This exhibition is being jointly produced by the Azienda Speciale Palaexpo with the Städel Museum in Frankfurt, the Moderna Museet in Stockholm and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.
The exhibition explores a very special phase in the career of Georg Baselitz, one of Europe's most celebrated contemporary artists, for the very first time.
Born in Sachsen-Anhalt in 1938 and educated in the German Democratic Republic, Baselitz moved to the Federal Republic of Germany in 1958. At the age of only twenty, between 1965 and 1966, he painted a cycle of pictures entitled The Heroes, almost all of which are on display in the exhibition.
His figures are combatants, partisans and the victims of war, in which the character of the hero, in its exclusively male variant, doffs the positive image associated with the rhetoric of war, postwar propaganda and the individualism of German culture, to display his fragility, his precariousness, his inconsistency, and even his failure. Giants in tattered uniforms stand out starkly, wounded and vulnerable, against a backdrop of rubble. They look like warriors, yet they emanate a sense of surprising delicacy.
In the mid-sixties, turning his back on the contemporary expressions of the avant-garde that turned its nose up at painting, Baselitz used his art to explore the theme of the dissolution of the order that people previously believed governed the ideological, political and aesthetic spheres.
"I was born into a destroyed order", Baselitz said in an interview he gave in 1995, "a destroyed landscape, a destroyed people, a destroyed society. And I didn’t want to re-establish an order: I’d seen enough of so-called order’".
In his Heroes, a seminal cycle that attracted strong criticism when it first appeared, the artist reveals the ambiguous nature of the present, imparting form and image to a sense of the tragic, capable of demolishing the myths of the past but, at the same time, of jeopardising the optimism of the postwar economic boom.
Max Hollein writes in the exhition catalogue: "Embedded within the Hero paintings is an allegory of adolescence, as well as the themes of suffering, guilt, rebellion and hope within a world felt to be foreign, false or damaged."
The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue in Italian published by Hirmer Verlag in Munich. English and German editions will also be available. The catalogue is edited by Max Hollein and Eva Mongi-Vollmer, with essays by the editors and by Richard Shiff, Uwe Fleckner and Alexander Kluge.