March 23, 2013 - Museum Ludwig, Cologne - Saul Steinberg: The Americans at Museum Ludwig, Cologne
March 23, 2013

Saul Steinberg: The Americans at Museum Ludwig, Cologne

Saul Steinberg, The Americans. Main Street – Small Town, 1958. Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Bruxelles.
© The Saul Steinberg Foundation / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013.

Saul Steinberg
The Americans
March 23–June 23, 2013

Museum Ludwig, Cologne
50667 Cologne

Saul Steinberg’s The Americans, a colossal mural-collage over seventy meters long made for the U.S. pavilion at the 1958 Brussel’s World’s Fair, is being exhibited by the Museum Ludwig in its complete state for the first time since the Fair closed. The exhibition will also include a selection of related drawings from the 1950s and magazine features by the artist who always crossed the boundaries between high and low art.

Romanian-born Steinberg (1914–1999) studied architecture in Milan before emigrating to America in 1942. He settled in New York and achieved prominence for his drawings for The New Yorker and other magazines, as well as his art for galleries and museums (long before his famous View of the World from 9th Avenue from 1976). For the U.S. pavilion at Expo 58—the first world’s fair to be mounted after World War II, which was shaped by the Cold War rivalry between the U.S. and Soviet pavilions—Steinberg created a monumental mural-collage consisting of eight panels with a total length of over seventy meters.

They present a panorama of everyday life in America, ranging from the hustle and bustle of the big city to the apparently idyllic world of rural communities. An array of collaged human figures dominates the foregrounds, sometimes singly, sometimes densely packed, often against a background of enlarged photographs of drawings. The figures testify to Steinberg’s assimilation of a wide range of artistic influences and to his creative engagement with a variety of media and materials, including drawing, photography, wallpaper, packing paper, and comics. His view of the American way of life, though affectionately humorous, does not exclude its darker aspects. He looks at the United States with the fresh eyes of an immigrant, observing and registering phenomena like the postwar automobile culture and urban development, but also the culture of corporate conformity and a sociological sense of alienation.

Museum Ludwig, Cologne
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