New YorkHanne Darboven: Europa 97
“My secret is that I don’t have one.” — Hanne Darboven, 1991
Petzel Gallery presents Europa 97, its first solo exhibition of Hanne Darboven opening May 2021 at its Upper East Side location, in collaboration with Sprüth Magers.
Hanne Darboven (1941–2009) is revered as one of the most important figures in postwar German art and was a prominent force among the artists that pioneered the conceptual and minimal art movements of her time. She worked widely across artistic writing, visual art, and minimalist musical compositions, with the visualization of time marking the foundation of her practice. The conceptual artist’s spatializing of time was developed early in her career, following a two-year stay in New York in the late 1960s, in which she established her now characteristic guiding principles of serial sequences, patterns, logic, mathematic formulas, and data translated into graphic or numerical representations. As a result, Darboven rejected the conventional concept of art, producing her works in the mode of writing and books, often constituting installations of hundreds of identically framed pages of diagrams, columns of numbers, and constructivist drawings.
“We’re very much looking forward to the ongoing collaboration with the Sprüth Magers team to present Darboven’s work in the States. I’ve admired her for decades and am thrilled to contribute to showing her once again in New York, a place so crucial in the forming of her brilliance,” says Friedrich Petzel. “We are pleased to partner with Philomene and Monika on this exciting endeavor.”
After studying at the Hochschule für bildende Künste in Hamburg from 1962-1965, Darboven had an enlightening two-year stint in New York where she developed close friendships with artist cohorts including Lawrence Weiner, Sol LeWitt, Carl André, and others, thus cementing her influence on the theoretical and aesthetic foundations of conceptual and minimal art. She continued an active artistic discourse with these fellow artists throughout her life and Petzel is especially pleased to have the opportunity to show her work in New York City once again.
“Hanne’s time spent in New York in the late 1960s, the city, and her friendships with local artists such as Sol LeWitt, Carl André, and Joseph Kosuth continued to have a special importance throughout her life and career,” says Philomene Magers. “It’s our pleasure to collaborate with Petzel and to support the return of Hanne’s work to the city again.”
Darboven’s expansive oeuvre reflects most broadly on current events, and through a closer lens chronicles politics, anthropology, geography, philosophy, and cultural histories – paying tribute to the professionals that devoted themselves to documenting these topics. Darboven renounced artistic subjectivity and instead, like other founders of conceptualism, relied upon the viewer’s input as a meaningful and necessary contribution to the creation of the work. She generated a unique handwritten notation system representing the mechanisms of time through self-designed cross-sum calculations which translated a date on the calendar into individual digits. Through this structure, the artist explored different ways of cataloguing and measuring time and challenging the supposed truths of these devices—material she then converted into elaborate visual forms.
For its debut exhibition, Petzel will show Darboven’s influential work Europa 97 (Europe 97), a collection of 384 individual pages in which the artist allocates her daily calculations for the entire year of 1997 according to a system or cross-arithmetic calculations. The work is broken into 12 blocks representative of the months, each with 32 pages. The pages that extend beyond a given month’s number of days are partly completed with collaged color photographs of the blue seal of Europe that is stamped onto license plates.
Europa 97 references the political events of 1997, which was declared the “European Year against Racism and Xenophobia” by The European Union, who had been dedicating each year since 1983 to a sociopolitical theme to be the focus of outreach work and funding programs. The declaration for the year was formed against the backdrop of the Treaty of Amsterdam which, when signed in 1997, was the first modification to the founding treaty of the European Union since established in 1992. The adjustment notably included an expansion of the legislative battle against discrimination on the basis of sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or faith, handicap, age, or sexual orientation. The highlighted events of the year are by no means thought of as a major historical moment, but Darboven calls attention to the political processes and decisions that were imperative in setting fundamental order to the association of states and liberal-democratic concord following the formation of the E.U. A modified form of Europa 97 hangs in the lobby and press room of the German Bundestag’s CDU/CSU party.
In Darboven’s work, we recognize both the possibilities and limitations of the systems used to measure time, and in doing so reveal the absence of one objective linear timeline. Her obsessively thorough approach to recording world events allows viewers to see that in these chronicles, lays a complicated web of feeling, memory, and diverse lived experience. Her works, in turn, declare fiercely the importance of transparency, documentation, and reflection. Notions that in these current discorded times, are needed more than ever.
About Hanne Darboven
Hanne Darboven was born in Munich in 1941 and is considered one of the most important and enigmatic figures in postwar German art. Following a brief period in which she studied as a pianist, she went on to train in art at the Hochschule für bildende Künste in Hamburg from 1962-1965. Though based in Hamburg, it was during a two-year stay in New York in the late 1960s that Darboven discovered what would become her life-long project: the visualization of time in all its formations. Upon return to her hometown in 1968, she continued to live and work at her parental home in Hamburg’s Harburg district until her death in 2009.
Selected solo exhibitions by Hanne Darboven include Kunsthalle Bern (1969), Westfälischer Kunstverein, Muenster (1971), Kunstmuseum Basel (1974), Deichtorhallen Hamburg (1991), Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven and Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris (both 1986), Dia Center for the Arts, New York (1996), Staatsgalerie Stuttgart (1997), Hamburger Kunsthalle (1999 and 2006), and Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin (2006), Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (2014), Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn and Haus der Kunst, Munich (both 2015), Deichtorhallen, Sammlung Falckenberg, Hamburg and Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin (both 2017). Selected group shows include documenta, Kassel (1972, 1977, 1982, 2002), Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (1970, 1981, 1989, 2000, 2006), Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (1971, 1983), Museum of Modern Art, New York (1976, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2014, 2017, 2018), National Museum of Art, Osaka (1989), National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (1991), The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. (1994), Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1996), Haus der Kunst, Munich (1997, 2003, 2008), Museum für Moderne Kunst MMK, Frankfurt (2000, 2010), Centre Pompidou, Paris (2002), Hamburger Kunsthalle (2013, 2016), Kunstmuseum Basel (2014), ICA Miami (2017), Westbund Art Museum, Shanghai (2019) and Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich (2020). She represented the Federal Republic of Germany at the 1982 Venice Biennale (along with Gotthard Graubner and Wolfgang Laib).
all images © the gallery and the artist(s)