Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitled (America), 1994
Photo: Andrew Cross
January 16 – April 25, 2010
Curated by Elena Filipovic with Danh Vo (at WIELS, Brussels), Carol Bove (at the Fondation Beyeler, Basel), and Tino Sehgal (at the Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main).
WIELS premieres a major traveling retrospective of Felix Gonzalez-Torres (American, b. Cuba 1957-1996), one of the most influential artists of his generation. Including both rarely seen and more known paintings, sculptures, photographic works, and public projects, reflecting the full scope of Gonzalez-Torres’ short but prolific career and drawn from the Estate of Felix Gonzalez-Torres as well as public and private collections throughout the United States and Europe, this groundbreaking exhibition proposes an experimental form that is indebted to the artist’s own radical conception of the artwork.
Defying the idea of the exhibition as fixed and the retrospective as totalizing, Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Specific Objects without Specific Form offers instead several exhibition versions, and none the authoritative one, all the better to present the oeuvre of an artist who put fragility, the passage of time, and the questioning of authority at the center of his artwork. At each venue in which the show will be hosted, the exhibition will open to the public and then halfway through its duration, it will be taken down and re-installed by a different invited artist whose practice has been informed by Gonzalez-Torres’ work. Curated by Elena Filipovic, a first version of Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Specific Objects without Specific Form will open to the public at WIELS on January 16, 2010 and, on March 5, 2010, the artist Danh Vo will undo that show and re-install it—adding and removing artworks, changing such things as lighting, labels, and the order of presentation, in other words, effectively making an entirely new version of the exhibition.
Inspired by Gonzalez-Torres’ understanding of the artwork as potentially infinite in meaning and as well as his practice of changing the arrangement of artworks weekly in the case of one exhibition (“Every Week There Is Something Different,” 1991) or, in another, shifting the form and content of an exhibition when it went from one venue to another (“Traveling,” 1994), Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Specific Objects without Specific Form grounds its approach in Gonzalez-Torres’ very personal understanding not only of the art exhibition, but also of the artwork writ large. The resulting retrospective, initiated and organized by WIELS in collaboration with the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation, New York, underscores not only the enduring legacy of Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ oeuvre, but also several very distinct aspects of his work: from its vulnerability to its concern with formal issues to its scathing social critique, each of these is emphasized in one of the versions of the traveling exhibition.
1 retrospective, 3 venues, 6 versions, 3 artist-curators: Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Specific Objects without Specific Form will offer its visitors the possibility of finding a new interpretation of Gonzalez-Torres’ engaged and complex body of work with each visit. The curatorial interventions of the invited artists—Danh Vo at WIELS, Brussels; Carol Bove at the Fondation Beyeler, Basel; and Tino Sehgal at the Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main—will emerge from different interpretations of the meanings and presentation possibilities for Gonzalez-Torres’ work. Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Specific Objects without Specific Form thus acknowledges that the way an exhibition begins and ends its “story,” the emphasis it places on one aspect more than another, the way it presents individual artworks, the juxtapositions it constructs, the mood it creates (because the works of art are hung sparsely or densely, shown theatrically or in bright institutional light, emphasizing their monumentally or rather their vulnerability, etc.), in addition to the way an exhibition is discursively presented—all of these potentially shift the way that a body of work might be understood by its public. And all of these participate in the construction of the meaning and reception of an oeuvre, which is to say, nothing less than the construction of history.
Catalogue: The tour of the exhibition will be followed by a fully illustrated catalogue documenting each version of the exhibition and including essays by Elena Filipovic, Danh Vo, Carol Bove, and Tino Sehgal as well as interviews with artists of various generations. Essentially a publication determined by the voice of artists, Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Specific Objects without Specific Form will underscore the decisive impact and importance of Gonzalez-Torres’ work on art practices today. Due to appear in 2011.