Adrian Ghenie at The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg
As a boy Adrian Ghenie came across a catalogue of Dutch paintings from The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, which had a profound effect on him, forming the basis for his encyclopaedic knowledge of art history. In his solo exhibition in the General Staff building at the Hermitage Museum, “I have turned my only face…” Paintings by Adrian Ghenie, the artist’s new works make reference to the work of the Old Masters in an artistic homage to the museum’s collection.
I remember there was a window open and a curtain blowing in the wind; this detail and the memory of it gave me a lot of peace. To me the museum felt like a home for art, not like a temple to art. – Adrian Ghenie recalling his first visit to the museum in 2017
Taking its title from 'On horseback at dawn' by Romanian poet Nichita Stănescu (1933–1983), the exhibition is curated by Dmitry Ozerkov, Head of the Hermitage's Department of Contemporary Art, and Anastasia Veyalko, Junior Researcher. In these new works the artist has deconstructed the image more than ever before, inviting the viewer to decipher the shifting forms in his sensuously painted canvases. As he describes, ‘the eyes don’t recognise the figure but the brain knows it is there’. These works continue Ghenie’s sustained engagement with the history of painting, recontextualising the aesthetic strategies of his predecessors, including Henri Rousseau, Vincent van Gogh and Théodore Géricault.
The dialogue Ghenie establishes with the Dutch Old Masters is conveyed with particular intensity as they hang in the same museum space. The fact that the viewer is able to repeat the artist’s journey and walk through the galleries that house these masterpieces is a unique situation. The locus of the Hermitage galleries forms a particular world of references and symbols in which Ghenie’s paintings exist. – Anastasia Veyalko
The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue that includes an interview with Adrian Ghenie and essays by the curators.
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