Friday, 2 December 2011


GESAMTKUNSTWERK: new art from Germany 
 Saatchi Gallery

Some artwork is shown in buildings so lovely that there's a great pleasure in just being there. That’s true of Saatchi’s gallery just off the Kings Road. It's dusk and through tall windows you can just see on the green outside a class of young children  playing ball, their uniforms making a harmonious pattern . The scene could be an illustration from a 1930s children’s book. Beyond the railings stand a group of women waiting with their prams and push chairs, chatting in every language.

You walk through large airy spaces.Turn a corner on the corridor of the first floor and through the archway this languorous figure comes into view. She’s still far away at the end of Gallery7. Is she a drawing or sculpture? Closer, the black silhouette is transformed into a purple painted figure. She is made of roof batten, canvas, lacquer, thread and screws, materials Herold has been working with for decades.

We’re used to seeing images of women’s bodies which have been pulled this way and that. The Barbie doll may the patron saint of distortion, but she is only part of a spectrum of fashion illustration which gives women emaciated arms and narrow hips, giraffe legs and shoes that crimp, . One commentator says she looks as if she’s been dragged along the ground with her hands tied above her head. Isn’t that taking things a bit far?  Perhaps she’s enjoying being young and supple and beautiful and is celebrating with a good stretch (and maybe a hidden yawn) ?

The gallery notes on Untitled 2011 (115 x 510 x 65 cm) say ‘The artist’s ironic, pop-tinged humour is an irresistible part of the process.’  Why humour? In the late 1970s in Western Germany it had begun to look as if the idealistic projects of the 60s had disappeared,  Herold became one of a wave of radical young German artists, including Martin Kippenberger, who chose to create work which was obscure and playful rather than heavy with overt political messages.  Kippenberger’s masterpiece - The Happy End of Franz Kafka’s Amerika. 1994 , based on Kafka’s unfinished novel Amerika - was shown  at Tate Britain in 2006 and is unforgettable. It’s a fictional ‘utopia’ of universal employment, a ‘circus in town’ and consisted of an astonishing assembly of over 40 tables & many more chairs from Eames designs to furniture bought at a flea market. It had tall Dickensian desks & ‘ dentists’ chairs on a merry go round. Most memorable was a desk with the middle panel missing so that the work would fall through to the floor.

Herold himself says of his art 'I intend to reach a state that is ambiguous and allows all sorts of interpretations'.

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