Kai Althoff: and then leave me to the common swifts

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Kai Althoff. Untitled, 2011. Oil, synthetic polymer, tempera, and varnish on fabric and silk. 53 1/4 x 59 3/4 x 2 3/8 inches (135.3 x 151.8 x 6 cm). Private collection. © Kai Althoff

Kai Althoff. Untitled, 2011. Oil, synthetic polymer, tempera, and varnish on fabric and silk. 53 1/4 x 59 3/4 x 2 3/8 inches (135.3 x 151.8 x 6 cm). Private collection. © Kai Althoff

The Museum Of Modern Art And Kai Althoff Collaborate On The Major Monographic Exhibition Kai Althoff: And Then Leave Me To The Common Swifts

September 18, 2016–January 22, 2017

The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art Gallery, sixth floor

Kai Althoff (b. 1966, Germany) is one of the most consummate—and unpredictable—artists of his generation. His works often mix crafts like weaving and ceramics with such fine-art mediums as painting, drawing, and sculpture. The works’ painstakingly handmade quality gives them an intimacy and a finely wrought beauty more common to religious objects than contemporary art. Each object Althoff makes is imbued with great personal significance that is reflected in his fervent attention to aesthetic detail; however, he is less interested in producing private talismans than in making artworks that resonate with whoever may encounter them.

This exhibition, the artist’s first major monographic exhibition at a U.S. institution in a decade, will feature more than 200 works from all periods in Althoff’s career, in a range of mediums including painting, drawing, collage, sculptural objects, photographs, and sound. Drawing from public and private collections worldwide, the selection of works will be displayed in an immersive environment designed by the artist that will serve as a framing narrative for the bodies of work in the show.

Organized by Laura Hoptman, Curator, and Margaret Ewing, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Painting and Sculpture.

The exhibition is supported by the MoMA Annual Exhibition Fund.

Special thanks to Craig Robins and Jackie Soffer.

Kai Althoff: and then leave me to the common swifts, on view at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, from September 18, 2016 through January 22, 2017, was designed and curated by Kai Althoff and organized at The Museum of Modern Art by Laura Hoptman, Curator, and Margaret Ewing, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Painting and Sculpture. On the occasion of this unique exhibition, the artist provides the following statement:

The Museum of Modern Art granted me all freedom in using the gallery’s space and the Museum’s profound resources to present my work in the manner that I deem appropriate at this time of its existence and my life. I am very thankful for this, for even if I strain and press myself to come to a conclusion regarding the past, a lot of the things—and many call this work—I made up until today, I cannot defend or think of it as something people need to see or bother with. These were often just done for myself in the very first place.

Yet to leave it to others to put them in order and arrange them for display and consumption as a somewhat logical consequence deriving from this lack of my own ability to analyze and emotionally realize their gravity feels impossible and wrong; I am still alive, and this is an institution with a history that one cannot forego naïvely, though it may mean nothing much to me. Thus I feel I have to just show it in the manner that my mere self tells me to now. I have to look at things I have fabricated earlier in life, and I will give in to my immediate reaction emotionally and handle them accordingly, when deciding what to do with them now. This is why my gratitude for the above mentioned freedom from the institution is so huge.

Mind you, this is not all my pure will, but comes from the task of putting together a show, which I was asked to do, despite my confidence terrifyingly wobbling. And that it is for the right reasons, it being so wobbly, because of how wrong one can be in reality, when one thinks one does something significantly grand with the mind, heart and hands. But in the moment of making, the object you muster gains power over you and sometimes indeed this power may stem from the highest entity, from all that is beyond words and for a human to grapple. This I believe must have a reason, which in itself is more beautiful than a failed result, or a mediocre result. This happens in everybody’s life. There is no reason really why my things are exhibited in a museum and others’ are not.

And yet it is true: sometimes results are really something more. If there is such within what I did, I am not to say. But the people, who will come to see it can tell. I trust them totally, whether they care about art or not. Whether they are informed or ignorant and full of resentment. They do not need to know of more than what they will experience, and they should know, there is nothing to be understood. They have already understood enough, they can answer questions themselves and the questions they cannot answer themselves when walking, seeing, smelling and feeling while strutting through this exhibition are superfluous for now, and may clarify sometime later, or remain shelled forever.

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