October 12, 2016 - Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt - Ulay Life-Sized
October 12, 2016

Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt

Portrait of Ulay. Photo: Primož Korošec, 2016.

Ulay Life-Sized
October 13, 2016–January 8, 2017

Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt
60311 Frankfurt am Main

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The Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt is presenting the first-ever major survey exhibition of works by the exceptional artist Ulay. Ulay describes himself rather self-deprecatingly as the “most famous unknown artist." For almost half a century, he has been radically merging art and his own life. His concept of transformation enables Ulay to constantly create new identities. His medium of choice is analog photography and, in particular, Polaroids, which form an essential part of his artistic practice. To this day, his body remains the object of his research; it is marked by various influences and can be read like a canvas. How is identity expressed within the body, and which strategies might alter identity? These are questions Ulay seeks to answer in his work. Skin is of particular significance. The artist sees it as the surface of both the body and the photograph. By shaping the skin, piercing it, or adorning it with symbols, he tells confrontational stories about identity and the transgressions to which it is exposed. In addition to numerous individual actions of performative photography and body art, Ulay has also realized a great number of performances and projects with other artists: he created photographic series with his former muse Paula Françoise-Piso in which he intensified self-analysis until the complete dissolution of the self; with the artist Marina Abramović, he managed to further evolve performance art, setting the standard to this day. In addition, he developed a number of participatory works with people from marginalized groups. Ulay defines photography and performance art in a distinctive and very personal way. The notion of “Identity through change” remains central to his work and allows him to elude any fixed attributions of identity.

Dr. Philipp Demandt, Director of the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, on the presentation: "This exhibition on the life and work of Ulay has been long overdue. For over 46 years, Ulay has created works that are so radical, so idiosyncratic and strong that they have become almost unmissable. Looking for an answer to the simple question of 'Who am I?,' he gave distinction to the realization that there is no such thing as just one identity. For the first time, the Schirn presents Ulay's unique work, allowing visitors a ‘life-sized’ encounter with the artist."

The retrospective exhibition at the Schirn brings together his remarkable oeuvre from 1970 to 2016. On show are more than 150 works, including photographs, films, project documentations, objects, and sculptures, as well as works on paper. The public will be presented for the first time with a number of works that the artist previously held back due to his absolute need to be present, and his skepticism of the art world.

On occasion of his exhibition, Ulay will realize two new performances at the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt entitled Who am I? (on October 13, 2016) and Peace, Freedom, Happiness—Sustainability (on December 15, 2016).

Ulay, born 1943 in Solingen as Frank Uwe Laysiepen, lives and works in Amsterdam and Ljubljana. From 1971, his works have been presented in numerous solo exhibitions, including at the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam (2016), Salon Dahlmann in Berlin (2013), the National Centre for Contemporary Arts in Moscow (2007), at Škuc Gallery in Ljubljana (2009), Vrej Baghoomian Gallery in New York (1992), Burnett Miller Gallery in Los Angeles (1989), De Appel (1976) or Gallery Seriaal (1974) in Amsterdam. Together with Marina Abramović, Ulay realized performances worldwide from 1976 to 1988, such as The Great Wall Walk (1988) in China, Nightsea Crossing (1981­–87) in Berlin, Helsinki, Lyon, New York, Sydney et al., Expansion in Space (1977) at documenta 6 in Kassel, and Relation in Space (1976) at the 37th Venice Biennale. In significant group exhibitions, his works have been on show in recent years at Fondazione Prada in Milan (2015) and at the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt (2013), as well as, prior to that, at Fotomuseum Den Haag in The Hague (2007), MoMA PS1 Contemporary Art Center in New York (2002), Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki (1995), and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris (1989). He has realized performances at, among others, the Musées d’art et d’histoire in Geneva (2016), at Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (2015), during the Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art (2015), and at the Venice International Performance Art Week (2014). Ulay has received a number of awards for his works.

Director: Dr. Philipp Demandt
Curator: Matthias Ulrich
Press contact: Pamela Rohde (Head of Press/Public Relations): presse [​at​] schirn.de / T (+49 69) 29 98 82 148
Press material: www.schirn.de/en/ (texts, images, and films for download under PRESS)

Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt
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