Art & Alchemy at Museum Kunstpalast

Max Ernst
Men Shall Know Nothing of This
1923, oil on canvas, Tate London
Photo@ Tate, London 2013, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

The exhibition Art & Alchemy has been over three years in the making and sends one on an intriguing exploration into how both scientists and artists have dealt with the idea of transition, creating something precious from something ordinary - from the medieval artist Dürer's view of what occurred when Eve bit into the apple, to Albert Einstein's recipe for alchemy to the psychoanalytical view of the early 20th century.

My Cymical Pleasure Garden
Gerda Steiner & Jörg Lenzinger
Photo©Oliver Miltzner 

But what is this exhibition actually about? I think it is a little tricky to grasp at first, and of course the core idea deals with scientists and their often secret work in gloomy spaces but wonder around and you soon understand that the entire show is about us - human beings - and our constant search for change, the possible and the impossible, for the unknown and possibly for the unattainable.

The exhibition was conceived in collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin and experts from the Chemical Foundation in Philadelphia as a result of the very first conversation Museum Kunstpalast's director Beat Wismer exchanged with Dedo von Kerssenbrock-Krosigk who had departed the Corning Glass Museum in upstate NY to come to Düsseldorf's Hentrich Glass Museum as its new head, within the Museum Kunstpalast. Glass-making of course being such an everyday wonder that accompanies us everywhere - man took sand and made it into glass, and not just functional glass, the artists took this incredible material and turned it into the most splendidly stunning pieces.

The museum has created a dark and mysterious wing of the exhibition
Photo©Oliver Miltzner

Now, some years later, this vision has come true. Curated by Dedo von Kerssenbrock-Krosigk, the historical wing of the exhibition is crammed with wondrous pieces ranging from artistic interpretations of the biblical apple, and how its symbolism changed the path of mankind; the astonishing Ripley Scrolls from the late 15th century; pieces from the occult; a marvellous wonder cabinet that one could spend all day in; a set-up of a lab as it could have been found hundreds of years ago and was typical for many aristocratic homes; and numerous beautiful paintings and interpretations of alchemy.

Together with Beat Wismer, Anita Hachmann curated the contemporary view of the exhibition in a separate wing. This is bright, and full of future concepts including 20th century paintings by Max Ernst, interpreting his surrealists visions of the transition that takes place when male and female get together. Conceptual art plays a major role in this part of the exhibition and includes Josef Beyus 7000 Oaks from the Documenta 1982 and Marcel Duchamp's 'The Box in a Suitcase'.
The ideas never stop as you see Wilhelm Mundt's 'Trashstone' series, sculpture made from trash that is taped together, reformed, ground and polished to be transformed to beautifully tactile pieces to everyone's favourite eye catcher the exquisite 'The Chymical Pleasure Garden' an inviting installation incorporating carpet, salts and crystals, wasp's nest, wax, anti-wrinkle cream and, and, and, all connected and all influencing one another and actually changing, growing, transforming throughout the show ... a beautiful piece created in the museum especially for this exhibition by Gerda Steiner & Jörg Lenzlinger.

Rebecca Horn, Zen of Ara 2011
Feathers, electric motor and brass
Private collection Rebecca horn
Photo: Karin Weyrich ©VG Bild-Kunst Bonn 2014

An exhibition that certainly deserves to be seen more than once.

The catalogue Art & Alchemy also comes highly recommended, it's a beautiful record of a universal subject.

RhineBuzz tour in English with curator Dr Dedo von Kerssenbrock-Krosigk 
May 15 at 7pm
Special price €9.50 group entry - inc. complimentary tour

Museum Kunstpalast 
Ehrenhof 4-5
40479 Düsseldorf