On the occasion of the 80th birthday of the “capitalist realist” KP Brehmer (1938–1997), Neues Museum is hosting a major show of this artist who dealt with socio-political issues and engaged in complex ways with the visual media of the Federal Republic of Germany and the conditions of image production and reception under capitalism. He left behind a diverse, experimental, analytical and humorous oeuvre whose concerns are increasingly topical. The exhibition is a joint production by Neues Museum (Nuremberg), Hamburger Kunsthalle, Gemeentemuseum (The Hague) and ARTER (Istanbul).
Within the generation of German artists who used the means of American Pop Art to develop a critical “capitalist realism” (the title of a portfolio of works by KP Brehmer, Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, Wolf Vostell and Konrad Lueg published by René Block in 1968), Berlin-born KP Brehmer occupies a special position. From the early 1960s until his death, his works questioned the impact of media images in their social circulation and mass production. As an artist, he encouraged his audience to adopt an independent attitude towards the capitalist-controlled media.
To achieve this, he used image material from advertising and political propaganda in the form of posters, public television footage and magazine journalism, presenting this material in different contexts in the form of graphics, paintings, print editions, books and films. He appropriated the aesthetic of shop displays, postage stamps and statistical diagrams, recoding them by slight shifts in meaning to render visible the ways they functioned as sales teasers, state editions and information media.
Beyond works on paper and painting, Brehmer’s oeuvre also includes complex multimedia installations, as well as around thirty films. By constantly shifting the motifs in his work between media like picture, text, music and film, he also focussed attention on their media construction.
In retrospective group shows and art historical surveys, Brehmer’s work is usually presented as a European version of Pop Art. But his oeuvre has additional innovative dimensions and complex levels that have received little attention to date. With increased interest in art that engages actively with the possibilities and limitations of its own political responsibility, Brehmer’s work has taken on a new topicality, especially in the age of “fake news”.
With this travelling exhibition, in partnership with the artist’s estate in Berlin and his former gallerist and collector René Block, the four museums will offer a many-facetted insight into KP Brehmer’s œuvre. On an international level, the project aims to foster reappraisal of an artist who understood pictures as constructions of reality and who took the mechanisms of this ever-changing process as his subject matter, creating a unique oeuvre addressing image production within the political economy of capitalism. The legacy of this fascinating artist and his original understanding of media, graphic experiment and art practice is extraordinarily relevant to the production and reception of contemporary art today. This topicality of Brehmer’s conceptual approaches is highlighted by the exhibition and in accompanying guided tours, lectures, films, art education events and a symposium.
For some years now, Neues Museum has had close ties to KP Brehmer’s oeuvre thanks to permanent loans of outstanding works from the René Block Collection. On the occasion of the artist’s 80th birthday, this comprehensive overview with over 200 works – in a range of media including drawings, collages, prints, paintings, displays and films – will have its first showing in Nuremberg before travelling on to the other three museums.
Dr. Eva Kraus, Neues Museum Nürnberg
Petra Roettig, Hamburger Kunsthalle
Dr. Daniel Koep, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag
Selen Ansen, ARTER, Istanbul
Exhibition produced by Neues Museum Nürnberg, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag and ARTER, Istanbul.
Funded by Germany’s Federal Cultural Foundation