Yesterday it seemed like spring was finally arriving in Germany, but today again the cold wind was blowing and gloves and scarves were again required. So as I do so often, I took refuge in one of the city’s art museums — this time the Schirn Kunsthalle, which has a new exhibit called “Letzte Bilder” (Last Paintings) as well as an ongoing Yoko Ono retrospective. I saw only the first collection, except for the large environment/sculpture in the museum entrance hall by Ono, which creates an effect of rain hitting a river with stones and dozens of wires coming down from the roof through the atrium.
“Letzte Bilder” had what I found a really clever and interesting, literal concept: it featured pieces from the final collections of several artists before their deaths. They were presented in pairs, for contrast, such as Monet’s “water-lily” paintings along with small still lifes of vases of flowers by Manet, which were in fact all bouquets of flowers that were brought to him on his death bed by friends and family. Both floral subjects, but with very different themes and meanings.
There were also DeKooning’s calm abstract paintings from the last years of his life alongside Matisse’s “jazz” series of paper cut-outs; Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings of modern landscapes — views of the sky over clouds from the perspective of a long plane journey — next to a collection of Polaroids by Walker Evans after he received the then-innovative camera for his 70th birthday, and so on.
My favorite piece in the relatively small exhibit was the only painting by Andy Warhol, from the final series he was working on before his unexpected death — based on Da Vinci’s Last Supper. Warhol’s huge version takes up an entire wall, and is screenprinted in just black and white outlines, with advertising logos superimposed on top: from Camel cigarettes and “57” in reference to Heinz’s 57th variety. I particularly enjoyed sitting and looking at the painting for a while, because several years ago I attended a lecture about religious themes in Warhol’s art, and several of the themes come up here — including the general sense that consumerism is our modern religious experience. And there’s a little poetic irony to the fact that what was his last series is based on “the Last Supper.”
I hope you all have had a nice Sunday!