The Botticelli Renaissance
Edgar Degas, Edward Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, René Magritte, Andy Warhol, Bill Viola
Julia Margaret Cameron, Rineke Dijkstra, Paul Himmel, David LaChapelle, Cindy Sherman, and others
Opening: Wednesday, September 23, 2015, 19h
Exhibition: September 24, 2015 – January 24, 2016
Tue-Fri 10-18h, Thu 10-20h, Sat & Sun 11-18h
The Florentine painter Sandro Botticelli (1445–1510) is considered to be one of the most prominent artists of the Renaissance. His paintings were reproduced and interpreted repeatedly, his motifs frequently captured and distorted. As independent, new works, they deviate from the originals in their own separate ways. They can differ so greatly from Botticelli’s pictures that the name of the painter can now represent fashion and lifestyle without his paintings ever being discussed, for example. Products are named after him, productions from popular culture follow his models and some of his figures – predominantly “Venus” – have become part of a universal visual memory.
The fame Botticelli enjoys today is not self-evident. Initially forgotten after his death, he was only rediscovered in the 19th century. The English artistic movement of the pre-Raphaelites and their veneration of Botticelli was a crucial factor behind the beginning of this fascinating Renaissance, which has captured the imaginations of an increasing number of artists and a constantly growing audience to this day. Botticelli’s work has been interpreted in very different ways ever since. From a modern perspective, it gives rise to a variety of questions: How did the painter gain universal fame? How did he become a pop icon? Why are his works considered timeless and so “European” that they even appear on Euro coins? It is safe to say that Botticelli inspires the art of modernity and the present age like virtually no other old master. The exhibition traces this eventful history of changing appropriations and re-evaluations into the present day. For the first time, the work of Sandro Botticelli – with more than 50 works – has been gathered into one exhibition alongside his appropriations and interpretations. In total, there are over 150 exhibits on display, including numerous masterpieces from the greatest collections in the world. Drawings, sculptures, photographs, videos and objects from fashion and design will be presented alongside the paintings.
The approach to Botticelli is thereby taken via contemporary interpretations and covers the key works of his rediscovery in the 19th century. From David LaChapelle, Bill Viola, Cindy Sherman, Andy Warhol, René Magritte, Francis Picabia and Elsa Schiaparelli to Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones and Gustave Moreau. Visitors experience a journey back through time to the works of Renaissance masters. Surprising perspectives and retrospectives along the way enable meaningful connections to be made time and time again. In the process, visitors are guided by “talking” exhibition architecture, which makes the correlation in content tangible. In this way, Botticelli’s oeuvre is understood as a body whose core remains reserved for the two single works signed by the artist. The other works in the presentation have not been deliberately subjected to any kind of hierarchy.
The appearance of the exhibition was substantially designed in a cooperation between the Gemäldegalerie and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Berlin has been in possession of an impressive amount of the Botticelli’s works since the early years of the master’s rediscovery at the start of the 19th century. The Gemäldegalerie of the former Königliche (royal), now Staatliche (state) Museen zu Berlin, which was opened in the 1830s, had the formerly largest portfolio of Botticelli paintings beyond the master’s old domain – Florence. As a result, the Gemäldegalerie decided to realise the “Botticelli Renaissance” of the following century, having the exhibition project primarily in the Gemäldegalerie – a crucial precondition for Michael Eissenhauer, general director of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin:
The exhibition at the Kulturforum will kindle a new appreciation of Botticelli’s paintings, which have frequently served as a source of inspiration for artists. The outstanding Botticelli collection of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin forms a springboard for an impressive bridge to the art of the present day.”
The Botticelli originals of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin complement the Victoria and Albert Museum’s first-rate portfolios of works by pre- Raphaelite painters and Victorian crafts superbly. Martin Roth, director of the Victoria and Albert Museum:
“We are delighted to be working in partnership on this innovative re-examination of Botticelli’s work, which is only possible by sharing the resources, creativity and expertise of both partners. Next to the Gemäldegalerie’s finest collections of Renaissance paintings the V&A has equally renowned collections of art and design, providing the broader context and understanding of Botticelli as a design phenomenon in the present day. We look forward to hosting the second stage of our joint exhibition, opening in London on 5 March.”
Following its presentation in Berlin, the exhibition will be on display in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, from 5th March to 3rd July 2016, entitled “Botticelli Reimagined”.