Five-Year Anniversary: Museum of American Art, Berlin
Open since 2004, the Museum of American Art (MoAA) in Berlin’s Friedrichshain district (member AIM) joins New York’s Salon de Fleurus and the Kunsthistorisches Mausoleum in Belgrade as part of a movement that uses anonymous copies of canonical works of art to deconstruct the narratives governing postwar and modernist art in Western Europe and the US. MoAA exhibits large-scale copies of the masterpieces of American gestural abstraction—from Kline to Rothko–in a small ground-floor apartment in a Berlin Hinterhof, complete with kidney-shaped tables, stuffy rugs and 50’s-style knick-knack. The violent clash between the heroic rhetoric of the large abstract paintings on the walls and the mundane, lower-middle class furniture is a calculated instance of Verfremdung: where Abstract Expressionism promotes the loneliness of the (male) artist as a necessary precondition for the heroic formalization of subjectivity, here it is the paintings themselves that appear lonely and un-housed; they clearly do not belong here.
‘The shabby apartment to which MoAA and its collection of majestic copies is home could be that of Alfred Barr, the founder of New York’s MoMA and organizer of its foundational show based on Cubism and early European abstraction. Not only does MoAA feature a model of Barr’s MoMA as one of its exhibits, it is also designed to preserve and exhibit the memory of MoMA’s famed International Program (directed by Dorothy Miller in the 1950s) that was designed to bring new American art to Europe. MoAA’s critique of the institution operates very differently from the critical model offered by the Western European left. Where the latter is based on distance and desublimation, MoAA seeks identification and re-sublimation in way reminiscent of NSK and similar South-Eastern European formations. Open by appointment. Website: www.museum-of-american-art.org.