September 12 – October 13, 2019.
Select Venues, Munich.
By JEFFREY GRUNTHANER, October 2019
Munich is trying to break free of its cloistered, not-quite-Berlin image. Replete with perfectly groomed lawns, stone bridges embossed to look like sculptures, and daunting rents—underlying its shimmering facade there lurks a burgeoning DIY culture. This aesthetic of this culture is smart, inclusive, and possibly even internationally appealing. The fact that Various Others, a Munich-based art fair now in its second installment, carries an English title gestures towards its deep-set intentions. English has become, if not quite a universal language, the unofficial language of the Internet. Tracing the trajectory of the city’s local scene, Various Others galvanizes Munich’s museums, galleries, and project spaces into new forms of creative activity, underscoring the work of younger artists.
Is Various Others calling into question the art fair structure? Not necessarily. If Munich remains a place that favors collectors over artists, Various Others highlights what might otherwise get lost to the secondary market. While similar art fairs, like NADA in New York, link together the respective programming of different galleries, Various Others provides a platform for original works. When, for example, I interviewed that Munich-based band PAAR, who were about to perform Die Notwendigkeit der Notwendigkeit alongside the artist and curator Gregor Hildebrant, one of the members spoke about how Various Others allowed them to do “something totally new. Especially for us, because we’re improvising today. Together with Gregor who’s also improvising. So well see how it goes.”
This kind of experimental, “what-if” artitude pervades the fair as a whole. New collaborations are the rule. Or at least familiar friends meeting in new places. Galerie Christine Mayer exhibited artists from New York’s Goldie’s Gallery, an artist-run space that focuses on the aesthetics of childhood. Highlights from this group show included a multi-dimensional canvas by Antoine Catala, which featured an actual teddy bear softly emerging from the depiction of a kitchen interior—like a sugary hallucination. Another piece by Tan Kagami similarly captured the dreamlike freedom of one’s inner child, with paintings so brilliantly minimal that works by Karel Appel seem heavy-handed by comparison.
Not too far away, at SPERLING Gallery, Augustas Serapinas (the youngest artist exhibiting at the Venice Biennale) has pieced together a greenhouse installation, environed by a series of wallworks by Malte Zenses. A dystopian mood regarding the pressures of climate change pervades Serapinas’s installation, which is composed of natural materials like wood and soil. Relatedly, Zenses’s use of glass works to foreground the mysterious point of contact between physical processes and human-made, constructed interventions. The show as a whole, filled with garden-like materials, has an unsettling, dystopian quality about it. It exhibits like remnants of a world saved from rising sea levels, where survivalist anxiety mingles with the contemplative tranquility of a barren landscape.
There’s also a decided rapport between Munich’s galleries and its major museums. Pinakothek der Moderne, via the auspices of Various Others, hosted an event by the Munich-based musician Kalas Liebfried. Liebfried’s Ambient for a Silent Forest was designed around the spatial distribution of stones used in Joseph Beuys’s The End of the 20th Century—an iteration of which is a permanent installation at the museum. Liebfried’s one-night performance was designed to bring out the paranoia latent in Beuy's vision, orchestrating the soundtrack to an entropic world where birds only exist in mechanical forms, having been erased by deforestation.
These are only a few highlights, but they serve to show how Various Others invites galleries and museums alike to become a performative space—realizing unique, process-bound environments that set the fixity of permanent collections against ultra-contemporary allusions to digital screens and the reality of climate change. Rather than focus on comfortably cannonized works of art, Various Others suggests the prospect of an intergenerational space, where institutions and individuals can creatively co-exist. WM
Jeffrey Grunthaner is an artist-writer-musician-curator currently based in Berlin. Essays, articles, poems, and reviews have appeared via BOMB, artnet News, The Brooklyn Rail, Archinect, Hyperallergic, Heavy Feather Review, Folder, Drag City Books, and other venues. Recent curatorial projects include the reading and discussion series Conversations in Contemporary Poetics at Hauser & Wirth Publishers (NY).view all articles from this author