press release

Constructing the World. Art and Economy
October 12, 2018–February 3, 2019

Opening: October 11, 7pm
Symposium: January 31–February 1, “Constructing the World”

Being determines consciousness. Economic, social, and political processes change our lives, our society. Ten years after the financial crisis, the exhibition Constructing the World. Art and Economy will shed light on the tangible influence of the economy on art and artists for the first time. An international comparison of the visual arts between the two World Wars and the present moves through a dramatically changing world of people’s experiences and work.

Between 1919 and 1939, the United States, the Soviet Union, and the Weimar Republic embodied polar opposites. The struggle between capitalism and socialism had not yet been decided. Artists reacted immediately to this era, characterized by progress and technology: They discovered reality anew. Everyday life and work, the city and class struggles, the individual and the machine. They captured the fascinating dynamism of metropoles and industries, as well as crushing poverty and exploitation. The exhibition shares a captivating panorama of the world of contradictions between the World Wars.

What role do humans play in our working world? The global division of labor, digitalized high-performance technology, and a speculative financial sector marginalize manual labor, making exploitation and existential worries invisible. 30 international artists explore the abstract working mechanisms of the world-encompassing economic system in installations, sculptures, photographs, and films. Highly topical themes such as outsourcing and surveillance, land reclamation and resistance, the workings of the stock market and the utopia of alternative economic forms are brought into focus.

The exhibition is divided in two principle parts and curated by Eckhart J. Gillen and Ulrike Lorenz for the part covering the period between 1919 and 1939 and Sebastian Baden for the period between 2008 and 2018. Around 250 paintings, films, photographs, collages, and multimedia installations by approximately 150 artists and collectives from over 20 nations reflect upon questions and depict topics which today are more relevant than ever. Among the artists are Berenice Abbott, Maja Bajevic, Margaret Bourke-White, Bureau d’Etudes, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Stuart Davis, Alexander Deineka, Otto Dix, Walker Evans, Harun Farocki/Antje Ehmann, Carl Grossberg, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Hirschhorn, Hannah Höch, Edward Hopper, Sanja Iveković, George Grosz, Grethe Jürgens, Georgia O'Keefe, Gustavs Klucis, Valentina Kulagina, Alicja Kwade, Alice Lex-Nerlinger, El Lissitzky, José Antonio Vega Macotela, Reginald Marsh, Juri Pimenow, Tobias Rehberger, Alexander Rodtschenko, Mika Rottenberg, Rudolf Schlichter, Franz Wilhelm Seiwert, Charles Sheeler, Superflex, Zefrey Throwell, Karl Völckers, Dsiga Wertow and others.

The exhibition is generously supported by Kulturstiftung des Bundes, BASF SE, H.W. & J. Hector Stiftung, Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung, Stiftung Kunsthalle Mannheim, VR Bank Rhein-Neckar eG, City of Mannheim, Innovationsfonds Kunst des Ministeriums für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Kunst Baden-Württemberg. Handelsblatt is media partner of the exhibition.