franz ackermann
14 Sep 2002 - 12 Jan 2003

This autumn the Stedelijk Museum presents the first solo exhibition by Franz Ackermann (b. 1963) in The Netherlands.

The German artist conceives his exhibition, in four galleries on the upper floor of the Museum, as a large installation in which paintings, drawings, murals and architectural elements all play a part. Central themes in Ackermann's work are travelling, tourism, globalism and urbanism. The exhibition in Amsterdam will be specifically focused on the relation between painting and the 'white cube' (the white museum gallery) and on the history of Amsterdam, the Golden Age and trade with the East.

An important starting point for Ackermann's oeuvre was the series of Mental Maps that he produced several years ago during his stay in Hong Kong. These small watercolours are the result of his experiences in the great cities of Asia, South America and Australia. They are not literal depictions of specific places, but mental perceptions of urban cultures. Back in his studio in Berlin he subsequently developed paintings in which these drawing-like cartographies were transformed into monumental canvasses. Since about 1997 he has presented his work chiefly in the form of environments comprised of various media which completely surround the viewer. He rejects the traditional modernist manner of presentation in which paintings must be viewed completely autonomously in as neutral a space as possible. He considers the museal space, the 'background' for paintings, as an essential component of his work, and intervenes in it by means of murals, architectural constructions, the manipulation of light and dark, and the routing of the viewer in the museum. With his installations he conjures up a total experience comparable to the dynamic of a metropolis.

The many trips that he has made are not only an important source of artistic inspiration for Ackermann. In his work he also relates critically to the manner in which travel to exotic destinations presently has grown into a form of mass tourism. For instance, he includes photographic reproductions of glossy travel brochures and posters and photographs of Berlin travel agencies as part of his installations. With his exhibition in the Basel Kunsthalle (2002) he published an artist's book with black and white photographs of the many hotel complexes on Majorca, which principally bear witness to the banalisation of modern architecture in the service of an expanding tourist industry. The context for Ackermann's installation in Amsterdam is in part formed by the journeys that the Dutch were already making in the 17th century to trading centres around the world, and in particular South East Asia. These trips, which formed the foundation for Dutch colonial history, can not be seen entirely apart from the rise of Amsterdam as a world city and the flowering of painting in the Golden Age.

Ackermann demonstrates that handling vital themes such as migration and globalism in the visual arts is not only the province of newer media such video and photography, but can also take the form of painting. The way he deals with painting is therefore experimental, in which he does not accept the traditional limits of easel painting in advance. His sources of inspiration include both the Situationists from the 1950s and early Conceptual Art from the 1960s-'70s, and the socially engaged murals from Latin America and the painted billboards for Bollywood films in the streets of large cities in India.

Franz Ackermann's previous solo exhibitions have included shows at Portikus (Frankfurt a/M, 1997), Castello di Rivoli (Turin, 2000) and the Basel Kunsthalle (2002). In addition he has participated in a large number of group shows, including 'Heaven' (P.S. 1, New York, 1996), Carnegie International (Pittsburgh, 1999) and the Sao Paulo Biënnale (2002).

The Ackermann exhibition in the Stedelijk is the last in a series of four presentations of contemporary painting. The Stedelijk previously organised exhibitions with Robert Zandvliet, Thomas Scheibitz and Avery Preesman in this series.

A Stedelijk Museum Cahier accompanies the exhibition, written by curator Leontine Coelewij and the German critic and freelance curator Gregor Jansen.