Gesamtkunstwerk: New Art from Germany showcases 24 artists, most of whom have been little seen in the UK, but are rapidly establishing themselves in Germany and internationally. Their work, including sculpture, painting, drawing and installation, ranges from the grotesque and macabre to the lyrical and surreal, reflecting the diversity of German art now.
Perhaps best known for its Wagnerian associations, the word ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ can be translated as a total, ideal or universal work of art, or as a synthesis of different art forms into one all-embracing unique genre. As such, many works in this exhibition reflect on the boundaries of art, in terms of our perception of it and its relationship to other disciplines. If their work points to a new kind of Gesamtkunstwerk it is one in which high and low culture, the avantgarde and the historical, the everyday and everything in between can co-exist.
Running through the exhibition is an inherent reference to another quasi-Gesamtkunstwerk: the baggage of postwar German visual culture and the work of earlier generations of German artists, from the Expressionists to Joseph Beuys, Anselm Kiefer, Martin Kippenberger, Rosemarie Trockel, Gerhard Richter and Franz West, with whom many of the artists in this exhibition seem to be in conversation.