The Relief from Rodin to Taeuber-Arp

Conjoining sculpture and painting, space and surface, the relief challenges our visual faculties. Its existence as an intermediary genre has made it a classic field for experimentation and innovation and enabled artists of all kinds to transcend genres and develop unique positions

With some 130 exhibits – reliefs, sculptures and paintings – by over 100 artists from Europe and the USA, the major survey exhibition OUTSTANDING! will focus on relief art, tracing its evolution from 1800 to the 1960s, a time where the relief as a medium gains more and more significance. While neoclassical sculptors such as Bertel Thorvaldsen drew on works from antiquity, nineteenth-century artists including Auguste Rodin and Medardo Rosso strove to transcend the limitations of sculpture. In their reliefs, painter-sculptors Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and others renegotiated the treatment of form and colour. In the twentieth century, new techniques spurred change, with Dadaists like Kurt Schwitters and Hans Arp developing relief collages from everyday objects and materials. Artists of the Russian avant-garde, the Bauhaus, and the Constructivist movement – among them Willi Baumeister, Erich Buchholz, Naum Gabo, Lou Loeber, Iwan, Puni, Oskar Schlemmer and Sophie Taeuber-Arp – set out to shape a new world and reform society with their works. Since the 1950s, artists such as Jan Schoonhoven, Piero Manzoni and Karl Hartung have been devoting themselves to exploring pictorial surfaces and their structures. Women artists including Louise Nevelson and Lee Bontecou in the meantime made a place for themselves in art history with expansive objects.

The show is divided into twelve thematic chapters. Artists from different eras thus enter into a lively dialogue on selected aspects of relief, for example:Narratives, Painterly/Sculptural, Reliefs in Colour, Multiple Perspectives, and Space.

With the last exhibition on the theme of relief 40 years in the past, our reality has changed significantly and is now often observed through screens. At the same time, our urge to touch and grasp is growing – and the relief in its openness is accommodating this perfectly. It also provides a lot of refreshing potential as a medium beyond categories.

An exhibition of the Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main (24 May to 17 September 2023) and the Hamburger Kunsthalle.

High-calibre works on loan, from the Kunstmuseum Basel, the Alte Nationalgalerie Berlin, the Kunstmuseum Den Haag, Museum Folkwang Essen, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek Kopenhagen, Musée des Beaux-Arts Lyon, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Musée d’Orsay Paris and the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam and others, will allow visitors to experience the arresting diversity and innovative force of the art of relief.

Prestel Verlag, Munich, publishes a comprehensive catalogue with 288 pages, 300 colour illustrations and academic texts (German and English edition).

Supported by
Hubertus Wald Stiftung, Freunde der Kunsthalle e. V., Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung, Rudolf-Augstein-Oetker-Stiftung, Behörde für Kultur und Medien , Hamburg
Cultural partner: NDR Kultur
Media partner: Hamburger Abendblatt


Exhibition catalogue, Prestel Verlag, hard-cover

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Outstanding! The Relief from Rodin to Taeuber-Arp

The Chapters of the exhibition

Outstanding! The Relief from Rodin to Taeuber-Arp

Audiotour in English

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Outstanding! The Relief from Rodin to Taeuber-Arp

Accompanying musical programme in cooperation with the Franz Wirth Gedächtnis Stiftung and Hans Brökel Stiftung

Dates: 9 Nov 2023, 18 Jan and 8 Feb 2024