December 15, 2011 - Museum Ludwig, Cologne - Before the Law at Museum Ludwig, Cologne
December 15, 2011

Before the Law at Museum Ludwig, Cologne

Zoe Leonard, Tree, 1997/2011.
Museum Ludwig, Cologne. 
Photo by Nico Weber.

Before the Law
Post-War Sculptures and Spaces of Contemporary Art
A joint exhibition of Museum Ludwig and Siemens Stiftung
17 December 2011–22 April 2012 

Museum Ludwig, Cologne
50667 Cologne


Before the Law combines figurative sculptures from the post-war era with contemporary positions, spanning an arc across the last sixty years. The catastrophe of World War II constitutes a fundamental break with human rights and human dignity that has been determinative of our contemporary understanding of these values, as reflected for example in the first article of the German constitution. Against this backdrop, the works of the post-war years—which portray with great directness the oppressed, wounded and threatened human being—form the argumentative core of the exhibition. Statues by Germaine Richier, Gerhard Marcks, and Alberto Giacometti give the traumatized human a face and a body, finding artistic forms with which to express the speechlessness of that time. They form the starting point for the viewer’s contemplation of contemporary installations by artists such as Phyllida Barlow, Paul Chan and Zoe Leonard. In contrast to their historical “role models” these works have largely abandoned figurative portrayal, approaching the ever more complex and splintered conditions of present-day human existence by way of spatial dimensions and diverse materials.

“Before the Law”, the parable and metaphor providing the topic for the exhibition is the eponymous short story by Kafka. It tells of a man from the countryside seeking to gain entry to the law. The doorkeeper denies him admission, while repeatedly assuring him of the possibility of entering at a later date. The country man remains waiting at the gates his entire life, excluded from the law.  

Noteworthy in comparison to other definitions is Kafka’s concept of the law as a space that is tangible and finite, to which there is an entrance and from which one can be excluded. The exhibition takes up this mental image and creates an interior that encompasses the entire third floor of the museum, where the artistic positions resolutely define their own setting.

This show, organized in collaboration with Siemens Stiftung, is the last programmatic exhibition curated by Kasper König at Museum Ludwig.

An extensive catalogue will be published by Buchhandlung Walther König to accompany the exhibition, with contributions by Penelope Curtis, Friedrich Wilhelm Graf, Kasper König, Thomas Macho, and Thomas D. Trummer.

Artists: Pawel Althamer, Carl Andre, Phyllida Barlow, Joseph Beuys, Karla Black, Monica Bonvicini, Reg Butler, Paul Chan, Fritz Cremer, Jimmie Durham, Katharina Fritsch, Alberto Giacometti, Candida Höfer, William Kentridge, Marko Lehanka, Wilhelm Lehmbruck, Zoe Leonard, Giacomo Manzù, Gerhard Marcks, Marino Marini, Henry Moore, Bruce Nauman, Germaine Richier, Ulrich Rückriem, Thomas Schütte, George Segal, Andreas Siekmann, Andreas Slominski, Ossip Zadkine

Curators: Kasper König, Thomas D. Trummer with Anna Brohm and Andreas Prinzing

Museum Ludwig, Cologne
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