Julius von Bismarck - Irma to Come in Earnest, 2017, video still

Julius von Bismarck
Nature Unleashed – The Image of Catastrophe since 1600
29 Jun  – Oct 14, 2018
Hamburger Kunsthalle, Germany

In a large-scale exhibition spanning several epochs, the Hamburger Kunsthalle traces based on important works how artists working in different media picture natural catastrophes while also shedding light on humanity’s failure to come to terms with nature due, among other things, of our faith in technology. »Nature Unleashed: The Image of Catastrophe since 1600« features approximately 120 exhibits, including paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, photographs, films and videos. As viewers make their way past blazing fires, earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions and sinking ships, they will take note of pictorial constants in the expression of such disasters but will also become aware of the differences in depiction from one era to the next. The show’s special appeal lies in the close juxtaposition of artworks created centuries apart. The trajectory of exhibited works spans an arc from the years around 1600 to the present day. Contemporary works serve to anchor the theme in the here and now and underline its topicality.

Catastrophes are omnipresent. The media constantly reports on natural disasters, acts of war, political upheavals and other crisis scenarios, characterising them all with the common term “catastrophe”. Catastrophes don’t just happen, they are made. It is only in our perception, in our active engagement with such drastic events that they take on distinctive contours and reveal their typical face. Every age makes its own catastrophes and redefines the criteria by which certain events are labelled as such. These fundamental observations form the basis for the exhibition project.

Featured artists include Wenzel Hollar (1607–1677), Jan Asselijn (1610–1652), Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749–1832), Caspar David Friedrich (1774–1840), Théodore Géricault (1791–1824), John Martin (1789–1854), Martin Kippenberger (1953–1997), Christian Jankowski (b. 1968) and Julius von Bismarck (b. 1983). Alongside pieces from the Hamburger Kunsthalle’s own collections, important works were loaned by prestigious museums and collections including the Musée du Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, the National Gallery, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Kunsthaus Zurich.

A richly illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition in which all works on view are presented with individual commentaries. Catalogue essays contributed by experts on this complex topic set it against the backdrop of current catastrophe research.

The exhibition is a cooperative project between the Hamburger Kunsthalle and the Chair of Art History and Visual Culture Studies at the University of Passau.