Present Between the Lines. Art in Letters from Niki de Saint Phalle to Joseph Beuys


10. May 2017 – 27. August 2017
Sprengel Museum HannoverSprengel Museum Hannover
From 10 May to 27 August 2017, the Sprengel Museum Hannover is dedicating itself to the nearly lost medium of letters and postcards in the exhibition “Between the Lines. Art in Let- ters from Niki de Saint Phalle to Joseph Beuys”. The show features renowned international artists from the latter half of the 20th century whose experimental concepts innovated and expanded the creative and communicative possibilities of the correspondence.
In conjunction with the exhibition series Present, the Sprengel Museum Hannover regularly shows new acquisitions for the department of prints and drawings that were made possible thanks to the financial assistance of Deutsche Bank. In a concentrated selection of about 64 art- ist letters and postcards from the time since the 1960s, this year’s exhibition shows the tension- filled manner in which artists worked with these media. Even the Between the Lines indicates that it involves intimate and complex, in part hidden messages. The letters and postcards no longer solely served the purpose of written communications but became works of art them- selves. The exhibition focuses on the letters from the museum’s collection that Niki de Saint Phalle illustrated with drawings. An entire exhibition space is devoted to these works featuring the artist’s prints as well as the delicate original drawings. The show is enriched by acquisition for the department of prints and drawings, for example an abstract series of letters by Günther Uecker and postcards by Joseph Beuys. The selection from the collection is supplemented by the loan of 21 additional items by such figures as Mary Bauermeister, James Lee Byars, Sophie Calle, Hanne Darboven, Elena del Rivero, Dieter Roth and Ben Vautier.
Artists’ Letters
Letters are only rarely used today as means of communications. Contemporary art, by contrast, has extensively occupied itself with this theme. Drawn illustrations or conceptual dealings with the letter occasion the medium to itself become a work of art. Especially the letters of Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002), who is known for her colourfully joyous sculptures of women known as Nanas, are unique in their combination of text and image, providing deep and very intimate insights into the artist’s thoughts and emotions. A different approach was taken by Günther Uecker (*1930) in a series of letters in which he transformed the crucial feature necessary for communicating by letter, the writing itself, into an illegible informalist picture.
The aspect of intermediality has played an increasingly important role since the 1960s that has affected the artistic shaping of letters and postcards. Joseph Beuys (1921-1986) allowed materi- al to speak for itself in postcards and letters made from sulphur, metal and felt, which he issued in large editions as a means of making his ideas accessible to as large an audience as possible.

Serial working methods and the employment of performative and conceptual elements expand the significance and function of corresponding by letter. Sophie Calle (*1953) took such a con- ceptual approach in a work on show at the Sprengel Museum Hannover involving a painful letter addressed to her that she copes with and thus treats herself.
The exhibition and an acquisition from the exhibition for the museum’s department of prints and drawings have been made possible thanks to the financial assistance of Deutsche Bank.
A catalogue will be published on the occasion of the exhibition.

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