Upcoming Kharchenko Retrospective at The Kunstverein Krefeld

by Carl Kruse

From March 25 through May 1, 2022, the Kunstverein Krefeld in Germany will hold a retrospective of the works of Russian-German artist (and friend of our blog) Yury Kharchenko. This solo exhibit will focus on two phases of Kharchenko’s work: the first on his so-called Auschwitz paintings, which see superhero figures, such as Superman and Wonder Woman at the gates of Auschwitz; the second on his series of house and flower paintings.

Kharchenko was born in Moscow in 1986 and emigrated with his Jewish family in 1998 to the Dortmund Ruhr region of Germany. For the last 12 years he has made Berlin his home.

Kharchenko explores his Jewish identity with paintings reflecting his family history and the anti-semitism experienced in Germany. He has painted images of his relative Herschel Grynszpan, portraits of Jewish personalities with some association to Germany (and which he feels a connection), such as Freud, Einstein, Kafka and Alfred Flechtheim, as well as other more recent personalities, like Amy Winehouse.

All of this culminates in his most recent Auschwitz paintings, where Disney characters such as Scrooge McDuck and Goofy, action heros like Superman and Batman, characters from cartoon series such as Beavis and Butthead are pictured in front of the Auschwitz gates and the infamous sign — “Arbeit Macht Frei.” In doing so, Kharchenko wrestles with the issue of the utopia of heroism (why didn’t any super hero stop the holocaust?) and at the same time points to the current decline of the culture of holocaust remembrance.

Carl Kruse Arts Blog - Scrooge
Scrooge McDuck defends his stash of money in front of Auschwitz

Kharchenko’s most recent paintings are those of flowers, depicting large portraits of sunken plants, stems with buds, and unfurled roses. The theme of flowers has become a new cycle for Kharchenko, where he sees a connection to nature and the plasticity, metamorphosis, sensitivity and urge hidden within it to live and unfold, and also to pass away and to revive.  His focus on flower buds brings to mind a life not yet unfolded, but perhaps about to unfold.

Carl Kruse Arts Blog - The Rose

The Rose, oil on canvas, by Yury Kharchenko, January 2022

While his Auschwitz paintings are an existential confrontation with the processing of the horror of the 20th century, his latest images speak of the urge to live and the unfolding of life in the shadow of the world’s omnipresent abyss.

The side by side exhibition of Kharchenko’s Auschwitz paintings juxtaposed with his flower images might inspire some thought with viewers.

The Carl Kruse Arts Blog homepage is at https://carlkruse.net
Contact: carl AT carlkruse DOT com
Other blog articles on Yury Kharchenko are here and also here.
The blog’s last article was on Metropolis.
Also find Carl Kruse on Vator.

World of WearableArt: Blurring Boundaries in The Art World

by Hazel Anna Rogers for the Carl Kruse Arts Blog

There is often a perceived disparity between the words “fashion” and “art.” Many people fall at the feet of, say, a Gauguin, a Turner, or a Matisse, but upon hearing the word “fashion” quickly recede into their boots, or worse, scorn and sneer its name. I understand (I think) where they are coming from, though I certainly disagree with such a reaction. Fashion has been given the name of Primark, Topshop, New Look, and other such enterprises. It has been awarded characteristics of triviality, frivolity, and superficiality as a result of its mainstream-media nature. But, while we don’t all paint or create art, we all wear clothes, and this is at least part of the reason for the popularity of pursuing fashion trends and observing the landscape of designers and seamsters. We are all at least somewhat picky about what we choose to wear every day, even if only for how comfortable and hard-wearing our clothing is. Fashion affects all of us. It can mean the difference between feeling good or feeling down when one leaves the house, or between being successful or not at a job interview. We can make statements about ourselves with our clothes, bring our internal sentiments to the fore with our exterior appearance. We can create art with our clothes, art just as valid as that on the walls of galleries. And that is what the renowned design competition the World of WearableArt (WOW) attempts to do.

In 1987, the little city of Nelson on the South Island of New Zealand hosted the first awards show in what would become one of the most innovative and flamboyant competitions in the world. The event was held outside a small restored cottage under a marquee dripping with rain. The mastermind behind this competition is Susie Moncrieff, inspired by a similar concept she had seen in Auckland years prior. Her idea has bloomed exponentially since that first show, where around 200 visitors came to watch, to over 60,000 every year at the event in the New Zealand capital of Wellington, as well as a permanent WOW Museum in Nelson where WOW found its humble beginnings.

