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Art failure

How a new German art exhibition blurs the line between creativity and manufacturing.

Am I the only one who finds it hard to connect the Germany of Beethoven and Wagner, Dürer and Holbein, with the nation’s art output of today? The reason I’m mentioning this is that I’ve just been to the exhibition of new German art at London’s lovely Saatchi Gallery, and I have to say I came away distinctly underwhelmed.

The main driving force seemed to me to be a desperation not to do the obvious. Indeed one of the artists, Isa Genzken, states in the catalogue notes, ‘There is nothing worse in art than, “you see it and you know it”…That’s a certainty I don’t like.’

Unfortunately, the result is that any possible meaning to the works is virtually completely obscured under layers of over-intellectualisation. Frankly, I thought we could have done with a lot more certainty and simplicity – and a great deal less self-consciousness and deliberate obfuscation. And probably more continuity with all those great artists of yesteryear.

There were, of course, a lot of ‘found object’ creations, which is expected for a country which makes lots of stuff. However there was very little passion or celebration in anything, and indeed the most common descriptive phrase appearing in the catalogue seemed to be ‘post-apocalyptic’. All I can say is, cheer up, you Germans!

I did, however, like the energy and colour in Andre Butzer’s giant canvasses, and Gert and Uwe Tobias’ whimsical carnivalesque panels.

Every show at the Saatchi usually has a memorable gimmick, and this one’s was a giant mirror which vibrated when you walked in front of it. The poor security girl for the room complained it was giving her a headache, and you could see why.

Actually, the best bit of the whole experience was the Christmas decoration outside, specifically the giant pyramidical Christmas tree swirled with a sash of lights, right by the street entrance. No credit for the artist on it or around it, but I’d like to give him, or her, a pat on the back.

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