At Gallery Weekend in Berlin, Rarely Seen Work by German Conceptual Artist Hanne Darboven

Apr 29, 2016 4:40PM

The work of conceptual artist Hanne Darboven, one of Germany’s most important contemporary artists, isn’t usually seen in galleries, but in museums. Recently, in fact, Munich’s Haus der Kunst and Bonn’s Bundeskunsthalle put on retrospectives of her work.

This spring, however, during the 12th edition of Gallery Weekend Berlin, selections from Darboven’s oeuvre will be on display at Galerie Crone.

The pairing is a fitting one. Though now operating out of two locations in Berlin and Vienna, Galerie Crone was born in Hamburg—the same city where Darboven grew up and, excepting a few years in New York during the 1960s, where she lived and worked. It’s also where she died, in 2009; the vernissage at Crone marks what would have been her 75th birthday.

Front and center at the new show is “Evolution Leibniz” (1986), a monumental work composed of 888 sheets of paper mounted on 222 frames. The left sides contain handwritten text and index numbers, while the right sides feature photographs of associated objects, some recurring. The epic work, which has only been shown publicly on one other occasion, was inspired by the life of philosopher, mathematician, lawyer, and political essayist Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716). Darboven’s work is impressively complex, filled with mathematical equations, snippets from philosophical treatises, calendar pages, and references to Leibniz’s biography. Yet it is characteristic of her deep interest in history and its connection to the passage of time.

“I inscribe, but I describe nothing,” the artist once said, a statement that could be read as an admission of her penchants for handwritten text, numbers, and characters—some symbolic or logical, others indecipherable.

At Crone, alongside an early typewriter work, these so-called inscriptions are on full display in Darboven’s “Konstruktion” drawings. Dating from the mid-1960s, the series is rich with numbers and text—an early foundation for the rest of Darboven’s prolific career. Even though these and her other works might be difficult to interpret, the artist said that there’s no particular code to unlock. “My secret,” Darboven once said, “is that I do not have one.”

—Bridget Gleeson

Hanne Darboven: Evolution Leibniz” is on view at Galerie Crone, Berlin, Apr. 30–Jun. 18, 2016.

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