WOW is not just a fashion show. It is theater, with all its excesses and vices, a show encompassing design with ecstatic movement and vibrant imagery. But what of the art? I must say it is most difficult to describe the pieces themselves, which are crafted by designers from over 40 countries and encompass the most exquisitely romantic of wearable designs to the most outlandish one can imagine. And often, the most impressive of the designs come from the least thinkable of places; in 2019, the winner of the Supreme WOW Award was Rinaldy Yunardi of Jakarta, whose design, “The Lady Warrior,” was constructed from recycled paper made into rope which he wove tightly together to form a gloriously regal outfit in cool golden and beige shades. The dress is brilliantly balanced in its symmetry and grace and is equally resonant with classical Indonesian influences as modernist structural brutalism. It’s beautiful, strong, yet fragile.

Carl Kruse Art Blog.  Image of The Last Lady Warrior - WOW - Fashion

The Lady Warrior by Rinaldy Yunardi. Photo: The Last Fashion Bible

Many of the pieces that emerge from the WOW show are far more sombre than this example of Rinaldy’s work. Some are so very nightmarish that they could only have come from the deep, dark depths of one’s imagination. Take ‘NightWraith’, the 2019 piece by Australian artist Ildy Izso, aptly modelled in the ‘mythology section’ of the competition. It’s a pure masterpiece in black, evoking such characters as Medusa and Sleeping Beauty’s Maleficent. Despite its elegantly woven bodice and ornately jeweled eye-mask, reminiscent of the masqueraded balls of 16th Century Renaissance Italy, the piece is fantastically disturbing. Great spikes emerge through the shoulder-blades of the piece as though they had pushed through the skin of this mythological beast. Writhing snake-like spirals shoot from the head; long, Edward-Scissorhand-like fingers are poised in sophisticated demonism; metal chains choke the corset like makeshift ribs, and latex covers any visible skin, leaving the figure without a mouth. Yet, this piece is so stylish it almost hurts to look at it. The lace shoulder-cover is exquisitely delicate, the choker wondrously bejewelled. I love it, and I would even go so far as to say that I would wear it, albeit without the latex mouth covering (I think I’d prefer to breath).

Nightwraith by Ildy Izso

“Wearability” is a primary part of the judging process in WOW. Each piece is considered for 1) Its health and safety (i.e., can the model breathe and see, is the piece comfortable to wear), 2) The quality of construction – it should be immaculately created, and not inclined to fall apart, 3) The conception of the piece must meet the brief of the section theme it has been entered into, and entrants must explain their conception at length, 4) It must be (surprise) innovative. This is obviously of utmost importance – the entrant must create a piece that is completely original, whether in perspective, material, execution, or all of the above. Many entrants are increasingly focusing on environmental awareness in their works, as we see in Rinaldy’s piece. Fashion as a whole is gradually working towards sustainable work practices, in material sourcing, worker’s rights, and manufacturing methods, and I think that such a creative execution of these values in the form of the WOW competition is a brilliant way to bring such matters to the fore, and to prove that being environmentally friendly does not cost us style.

Let us end this article with one of the most astonishing designs I think I have ever seen (though, in terms of wearability, I’m not sure I could pull this one off). The piece I’m talking about is Jack Irving’s “Sea Urchin Explosion” of the 2019 competition. This United Kingdom designer has created works for the likes of Lady Gaga, and this piece brilliantly demonstrates his designing prowess. “Sea Urchin Explosion” is genius. A perfect blend of fashion and the natural landscape, an eruption of huge, vibrant red spines bursting forth from the human body. It does look like a sea urchin, an enormous, angry beast, perfectly symmetrical and blissfully satisfying to look at.

Carl Kruse Art Blog - Sea urchin Explosion by Jack Irving - at the WOW festival

Sea Urchin Explosion by U.K. Designer Jack Irving at WOW

These works make me fall in love with fashion, and to me deem it a worthy art form to contend with my love for classical art. They inspire me to play more with my appearance, and to never doubt the impact that fashion can have in the art world.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m going to go and put on the brightest clothes I have in my wardrobe, even if all I do in them is sit at home and write this article.


