Roses and world receivers – Isa Genzken turns 75
Isa Genzken’s works often seem unwieldy. At the same time, she is considered one of the most important German contemporary artists. Now Genzken is 75 years old.
A rose for your birthday. In front of Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie stands an eight-meter-high version of the symbol of love, beauty and purity. Isa Genzken had the first example of what she described as an “international symbol” made in 1993. These days the sculpture can also be seen as a symbolic gift to one of Germany’s most important contemporary artists. Genzken, who lives in Berlin, will be 75 years old on November 27th.
One of her roses can also be found in New York, another important city for the artist’s work. Since 2018, an example of her famous work made of eight-meter-high, painted steel next to the new World Trade Center has been commemorating the dead of the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. The Museum of Modern Art is dedicating a comprehensive retrospective to Genzken in 2013, which is also touring the USA .
Born in Bad Oldesloe in 1948, Genzken grew up in a middle-class home in Hamburg. She studies photography and graphics in Berlin and attends Gerhard Richter’s master class at the Düsseldorf Art Academy. She was married to the painter from 1982 to 1993.
Doesn’t fit in any drawer
Genzken never allows himself to be pigeonholed. Initially inspired by minimal art and conceptual art, she continues to explore new terrain and does not shy away from breaks and risks.
Genzken has been invited to the documenta in Kassel three times with her work. The Venice Biennale brings the artist to the lagoon city five times. In 2007 she also designed the German Pavilion there. Under the title “Oil” she transforms the rooms into a world of mass tourism marked by death. The art magazine “Monopol” then sees her as the “most important living artist” of the year.
Genzken will lead this top 100 ranking again in 2023. “The more her randomly arranged assemblage and installation art made of shiny everyday materials, designer fashion, mirror foil and adhesive tape becomes generally accepted as an extension of sculpture, the more distinctive the original becomes,” writes the magazine.
Journey through different phases of the work
With her birthday in mind, the Neue Nationalgalerie has brought together 75 works from all creative periods since the 1970s. Through the different phases of the work, Genzken’s different techniques using wood, concrete, steel, plastic, mirrors or fabric become apparent.
“Isa Genzken. 75/75” can be seen until the artist’s birthday. These also include some examples of her idiosyncratic adaptations of the famous Nefertiti statue or bizarrely dressed mannequins, which can also be seen as alienated self-portraits.
Genzken often collects and relates finds from everyday life. “I like to connect things that were previously unconnected,” she once says. “This connection is like a handshake between people.” Antennas are also important for this. As connections between people or worlds, from inside and outside, they are part of the work. Genzken uses platforms to raise some works to human size. The exchange can take place at eye level. One of their “world receivers” made of concrete with a long antenna has “Gerhard” in the title.
Genzken was able to visit the exhibition, museum director Klaus Biesenbach announced during the show. This is not a given. The artist has been very ill for a long time. She suffers from bipolar disorder, which repeatedly plunges her into darkness and emotional distress. In any case, despite her fame, she doesn’t like any fuss about herself. In her Berlin studio she prefers to work alone, avoids public appearances and rarely gives interviews.
For your birthday there is another gift in art form. On this day, Genzken’s monumental sculpture “Full Moon” (1997/2023) will be installed in the outdoor area of the Neue Nationalgalerie. Her contribution to the Münster 1997 sculpture projects will remain part of the museum’s outdoor work for a year. A 2.5 meter diameter glass ball shines day and night on a 14 meter high stainless steel rod.