibrant, innovative, and highly metaphysical paintings have firmly entered the public consciousness and are finally taking their place in 20th-century art history. Trained as a painter, she became a spiritualist and later received a commission from her spirit guides to complete a series of monumental artworks. In the process, she invented abstract art but was discouraged from continuing and ultimately worked in isolation—never sharing her spiritual works publicly in her lifetime—as result of sharp criticism from her male peers.

The $120,000 Banana Highlights The Elitism Of The Art World

Image result for The $120,000 Banana

There’s a reason so many people find the art world to be impenetrable and elitist  – it’s designed to be.

Don’t get me wrong, I love visiting my local art gallery; it’s a great place to take the kids, and often, I discover beautiful and thought-provoking pieces. But sometimes, I feel downright frustrated by the works that have been chosen for inclusion.

A few years ago, I encountered a memorable piece of modern art – a scrunched up piece of A4 paper, lying on the floor, surrounded by a do-not-cross rectangle, presumably to ensure the janitors didn’t sweep the thing up after the gallery closed.

I watched, as gallery patrons came and went, most spending several minutes staring, contemplatively, at the scrunched-up paper. Nobody laughed; there was only deferential silence. Seeking guidance, I read the accompanying plaque, which said something about how the scrunched up paper was representative of the creative struggle.

Maybe it was. But it was still a scrunched up piece of paper. And to me, that piece was a perfect representation of the insular nature of the art world, the fact that an elite group of insiders can magically imbue a piece of paper with a massive amount of monetary and cultural value, merely by proclaiming it so.

Earlier this week, Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan’s creation, “Comedian,” a banana duct-taped to a wall, was sold for $120,000. A few days later, the banana was eaten by a local performance artist, David Datuna.

“Comedian,” however, lost none of its value – the eaten banana was soon replaced by another, equally ordinary banana, which inherited the monetary value of the previous banana, and was even deemed important enough to warrant police protection, in the event of another hungry performance artist.

“[Datuna] did not destroy the artwork. The banana is the idea,” Lucien Terras, a director at the gallery, told the Miami Herald. Perhaps the entire thing was staged, a publicity stunt, like Banksy shredding his own artwork, an act which only increased the value of said work.

“Comedian” seems to be a meta-commentary on the nature of value, perhaps mocking those with the authority to transform a piece of fruit into a small fortune. But even viewing the piece in that context seems to be giving the banana too much credit – questioning the valuation of art isn’t exactly an original idea. More than a hundred years ago, Marcel Duchamp turned an ordinary porcelain urinal into a famous piece of art, titled “Fountain.” I’ve seen a replica of the piece in my local gallery, and I even stared at it, contemplatively.

Of course, no one can tell you what is art, and what is not; there’s no official definition, no clear boundaries. If it moves you, you can call it art. If it doesn’t, and you want to call it art regardless, that’s fine. If art is anything, it’s subjective.

To the outsider, modern art often appears incomprehensible, and the belief that art somehow “peaked” decades, or even centuries ago, isn’t uncommon. Admittedly, it is easier to see the effort and skill behind a classical painting or sculpture than many modern, abstract installations. The context behind modern art isn’t always obvious. But then again, the fact that a banana can be sold for $120,000 is outright obscene.

Great art still exists, often outside of the major art institutions, in the small spaces, sold in stands and tiny galleries, untainted by the tsunami of money flowing through the mainstream.

But much of the art world, to me, resembles a niche internet subculture, a community of insiders, sharing memes that rarely leave the circle, memes which become progressively self-referential and abstract, until they evolve to the point that an outsider could never interpret them. To the outside world, the meme might be indecipherable nonsense, but to the community, it is imbued with meaning.

That’s the art world, but with one crucial difference – profit. Art is bought and sold for obscene amounts of money, the subjective value distorted by buyers and sellers, transformed into cold, hard cash. Personally, I find it hard to believe that art can even exist in such a space.

In fact, memes might be more representative of the human experience than many of the pricey pieces of modern art that fill galleries and auction houses. I’m deadly serious – memes might be silly, crude, forgettable, but they are never created for the purpose of profit (well, advertising companies generate memes too, but let’s exclude them, for the sake of my point).

Generally speaking, memes are created for creation’s sake, in the hope that others will like, share, or be inspired to customize the image, some created for no reason at all. Like a single frame of celluloid film, one meme can only hold so much meaning, but if viewed as a collective, in the context of the countless memes in which it shares its image or theme, the meme offers a more insightful look at the subconscious of modern humanity than a banana, duct-taped to a wall.

