21 February 2007

Allan Kaprow - Van Abbemuseum

Allan Kaprow
Kunst als leven – Art as Life
10.02 – 22.04.07


TU – SU 11:00 – 17:00
TH 11.00 – 21:00



Allan Kaprow, father of ‘happenings’ and ‘the most famous unknown artist’ died in April 2006. In association with the Haus der Kunst, Munich, the Van Abbemuseum organises the largest European solo presentation of the work of this American artist, displaying a development of almost 50 years of artistic work. The concept for this exhibition was developed together with the artist shortly before his death. Much of Kaprow’s art is special because it is interactive, intended to be carried out by people. The exhibition consists of a range of objects from Kaprow’s artistic legacy on view as well as a number of ‘happenings’ in which visitors can participate. The Van Abbemuseum’s artistic policy is to exhibit major overview exhibitions of artists from the sixties and seventies, who are the ‘classics’ of today.

The theme of the Allan Kaprow 'Kunst als leven – Art as Life' exhibition is the paradoxical question of how museums can display art in an appropriate manner in this day and age, while approaching real life with art as closely as possible. A range of objects from Kaprow’s artistic legacy will be displayed: early paintings, environments, video documents and photographs, as well as a fast array of original scores for his ‘happenings’ and ‘activities’.

This special presentation is not intended as an attempt to rewrite or document history, but to encourage visitors to see the ‘museum as mediation’. Kaprow was never interested in passively consumptive viewers but in active participation. The Van Abbemuseum is both a place of mediation and an agency of action. The exhibition will entail a re-enactment of a selection of happenings – on condition, however, that the visitors understand their new role and participate.

Towards the end of the 1950s, American artist Allan Kaprow (1927-2006) coined the term ‘happenings’ for a new art form. A decade earlier, Kaprow had studied philosophy and subsequently art history with Meyer Shapiro in New York. At the same time he studied art with Hans Hofmann. It was while following composition classes with John Cage at the New School for Social Research in 1956/57 that he discovered he could use coincidence as well as everyday materials in his art. His work metamorphosed from expressionist scenes of figures through raw assemblies of materials to room-filling ‘environments’. With audiences participating, events took place in these ‘configured’ spaces from the late 50s onwards. Kaprow succeeded in doing what many painters and sculptors had endeavoured to achieve before him: the dissolution of the boundaries between art and reality. He accomplished the move into reality in such a radical fashion that his ‘happenings’ – which he later relabelled ‘activities’ – became indistinguishable from real life. During this process the artist drew back more and more from the institutions. To him, museums were burial chambers of art that no longer had anything to do with life.

During the exhibition various happenings will take place in and outside the Van Abbemuseum. Participation is a must.

For more information, dates and reservations, visit http://www.kaprow.org.

Exhibition concept: Eva Meyer-Hermann & Stephanie Rosenthal
Van Abbemuseum exhibition curator: Eva Meyer-Hermann
In association with Haus der Kunst, Munich.


Kunsthalle Bern
2 juni / june 2007 -
26 augustus / August 2007

Museum of Contemporary Art,
Los Angeles, voorjaar / Spring 2008

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