Ohne Titel, 1989
Öl auf Hartfaserplatte
92 x 122 cm
Sammlung Würth: Inv. 191
We go to the dogs, cry crocodile tears, are poor as church mice or wolves in sheep's clothing, and move at a snail's pace. As the richness of our verbal bestiary suggests, for centuries literature and art have faced the creative challenge of imagining and describing the mysterious relationship between human beings and animals, the special state between proximity and distance, familiarity and strangeness, striking similarity and absolute diﬀerence in which they exist. Our idea of the character of animals has changed from epoch to epoch. Yet the clearer our scientiﬁcally proven relationship with animals becomes, the more skeptical some grow with respect to a natural hierarchy of species and the more concern themselves with ethical issues, such as animal rights or the dignity of animals. So our notions of animals are ﬂuid, and as we settle down in everyday life between ﬁxing a hotdog and walking the dog, artists show us animals from often highly unusual points of view. What fascinates them about animals are their veritably inexhaustible richness of form and, not rarely, an astonishing mysteriousness. Hence mythological ﬁgures, creatures from fable and fairy tale, like dragons, sphinxes, Medusas, chimeras and minotaurs are as much a part of the menagerie as cows, sheep, horses, dogs, cats, birds, tigers, whales or mice. Some graze properly in the ﬁelds; others rebel against their role, occupying computers like Flanagan's rabbit thinker, loll on a concert piano like Sengl's monkeys, or toss their rider like Paladino's enigmatic horse, as if fulﬁlling a wish of the Austrian author Elias Canetti, who once decided “The ﬁnest monument to a man would be a horse that had thrown him oﬀ.”
Comprising over 200 exhibits, “Menagerie – An Animal Show from the Würth Collection” is a pleasure for the entire family, for it not only devotes itself to our closest relative, the animal, in fascinating depictions from throughout art history, from Lucas Cranach the Elder through Leonhard Kern, Jean-Baptiste Audry, Pablo Picasso and René Magritte to Robert Longo and Andy Warhol. The show also features exotic curios such as furniture and glittering historic jewelry in animal form.
Then, too, we have something to learn from all these animals. Haven't humans, sly foxes that we are, always seen ourselves at the top of the heap?
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue published by Swiridoff Verlag.