in the Wonderland of Art

22 June – 30 September 2012
Galerie der Gegenwart, 1st and 2nd Floor


Anonym Charles L. Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), 1852-1860 Albumen print, 197 x 146 mm © National Portrait Gallery, London
Anonym Charles L. Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), 1852-1860 Albumen print, 197 x 146 mm © National Portrait Gallery, London

This exhibition is the first comprehensive survey to explore the origin, reception and enduring success of the 19th-century novel Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, and above all how this timeless literary classic has influenced generations of visual artists.

The show opens with works created by Carroll himself. The author, whose real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832–1898), was also a mathematics professor, a photographer and an art collector. The presentation continues with groundbreaking illustrations and documents relating to theatrical adaptations and films of the Alice books. While the display of independent visual artworks begins with examples from the late 19th century, the exhibition has a strong focus on Surrealism, as artists such as Max Ernst, René Magritte or Salvador Dalí were among those who drew particular inspiration from the Alice novels as they ventured into the realm of the fantastic. The survey goes on to feature artists of the 1960s and 70s whose interest in forms of consciousness expansion and new understanding of the interrelation of language and image can be related to Lewis Carroll. Finally, the works on show by contemporary artists such as Stephan Huber, Anna Gaskell, Kiki Smith or Pipilotti Rist demonstrate the enduring fascination of his novels and the characters he created.

Hidden within the apparently simple children's book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass is an intricate web of references to the history of ideas, mathematics and principles of logic. At the same time, these philosophically complex novels are highly entertaining stories that contain many absurd, alogical or nonsense elements and are peppered with subtle wit and irony. The imaginative dream-like world of the narrative thus allows existential issues to be explored in a playful way; it addresses questions of individuality and self-knowledge, notions of space and time, the relationship between literary fiction and empirical reality, as well as the function and power of language. As such, Alice has become a metaphor for creative endeavour and the search for meaning.

The audio guide accompanying the exhibition takes visitors on a journey through the Wonderland of art and also through time, enhancing the viewing experience with commentaries and background information on selected exhibits, as well as numerous excerpts from Lewis Carroll's classic novels.





Dorothea Tanning, Eine kleine Nachtmusik, 1943



Mel Bochner, Measurement: Perimeter (Ask Alice) 9 feet high 1969/2011



Illustration: John Tenniel, Alice in Wonderland
  • Illustrationen: John Tenniel, Alice in Wonderland

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