Wall texts
Outstanding! The Relief from Rodin to Picasso
24 May – 17 September 2023
Exhibition Annex

Is it painting or sculpture, surface or space? Hardly any artistic medium challenges our sense of sight like the relief. We can contemplate a relief as we would a painting, while at the same time our eyes scan its surface as they would a sculpture. In antiquity the relief served primarily to decorate architecture. In the Renaissance it played an important role in the competition between painters and sculptors over which medium best imitates reality. When the relief began to figure increasingly in art-theory debates around 1800, it was referred to as an intermediate medium among the arts. In the zone between the second and third dimension, however, it remained a primarily sculptural endeavour. As time went on, a new artistic interest in overcoming the traditional boundaries between the mediums took hold. Painters made sculptures; sculptors preoccupied themselves with painting. In that context, the relief became a laboratory for experimentation with new forms, materials and techniques. Reliefs were no longer made primarily of the classical materials—that is, stone, clay, plaster or bronze. Artists began using everyday and found objects to open surfaces out into the third dimension. Whether glued or nailed, whether made with natural sponges or a soup ladle, the relief took on entirely new manifestations. Its significance for society grew with the cataclysmic changes of the early twentieth century: the relief became a place of utopias and a mirror of the departure for a new world. The exhibition explores the tremendous scope of the relief between 1800 and 1970 in thirteen sections, some spanning the entire period, others zooming in on shorter phases. Each in its own way, the sections examine the unique possibilities and limitations of relief art above and beyond historical development lines and conventional stylistic categories.

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