Or a scrunched up piece of paper, for that matter.

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I’m fascinated by storytelling, in all its myriad forms; mythology, fairy tales, films, television, and urban legends

Source: The $120,000 Banana Highlights The Elitism Of The Art World

Why Berlin Artists Are Transforming Trash into Sculpture

When I first moved to Berlin from the U.S. two-and-a-half years ago, I couldn’t believe how much of the art was garbage. I’m not being catty, I swear: I mean art made from refuse pulled directly from the city’s orange bins.
Wherever I went to see art—luxurious private collections; former spy towers–turned–artist squats; an art school vernissage—I saw trash, too. Memorable works include a defunct television dressed in orange spray paint and glitter gazing at visitors’ groups from the bushes at Teufelsberg, and a dirty doll’s head staring ominously from a multicolored pile of rubbish at a masters program’s student showcase last spring.
Installation view of Aram Bartholl, “Strike Now!!,” 2019. Courtesy of the artist.

Installation view of Aram Bartholl, “Strike Now!!,” 2019. Courtesy of the artist.

Early into living here, I asked a friend studying at the art school Weißensee what the deal was. Why were so many artists using what I delicately called “recycled ready-mades” in their work? She explained that the answer was twofold: The school didn’t provide students with art supplies, and—whether out of financial necessity, cheeky anti-establishment rebellion, or both—her peers turned to making art out of trash.
In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been so surprised. The beauty of Berlin—much like its trash art, perhaps—lies in its ugliness. Unlike nearby capitals like Paris, Vienna, or Prague, Berlin’s historic architecture was decimated in the bombings of World War II.
Today, the cityscape feels something like modern ruins: The few remaining sections of the Berlin Wall are overlaid in layers of constantly refreshed murals and graffiti; the gigantic former Tempelhof airport was repurposed into a massive public park, complete with tarmacs and hangars.
Berlin is a city of opposites. In recent years, it’s seen an economic upswing, followed by an ongoing stream of new citizens—a mix of privileged migrant “expats” (hello) and asylum-sanctioned refugees. Simultaneously, a wave of tech-based startups began to build their offices here, encouraging successful and large tech corporations like Tesla, Google, and Amazon to at least consider doing the same. Meanwhile, many in the booming millennial generation in Berlin make negligible wages.
Hang Linton and Laura Lulika at BALTIC
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Hang Linton and Laura Lulika at BALTIC
In the years since that conversation with my friend from Weißensee, I’ve seen neighborhoods of the city significantly change—clubs close and open; trendy apps come and go. Yet all along, this particular character of art made from trash has remained. It seemed to signal a longstanding Berlin ethos of anti-capitalist, down-‘n’-dirty artist squat punk that drove people like me here in the first place. It’s an ethos that—as Elon Musk builds his factories in neighboring Brandenburg—many consider under threat.
Recently, the artist Maxine Puorro, also a student at Weißensee, told me that the decision to find inspiration in artifacts “gleaned” from Berlin’s streets is not so much rebellious as it is practical. Puorro’s works incorporate whimsical, oversized plants in large papier-mâché pots, adorned with found objects.
It’s a matter of “not wanting to spend too much money,” Puorro said, but it’s also about using environmentally conscious materials. And, since Weißensee—like other German institutions—is free, she emphasized that an anti-institution sentiment wasn’t (in her eyes, at least) a motivating factor. She noted that in addition to free tuition, the school provides a decent amount of materials, like plaster, and offers workshops.
Installation view of Aram Bartholl, “Strike Now!!,”  2019. Courtesy of the artist.

Installation view of Aram Bartholl, “Strike Now!!,” 2019. Courtesy of the artist.

