The New Museum presents the first US museum exhibition of the work of Paweł Althamer.
“Paweł Althamer, The Neighbors,” 2014. Exhibition view: New Museum. Photo: Jesse Untracht-Oakner
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Since the early 1990s, Althamer (b. 1967 Warsaw, Poland) has established a unique artistic practice featuring an expanded approach to sculptural representation and consistently experimental models of social collaboration. Althamer is predominantly known for the figurative sculptures he creates of himself, his family, and various other individuals within his community. Beyond simple portraiture, these sculptures, in addition to the other activities he is involved in, highlight the complex social, political, and psychological networks in which he lives and operates.
The exhibition includes a new presentation of the artist’s work, Draftsmen’s Congress, originally presented at the 7th Berlin Biennial (2012). Over the course of the exhibition, the blank white space of the New Museum’s Fourth Floor gallery is transformed through the gradual accumulation of drawings and paintings by Museum visitors and a wide array of invited community organizations. Althamer also activates the exhibition through a sculptural workshop in which the artist and his collaborators will produce new works during the course of the show. The New Museum provides all paint and drawing materials for this installation (please do not bring outside supplies).
In the past, Althamer has realized a number of projects that seek to subtly alter reality through nearly imperceptible interventions into public space. For his New York exhibition, Althamer has arranged for street musicians to play in front of the New Museum building on the Bowery over the course of the show with the music being broadcast throughout the Third Floor gallery.
The exhibition also features a number of Althamer’s iconic sculptures and performative videos realized alone or in cooperation with a number of community groups that he has worked with over the past two decades. It includes his most recent body of work, the “Venetians,” a haunting group of sculptures created for the 55th Venice Biennale. These works are presented alongside Althamer’s series of videos, “So-Called Waves and Other Phenomena of the Mind” (2003–04). Produced in collaboration with artist Artur Żmijewski, these works capture Althamer as he ingests various drugs on a journey to explore the depths of his own mind. Across these varied projects, the exhibition comprises a portrait of the artist as instigator, organizer, teacher, scientist, and visionary.
The exhibition is curated by Massimiliano Gioni, Associate Director and Director of Exhibitions, and Gary Carrion-Murayari, Curator. The show is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue featuring an interview with the artist and new essays on Althamer’s practice by Boris Groys, Joanna Mytkowska, and Artur Żmijewski.
Paweł Althamer attended the Academy of Fine Arts, Warsaw, from 1988–93, studying alongside his frequent collaborator Artur Zmijewski. His work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Westfälischer Kunstverein in Münster (2003), Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warsaw (2004), Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw (2005), Centre Pompidou, Paris (2006), Fondazione Nicola Trussardi (2007), and Secession, Vienna (2009), among others. His work has been exhibited in a number of major international group shows including the 2013 Venice Biennale, 8th Gwangju Biennial (2010), Skulptur Projekte Münster (2007), 4th Berlin Biennial (2006), and the 9th Istanbul Biennial (2005).
In many of his previous museum exhibitions, Althamer has used the visibility and resources of the organizing institution to benefit different local communities. For “The Neighbors,” Althamer has initiated a coat drive for the Bowery Mission, the Museum’s neighboring organization, which has been serving the homeless and hungry since 1879. Over the course of the exhibition, visitors who bring new or gently used men’s coats to the New Museum will receive free entry. All the coats will be donated to the Bowery Mission.