Find the blog homepage at https://carlkruse.net
Contact: carl AT carlkruse DOT com
The last blog post was on neighboring Australia’s Museum of New and Old Art.
Other articles by Hazel Anna Rogers include Van Gogh’s Chair and When Did we Stop Criticizing Art?
Carl Kruse is on Saatchi Art.

Museum of Old and New Art

by Fraser Hibbitt for the Carl Kruse Arts Blog

Photos from MONA, Carl Kruse and Blooloop

In 2006 the Moorilla Museum of Antiquities closed for a huge revamping and after the input of $75 million and five years of construction the Museum of Old and New Art emerged (MONA). Located in Holbart, Tasmania, the museum has since conversed with the world of art in an idiosyncratic and spectacular way. 

David Walsh. Photo: Blooloop.

The man behind the mission, David Walsh, made his fortune as a gambler. When MONA opened he would go on to describe it as a “subversive Disneyland.” The eclectic collection gathered in the museum are tied by the twin themes of sex and death. Ancient art, such as the mummy of Ta-Sheret-Min, resides close by the famed “Cloaca”: a series of vessels conceived by the Belgian artist Wilm Devoye that holds a functioning digestive tract. The vessels are fed in the late morning; excreting occurs by early afternoon.

The museum is statement, not of high art or the understanding of such, but of a playful experience and attendance to art. The account of the construction of MONA highlights this dynamic that the museum is trying to communicate:

“This is a mistake. People will think you don’t know what you’re doing, like you’re a rich man and you’ve just got all your toys around you – your big gallery, your tennis court. You won’t be taken seriously.” And David said, “Exactly.”

Carl Kruse Arts Blog - MONA from the Sea
Approaching MONA from the sea. Tasmania. Photo: MONA.

Statements from MONA radiate this playful irreverence: “Bars, café, restaurants and cemetery on site,” and again when describing what MONA is: “a museum, or something.” Of course, there is a seriousness to this mask of indifference. It is an invitational strategy; everyone is welcome to find and experience this strange world.

The Ferry from Holbart to MONA – Sheep as Seats. Photo: Carl Kruse

Things become clearer when we think about the space made to house David’s vision. He says the best way to approach the museum is by sea: “to ascend from the water as the ancient Greeks did to go to their temples.” There the visitor is met with a single-story entry, nothing overwhelming, until inside a spiral staircase takes them down to three large labyrinthine spaces. There are no windows, there is only the stony silence of the descent.

Descending staircase into MONA. Photo Blooloop.

It is all for the experience of viewing art, of creating a space where the visitor can give themselves to the spectacle and possible meaning of art. David fashioned his museum in direct opposition to what he had found in other museums – the building shouldn’t dwarf the visitor nor impose its stateliness upon them but facilitate the interaction between the visitor and the art.

Visitors are recommended the ‘O’ app, either provided or available for download on their phones. The ‘O’ app was introduced so that visitors wouldn’t have to spend time reading the small prints on plaques by each art piece, instead they can immerse themselves freely. The visitor does not need to feel “that they haven’t appreciated the piece or understood it without the plaque.” The ‘O’ app has a menu where the viewer can learn about the art under the title ‘Art Wank’; it can also recommend what food to try and where the toilets are. 

“Besides Myself” by James Turrell at MONA.

David Walsh’s “anti-museum” theme has proved something in its wake; the attraction of, to use Richard Flanagan’s words, “the ultimate senseless chance.” It this direct wish of Walsh’s to “piss of the academics” which has found such exceeding popularity – in 2015 MONA was ranked as the world’s best modern art gallery, above London’s Tate modern. It is one of Carl Kruse’s favorite museums in the world.

It is not that we will find all the pieces on display as beautiful or even remotely interesting; we may even be repulsed. It is this rapid juxtaposition of chance that offers up this experience of being face to face with something of life, something like a drunken night filled with half-memories and unexpected turns. MONA is a playful provocateur entering into the high-minded conversation about art.

The provocateur broaches the subject from a different point of view. Most people attending, it may be presumed, have visited another art gallery with its prestigious formal ordering of art. Any ordering of art tells us something of how we should think about art. MONA has opted for the fully immersive, nonchalant, experience; it may be anti-museum, but it is not anti-art – It is asking us to speak about it, to experience it, in a different way.

Carl Kruse Arts Blog - The Snake by Sydney Nolan in Tasmania, Australia.

