Július Koller, “?”

Július Koller, P.F. 81_smaller

25.09.2015 – 10.01.2016
Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw

We are happy to announce Július Koller’s exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, an artist with a great significance for ERSTE Foundation: the art collection of Erste Group and ERSTE Foundation bears the name „Kontakt“ in tribute to the work of the Slovak artist, and the word “Kontakt” was hand-written by him. “Kontakt” relates to a body of work, especially the anti-happenings, which Koller staged since the late 1960s. Daniel Grúň (lecturer at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design Bratislava), Kathrin Rhomberg (chairwoman of Kontakt collection) and Georg Schöllhammer (director of tranzit.at) curated a comprehensive retrospective of Július Koller which will be opened at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw on the 25 of September 2015 and will be shown at mumok Vienna from February until May 2016. The exhibition architecture in Warsaw was done by the Austrian artist Josef Dabernig.

“?” at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw presents a new appraisal of the work of the Slovak artist Július Koller (1939–2007), an iconic figure in the history of the neo-avant-garde and post-avant-garde. Since the rediscovery of his work in the early 1990s by Slovak artists and intellectuals, his work has been an important inspiration for artists throughout Eastern Europe. Only recently has Koller’s practice received wider recognition from the Western art world, becoming a key reference point for a younger generation of artists worldwide.

The exhibition includes a large number of works, archival documents, and ephemera produced by Július Koller not previously shown to the public. In his artistic practice, Koller deliberately multiplied and varied his works, dignifying worthless objects of common use with his personal signature and thus undermining the art world’s principles and commodity rules. Disturbing the significance of precious singular art object, the artist made full use for documentary purposes of amateur photography and copy machine. The exhibition shows the breadth, scale, and the conceptual rigor of Koller´s work, as well as the wide range of his artistic methods. It also aims to generate a new approach in the interpretation and presentation of the artist’s practice. Of considered attention is Koller’s strategy of using real objects, the real world, and everyday life as a given program for displacement; a strategy intended to put an end to aesthetics and to create a “new cultural situation,” resulting in a “new life, a new creativity, and a new Cosmohumanist Culture”. The exhibition architecture, created by the artist Josef Dabernig, refers to this genuine artist’s grammar whilst also addressing the modernist architecture of the exhibition space and its former purpose as a furniture store.

The question mark “?” was Július Koller’s signature, subject matter, and medium from 1969 onward. It was for him a universal symbol of doubt – it did not simply function as a sign that questioned the social and political situation in Czechoslovakia. This sign is even more pertinent today, as it stands for the multiple political, social, and economic uncertainties of the world we live in, and as a skeptical remark to the market driven proliferation of the globalizing art system.

Photo credits: Július Koller, P.F. 81, 1980