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Indepth Arts News:

"Eat Art: Joseph Beuys, Dieter Roth, Sonja Alhaeuser"
2001-10-05 until 2001-12-15
Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard
Cambridge, MA, USA United States of America

Eat Art: Joseph Beuys, Dieter Roth, Sonja Alhaeuser, a major exhibition featuring food as artistic material in German art created from the mid-1960s to the present day, opened at Harvard's Busch-Reisinger Museum on October 5, 2001. The exhibition encompasses more than 50 sculptures, prints, and drawings primarily from the Busch-Reisinger's collection, including several recent acquisitions of works by Joseph Beuys (1921–1986) and Dieter Roth (1930–1998) that have never before been on public display. Eat Art will also feature a site-specific installation commissioned by the Busch-Reisinger and created by Sonja Alhäuser (b. 1969), whose work will be presented in the United States for the first time.

The use of nontraditional, especially edible and organic materials, is a major theme in 20th-century art, and the works presented in Eat Art will incorporate a wide range of unorthodox artistic materials, including chocolate, margarine, salami, teabags, honey, and mayonnaise.

Developed through Harvard’s curatorial internship program, Eat Art underscores the seminal and ongoing role the Harvard University Art Museums, as a leading teaching and research institution, plays in the training of future professionals and scholars within the museum community.

Eat Art was organized by Tanja Maka, Michalke Curatorial Intern at the Busch-Reisinger Museum, under the direction of Peter Nisbet, Daimler-Benz Curator of the Busch-Reisinger Museum. The curatorial internship program at the Art Museums provides hands-on experience for students preparing for professional and scholarly careers in art history, particularly at museums. Interns participate in the full range of curatorial activities including developing programming, building the Art Museums’ collections, documenting the permanent collection, and publishing scholarly findings. Distinguished by the range and depth of its collections, the resources of the Straus Center for Conservation, and the Harvard University community, the Harvard University Art Museums provides unparalleled resources to train new generations of scholars and professionals.

Eat Art is the result of a collaboration between an evolving scholar and a seasoned expert and their subsequent exchange of knowledge and ideas, said James Cuno, Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director. The Art Museums’ curatorial training program plays an important role in shaping the minds and fostering the talents of future curators and leaders within the museum community, and it is an essential element of the Art Museums' role as the leading training ground for museum professionals in the world.

Eat Art offers an opportunity to explore the work of three artists linked by the use of nontraditional artistic material rather than by theme or ideology. The exhibition will examine a wide range of issues from permanence and immediate gratification to preservation and consumption. Joseph Beuys wanted to reconnect art to everyday life. He believed that society should be based on creative or spiritual rather than economic capital, and the dense system of symbolic meanings he attached to organic materials helped to convey this political vision. Visitors will have a special opportunity to view a large group of Beuys’ Economic Values, 1977–82, packaged goods inscribed by the artist that are rarely on view because of their sensitive nature. Dieter Roth employed edible materials as a means of displaying the effects of time, allowing natural change to occur without interference by the artist. Furthermore, he used food as a means of parodying the serious tone and preservationist impulse he perceived in the art world. Among Roth’s works will be a self-portrait entitled Chocolate Lion, 1971. The exhibition will also feature an installation by Sonja Alhäuser, an artist living in Düsseldorf, Germany. Alhäuser has created Exhibition Basics, 2001, several large sculptures constructed of chocolate, popcorn, caramel, and marzipan, and related drawings. In a celebration of hedonistic enjoyment, she demands that visitors eat her work and thus, over time, slowly destroy it. In this way Alhäuser problematizes accepted notions of museumgoers’ behavior and challenges the mission of the museum to preserve the art work.

Joseph Beuys
Capri Battery, 1985.
Photography: Jay Beebe and Katya Kallsen,
Digital Imaging and Photography Department,
Harvard University Art Museums.

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