Transformations: Living Room -> Flea Market -> Museum -> Art examines how a political watershed moment, the fall of the Berlin Wall, initiated a radical change in the perception of art and material culture. After the Wall came down in 1989, many people living in formerly communist countries discarded their household items in response to gaining access to a new world of consumer goods. Objects associated with the Cold War ended up in dumping grounds and flea markets or were stored away in basements and attics.
However, with passing time and an increasingly critical attitude toward the realities of life in post-socialist society, historical memory shifted and a new interest in the cultural heritage of socialism developed. Items rose in value and prestige, and museums hesitantly started to acknowledge the significance and aesthetic value of Soviet Bloc artwork and artifacts. Once included in archives and museums such as the Wende, these materials then became available for appropriation and reinterpretation.
Transformations thus includes new works by contemporary artists Chelle Barbour, Ken Gonzales-Day, Farrah Karapetian, Richtje Reinsma & Daphne Rosenthal, Jennifer Vanderpool, and Bari Ziperstein, who use items from the Wende collection, displayed in earlier sections of the exhibition, for personal reflections on history, memory, and ideology, past and present.
Once in partnership with the Getty Conservation Institute, Transformations also references the importance of scientific approaches to preservation and how these practices are implemented in a collection such as the Wende’s.
Through a four-part passage from living room to flea market to museum to art studio, Transformations presents the metamorphosis of everyday objects in radically different contexts, highlighting how the ever-changing interpretations of the past are consistently informed by present-day views and concerns.
Ken Gonzales-Day's piece, Monumental Vision: Labor/Lenin, 2020, Pigment print on vinyl is included in the show. All items referenced in this work are from the collection of the Wende Museum
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