Aby Warburg: Bilderatlas Mnemosyne - The Original

Aby Warburg: Bilderatlas Mnemosyne - The Original

Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW)

(1) Aby Warburg, Bilderatlas Mnemosyne, Panel 39 and 77 (recovered). Photo: Wootton / fluid. Courtesy The Warburg Institute. (2) Aby Warburg, Bilderatlas Mnemosyne, Panel 55. © The Warburg Institute.

August 25, 2020
Aby Warburg: Bilderatlas Mnemosyne - The Original
September 4–November 30, 2020
Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW)
John-Foster-Dulles-Allee 10
10557 Berlin

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In the 1920s, Aby Warburg (1866–1929), the scholar of art and culture, created his Bilderatlas Mnemosyne tracing recurring visual themes, gestures and patterns across time, from antiquity to the Renaissance and beyond to contemporary culture. At HKW all 63 panels of the Atlas will be reconstituted for the first time from Warburg’s original, partly multi-colored images.

Warburg’s methodology set new standards: it consisted in rearranging canonized images and looking at them across epochs. His project traversed the boundaries between art history, philosophy and anthropology and was fundamental for the modern disciplines of visual and media studies. Today, his use of visual memory provides inspiration and alternative routes through a reality dominated by visual media.

The exhibition at HKW restores the last documented version of the 1929 Atlas almost completely with the original images. In collaboration with the Warburg Institute the curators Roberto Ohrt and Axel Heil have located most of the 971 originals, some in color, from the 400,000 individual objects in the Institute’s Photographic Collection to show all 63 panels of Warburg’s unfinished magnum opus for the first time since his death. In addition, 20 unpublished large-scale photographs of panels that were previously only accessible in the Warburg Institute archives will be displayed: Most of them made in the summer of 1928, they document an earlier version of the Atlas and are presented as large prints of the original black and white negatives.

Parallel to the exhibition at HKW, the Gemäldegalerie shows works of art from prehistory and early history to modern times, which served the art historian Aby Warburg as models for his encyclopedic picture collection. Works from ten collections of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin enter into an impressive dialogue with Warburg’s Magnum Opus as a three-dimensional re-enactment.

Aby Warburg studied the interplay of images from different periods and cultural contexts. He designed the Bilderatlas Mnemosyne to provide a pictorial representation of the influences of the ancient world in the Renaissance and beyond. The Atlas consisted of large black panels on which he placed photographic reproductions of artworks from the Middle East, European antiquity and the Renaissance, alongside contemporary newspaper clippings and advertisements. In the years leading to his death in 1929, Warburg and his closest colleagues Gertrud Bing and Fritz Saxl experimented with the form and function of the Bilderatlas. Their goal was to present a publication designed for discussion among experts as well as the broader public. During the course of its creation, the Atlas developed into an instrument of cognition.

A folio volume gathers the 63 panels of Warburg’s Atlas—newly photographed from the original, multi-colored images and the 20 panels from the previous versions in black and white along with essays by Axel Heil, Roberto Ohrt, Bernd Scherer, Bill Sherman and Claudia Wedepohl. The captions have been updated and supplemented by the authors Roberto Ohrt, Axel Heil and the Mnemosyne research group since 2012 and show the state of research as of February 2020. A second volume with extensive commentaries by the curators will be published in spring 2021, both by Hatje Cantz.

The exhibition Aby Warburg: Bilderatlas Mnemosyne - The Original at HKW is curated by Roberto Ohrt and Axel Heil in cooperation with the Warburg Institute.

The exhibition Between Cosmos and Pathos. Berlin Works from Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas at the Gemäldegalerie is curated by Neville Rowley and Jörg Völlnagel. companion guide to the exhibition of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin at the Gemäldegalerie has been published by Deutscher Kunstverlag.

Aby Warburg: Bilderatlas Mnemosyne - The Original, part of The New Alphabet (2019-2021) is supported by the State Minister for Culture and the Media due to a ruling of the German Bundestag.


Press contacts:
Haus der Kulturen der Welt
Anne Maier
T +49 30 39787 153 / anne.maier [​at​] hkw.de

Gemäldegalerie, Kulturforum
Elisabeth Pannrucker
T +49 30 266 42 3401 / presse [​at​] smb.spk-berlin.de

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Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW)
August 25, 2020

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