Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Albertinum Galerie Neue Meister: Contemporary Art

The last of the Albertinum. I’d been at it 5 hours by the time I was through. I thought I was doing well. No idea, Frances, no idea.

The Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden’s Galerie Neue Meister (the bits I’m calling the contemporary collection) in the Albertinum I didn’t photograph so much, and I’m wondering if it was complete. Certainly parts of the museum were closed, and there seemed to be plenty of construction going on in various buildings. Of all the museums though, the Albertinum got its lighting right. Mostly it was natural light, diffused in such a way that there was very little reflected glare on the art. Of course art since the late-19th century was way less infatuated with lashings of glaze, or acres of darkness, nor suffering from centuries of light damage. Which is not to say my camera was all nonplused about what it saw.

We start with Dresden’s own Gerhard Richter. High abstract expressionism, one of the big men of art. I’m generally not so interested in big men. I’ve had a lifetime of art study where it’s big men with big names and big art and it’s a little too easy and unreflective. But we all know that, we all know Frances and her didactic positions on everything from art to car racing. And I’ve been looking at and walking through art for 5 hours straight now so I’m slightly more receptive to just taking in what I see as it enters my field of view. And look, it’s impressive, these hallucinogenic horizontal lines in Strip (927-9) or the neutral grey of Grau (401), which is difficult to truly focus on (my camera had a fit trying to understand what I was asking of it). Some of the other works, like März (807) or Abstract Painting (865-2) I feel I’ve seen multiple variations by multiple artists, and as much as I accept here I’m in the city of Richter in the Richter collection, I don’t find them especially compelling. But those horizontal lines, at that moment, priceless.

Likewise with Günter Fruhtrunk or Sigmar Polke or Frank Nitsche, they’re all big names and it’s good to experience the history of 20th century art, particularly in a city with such a history of artists, and I do love the eyeburn caused by Fruhtrunk’s flourescent orange, yellow, green Die Illusion vom Grund, but. But. There’s one woman artist I saw in all this (maybe others, just only noticed only one), as if the history of art was only male, with a rare, unremarkable exception. Katharina Sieverding is an exception though, her Deutschland wird deutscher is the only explicitly political work in all these. I also like it because it’s punchy and in your face. It looks like a bunch of knives in a masked face. It’s deeply unfriendly, the underside of Germany that remains unaddressed. It kicks the shit out of the noodling geometric doodles of Nitsche and the others and really forces the question at them, “What are you doing?” I have this argument occasionally with German artists where they claim they’re not political, and I tell them they’re lucky they can choose not to be, the rest of us don’t have that luxury. That’s what Deutschland wird deutscher is.

Finally, before I exit into the afternoon, there’s two works by Valérie Favre, they’re unclean Lovecraftian My Little Pony horror, oozing and dribbling pustules of colour that don’t belong together on backgrounds that suck the light out of the room the more you look at them. You really wouldn’t want to find yourself awake in that world. Probably my second favourite of the contemporary artists after Birgit Dieker, who also does a good line in corporeal horror.

Albertinum done, last stop for the day is Residenzschloss, though I don’t know it. I thought I’d get to the Libeskindian Militärhistorisches Museum der Bundeswehr. Wrong. 9 hours will barely get you through the three museums in the Altstadt.