Joana Vasconcelos: Bad Homburg
Organizer: Blickachsen Foundation
21 May – 1 October 2017
Joana Vasconcelos (b. 1971) is one of the few female European artists of her generation to have already achieved an international reputation. With an ever critical eye on the world, with humour and boundless creative energy, she designs monumental outdoor projects as well as subtle spaces of fantasy and colourful, threedimensional textile works. Allusive and in the best sense of the word challenging, the works of this Portuguese artist question conventional attributions of role and class, and examine what lies behind the notion of national identity. She sets traditional symbols and everyday items into new and unusual contexts of meaning, exploring the boundaries between private and public spheres. References to phenomena of art history and visual culture are as much part of her repertoire as bridging the gap between tradition and the modern.
In the creative execution of her ideas, Vasconcelos takes up basic principles of Nouveau Réalisme and Pop Art, developing her very own fresh and unconventional artistic language. She works with everyday objects and materials, and uses light, sound and movement, playfully creating a sense of disassociation in the observer. Her use of traditional techniques of handicraft and needlework is characteristic of her work: hand painted tiles, wrought-iron latticework, knitted, crocheted or pillow-laced features subversively transpose elements of the domestic into new and surprising contexts. At the same time, the titles of her frequently locationspecific works open additional space for a play of meaning. Time and again, Joana Vasconcelos manages to shed a new and provocative light on the world surrounding us.
Already as a student of art in Lisbon (1989–96), Vasconcelos took part in her first exhibitions and very quickly enjoyed early success. Her international breakthrough came at the age of only thirty-three, in 2005, at the Venice Biennale, with her installation "A Noiva" (The Bride), a gigantic chandelier shimmering in the light, which only on closer inspection turns out to be made of 14,000 tampons in their glittering protective covering. Since then, this Portuguese artist has been exhibited all over the world. With great inventiveness, she has developed an enormous body of original works, for which she has not only won numerous artistic prizes, but also, in 2009, was awarded the rank of Commander of the Portuguese Order of Prince Henry the Navigator. Today, her works are to be seen in public spaces and in leading museums around the world, as well as in private collections.
A first retrospective of Joana Vasconcelos’ works was held in 2010 at the Museu Coleção Berardo in Lisbon. Two years later, she was the first woman, and youngest artist to date, to hold a solo exhibition at the Palace of Versailles, which attracted more than 1.6 million visitors. Subsequently, she was twice more represented at the Venice Biennale: in 2013, representing Portugal with her "Trafaria Praia" project, for the first time in the history of the Biennale she created a floating national pavilion; and in 2015 she designed the "Giardino dell’Eden" installation for the Swatch pavilion. More recently, the international art world has focused attention on her large-scale exhibitions at, for example, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in Israel (2013), the Manchester Art Gallery in the UK (2014), MGM Macau in China (2015), and the ARoS Aarhus Art Museum in Denmark (2016). In 2018 Vasconcelos was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.
In Germany also, Vasconcelos is no unfamiliar figure: she has twice been represented at the Blickachsen international Sculpture Biennale, and in 2016 – together with twelve other well-known artists from around the world – she took part in the wide-ranging opening exhibition for the Jakobshallen in Bad Homburg. In 2017 Joana Vasconcelos presented her first solo exhibition in Germany as the first solo exhibition in the newly opened Jakobshallen and most recently, in 2019, her work was staged in a solo show in the Max Ernst Museum.