Almost eighty years after its disappearance, the whereabouts of ‘Der Turm der Blauen Pferde’ (The Tower of the Blue Horses) by German Expressionist Franz Marc is still largely unknown. During the Weimar period, the painting quickly gained notoriety among liberal communities, in part due to its affiliation with the artist group Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) but also on account of the painting’s phenomenal artistic quality.
Three years after the painting’s presentation at Berlin gallery Der Sturm in 1913, Marc died in the Battle of Verdun. For some years, the painting was alleged to have been seen and found, but no official statement was made at the time. In the spirit of re-imagining and re-awakening, posthumously, Haus am Waldsee in partnership with the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung in Munich, have curated an exhibition of twenty contemporary artists to comment on, re-imagine and re-narrate the fantasy that surrounds the infamous painting.
The body of work is both visually and intimately striking. Much of the exhibition looks into subjects of loss, absence and reflection but conversely re-imagines the history of the painting, had it not fallen out of public viewing. Standouts from the exhibition include Norbert Bisky‘s untitled piece, which both recreates and deconstructs the original painting with lumbers of burnt wood and a torn blue canvas. Reportedly, Marc’s painting was eventually seized by Russian officers in 1945, held captive in storage under the censorship laws of Nazi Germany. Constructed measure-for-measure, Bisky’s destroyed recreation symbolizes both the death of the artist as well as the loss of artistic and creative freedom under fascist rule.
In Rémy Markowitsch‘s ‘For Horses’, the four horses within the painting are brought to life. Through a multi-channel visual installation, Marc’s painting becomes the catalyst for a reflective piece on art and art subjects. Enclosed in a white room, visual projections move across the walls, depicting illustrated images of private and prestigious exhibition spaces. In collaboration with theatre professional Joey Zimmermann, ‘For Horses’ looks into the role artists played within occupied Germany, as well as the role many animals, including horses, played during the World Wars. Markowitsch intends for viewers to confront German history and the numerous voices and stories that went undocumented.
Interestingly, the art extends beyond Haus am Waldsee’s building. In the courtyard leading up to the entrance, Tobias Rehberger‘s light installation flashes the words ‘Something Else is Possible’. Although not explicitly dealing with the content or subject of horses, it sets a precedent for how we view the numerous interpretations of the painting. The events that led up to the painting’s disappearance were simply the product of chance. By a simple twist of fate, ‘Der Turm der Blauen Pferde’ could have easily become a famous piece within the art world, or even a household name among fans, tourists and artists. Rehberger’s installation speaks to the possibility of these outcomes as well as our ability to re-imagine the history of the painting.
The installation directly addresses attendees both on their way in and out. You enter with optimism and leave with the possibility of re-creating and re-directing your own interests. For Rehberger, every interpretation and every potential outcome is just as valid as what actually happened. In a world of fantasy, imagination and creative interventions add to and support the growing histories of art spaces. ‘MISSING’ is a chance to creatively explore the endless possibilities that history denied.