The literal translation from German into English of Gesamtkunstwerk is complete artwork. It was first used by Richard Wagner to describe a new type of art in the 19th century, which brought together many different types of art – including painting, literature and music, a new all-inclusive, modern art form. The newest exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery, which celebrates contemporary German art, is certainly diverse, and covers a large array of genres and styles.
Set across all three floors of the gallery, 24 artists feature in the show, many of whom have had little exposure in the UK. The focus is on new art from Germany, showcasing a variety of disciplines including sculpture, painting and drawing. The show is a combination of the historical with the modern day, with influences from traditional art history to post modernism, with many artists combining styles, genres and culture. Amongst the artists shown, is Isa Genzken, wife of Gerhard Richter, who displays elaborate columns embellished with a concoction of flowers, furniture and children’s toys. Another notable participator is André Butzer, whose large expressive canvases managed to catch my eye amongst the large array of diversity in each room.
The exhibition is colourful and playful; it reflects the diversity of life in Germany today. There is no focus on one particular niche area, but instead there is an overview of German art right now as a whole. The large number of exhibiting artists has shown how innovative they can be with surrealism, abstractionism and the use of different media, particularly in the politically inspired work of Josephine Meckseper who uses shiny surfaces as both material and metaphor.
Despite the impressive display, there is almost too much to take in. There is too much on offer and at times the experience can feel a little chaotic, the show is visually stimulating, if not a little overwhelming. However, it is not to be missed and the free entry should be taken advantage of; the works on display deserve a second visit in order to be discovered and appreciated properly.
Gesamtkunstwerk: New Art From Germany is open at the Saatchi Gallery until 30 April 2012.