The Shape of Time
March 6–July 8, 2018 

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien 

The Kunsthistorisches Museum is pleased to announce the exhibition The Shape of Time. Following monographic exhibitions of Lucian Freud and Joseph Cornell, and collection presentations curated by Ed Ruscha and Edmund de Waal, this is the first group exhibition  conceived as part of the museum’s Modern and Contemporary programme.

The collections of the Kunsthistorisches Museum represent some 5,000 years of human creativity from Ancient Egypt through to European painting around 1800. The Shape of Time presents a group of remarkable art works dating from 1800 to the present day, as stepping stones to lead our visitors from the point at which our own collections end to the point at which we find ourselves today. Among them are major works by artists such as J.M.W. Turner, Claude Cahun, Mark Rothko, Maria Lassnig, Eleanor Antin, Steve McQueen, Catherine Opie and Peter Doig. Borrowed from some of the most important museums and private collections across the world, they have been carefully placed within the rooms of our Picture Gallery in active dialogue with our own historical objects and artists. Visitors are invited to look simultaneously backwards and forwards between objects made hundreds of years apart, either of which has the potential to alter our experience of the other.

The modern works do not attempt to tell the history of art of the last 200 years, but rather to tune in to the conversations that have taken place across the centuries, and to become part of those conversations themselves. Taking our own collections as the point of departure, we have forged a series of encounters between old and new to suggest continuities throughout the history of art. In the spirit of George Kubler’s groundbreaking 1962 book of the same name, they seek to reveal the flow of time and space and the evolution of ideas and images across centuries and cultures, to suggest a view of art history as a reservoir of ideas drawn from repeatedly over time.

The exhibition begins, chronologicaly speaking, with Turner’s painting from 1842, and ends with an important new work made specially for the exhibition by the acclaimed American artist Kerry James Marshall in response to Tintoretto. Conceptually speaking, however, its starting point lies elsewhere, in the landmark 1989 exhibition of furniture objects by Franz West in our Picture Gallery. The first ever exhibition of a living artist in the museum, it set in motion a programme that we are continuing today. In recreating one specific situation from this exhibition for The Shape of Time, we are retracing our own institutional history, an investigation developed further with the inclusion of major works by Lucian Freud and Ron Mueck. At the same time, the exhibition provides us with a roadmap for the future: to the work of Mark Rothko, that we will present in the form of a major survey exhihition in 2019, and to other artists whose work might one day be shown in greater depth within the museum. The exhibition also seeks to acknowledge important developments in art since the time that the museum’s collection was formed, through the presentation of modern media such as photography, film and installation, the participation of radical female artists, and the presence of artists from beyond the European continent.

The artists and pairings in the exhibition are as follows:

Anguissola – Claude Cahun / Bruegel – Peter Doig / Brueghel – Steve McQueen / Bronzino – Lucian Freud / Caravaggio – Franz West / Correggio – Birgit Jürgenssen / Giorgione – Nusra Latif Qureshi / Rembrandt – Fiona Tan / Rembrandt – Mark Rothko / Roman Antiquity – Eleanor Antin / Roman Antiquity – Paul Cézanne / Rubens – Maria Lassnig / Santvoort – Catherine Opie / Tintoretto – Kerry James Marshall / Titian – J.M.W. Turner / Titian – Pablo Picasso / Tullio Lombardo – Felix Gonzalez-Torres / Van der Weyden – Ron Mueck / Velázquez – Édouard Manet

The exhibition has been curated by Jasper Sharp, and will be accompanied by a series of artist talks featuring Catherine Opie, Fiona Tan, Kerry James Marshall and Steve McQueen. Catalogue texts have been written by Jennifer Higgie, Ben Street, Jasper Sharp and Anja Heitzer. 

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