When I spoke to Berlin-based artist duo Hang Linton and Laura Lulika (who perform either under the names Baby Punk + Dr. Babuyoka or Jumpchoke + gungeMUTHA), they agreed with the financial end of Puorro’s argument. “As artists from marginalized, working-class backgrounds,” they explained, “studio space and materials are expensive, and we still need to find ways to create. Recycling and repurposing came as an ideal way to build on a budget.” There’s a sense of pride, they continued, “that comes with resilience and being able to survive on very little.”
In performances and installations, Linton and Lulika present otherworldly characters in a landscape of mutated detritus, floating somewhere between ritual, fantasy, and nightmare. The notion of survival through challenge and precarity is especially poignant in their works, which center around themes of illness, healthcare, and otherness. Interestingly, Linton and Lulika connect their reuse aesthetic, reminiscent of post–Berlin Wall punks, to contemporary technologies: “We live in gloomy times and yet we recycle these moments into memes,” they said.
Through the cooptation of recognizable, used objects, Linton and Lulika reclaim symbols of capitalism and turn them, as they say, into a “meme.” Through reclamation and subversion, artists are finding their voices in the collective detritus of society.
Boros Collection
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Boros Collection
Unlike Linton and Lulika, who glean evocative materials first and envision new creative purpose after, local multimedia and conceptual artist

creates recycled ready-mades that are hyper-particular. Focusing on the meeting point between trash and technology, Bartholl—whose work has been shown at prominent spaces including New York’s MoMA and Pace Gallery—often selects symbols that highlight the gap between the digital and the physical. His work considers the way technology tends to emerge, become indispensable, then disappear into obsolescence.

“We’re so dependent on these devices,” Bartholl told me. “It has all our precious, private data on it, and then the moment it breaks, or it’s old and discarded…it becomes this toxic trash.” In a recent show, “Strike Now!!” at Berlin’s, Bartholl employed the near-ubiquitous urban eyesore, the e-scooter. These “colorful icons,” as he described them, are “like sculptures scattered all over town and a lot of people hate [them].” Something about the contrasts embodied through Bartholl’s practice feels especially of Berlin to me: opposing ideas brought together through breathing new life into disintegrating materials.
Almost nothing embodies this Berlin aesthetic as much as the Boros Collection, a private collection of contemporary art held in a 1943 bunker–turned–nightclub–turned–refined art space. Juliet Kothe, director of the Boros Collection, also recognizes the contrasts between art in Berlin and the popular contemporary aesthetics in other, more commercial markets like London, Paris, New York, and Los Angeles.
Unlike those cities, she explained, Berlin doesn’t aim itself towards a commercial art market as much as what she called an “artist art field”—where work is “much more about symbolic value, rather than economic value.” This explains, then, why I would see “trash art” in established museums and galleries.
“Berlin is a city of historical disruption,” Kothe said. “This is why I love the bunker so much, because I think it symbolically stands for the shift of political systems.” Over 75 years old, the bunker that now houses the Boros Collection has seen three different regimes in the city. “The constant reusing, and redefining, and transformation is part of Berlin,” Kothe added. “It’s inherent.”

By: Eliza Levinson

Source: Why Berlin Artists Are Transforming Trash into Sculpture

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Regie und Kamera: Daniel Laufer Konzept: Daniel Laufer und Eva Lezzi Eine Co-Produktion von: DAGESH. KunstLAB ELES und Asylum Arts. A global network for Jewish culture Der Film Asylum in Paradise gibt Einblick in die Arbeit von acht jüdischen Künstler_innen, die ihren (momentanen) Lebensmittelpunkt in Berlin haben. Die Filmaufnahmen dokumentieren sowohl die Arbeitweise der jungen Künstler_innen als auch ihre Produktionsorte wie Ateliers und Ausstellungsräume. Dabei verdeutlichen die Künstler_innen ästhetische Konzeptionen ihrer Kunst ebenso wie jüdische Aspekte ihres Schaffens. Sie erzählen über Berlin als Inspirationsquelle und zugleich über die unverzichtbare internationale Verortung progessiver zeitgenössischer Kunst. Folgende Künstler_innen wurden porträtiert: Ariel Reichman (Bildende Kunst) Benyamin Reich (Fotografie) Anna Schapiro (Bildende Kunst) Liane Aviram (Bildende Kunst) Renen Itzhaki (Tanz, Performance) Evgenia Gostrer (Film) Alona Rodeh (Bildende Kunst) Gergely Lászlo (Bildende Kunst) Alle acht Künstler_innen haben unterschiedliche Migrationserfahrungen. Sie stammen aus Israel, der ehemaligen Sowjetunion, aus England oder Ungarn. Der Titel „Asylum in Paradise“ wurde – in Anlehnung an einen Songtitel der Berliner Band Silly – gewählt, um auf die Flüchtigkeit des jeweiligen künstlerischen Standorts, aber auch auf das Asyl, das Kunst bieten kann, zu erinnern.

