Thursday, August 27, 2015

Impressionism and Expressionism in Berlin

An Expressionist View:
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
Potsdamer Platz, 1914
Two Fashionable Prostitutes 
An Impressionist View:
Hans Herrmann
Der Potsdamer Platz 1894, 1894
Flower Seller and Middle Class Woman

A blockbuster art exhibition can double the annual attendance of an art museum and pull in significant amounts of money. But a blockbuster can also be predictable, crowded, and shallow. Last year, Berlin's Martin-Gropius-Bau hosted the David Bowie exhibition, an over-hyped spectacle that left many spectators wondering why they bothered to attend.

For the most part, I've grown weary of exhibits that feature the same limited cast of famous painters: Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh, and so forth. The scholarship attached to these exhibits is often dull and uninspiring. So it was with some excitement and a little trepidation that I recently saw ImEx, Impressionism - Expressionism, Art at a Turning Point currently on view at Berlin's Alte Nationalgalerie. Billed as a comprehensive exhibition that traces the similarities and differences of these two movements, the show is attracting large crowds. Unfortunately, ImEx is all hype, with little substance. In short, it lacks the depth and finesse I was hoping for. The comparisons found in the exhibition frequently feel forced, focusing on the obvious, without exploring the various approaches to technique and the formal characteristics of painting. While there were a few thought-out arrangements, the show as a whole was chaotic and underwhelming. 

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