press release

The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía hosts the most complete retrospective dedicated to Paul Thek, born in 1933 in New York, the city where he died from AIDS at age fifty-four. This exhibition brings together some three hundred works, a majority of them belonging to private collections, which include painting, photography and objects from collective works made by the artist for different European institutions. Thek’s work is found among the central sources for the 1960s artistic revolution, having greatly influenced contemporary creators and posterior generations.

The work of this New York artist stems from contradictory realities: whereas the Catholic religion influences his work, Thek openly confesses he is homosexual and at the same time appears obsessed with his desire to marry and have children.

Painting has a constant presence throughout Paul Thek’s career. His paintings question the conventions and whims of the institutionalized art world with humor and freedom. Exhibited are numerous examples of illustrated works that belong to different stages of Thek’s career, together with bronze sculptures and the artist’s objects.

Among the exhibited works, his renowned Technological Reliquaries stand out, created in New York between 1964 and 1967 and inspired by his visit to the Franciscan catacombs in Palermo. In opposition to a minimalism dominant in New York at the time, these works represent pieces of human bodies created in wax with a high degree of realism, as a kind of reliquary from the technological era.

Throughout his career Thek made numerous collective works for important European institutions with the Co-op artists’ group. Some of these works, created in the form of an installation, have been conserved and are exhibited along with photographs from other installations that have not survived today.

This exhibition has been organized by ZKM, Museum für Neue Kunst Karlsruhe and Sammlung Falckenberg Hamburg, in collaboration with the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.

Paul Thek