Reality Bites: Making Avant-garde Art in Post-Wall Germany

February 9, 2007 - April 29, 2007
Kemper Art Museum


The fall of the Berlin Wall in November of 1989 instigated a new era of German history, rapidly--yet profoundly--altering everyday German life. Reality Bites: Making Avant-garde Art in Post-Wall Germany, the first exhibition of its kind, gathers the work of over thirty artists who created art in Germany in the last fifteen years. Intentionally international in scope, and with an eye to exploring new meanings of the avant-garde, this exhibition surveys varied attempts to challenge the relationship between art and the everyday reality of German life since the fall of the Wall.

Traditionally, the term avant-garde designates art that pushes boundaries and utilizes an original approach. Works included in this exhibition are considered avant-garde because they embrace day-to-day experiences in intentional and innovative ways. This involvement of the everyday allows the works to transcend conventional art forms--such as painting or sculpture--and also counters the notion of art as independent from other spheres of life. Therefore much of the work in Reality Bites is new media, site-specific, or installation art. Even the artists included who use older technologies, such as photography, do so in new and interactive ways.

Reality Bites is divided into three thematic sections. The first, Re dressing Germany, looks at the ways in which contemporary artists interact with a developing German identity, especially (but not exclusively) focusing on Berlin. The second section, Traumatic Histories, brings together artworks that engage with traumatic events in German history that continue to play a part in contemporary German lifeincluding the Holocaust and the Third Reich, but also the younger German past (such as the hushed activities of the terrorist Red Army Faction and the dictatorship of East Germany). Global Spaces, the third and largest thematic section, investigates and reveals the impact of globalization on Germany since the fall of the Wall.

Overall this exhibition not only offers a fresh perspective on contemporary German culture, but also provides unique insight on the effects of globalization, mass consumer culture, advertising, media, and other prevalent contemporary issues. The fall of the Berlin Wall created an exceptional historical moment, resulting in a flood of global mass culture in a compressed time and space. This has transformed Berlin into a site of experimentation, imbued with a sense that anything is possible, and opened up a space for cutting-edge art that is deeply significant to contemporary life both within and beyond German borders.

Open February 9 to April 29, 2007, and curated by Sabine Eckmann, Kemper Art Museum director & chief curator.

Read the Press Release >>

Featured artists

Franz Ackermann, Kutlug Ataman, Cosima von Bonin, Sophie Calle, Tacita Dean, Thomas Demand, Bernhard Garbert, Isa Genzken, Beate Gütschow, Rudolf Herz, Sabine Hornig, Christian Jankowski, André Korpys & Markus Löffler, Ulrike Kuschel, Eva Leitolf, Via Lewandowsky, Michel Majerus, Mariele Neudecker, Olaf Nicolai, Marcel Odenbach, Manfred Pernice, Daniel Pflumm, rude_architecture (Friedrich von Borries, Gesa Glück, Tobias Neumann), Silke Schatz, Gregor Schneider, Collier Schorr, Renata Stih & Frieder Schnock, Wolfgang Tillmans

Educator resources

The Museum's Education department connects special exhibitions with students of all levels through specialized tours, curriculum plans, hands-on activities, and more. Download the Connections Guide for the exhibition for more details.

Exhibition support

This exhibition is made possible by an Emily Hall Tremaine Exhibition Award. Additional funding is provided by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; Alston + Bird LLP; the National Endowment for the Arts; the Institut für
Auslandsbeziehungen e.V.; the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency; the Regional Arts Commission; the Arts & Education Council; the Hortense Lewin Art Fund; Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum Members; and individual contributors.