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CULTURE | 04.05.2016

Art Dept: The Exhibition “Isa Genzken – Mach dich hübsch!”

“I always wanted to have the courage to do totally crazy, impossible and off-key things”, Isa Genzken once said. Maybe that is why she put sunglasses with mirrored lenses on the delicate nose of a bust of the Egyptian queen Nefertari. Past meets future meets Genzken.

A Berliner by choice, Genzken refuses to be pigeonholed, which is exactly why she is one of the most important contemporary German artists and has gained great international recognition with her multifaceted work. Now the exhibition “Isa Genzken: Mach dich hübsch! (Isa Genzken: Make Yourself Pretty!)” at the Martin-Gropius-Bau provides the perfect opportunity to (re-)discover her oeuvre.

A unified approach, an obvious common thread, bores the 67-year-old free spirit, who prefers to experiment and likes to take creative risks. For her series “Schauspieler (Actors)”, for instance, she dressed mannequins of all ages in a motley mix of outfits: a child mannequin combines a brightly coloured rain poncho with no more than a glittering chain-link shirt; another mannequin has bills stuck on her breasts. Grotesque, trashy and fascinating. It is impossible to look away: one’s gaze is involuntarily drawn to the artworks’ striking colours, and the surprising changes in style are captivating. Over more than 30 years, Isa Genzken has created an impressive portfolio of works, including sculptures made of wood and concrete, installations, films, photographs and paintings. There is hardly a medium she has not yet tried her hand at.

For the exhibition at the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin the curators have accumulated a significant sampling” of the artist’s extensive, innovative oeuvre in a retrospective that assembles, among other works, a wealth of early motion pictures, drawings, ellipsoids and montages. Themes that are at the foreground of the exhibition include concepts such as modernity, urban culture, architecture, portraiture and the human body.

The exhibition is on view until June 26 of this year. Learn more about Isa Genzken and her extraordinary art in this short documentary, which was produced at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, where the exhibition was first shown.