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Indepth Arts News:

"Partners: Collector and Curator Ydessa Hendeles' View of 20th Century Art"
2003-11-07 until 2004-02-15
Haus der Kunst
Munich, , DE Germany

With the exhibition, Partners, Ydessa Hendeles, collector, curator and founder of the Ydessa Hendeles Art Foundation in Toronto, will present selected works from her collection for the first time internationally. At the invitation of Chris Dercon, the new director of the Haus der Kunst, and Thomas Weski, its new chief curator, Hendeles, who the New York Times describes as a “collector who occupies a rarefied place in her small peer group because she is also widely considered a brilliant curator,” presents her individual curatorial signature in a new and different context. Partners is inspired by the history of the Haus der Kunst. The exhibition’s presentation in three passages offers a contemporary art experience that addresses the history of the 20th century.

Because of the metaphorical and allegorical approach of the curator, the exhibition offers insight in the way that personal and national identity is formed in the context of the history. It asks questions and leaves questions unanswered as well as offering space for new ways of reading and interpreting the works and presenting the public with the possibility of active participation and self-reflection. Ydessa Hendeles maintains, "I make exhibitions which contextualize works without using themes or taxonomies, but for the purpose of bringing out insightful connections between works that say something about what it means to be alive at this time.”

Ydessa Hendeles was born in Germany in 1948 as the only child of Jewish parents, both survivors of the Holocaust. Raised in Canada, she began to exhibit contemporary art in 1980 and ran, until 1988, The Ydessa Gallery in Toronto, which was an influential commercial gallery because of its prescient choices and support of emerging Canadian artists such as Jeff Wall, Jana Sterbak, Ken Lum, Krysztof Wodiczko and Rodney Graham, who are now well-known internationally. In 1988 she founded the Ydessa Hendeles Art Foundation to present works curated from her developing collection, which is wide in its scope, including contemporary art, sculpture, installations and videos, as well as historical and documentary photography, news photographs, family album photographs and antique toys.

Ydessa Hendeles’ work cannot be confined within the conventions of traditional curating, collecting or exhibition design. Her thoughtfully-arranged exhibitions have been groundbreaking not only for their standard of multi-media installations, but notably for their innovations in her curatorial practice. Hendeles’ exhibitions are not about themes, but about juxtapositions that provide insights into presented objects. Her approach opens up unusual perspectives, offering new readings of the exhibited works, enabling them to be seen in fresh and often profound ways. Ydessa Hendeles’ innovative work as a collector and curator has continually attracted international attention over the last decade. Her influence is clearly visible in the way many major museums now present exhibitions of their collections.

For the exhibition Partners in the Haus der Kunst, Ydessa Hendeles presents works by Diane Arbus, Maurizio Cattelan, James Coleman, Hanne Darboven, Walker Evans, Luciano Fabro, On Kawara, Paul McCarthy, Bruce Nauman, Giulio Paolini, August Sander, Jeff Wall and Lawrence Weiner as well as press photographs, anonymous amateur photographs and everyday objects, together with a popular culture performance at the openings.

The works are arranged in three passages which propose routes for viewers through the exhibition that allow them to move from one object to the next following a narrative process. Each of the three passages, with its different stations, unites art works of different techniques and periods of history, by their content and not by a theme.

Partners is, therefore, not the presentation of a collection in the Haus der Kunst, but rather an exhibition by Ydessa Hendeles, an innovative and unusual collector and curator, who has consciously chosen to become engaged with the building in order to curate the first major international exhibition which is secondarily a display of works from her collection.

For Partners Hendeles had many of the reconstructions and additions that had been carried out over the years removed and the original architecture made visible again. In doing this Ydessa Hendeles has intensified a process begun by the new team at the Haus der Kunst, to respect the architectural integrity of the building. This process of “Critical Restoration” will be continued in the coming years with scrutiny and accompanied by public discourse. The Haus der Kunst is moving forward, and this installation is a step in that direction.

With several other collectors such as Ingvild Goetz, Munich, Ydessa Hendeles shares a serious concern for the conservation of the works in her collection. For Partners in the Haus der Kunst Ydessa Hendeles has agreed to allow the exhibition to be on view seven hours a day, so that it will be open to the public from Tuesday thru Sunday from 10h to 17h. The Haus der Kunst itself is opened from 10h to 20h daily. This is an expression of her respect for the continuance of the fragile family album photographs which she has undertaken to preserve for generations to come.

A catalogue of the exhibition Partners with texts by Ydessa Hendeles, Ernst van Alphen and Carol Squiers is available. The installation Partners. The Teddy Bear Project (2002) is the subject of a two–volume hard cover set published by Walter Koenig in Cologne. As part of a performance celebrating the opening of the exhibition on November 6th at 19h, Wolfram Harmuth, alias Chris Jones, as Elvis Presley, will perform several songs, including “Teddy Bear.”

As part of the accompanying programme of the Partners exhibition, Mieke Bal, well-known cultural critic and theorist, will give her lecture Affective Syntax: Translating Emotion and World Memory on Tuesday the 9th of December at 8 pm. Mieke Bal is Professor of Theory of Literature and Founding Director of the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis, Theory and Interpretation (ASCA) at the University of Amsterdam.

Partners (The Teddy Bear Project), 2002

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