Unity in diversity

Published April 3, 2021, 5:10 PM

by Manila Bulletin

Massive art exhibition, involving 90 artists from across Europe, explores the importance of social interaction in these isolated, divisive, and socially distanced times

ANTARCTIC VILLAGE, NO BORDERS Lucy and Jorge Orta (Photo Thierry Bal, ADAGPPress)

In the wake of the pandemic, the corrosion of democracy, (fear of) the future, solidarity and divisiveness, pandemic and globalization are more urgent than ever before. These are the central themes and concerns of the exhibition “Diversity United,” which will run from May 4 to July 31, 2021 at Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport. Uniting 90 artists, established and emerging, from 34 countries, from Portugal to Russia, from Norway to Turkey, the major travelling group show, organized by the Foundation for Art and Culture, Bonn, will showcase European dialogues, focusing on themes such as freedom and democracy, migration and territory, as well political and personal identity.

Opening against a global backdrop of crisis and political turmoil, the transnational exhibition presents an artistic survey of contemporary Europe and explores the importance of art and social interaction.

“The exhibition can be understood as a commentary on our present time and asks questions about the desired and the real state of freedom, dignity, and respect,” says Walter Smerling, chairman of the foundation and initiator of the project. “It has the power to surprise us with visionary, poetic works and illustrates the creative facets of Europe in all its incredible diversity.”

“Diversity United” considers Europe as a whole, presenting artists who transcend borders through their work, including Yinka Shonibare (CBE), Annette Messager, Mona Hatoum, Alicja Kwade, Olafur Eliasson, Wolfgang Tillmans, and Slavs and Tatars. “When you are an artist, you belong to everybody and you belong to all countries,” says participating artist Christian Boltanski. “Thus, my country is art, and all the other artists are part of my family.”

Debuting at the historic site of the former Tempelhof Airport in Berlin, “Diversity United” will subsequently travel to Moscow and Paris.

‘It is the artists who show us how to overcome existing borders in order to explore common ground. In a particularly striking manner.’

“Europe thrives because of its artistic and cultural diversity. It is the artists who show us how to overcome existing borders in order to explore common ground. In a particularly striking manner, the exhibition ‘Diversity United,’ encourages us to think about these things,” says Hermann Parzinger, president of the Foundation of Prussian Cultural Heritage.

The participating artists live and work or originate from all over Europe, including Albania, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, and Estonia. Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Kosovo, Croatia, Latvia, Moldova, and the Netherlands are also participating. So are Norway Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Czech Republic, Turkey, Hungary, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.

“Europe is based upon diversity,” says Andreas Görgen, head of the Department of Culture at the German Foreign Office. “Democracy is based upon diversity. When we are able to create an idea of the beauty inherent in diversity, then we can recognize what we have in common.”

Ronald Pofalla, chairman of the Petersburger Dialog, adds, “The European art exhibition ‘Diversity United’ will build bridges and inspire a new impetus to stimulate a dialogue, which, given the currently difficult situation vis-à-vis the relationship with Russia, is urgently needed.”

There couldn’t have been a venue more apt to launch such a massive project than Tempelhof Airport. “Tempelhof Airport is Europe’s largest iconic, imposing monument and a mirror of Europe’s history,” says Jutta Heim-Wenzler, managing director of the Tempelhof Projekt GmbH. “It is gradually being developed into a hub for art, culture, and creativity. I am thrilled that we are permitted to be the stage for this exciting exhibition embracing contemporary European art. Which other space would be more suitable than the gateway to the world, Tempelhof?”

SUSPENDED (SKY BLUE) Anri Sala, nitrite rubber, electric motor (Courtesy Hauser & Wirth and Marian Goodman Gallery

A large number of new commissions will be on show, including works from Yael Bartana (Israel, 1970), Christian Boltanski (France, 1944), Pia Fries (Switzerland, 1955), Antony Gormley (UK, 1950), Manuel Graf (Germany, 1978),  Sheila Hicks (US, 1934), Patricia Kaersenhout (Netherlands, 1966), Peter Kogler (Austria, 1959), Irina Korina (Russia, 1977), Alicja Kwade (Poland, 1979), Kris Martin (Belgium, 1972), Katja Novitskova (Estonia, 1984), Dan Perjovschi (Romania, 1961), Agnieszka Polska (Poland, 1985), Tal R (Tel Aviv, 1967), Tristan Schulze (Germany, 1964), Jan Svenungsson (Sweden, 1961), Erwin Wurm (Austria, 1954), and Yan Pei-Ming (China, 1960).

 
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