The Art of the North

Forget Kassel. Put Venice aside. Barely two hours away from Hamburg, NordArt 2022 will go forth without any loud scandals, unproductive conversations, half-hearted denials, and reluctant resignations. Only until October 9, 2022, works by 200 artists can be seen in the middle of Schleswig-Holstein. The exhibition of contemporary art was started in 1999 by a cultural initiative with an affinity for art and the cities of Büdelsdorf and Rendsburg. Wolfgang Gramm and Inga Aru curated the exhibition this year.

Kassel has fallen into disrepute in recent weeks. Venice is still far too crowded. Travel quickly to Büdelsdorf. Hardly any exhibition venue for contemporary art sums up the proverbial “rough charm” of the north like this former industrial area; a large hall, a restored carriage house, and a spacious park area. The backdrop creates an atmosphere of its own that not only offers a special view of today’s art, but seeks to relate the images, photographs, videos, and above all the sculptures, statues, and installations to each other and the visitors. 


NordArt, a juried exhibition in which more than 3,000 artists from all over the world apply to participate annually, aims to offer a new panorama of contemporary course development each year; this year with 200 selected artists - including some members of the sculpture network. The focus is not only on the interplay of the works with the unique backdrop, but also on the cooperation and contrast of artistic expression. The tour through the 80,000 square meter, park-like outdoor area and former Carlshütte production hall is - especially in nicer weather - on the one hand, an invitation to stroll in front of and past the art, and on the other hand, an invitation to pause and take it all in.

The exhibition in Büdelsdorf is full of contrasts: stringent construction of sculptural statics and changing dynamics meet the love of depiction, often naive narrative. Abstraction and cubism stand next to proactive figurativeness. Above all, the sculptures and statues placed in the park invite one to take a (not always edifying) stroll. There are thought-provoking, curious, and many original things to see. Not all the works are convincing. Some have been there for a long time. Some are new this year. The remarkably independent imagery of some works competes with the interchangeability of others, which seem as if they were made yesterday or even the day before. Political discourse, subtle poetry, and progressive international art events are at odds with the banality of the providential everyday. 

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Jörg Plickat, Vuelo, 2022, Corten Steel, 270 x 420 x 420 cm


No matter! After the discussions about the current world art shows in Kassel or Venice, the NordArt manages without any hidden pictures and lives through different perspectives of individual cultures. This year, the exhibition is dedicating a pavilion to Poland and will present artists from Mongolia and China in special projects. The focus will be on the question of what responsibility art can or must bear. Is she a mediator between the worlds? Does it reflect the longing for a better world? Or is it only a reflection of the present. 

Questions that are quite similar to those of the curators in Kassel. An art journey to this year’s NordArt can certainly help to find an answer. Because: Whether Kassel or Venice, east or west, south or north! The common hopes and dreams of people are similar all over the world.

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Author: Willy Hafner

Willy Hafner is a Munich art historian and freelance publicist. In 2019, he organised the Sculpture Network Labs. Since then, he has been reporting for us on exciting sculpture projects in Germany and beyond.


Cover picture: Liu Ruowangs Figurengruppe „Mr. Pinocchio“ Photo: Joerg Wohlfromm, The most photographed eye-catcher this year is the Liar by Chinse artist Liu Ruowang. The six-meter high “Pinocchio” stands in the middle of 36 human-sized figures; people in daily life. One is on the phone. One swings his briefcase. Another rushes somewhere; an everyday image. The oversized, overpowering figure, prone to lying, stands in the middle while ordinary people circulate around him: a political image - probably not only for China. 


Jan Dostál, Kreatur, 2019, Steel, Lacquered, 1200 x 700 x 600 cm
Roswitha Steinkopf, Licht, 2004, Stainless Steel, Height: 500 cm
Rainer Fest, Die Insel, 2022, Fountain: Gneiss, 4 Bronze Elements, Water, 30 x 70 x 220 cm
Jo Kley, Irrturm (soll noch größer werden), 2022, Various Granites, Height: 300 cm

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