88 artists from 35 countries presenting the diverse artistic face of Europe
Diversity United presents established and emerging artists exploring pro-European dialogues. The exhibition – travelling to venues in Moscow, Berlin and Paris – considers subjects including freedom, dignity, respect, conflicts and dialogue, landscapes and power and political and personal identity.
1st venue: Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow: 11 November 2020 – 21 February 2021
The Foundation for Art and Culture, Bonn and the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow present the debut of the major travelling group show Diversity United. Contemporary European Art. Moscow. Berlin. Paris. from 11 November 2020 – 21 February 2021. The exhibition is dedicated to portraying the artistic face of Europe, presenting a forum for artistic dialogue and solidarity. As the continent responds to the tragedy of the current pandemic, the exhibition’s themes and concerns – democracy and its erosion, (fear of) the future, solidarity and separation, the pandemic and its consequences – appear more urgent than ever.
Presenting a survey of work from across Europe, the exhibition showcases 88 key European artists active today, spanning generations, genders and regions – including Olafur Eliasson, Mona Hatoum, Annette Messager, Wolfgang Tillmans and Slavs and Tatars (see full artist list). The exhibition is under the patronage of the State Presidents of Germany, Russia and France: President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, President Vladimir Putin and President Emmanuel Macron.
New commissions include works from Yael Bartana (b. Israel, 1970), Christian Boltanski (b. France, 1944), Pia Fries (b. Switzerland, 1955), Antony Gormley (b. UK, 1950), Manuel Graf (b. Germany, 1978), Sheila Hicks (b. US, 1934), Patricia Kaersenhout (b. Netherlands, 1966), Peter Kogler (b. Austria, 1959), Kris Martin (b. Belgium, 1972), Katja Novitskova (b. Estonia, 1984), Tal R (b. Tel Aviv, 1967), Tristan Schulze (b. Germany, 1964), Jan Svenungsson (b. Sweden, 1961), Per Wizén (b. Sweden, 1966), Erwin Wurm (b. Austria, 1954), and Yan Pei-Ming (b. China, 1960).
Dutch Surinamese artist Patricia Kaersenhout presents Mea Culpa (2020), an installation which engages with Europe’s colonial history of oppression and exploitation. Through an installation directly engaging with the Christian tradition of Repentance, but referencing current socio-political contexts, crawling men in suits are presented alongside a call-to-action for audiences to suggest which oppressor (be it a politician, CEO or other leading-figure) should crawl for their own atonement. Considering the work within the context of the exhibition, the artist quotes the Brazilian feminist activist Djamila Ribeiro – ‘before we speak about diversity we first need to talk about inequalities.’
Berlin-based Swedish artist Jan Svenungsson shows three series created in 1998, 2010, and now revisited during the COVID-19 pandemic. Called Psycho-Mapping Europe, each consists of twenty hand-drawn maps of Europe, with the countries belonging to the European Union coloured in. The first of each series is a correct tracing of the EU-map at the time of making, the second a carefully made copy of the first, the third a copy of the second – and so on. Though intended as an exact replica of its model, each copy bares its own idiosyncrasies; over the course of each series the shape of Europe changes, and the relationships between countries (Union members or not) develop in intricate ways. ‘I began making the drawings for the third series, which I had decided in advance to call “Psycho-Mapping Europe, post Brexit”, in early March 2020’, the artist explains, ‘a few days later lockdown was imposed. Never could I have imagined that my work would coincide with a real-world “Psycho-Mapping of Europe” – and its momentous consequences, now unfolding before our eyes.’
British artist Antony Gormley presents new works from his ongoing ‘Blockworks’ series, monumental ‘over life-size’ sculptures which translate body space into the blocks of the built environment, becoming part of the building that supports them. ‘They express our dependency on our second body: our built habitat, and ask us to reconsider our place within the elements’ the artist explains, ‘How we live alone or together, within or without, is a project that is continuing to evolve.’
Estonian artist Katja Novitskova presents a sculpture grappling with the complex network of biodiversity, globalization and environmental policy. Focussing on a fungi species which has been instrumental in the apocalyptic decline of amphibian species across the world in the last 50 years, the work particularly reflects on the steady decline in wildlife and biodiversity of European countries today. Now being exhibited in the shadow of the COVID-19 crisis, the work further considers how “infectious organisms ignore national borders and political propaganda.”
Tristan Schulze’s interactive AR piece SKIN – confronting visitors with scans of their own bodies – explores the partitions between reality and cyberspace. Kris Martin’s mirrored installation Ship of Fools is both a physical and metaphorical reflection of the political and social status quo between community and division, asking visitors to directly confront the plight of refugees at European borders.
Walter Smerling, Chairman of the Foundation for Art and Culture, Bonn, comments:
“This perception remains crucial: Europe is a project. Artists play a significant role in this project because, through their individual approaches, they reflect the situation and development of European societies, both historically and in the present. In light of Germany´s presidency of the EU Council and the harrowing effects of the corona pandemic, the Foundation for Art and Culture is guided by a sense of responsibility; wishing to send a signal in these pivotal times, we are very pleased to be continuing our work towards opening the exhibition “Diversity United” in Moscow this November as planned, before travelling on to Berlin and Paris in 2021. Given the recent extraordinary circumstances, the past months have seen us working closely with our artists to ensure they are supported, and we’ve been overwhelmed with the wave of encouragement, energy and motivation we’ve received in response. The message behind the exhibition – that we are better for being united – is as important as ever. I hope it heralds in a brighter future.”