UNEARTHED at St.Agnes
9 SEPTEMBER – 24 OCTOBER 2021
With UNEARTHED, KÖNIG GALERIE presents Daniel Arsham‘s first solo exhibition in Berlin. The show combines two separate but interrelated bodies of work, that aim to create a scenario in which objects from ancient past, are contextualized in the future.
Arsham transforms the nave of the former brutalist church of St. Agnes into a hall of antiquities surrounded by three painted landscapes of rocky grottos. Being the largest paintings that the artist has made to date, they were inspired by the enormity and unusual scale of St. Agnes. Arranged on pedestals, an array of hydrostone busts appear within the nave, as if the first collection of antiquities had just been opened to the public. In the past, reproductions were often used in such presentations.
Arsham’s reinterpretations of works from classical antiquity are recast in various geological materials, such as volcanic ash and quartz crystal. Busts of Apollo, Augustus Cesar, and Venus are all familiar figures from antiquity, which the artist has reimagined: broken, dilapidated, eroded. At the center of the exhibition stands the WINGED VICTORY, a reference to the famous goddess of victory Nike, which the Louvre holds in its collection, and whose original cast served as a direct model. It is the largest sculpture of its kind that the New York artist has made to date.
Daniel Arsham is otherwise known for turning iconic objects and figures of the media age like Blackberries and Pokémon into future relics of fictional archaeology. In UNEARTHED he goes back thousands of years in history and pushes his fictional archaeological pieces from antiquity 1,000 or 10,000 years into the future. While the sculptures seem well-known to spectator and the allegory of the cave is familiar from Plato’s philosophy, nothing is as one knows it. The people in Arsham’s paintings are no shackled humans. They are modern explorers, hoping for archaic knowledge to be gained from the monumental sculptures that rest in their caves like ancient artefacts, waiting to be discovered. Arsham’s antiquity promises knowledge of the future in the present.
Daniel Arsham, Unearthed, KÖNIG GALERIE | NAVE, exhibition view by Roman März