“Jeff Wall: Appearance” will premiere with the Grand Opening on June 1, 2018

“Jeff Wall: Appearance” will premiere with the Grand Opening on June 1, 2018
Lena Berkler

Kunsthalle Mannheim honors this pioneer of fine art photography with a special exhibition
Jeff Wall established his reputation in the 1970s with his large-format photographs and lightboxes, which reenvisaged fine art photography. “Jeff Wall: Appearance” (June 2 to September 9, 2018) is the first special exhibition in the new Kunsthalle Mannheim, which opens its doors on Friday, June 1, 2018 at 6pm with a Grand Opening. In six rooms comprising 900 square meters, the show explores the central elements in Wall’s oeuvre:  the enigmatic and the grotesque, the relation of an image within an image, people in interiors, language and gestures, as well as role plays and interactions.
“We focus on works from his more recent creative period. Alongside his lightboxes and black-and-white-photographs, we will be the first to showcase a unique work group of color photographs,” explains curator Dr. Sebastian Baden. He conceived the exhibition together with Christophe Gallois and Clement Minighetti of the Mudam Luxembourg (Musee d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean).
The exhibition plumbs the multiple meanings of the exhibition title, “Appearance”, which the artist chose himself. Wall investigates the technical and metaphorical qualities assigned to a photographic image. Furthermore, the title plays on the question of reality in a photograph and how this reality might be staged. Over thirty works from different creative periods were selected from the artist’s studio and from international lenders. More recent pieces and early key works are grouped by themes, allowing a fresh take on the photographer’s oeuvre at the age of 71. The majority of the exhibited works date from the past twenty years.
The exhibition is conceived on basis of the image “Search of Premises” (2009), which depicts a crime scene being photographed and investigated for clues. “Picture for Women” (1979) is an important early piece that displays the artist’s photographic self-observation and self-depiction as central to the origins of his work. The exhibition is completed with new works showing scenes of costuming and masking, which reference Wall’s practice of staging (as in “Mask Maker”, 2015, and “Changing Room”, 2014).
Jeff Wall is one of the most important figures in contemporary fine art photography: The Canadian-born artist received the Hasselblad Award for Photography in 2002 and has influenced art history and the meaning of artistic photography significantly from his very first exhibition in 1978. His radiant, atmospherically dense images are a constant source of wonder, rendering narrative aspects mundane and mysterious at once. In his works, Wall is able to depict the perception of the self and its surroundings in an artistically impressive manner.

The exhibition will take place in cooperation with Mudam Luxembourg (Musee d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean), where it will travel after Mannheim (October 5, 2018 to January 6, 2019).

An exhibition catalogue will be published with the Edition Cantz, with contributions by David Campany, Jean-Francois Chevrier, Bernd Stiegler, and the curators (142 pages, 30 large plates, €29.80).

On the occasion of the exhibition, a symposium entitled “Photography as Art: Why Jeff Wall matters today” will be held on July 25 and 26 at the Kunsthalle Mannheim, with the aim of stimulating discussion about current art historical research on the subject of photography in the context of Jeff Wall’s work. Contributions for the symposium are being accepted until May 6, and the jury will make their selection in May.