18. Sep 2022 – 26. Mar 2023
In the second half of 2022, there will be great deal of »animal action« at the Art Chamber Rau! That is because in many of the paintings and sculptures in Gustav Rau’s collection you will hear a crowing, barking and grunting. From September onwards, we will be unleashing the animal world, from the Middle Ages to modern times.
Mythical beasts and tamed creatures are central figures in religion and popular belief. Sometimes they are spiritual ancestors, helping gods, cursed demons or symbolic representatives of man. They reflect the traditionally close bonds between animals and humans. These bonds are ambivalent, characterised by love and fear, by uncompromising possessiveness and the acceptance of a useful helper by man’s side. Some of these helpers will be presented as examples: dairy cows, sheep, horses and chickens will take centre stage in the pictures.
The untamed wild animal, on the other hand, remains a prey. Freshly shot down, retrieved by the faithful hunting dog, it is captured by baroque painters to demonstrate the courtly sport of hunting and its successes. More and more, the individual dog emancipates itself from the anonymous pack, becomes the closest companion and finally, in the 18th century, the friend of man. While in classical portraits the greyhound served the lord of the hunt as a badge of his nobility, it now sits as a companion on a table or bench, almost on an equal footing with him.
With the revolution of science in the Enlightenment era, the relationship of animals and humans receives another huge boost. From a dissected or studied object, the animal turns into a Darwinian self, is suddenly recognised within ourselves. Researchers and artists alike explore analogies of animals and humans.
But also the other side of the relationship between animal and human will be illuminated, the de-individualisation of the animal. As a tempting fish platter in opalescent colours or as a juicy ham, the killed animal occupies the picture surface, as a skewered object it serves human greed and curiosity. It is an art full of morbid charm that demonstrates the human pleasures which caused pain and suffering to the animals. Faceless, fragmented, they become a commodity. The artworks in the Rau Collection for UNICEF tell these eventful stories of animals and humans right up to the present day.