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Now on view at the Fondation Beyeler is an exhibition of Rudolf Stingel’s work, curated by Udo Kittelmann. This is the first major presentation of the artist’s works in Europe since his celebrated show at Palazzo Grassi in Venice in 2013, and his first exhibition in Switzerland since the early show at Kunsthalle Zürich in 1995. Whitewaller spoke with Kittelmann about the exhibition, and about what we need from the art world today.
WHITEWALLER: Tell us about the upcoming Rudolf Stingel show.
UDO KITTELMANN: At the Fondation Beyeler, we will present major works of the past decades, providing a comprehensive overview of his output. Some of the pieces have never been shown in public before, as they were created only recently specifically for this exhibition. And obviously, the site-specific works made using carpets and Celotex insulation boards have also been conceived specially for this exhibition space.
We decided not to conceive the exhibition chronologically, instead proceeding room by room, though guided by an overarching narrative. The confrontation of individual works that we opted for is surprising and demonstrates the full range of Rudolf Stingel’s oeuvre, which he developed consequently over several decades.
WW: Can you tell us a bit about the process of working on the show with the artist?
UK: A key aspect of Rudolf’s work is his way of thinking about paintings spatially, whether dealing with a carpet installation with pictorial quality or a painting. As a result, he obviously also has very precise ideas as to the way his works should be displayed in any given space. Our conversations on the selection and the positioning of his works were therefore highly enriching. They also provided me with ever renewed insights to his work. Since some of the works are conceived as installations, they must anyway be thought through afresh every time and adjusted to given spatial circumstances.
For viewers, this means that each Rudolf Stingel exhibition is unique because it always resolutely engages with the surrounding space and with the atmospheric impact of his images.
WW: You’ve previously organized two exhibitions of Stingel’s work: “Home Depot” at the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt am Main in 2004 and “LIVE” at the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin in 2010. What did you want to highlight in this show that you haven’t before?
UK: The exhibitions in Frankfurt and in Berlin were focused on the unique quality of his work to transform entire rooms into a strong pictorial impression. Here in Basel, our ambition is a retrospective one. The exhibition provides a comprehensive sense of Rudolf Stingel’s oeuvre, bringing together works from all major creative phases. The main focus is on painterly aspects, the vast range of materials he harnesses to this end, and painterly traces. In Stingel’s work, these painterly traces are notoriously varied and unconventional; they can be left by viewers on monochrome carpets or on silver insulation boards, or they could be the artist’s own footprints.
WW: You are a curator, the director of the Nationalgalerie in Berlin, and have written several books on contemporary and modern art. What do you feel is the major shift the art world is experiencing today?
UK: I’ve just come back from the Venice Biennale and I was very impressed by Ralph Rugoff’s curated part of the show. He once more captured in a very convincing way what will matter most in the future, including, especially for museums, that regardless of a work’s medium—be it a painting, a sculpture, or a film installation—what we need are artists who are able to create works of such relevance that their significance does not fade the very next day when faced with our time’s great social upheavals.