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Monica Bonvicini at Kunsthalle Bielefeld

In her work, the internationally renowned artist Monica Bonvicini examines themes such as institutional critique, the relationship between gender and feminism, and the exercise of control and power. Bonvicini is known for her site-specific installations that deconstruct and question the architecture of art institutions in humorous ways. For the motif on the invitation to the exhibition in Bielefeld, she selected a 2020 drawing that refers to Philip Johnson, the architect of the Kunsthalle, who strove to create a clear setting for the modernist project with his International style building for the museum.

The show’s title, LOVER‘S MATERIAL is a reference to the author Franz Schulzes characterization of the relationship between Johnson and his partner Jon Stroup. In Schulze’s biography of Johnson, Stroup is described as «comfortably passive». For Bonvicini, this opened up the notion that relationships can also be defined as something both objectifying and rationalizing. Starting with this idea, the whole exhibition delves into the relationships—economic and private, as well as political—that are linked to exhibition spaces. How can the artist’s relationship to the museum’s site, its works of art, its visitors, or its employees be defined, and what kind of dependencies are created?

Besides many new works of art, such as installations, sculptures, a video, and drawings made for the show, a glass sculpture titled «Up in Arms» (2019) will also be on display. As a visual wordplay, the piece—a reproduction of the artist’s arms in pink cut-glass—symbolizes both tenderness and tension, as well as the call for resistance and protest proclaimed in its title. This connection characterizes many of the artist’s new works, which have been produced under the contrasting impressions of today’s worldwide protests and the isolation imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, private and public space, coercion and freedom exemplify the tensions of the current year.