Kai Althoff’s installations, videos and drawings often involve invented stories whose subjects, such as collective consciousness, music and lifestyle, play a crucial part. While Althoff’s work seems extreme at first glance, and, in its unconventionality, barely accessible to the viewer, its ‘70s aesthetic, grants immediate access. For all their underlying absurdity, Althoff’s scenarios never appear implausible.
By Efi Michalarou
Photo: MoMA Archive
Kai Althoff’s exhibitions or large-scale installations seem meticulously orchestrated, complete with their own preordained failures and contradictions, showcasing the artist’s absolute control over every detail. They are topian spaces of a sort in which such immersion equals intimacy. “Kai Althoff: and then leave me to the common swifts” at MoMA is his first major monographic exhibition at a U.S. institution in more than a decade. On the exhibition are on show 200 works, including painting, sculpture, collage, drawing, photography, environments, and sound, many of them from 75 public and private collections are displayed in an immersive environment designed by the artist. Born in Cologne in 1966, Kai Althoff attended a high school that emphasized arts and crafts, and went to art school but did not graduate. He is mostly self-taught. In his early years he participated in that city’s art and music demimonde, co-founding a band called Workshop. He became friends Michael Krebber and Cosima von Bonin, with whom he has collaborated on projects, and he has made antic, underground-style films with the sculptor Isa Genzken. The exhibition arranged by the artist himself. “The Museum of Modern Art granted me all freedom in using the gallery’s space and the Museum’s profound resources to present my work in the manner that I deem appropriate at this time of its existence and my life” writes Kai Althoff in the press release on the retrospective. But he adds that his confidence is “terrifyingly wobbling”, that there is “no reason really why my things are exhibited in a museum and others are not”. The exhibition is not a classical retrospective with works displayed in chronological order. Althoff deconstructed work groups, painting series, and installations from 30 years, recombined them, and enriched them with found objects important to him, ceramics, fabrics, feathers, jewelry. He leaned some of his most well-known paintings on the wall, and didn’t even unpack others. In this convoluted arrangement, it is often hard to tell what is a found piece and what is an artwork.
Info: Curators: Kai Althoff, Laura Hoptman, and Margaret Ewing, The Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53 Street, New York, Duration: 18/9/16-22/1/17, Days & Hours: Mon-Thu & Sat-sun 10:30-17:30, Fri 10:30-20:00, www.moma.org