Sydney Nolan’s “THE SNAKE” at MONA.

Walsh’s playground doesn’t require us to have done our homework or that we understand the cultural and historical significance of a certain piece; and, if it is culturally significant, that we too find it astonishing. MONA finds much to say in the playground itself without caring if there is anything meaningful to say about the equipment. It is answering a need for collective experience in a reality unlike our own, something like a ritual.

In 2018, Walsh spent a further $32 million on a new wing in the MONA complex. It was named Pharos. This section has been spoken about as, in some ways, the antithesis to the MONA. Walsh wanted to create a “changeless thing, a totem, a legacy.” As the name suggests (Pharos being one of the ancient wonders of the world – the Alexandrian lighthouse) it is a beacon of light, but it also acts as a procession; a ritualistic walk for the un-believer.

Carl Kruse Blog - The Topmb of the Kamizakes in Pharos, MONA
Inside Pharos – the “Memorial to Sacred Wind or the Tomb of Kamikaze” by Swiss artist Jean Tinguely. What initially appears to be a pile of scrap lunges to life unexpectedly and moves about the room. Photo: Broadsheet.

Walsh’s idea to suffuse this section with assemblages that will never be moved has its reasons. Basing this conception on ancient rituals where it seems the idea is to “merely walk around them,” Walsh has created this space so the visitor can commune with their inner selves. It brings to the foreground what the museum is about: sex and death. If the rest of MONA is this chance, transient, sex, then Pharos is the acknowledgment and appreciation of changeless death.

It is with Pharos that we are aware of the magnitude of the MONA enterprise. It is not merely an eclectic arrangement of contemporary and old art, but a monument towards why and how art is created. It is a space which confronts the visitor with something of the wonder in which art finds its source.


Check your email! List your top 10 museums in the world and email us back at info@carlkruse.net for a chance to win $100 in bitcoin (of course, void where prohibited). We’ll publish the community’s consensus within a week.

Carl Kruse Arts Homepage at https://carlkruse.net
Contact: carl AT carlkruse DOT com
The last blog post was on Simonetta Vespucci.
Other articles by Fraser Hibbitt include the Art of Journaling and Google Glass.
Carl Kruse is also on Hacker Noon – Kruse

Carl Kruse – The Boros Bunker

The Boros Bunker in Berlin
By Carl Kruse

What to do with an abandoned, six-story tall World War II bunker in Berlin? If you’re Christian Boros, build a 10,000 square-foot penthouse atop, fill lower levels with eclectic post-1990 art and open to the public.

Pock-marked walls show battle damage from warSide view of the Boros Bunker with war damage.  Photo:  Carl Kruse

The Boros Bunker, originally designed by Albert Speer in 1942 as an air raid shelter for top-level Nazis, metamorphosed into a banana storage during the Communist era, then into a rave hotspot in the 1990’s before finding itself in the hands of Christian and Karen Boros.

A five-year renovation by Berlin’s Realarchitektur resulted in its present-day glory, receiving the Beton Architectural Prize for 2008.

Boros BunkerNight descends on the Boros Bunker.  Photo:  Carl Kruse

A historical structure, home, and private art collection all in one, the bunker is a fantastic testament to what we can do if we want to do it. The artists in the collection include Olafur Eliasson (a favorite of Christian and Karen), Damien Hirst, Elizabeth Payton, Anselm Reyle, Wolfgang Tillmans, and Tobias Rehberger.   This is not a museum but a private vision, the personal adventure of two people who love art and gathered what they thought worth gathering.  And as they went collecting, they imagined living with all of it (or at least on top of it), which led them to the bunker.

Kruse - Boros ExhibitionExhibit within the Boros Bunker.  Photo:  Carl Kruse

This place is worth a visit when in Berlin.  Its collection might leave you wondering what is Art, and why some works are here. Christian Boros perhaps wonders himself as he says that he deliberately buys art that he does not understand.  Whatever your impression it is a magnificent project, an adventure, one heck of a wild exploration.

Christian Boros says he deliberately collects art he does not understand, like a series of tires suspended from the ceiling.  Photo:  Carl Kruse in Berlin.

Boros Bunker: Reinhardstr 20, Berlin – Mitte

Carl Kruse

Contact Carl Kruse:   info AT carlkruse.net

Further links:
BOROS Bunker ( Kruse )
Video of Boros penthouse ( Carl Kruse link)