The Collaborative Dance
Working on this exhibition was a collaborative dance between three museums (Tomi Ungerer Museum, Folkwang Museum and Zurich Kunsthaus), a publisher (Diogenes Verlag) and an artist’s collection.
Over about two years, we worked together extensively with the Kunsthaus curator Catherine Hug on making selections of work for the show, and with publisher and artist Philipp Keel who played a significant role in shaping the exhibition at the outset and curated the accompanying exhibition catalogue.
Concept / Inspiration
The concept for the show was about challenging the public’s perception of Tomi Ungerer and his work. Known primarily for his work in the field of drawing and illustration, we wanted to expose other facets of his oeuvre, specifically in the fields of 3D founds objects and in collage. Both are mediums that he has worked in since the 1950’s, but as is the case with many artists – some of their work becomes well known and that becomes the thing that they are identified with at the expense of their other work. Thus the exhibition title – Incognito.
I think that in order to get to know what makes an artist tick, we need to remain very curious about what else they are up to besides what they are most known for. This has the capacity to generate an intimacy with the artist’s work that is not possible otherwise.
In an ideal world, the less we know about something the more we might be able to receive it with an open mind and interpret it in our own private way. I think however, that we more likely to view artwork simply to re-confirm what we already know or expect and so, I’m very interested in interrogating that kind of bias even though at times it’s a really challenging space to be in.
Since about 2010, Tomi has really focused almost full time on his collages and 3D objects (he doesn’t like to call them sculptures) and it was wonderful to be able to introduce these to the public.
Catherine worked deeply with us in Ireland and with Therese Willer in Strasbourg to get to know more about the vast and very diverse nature of Tomi’s work. Believe me, this is no small feat!
Based on that, she decided to include a comparative element to the show: for instance, we showed a series of historical, political posters in relation to contemporary political collages. We also exhibited a selection of early collage works from the 1950’s and 1960’s onwards.
Wrapping, packing and shipping collage and objects presents a whole set of unique logistical challenges and Tomi’s conservator Herman Baily did an amazing job of making sure all the works were intact at every stage of the transportation.
Again, these are aspects of putting together an exhibition that I think many people are unaware of. I love all the behind the scenes work and am fascinated by the archiving, photographing, packing, handling, framing. Probably because this is not the work that I have to physically do myself!!
I particularly love working on the installation of exhibits. Trying to figure out how best to use the space, what to hang where and in relation to what is exhilarating work – it’s fun and also terrifying because those decisions can make or break a show. In this instance, one thing that was so interesting was taking more or less the same selection of work to two very different exhibition spaces and having to re-examine the sequences and hang the work in very different ways.
The exhibition also gave birth to a beautiful catalogue on which Philipp Keel worked extensively with Tomi. It’s a brick!! A beautiful brick. The idea was that because we were, as is always the case, limited in terms of the amount of works that we could exhibit, the catalogue would be a means of expanding the view and allowing people to dive deeper into the complexity and the variation of themes in the work.
It’s a kind of smorgasbord of collage and objects but to be honest, Tomi is so prolific, this is sometimes the only honest way I think of providing a clear insight into what he does.
Pictor co-ordinated and organized the photographing of artworks for the book as well as putting together the captions. It runs over 400 pages so this is quite a lot of images!
Thanks You’s and Acknowledgements
To give you an idea of how many people are actively involved in this exhibition – and for each name below there are many more who I have not included.
Tomi Ungerer Museum:
Tomi Ungerer Collection:
Tomi Ungerer (obviously )
Margaux de Weck