Retrospective. The peculiar feature of the artist's work is that it enables us to experience urban and landscape spaces in new and remarkable ways. His approach to this creative transformation is always determined by the historical associations of the site, and he uses a complex system of signs to develop a multitude of social, historical and political references which impose themselves on the viewer's awareness through an unusual design of great aesthetic density. He transforms the power of memory to create new, sensuous and communicative spheres of experience.
Curator Dr. Fritz Jacobi, Nationalgalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Associate Curator Noa karavan-Cohen
This is the first time that a major retrospective has been devoted to the Israeli artist Dani Karavan in Germany. The exhibition is housed in the Martin-Gropius-Bau and mounted in cooperation with the Nationalgalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Previously it was to be seen at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. The Association of Friends of the Nationalgalerie has given the exhibition generous backing, while the project would not have been possible without the support of the capital’s Cultural Fund. The exhibition will be a contribution to Israel’s 60th birthday.
The peculiar feature of Dani Karavan’s work as an artist is that it enables us to experience urban and landscape spaces in new and remarkable ways. His approach to this creative transformation is always determined by the historical associations of the site, and he uses a complex system of signs to develop a multitude of social, historical and political references which impose themselves on the viewer’s awareness through an unusual design of great aesthetic density. He transforms the power of memory to create new, sensuous and communicative spheres of experience.
In this process the intensive dialogue between man, nature and art plays a crucial role, since Karavan proceeds from the basic assumption that: “Everything that human beings know has its origin in nature. All forms, whether hidden or open, are to be found in nature. Even things that only exist in the imagination or the unconscious are products of nature.”
Dani Karavan was born in Tel Aviv in 1930. He studied first in Tel Aviv and later in Jerusalem at the renowned Bezalel Academy of Arts. After he had spent a few years on a kibbutz, studied fresco techniques in Florence (1956/57) and worked as a set designer for drama and dance companies like the famous Martha Graham Dance Company, Dani Karavan began to work on large-scale site-specific environments. His first major work, the Monument to the Negev Brigade in Beersheba, which was completed in 1968, brought him international recognition. In memory of Israel’s War of Independence in 1947/48 he created a powerful, tectonic sculptural ensemble that in the archaic clarity of its austere geometrical forms became an impressive symbol of assertiveness in the barren desert landscape.
Another outstanding example of his artistic work is “Passages” (1990–1994) in Port Bou on the Spanish-French border, a commemorative sculpture dedicated to Walter Benjamin at the place where Benjamin took his own life while fleeing the Nazis in 1940. The visitor goes down a narrow flight of steps, hewn out of the solid rock of the coastal cliff and apparently leading nowhere. The gaze is led through an inset glass pane with a slightly altered quotation from Benjamin and directed at the ever-changing sea that embodies in equal measure the immediacy of motion and endless eternal distance. Reality becomes a place of meditation.
Dani Karavan, who now divides his time between Paris and Tel Aviv, has since produced works in many countries: Israel, Italy, France, Germany, Denmark, The Netherlands, Spain, the USA, Korea, Japan, and especially in Germany. Since he took part in documenta 6 in Kassel in 1977 Germany has become one of the most important places for Dani Karavan’s artistic work, for it is here that he created a whole series of works for public spaces. These include “Ma’alot” in Cologne (1979–1986), the “Strasse der Menschenrechte” (Human Rights Street) in Nuremberg (1989-1993), “Mimaamakim” in Gelsenkirchen (1997), and “Grundgesetz 49” in Berlin (2002).
The high international regard in which Dani Karavan’s output is held is shown not least by the award of the “Imperial Ring of the City of Goslar” in 1996, his admission to the Pour le Mérite Order for Art and Sciences in 1997, the conferment of Japan’s “Praemium Imperiale” in 1998, and the award of the Piepenbrock Prize for Sculpture in 2004.
The exhibition on the first floor of the Martin-Gropius-Bau will give a comprehensive overview of Dani Karavan’s work spread over 20 rooms. Beginning with a survey of his artistic beginnings, all his major phases and works will be presented.
The large-scale environments in public places are documented by models, photographs and impressive films. In exciting contrast to this Dani Karavan has developed for the exhibition new installations that illustrate his way of working and how he uses certain materials and metaphors. In keeping with his method of artistically exploring the potential of a site to elicit memories, the artist reacts to Berlin by exploring the traces of its fascist past, the division of the city, and how that division was overcome. At the entrance gate to the Martin-Gropius-Bau, in the immediate vicinity of the former Berlin Wall, a work on this theme is to be installed.
On the occasion of the exhibition a comprehensive catalogue of Dani Karavan’s oeuvre will appear, containing a general survey of the phases of the work and a commentary to accompany a tour of the exhibition. The catalogue will be published in German and largely based on the catalogue published by the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, although it will be provided with a different layout, a number of new text passages and, in some cases, different illustrations designed to bring it into line with the Berlin exhibition.
To be published by the Ernst Wasmuth Verlag, Tübingen
Edited by Dr. Fritz Jacobi, Mordechai Omer and Jule Reuter
in cooperation with Noa Karavan-Cohen
407 pages (ISBN: 978 3 8030 3325 3)
Museum edition: € 25.00
Bookshop edition: € 49.80
Berliner Festspiele in cooperation with the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Nationalgalerie.
Exhibition by the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.
Facilitated by the Hauptstadtkulturfonds Berlin.
With the support of the Verein der Freunde der Nationalgalerie.
Supported by Hartwig Piepenbrock Kulturstiftung and EL AL.
Press conference: 13. March, h 11 a.m.
Opening: 13. March, h 7 p.m.
Niederkirchnerstrasse 7 - Berlin