press release

Worship and Adoration
October 19, 2019–March 1, 2020

 The spectacular exhibition Icons. Worship and Adoration realises a radical concept: for the first time ever, the entire 4,500 square meter area of the Kunsthalle Bremen will play host to a single exhibition. A prominent work, ranging from a Russian icon to Jeff Koons, will be displayed on its own in each of the 60 rooms. The exhibition will examine how the concept of the icon unites sacred worship and the idea of transcendence, using exceptional works of art across nine centuries. This unique presentation will allow viewers to encounter and experience the spiritual power of art in a direct and concentrated manner.

Originally, the term "icon" referred to an image used for religious veneration. According to Eastern Christian tradition, God is present in the icon, granting it a special aura. Icons are also said to work miracles. Today, the term has been largely detached from images of saints and is employed in an inflationary manner in many different contexts. As a result, almost anyone or anything can be an icon: from actors and pop stars, architecture and artworks to brands and products.

One masterpiece in each room
The exhibition presents one masterpiece (or small coherent group of works) in each room. Each work of art expresses aspects of spirituality, devotion and veneration in its own way—from the Russian icon, medieval reliquaries to works by Caspar David Friedrich, J. M. W. Turner, Vincent van Gogh, Wassily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, Piet Mondrian, Marcel Duchamp, Francis Bacon, Mark Rothko, Yves Klein, Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol, Niki de Saint Phalle, Bill Viola, Isa Genzken, Andreas Gursky and Jeff Koons. Major loans come from significant museums such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, the Tate in London, the Stedelijk Museum and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Louisiana Museum in Copenhagen, the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf as well as numerous private collections.

Visitors have the unique opportunity to enjoy the varied and atmospheric architecture of the Kunsthalle Bremen in a tour of 60 galleries and directly experience the spiritual power of major works of art. This encounter transforms the museum itself into a place of contemplation and reflection.

Thematic galleries
The works of art in the exhibition are supplemented by "everyday icons," such as Karl Marx, Marilyn Monroe, Muhammad Ali and Beyoncé. The show thereby contrasts the traditional understanding of icons in art with the phenomenon of the "iconisation" of contemporary everyday life. Four themed galleries examine various aspects of the current way we use the term "icon." Iconic People and Iconic Moments from the past 150 years will be displayed. A second focus is on the private obsessions we have for people or objects which manifest themselves in "domestic shrines." Photographs supplied by visitors of individual altars show how we idolise, celebrate and display our icons. Another themed gallery reflects on how popular products and iconic brands have subtly taken over our lives and how they inform both our collective and individual depository of knowledge and experience. Another gallery examines the world of social media stars and influencers. Today, thanks to the Internet and social media, the iconisation of the self is possible for everyone.