I am willing to contradict the tagline of this blog in order to discuss this year´s Kunstakademie Düsseldorf Rundgang which took place last week.
Düsseldorf Art Academy has long since been considered one of Europe’s foremost Art Schools, the likes of Paul Klee have taught there and amongst its alumni it boasts Joseph Bueys and Gerhard Richter to note just a couple. This being the case it is not surprising that the institution’s degree show or ‘Rundgang’ is one of the most observed events on the German arts calendar.
At Düsseldorf the professors pick their students. This means that the each room at the degree show (which takes up the entire three floors of the art school building) is dedicated to a specific professor’s class, or the works that said professor has chosen to represent his class. As for the ‘unselected’ students their work is left, perhaps unfairly, to line the corridors between each of the showrooms. Discrimination aside, with Peter Doig and Andreas Gurksy as current professors it was with a sense of anticipation that I first stepped through the academy’s doors.
Sadly what came next, as seems to be the case with most large degree shows, was disappointing. Of course one can put this down to probability, with so many artworks on display it is inevitable that only a few will stand out in the end. The pieces that shone did so for the personality behind them. Take Katharina Beilstein’s ‘Platforms’; a range of brightly coloured sculptures, precisely crafted from wood and plastic to take the form of outlandish platform shoes. Although one could argue that they are more fashion design than fine art, the quality of the pieces themselves as well as their clear character made a refreshing change from the foggy mass of almost-anonymous art.
I believe that Art Schools play a pivotal role in helping students to find their ‘artistic identity’ and I do not wish to undermine this process for a second. However I myself belonging to a generation whose identity has been dwarfed by the internet, couldn’t help feeling disheartened by the lack of creative autonomy on display. Internet MEEMS reproduced in various mediums alongside an over-prevalence of frankly past-it 90’s themes worked together to give the impression of a bunch of people that had spent too much time on Instagram.
But perhaps that was the point, perhaps it was this precise feeling of living in an identity-less digital age that the students wished to relay. However if this was the case then I can’t help feeling that they could have done so with more humour. There was one example which can be upheld as managing both of these things and that was one student’s identical recreation of Gerhard Richter’s ‘Betty,’ a clear middle-finger to the anonymity of our age, at least it made me laugh.