The Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg is the first German institution to include a work by the Indian artist Mithu Sen in its collection, thereby moving one further step closer to the vision—formulated by director Ralf Beil when he took up office—of making the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg and its collection “more feminine, more political, and more global.” “It is extraordinary in every respect that a collector from the other side of the globe would fulfill this heartfelt wish and, with his donation, ensure that the important thematic exhibition Facing India is now also firmly anchored in the collection,” Ralf Beil states with regard to the donation.
This generous gift was made possible by the collector Durjoy Rahman from Bangladesh. In this regard as well, globalization has long been a reality: Not only collectors from Hamburg, Wolfsburg, Cologne, and Berlin, but also from Istanbul and Dhaka appreciate the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg as a place of fundamental engagement with art and life and are therefore willing to significantly support the museum in its collecting activities. This is all the more important since the private foundation of the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, like many public museums, has hardly its own means to expand its collection and therefore relies more than ever on generous gestures from patrons such as Durjoy Rahman.
Mithu Sen’s MOU (Museum of Unbelongings) can be seen through October 7, 2018 in the context of the exhibition Facing India in the main hall of the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg. Afterwards, the installation will be transferred to the upper floor and, from March 24, 2019, become an integral part of the comprehensive anniversary exhibition culled from the museum’s collection: 25 Years Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg. For the first time, the entire museum will be reserved exclusively for the collection and bear witness to the quality and intensity of the contemporary art acquired since 1994. In addition to key works by Nobuyoshi Araki, Christian Boltanski, Rebecca Horn, Jeff Koons, Bruce Nauman, Elizabeth Peyton, and Luc Tuymans, numerous other donations and recent acquisitions from the last three years will be presented for the first time: including groups of works and installations by Gauri Gill, Pieter Hugo, Prajakta Potnis, Sam Taylor-Johnson, and Thomas Zipp.
THE ARTIST, HER WORK, AND HER MUSEUM
The Indian artist Mithu Sen (born in West Bengal in 1971, lives in New Delhi) makes her own rules and defies categorization. For her all-encompassing revolt, she has chosen the prefix “un-,” which simultaneously negates an occurrence or a statement: (un)becoming, (un)home, (un)construct, (un)mything, and even (un)mithu. In her drive to transgress and dissolve boundaries, Mithu Sen breaks down not only language into its component parts, only to piece it back together again. The site of her reflection is the body. In her paintings, drawings, sculptures, and installations, she overlaps female and male sexual characteristics, flowers and fruits, as well as human and animal elements, to create bizarre hybrids. Universals of human and animal existence, such as hair, bones, or teeth, question not only established hierarchies and boundaries between the sexes, but also those between ethnicities, castes, and species. With the radicalness of her visual language, she frequently breaks taboos. Her will to dissolve goes beyond manifestations of the body and extends as far as institutional criticism.
With her MOU (Museum of Unbelongings), she thus puts forth the idea of a fundamentally democratic museum of marginalized things, which makes due without labels and hierarchies. All objects have the same value—a metaphor for an egalitarian world without borders or, as she herself has stated: “It’s a carnival. An imagination of the world, which does not already exist…”
The round form of Mithu Sen’s Mou (Museum of Unbelongings) allows viewers to circle it and study individual objects in their details and peculiarities: as a diary, a place of remembrance, a playing field, as objects of passion, paradox, comfort and discomfort, as well as pars per toto for everything unseen, untouched, unknown. Mithu Sen is not interested in deciphering personal stories which she might have hidden in the MOU (Museum of Unbelongings), but with the viewer discovering his or her own past and present in this “pluriverse.” Mithu Sen deliberately prescribes no meaning. Her concept of the archive is subversively based on the collection of sensory impressions and emotions, which—manifested by diverse worlds of objects—are controlled by the subconscious and are not burdened by culture or learned knowledge.
It is no coincidence that, in his review of Facing India—published in the Süddeutsche Zeitung on June 26, 2018—Till Briegleb dedicated his concluding paragraph to the work of Mithu Sen: “There is even room for some optimism in this forum of enlightening art. Mithu Sen’s MOU (Museum of Unbelongings) is a large, circular glass display case featuring the most peculiar sculptures and objects collected by the artist over the course of her life. The curious family of the most bizarre objects is the utopian reflection of a society in which differences and peculiarities are qualities of coexistence—albeit here still behind glass and under laboratory conditions. In the many statements of this artistically highly convincing demonstration for more justice, the conclusion is the mantra ‘I have a dream.’ And this definitively rounds off the exhibition.”
The generous donor from Dhaka, Bangladesh—the entrepreneur and collector Durjoy Rahman—is currently in the process of establishing a non-profit foundation under the name Durjoy Bangladesh, dedicated to promoting art from South Asia.
Hollerpl. 1, 38440 Wolfsburg, Germany