The Feminist Artist Who Created The Selfie Nearly 100 Years Ago

Image result for maria lassnig

Maria Lassnig was a selfie artist decades before it was a trend. The painter, who was born in 1919 in Carinthia, south of Austria, studied at The Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, and was prolific in her creation of figurative painting ― particularly figures of herself ― from then on. But despite working pretty much non-stop after her studies in Vienna, Maria went largely under the radar for most of her life. She was left out of important conversations about figurative painting and her essential contribution to the mid century movement ― she was overlooked.

In 2016, a major retrospective of her work changed all of that. But it was a overdue accolade that Maria was never aware of. She died two years before in 2014 and one year before she was awarded the Venice Biennale Golden Lion. Since the Tate retrospective, exhibitions of Maria’s work pop up now and again. Body Check at the Lenbachhaus Museum (until 15 September) in Munich is one of those exhibitions. It shows Maria’s work depicting bodies, particularly her own, and contrasts her work alongside figurative paintings by the German painter and sculptor Martin Kippenberger.

Maria Lassnig, The Quality of Life, 2001, courtesy Maria Lassnig Foundation

Maria Lassnig, The Quality of Life, 2001, courtesy Maria Lassnig Foundation

Viewing the show, it’s hard not to notice that Lassnig was working in the realm of the female gaze almost a hundred years before it became a talking point. In the 1940s, she created a method that in German she coined as “Körperbewusstseinsmalerei”, and in English “body awareness painting”. Now, we’re used to seeing work featuring menstrual blood and body hair by artists like Rupi Kaur and Arvida Bystrom, but Maria was one of the first women artists not to be coy in featuring blood, fat and the aspects of being female that artists comfortably share on social media now.

This approach continued to the end of her life. She painted You or Me in 2005, a painting that shows her naked posing with two machine guns. The painting The Quality of Life, made in 2001, has a similar mood and shows Maria naked in the sea holding a glass of wine. It’s in paintings like these that Maria’s feminism is radical ― but her most cutting statements were in her Kitchen War paintings. In this series she criticises gendered roles in the home, with paintings like In The Kitchen Bride depicting the artist as a human cheese grater in the kitchen.

Maria Lassnig Sprechzwang, 1980, Privatsammlung, courtesy Maria Lassnig Foundation

Maria Lassnig
Sprechzwang, 1980, Privatsammlung, courtesy Maria Lassnig Foundation

Body Check at the Lenbachhaus Museum is a show you wouldn’t expect to find in Munich, with cities like Berlin being thought of as the art centre of Germany. But the show is one of many signs that Munich’s art scene is both established and growing. On the established side there are institutions such as the Pinakothek der Moderne, a post-modernist building designed by the German architect Stephan Braunfels. “There are 100 works by Cy Twombly alone here in Munich. I mean that’s incredible!” Dr Corinna Thierolf told me. Corinna is the head curator of the museum, which was built in 2002 to house the contemporary art of the state of Bavaria. It now holds one of the biggest collections of contemporary art in the world including key works by Baselitz, Anselm Kiefer and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, a founding member of the Die Brucke movement.

Cy Twombly's at Museum Brandhorst in Munich, Germany

Cy Twombly’s at Museum Brandhorst in Munich, Germany

Museum Brandhorst

Munich also has the power to pull in massive loans. Most recently they borrowed a painting by Caravaggio from the Vatican in Rome, The Entombment of Christ, for the exhibition Utrecht, Caravaggio and Europe at the Alte Pinakothek Museum ― a show featuring work by Caravaggio and contemporaries of the artist inspired by his work known as Caravaggisti. The exhibition features works by artists including Bartolomeo Manfredi, Jusepe de Ribera, and Valentin de Boulogne, who were heavily influenced by Caravaggio. It’s the first time the Vatican had ever lent to a Munich museum.

The exhibition of Maria Lassnig’s work is part of a bigger effort by museums and galleries in the city to exhibit modern and contemporary art that appeals to a younger demographic. Alongside these institutions, hotels like the Bayerischer Hof, with a wing designed by Belgian interior architect Axel Vervoordt, are removing the connotations the city had as a home of stuffy classical art and design, leaving space for a new wave of contemporary culture in Munich.

Bayerischer Hof Hotel wing by Axel Vervoordt

Bayerischer Hof Hotel wing by Axel Vervoordt

Bayerischer Hof Hotel

Grace Banks is the Editor-in-Chief of SLEEK Magazine and writes about international current affairs and culture.

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