A cake for Mona Lisa, lots of criticism for Documenta and NFTs: actions with brains – and art that causes headaches.
Highlights of the year
Stormy weather for arts and climate activism: It all started in May when a man slapped a cake on Mona Lisa’s bulletproof glass, calling for climate protection. Later, climate activists glued themselves to the frame of a painting by Vincent van Gogh in London. Similar actions followed – also in Switzerland.
Criticism was not long in coming. The “FaZ” joked about activists throwing tomato soup on van Gogh’s “Sunflowers”: “Soup Kasper in the Museum”.
I, on the other hand, was happy with the actions. Not just because of the urgent message. But also because the militants used works of art as targets – not diamonds or expensive cars.
For me, it showed how much these images are still perceived today. Ancient masterpieces have suddenly been placed in a contemporary context, giving them a direct link to today’s world.
The concern for work seemed disproportionate to me. The images were hardly in danger, the accusation of “iconoclasm” was not tenable. It remains to be hoped that the importance of the militants has not sunk due to anger.
Ubuweb – a virtual Wunderkammer celebrates its 25th anniversary: This year “Ubuweb” celebrated its 25th anniversary: a sort of YouTube for art nerds, full of rare films, books and sound collages.
Earlier this year, on the anniversary of this virtual treasure, I met for a video chat the founder Kenneth Goldsmith, who fascinated me like Ubuweb itself. From his New York apartment (howling sirens in the background), he announces: “The money: we don’t take it, we don’t pay for it, we don’t touch it”.
The Ubuweb is based on donations, lives on volunteer employees and above all on the utopia of a free network, as originally planned. A virtual dream come true.
The surprise of the year
Documenta: Everything out of control? Everything was supposed to be different this time at Documenta 15: instead of a single curator, the Indonesian collective Ruangrupa took care of the art exhibition. This in turn has delegated responsibility for conservation to many other groups.
As a result, various facets of humanity were shown – including the darker ones. Among other things, there were works that were classified as clearly anti-Semitic.
Apparently that was not planned. A wave of highly political indignation ensued, which was necessary, but also ensured that the rest of the works were hardly talked about anymore.
The flop of the year
NFT – not for traditionalists: Over the year, I have tried several times to understand how so-called “non-fungible” tokens work and, above all, why they are so fascinating. I understood that an “NFT” means a digitally protected object. Also, digital art needs proof of authenticity.
But I couldn’t help but suspect it was mostly a free market gimmick. The “Bored Apes” (pictures of a bored cartoon ape) didn’t convince me at least.
Until January 15, 2023, an exhibition at the Kunsthalle Zürich aims to explain to the unfindable like me what makes NFTs so attractive. Maybe I’ll learn better there.
The best of the year – our cultural review 2022
The year is almost over. Time to look back: What were the highlights of the cultural year 2022 – and what were the biggest failures?
All reviews can be found here: