Magical Reality

With Magical Reality an exhibition is on display for the first time in Hamburg that features the Italian artist Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978) who as the founder of the art movement coined »Pittura Metafisica« became one of the primary precursors of Surrealism and the New Objectivity.  

The large-scale show of Metaphysical Painting is centred around a significant body of works created by de Chirico between 1909 and 1919. These iconic paintings of light-flooded, hauntingly empty squares – sites where time seems to have come to a standstill and the seemingly mundane is charged with new meaning – strike us today as particularly powerful and topical. The Hamburger Kunsthalle presents a selection of unprecedented quality and density of rarely travelled masterworks from over fifty collections worldwide: included are renowned American and European institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia, the Menil Collection in Houston or the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, the Tate London and the Moderna Museet in Stockholm as well as private collections from Italy and Switzerland, among others. All in all eighty masterworks by de Chirico, Carlo Carrà, Giorgio Morandi, Alberto Magnelli, Alexander Archipenko, Pablo Picasso as well as Arnold Böcklin and Max Klinger are to be discovered in the show. Based on long-term research and fruitful cooperation among colleagues, this exhibition has been made possible even in times of crisis and despite the current restrictions imposed on us by the pandemic.

The exhibition features the mysteriously magical paintings by de Chirico – and in his wake Carlo Carràs and Giorgio Morandis – who strove to render visible a reality beyond appearances and thereby laid the foundation for a »different Modernism«. At the same time, it traces and reveals the sources leading to this new approach, including the cultural influences from various parts of Europe which the widely travelled Italian artist, born in Greece, drew upon: the Greek myths he grew up with; his interest for German philosophy, Friedrich Nietsche, for example, and with the major works of late German Romanticism during his studies in Munich; his experience of light and space on the squares of Italy; his encounter with the French avantgarde in Paris and, finally, his military service in Ferrara. Based on its exceptional holdings of works from the late German Romantic period, the Hamburger Kunsthalle is specifically able to illustrate the notable influences of Arnold Böcklin and also Max Klinger on de Chirico.

In this unique combination of variegating European influences, and in the face of the First World War and the Spanish flu pandemic, de Chirico attempts to make visible that which cannot be seen by creating enigmatic, realistic-accurate potential worlds. He conjures another world beyond one of appearance. The intense general mood of these works rests on fastidiously executed depictions of prop-like objects and figures, recalling mannequins staged in scenes of exaggerated perspectives, acting in dream-like Mediterranean spaces filled with nothing but sunlight and bottomless shade. Fountains or large clocks refer to the eternal recurrence of the same and question the concept of time and space. De Chirico’s iconography serves to unveil the ambiguity of symbols. It reveals the enigma underlying our reality.

This ambiguity, virtuosity and anticipated virtuality deeply impress us today, especially since the curfews and contact restrictions we encountered worldwide in 2020 have transferred the spatial, temporal and visual experiences of hauntingly empty squares to our present day. The century-old masterworks thus may serve the viewers as a kind of mirror, reflecting the experiences of one’s own recent – external and internal – reality.

Accompanying the exhibition is a richly illustrated catalogue containing numerous essays written by internationally renowned experts. It presents the latest research results on de Chirico’s circumstances of life, leading to the development of Metaphysical Painting and to the influences of the late German Romanticism and philosophy. The publication (Hirmer Verlag GmbH, Munich) is available at the museum shop for the price of 29 Euros and can be ordered online for €34.90 plus postage via

DE CHIRICO. Magical Reality was developed in a first cooperation of the Hamburger Kunsthalle with the Paris-based Musées d’Orsay and l’Orangerie. An extended version of the highly frequented show there will be presented in Hamburg, aimed at reflecting the origins of the Arte Metafiscia and visualizing its particular iconography through an atmospherically dense spatial arrangement.


Supported by: Hubertus Wald Stiftung, Freunde der Kunsthalle e. V., Ministry of Culture and Media Hamburg

The exhibition is under the patronage of the Embassy of the Italian Republic.

Culture partner: NDR KULTUR
Media partner: Hamburger Abendblatt
Mobility partner: MOIA

De Chirico. Magical Reality

The Chapters of the Exhibition

Comprehensive information of the exhibition
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De Chirico. Magical Reality

De Chirico AR filter

Elements from de Chirico's paintings in 3D
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De Chirico. Magical Reality

Your Photos of Empty Places

A selection of submissions following our call for photos
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De Chirico. Magical Reality

Audio Show

Audio descriptions of selected works from the exhibition
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De Chirico. Magical Reality

Instagram GIFs accompanying the exhibition

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De Chirico. Magical Reality

Films accompanying the exhibition

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De Chirico. Magical Reality

Call for submissions

Be part of the exhibition with photos of empty places
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De Chirico. Magical Reality

The Exhibition Playlist

with Alberto Savinio's »Les Chants de la mi-mort«
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De Chirico. Magical Reality

Installation views from the exhibition

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