Release of 08.12.2021
Ragnar Kjartansson, The End, 2009. TBA21, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Collection. Photo: Laura Vanags | The Banff Centre | Courtesy the artist | Luhring Augustine, New York | Galleri I8, Reykjavík
Madrid, Spain (8 December 2021) – A major exhibition of works by Ragnar Kjartansson exploring the artist’s fascination with America and the American landscape, featuring four video installations, a concert and works on paper, will open at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza (MNTB) on 22 February 2022. Co-organised by Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21) and MNTB, Emotional Landscapes will be installed within the museum’s collections of 19th- and 20th-century American Art, the foremost such holdings in Europe, providing opportunities to explore the interplay between Kjartansson’s work and iconic American imagery.
Emotional Landscapes builds upon TBA21’s 15-year relationship with the artist, throughout which the Foundation has supported his practice through commissions, production, and exhibitions. Drawing its title from Björk’s famous lyrics, Emotional Landscapes includes four video installations from the TBA21 Collection, shown together for the first time: The Visitors (2012), TheMan (2010), The End (2009), and God (2007, co-commissioned by TBA21 and The Living Art Museum in Reykjavík). In addition to works from the TBA21 collection, the exhibition also features a series of watercolours on loan from various collections titled From the Valley of World-Weariness in British Columbia (2011). Kicking off TBA21’s 20th anniversary, the exhibition opens with a live concert by Kjartansson.
“We could not think of a more fitting way to celebrate TBA21´s 20-year legacy of collaborating with artists to realise their most ambitious visions, than presenting an exhibition that showcases Ragnar’s incredible boundary-breaking practice, which we have supported vigorously over the years,” says TBA21 Founder Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza. “Experiencing his works within the context of the American imagery at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza adds a resonant dimension to his art. Taking up the museum´s challenge to find interplay and dialogues between the respective collections is a fascinating voyage in which we revisit both the museum collection and our own activities in today's context. Following the success of Walid Raad’s critical examination of the collection, Ragnar’s exhibition will extend these conversations from a different perspective.”
“Kjartansson’s works are so monumental in size, materiality and subject matter that it’s rare to experience them together,” says Soledad Gutiérrez Rodríguez, TBA21 Chief Curator and curator of Emotional Landscapes. “This exhibition places the works in dialogue with one another, revealing new through lines, and clearly reveals the romance between Kjartansson’s work and iconic depictions of America.”
The exhibition will include the following works, encapsulating Kjartansson’s distinctive practice of durational performance, often combining performance and music with an uncompromised romanticism:
- The Visitors (2012), arguably Kjartansson’s most celebrated work, will be shown for the first time in Madrid in Emotional Landscapes. Created by an eclectic group of musicians and some of the artist’s friends, The Visitors is an hour-long nine-channel video installation set at the Rokeby Farm in Barrytown, New York on the Hudson River.
- The End (2009) uses the Rocky Mountains as a stage, following and questioning the historically romanticised tradition of the artist in landscape. The End is installed with From the Valley of World-Weariness in British Columbia (2011), a series of watercolours painted in the same location in the Canadian Rockies following a fire, which convey a sense of melancholic longing within the landscape.
- The Man (2010) captures a full performance of the final repertoire of the 97-year-old Mississippi blues musician Pinetop Perkins—one of the few pieces in which Kjartansson himself does not appear. Perkins's piano is outside in the middle of a vast grassland that is mostly empty except for an old barn and a few trees visible in the background.
- God (2007) explores mid-20th century American pop culture through a character inspired by Frank Sinatra. The thirty-minute single-channel video installation features the artist staged as the frontman for an 11-piece 1930s jazz band. God is installed with Modern American works from the Thyssen Collections.
Emotional Landscapes is the seventh exhibition in a five-year collaboration between TBA21 and the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, following most recently Claudia Comte’s After Nature and Walid Raad’s Cotton Under My Feet (on view at MNTB through 23 January 2022).
In addition to the works on view in Emotional Landscapes, TBA21’s collaboration with Kjartansson has also encompassed a number of commissions or co-commissions, including the artist’s monumental, durational performance, The Palace of the Summerland in 2014.
About Ragnar Kjartansson
Ragnar Kjartansson draws on the entire arc of art in his performative practice. The history of film, music, theatre, visual culture and literature find their way into his video installations, durational performances, drawing and painting. Pretending and staging become key tools in the artist’s attempt to convey sincere emotion and offer a genuine experience to the audience. Kjartansson’s work has been exhibited widely. His work is currently the subject of a major solo show which inaugurated V-A-C’s GES-2 House of Culture in Moscow. Other recent solo exhibitions and performances have been held at the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Barbican Art Gallery in London, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington DC, Reykjavík Art Museum, Palais de Tokyo in Paris, and New Museum in New York. The artist received the 2019 Ars Fennica Award, and was the recipient of the 2015 Artes Mundi’s Derek Williams Trust Purchase Award, and Performa’s 2011 Malcolm McLaren Award. In 2009, Kjartansson represented Iceland at the Venice Biennale, and in 2013 his work was featured at the Biennale’s main exhibition, The Encyclopedic Palace. Kjartansson was born in 1976 in Reykjavík, and studied at the Iceland Academy of the Arts and The Royal Academy, Stockholm.
Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21) is a leading international art and advocacy foundation created in 2002 by the philanthropist and collector Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza, representing the fourth generation of the Thyssen family’s commitment to the arts and public service. The TBA21 Foundation—based in Madrid and Vienna—stewards the TBA21 Collection and its outreach activities, which include exhibitions, public programming, and partnerships with other cultural and civic institutions.
In 2011, TBA21 established TBA21–Academy a cultural ecosystem fostering a deeper relationship to the Ocean through the lens of art to inspire care and action. For a decade, the Academy has been an incubator for collaborative research, artistic production, and new forms of knowledge by combining art and science, resulting in exhibitions, research, and policy interventions. In 2019, two initiatives launched as part of the program to share its research and practice with the wider public: the physical venue Ocean Space in Venice, and the digital platform Ocean Archive. In 2020, the Academy introduced a new funded research opportunity, the Ocean Fellowship Program, and Ocean / Uni, a curriculum providing students, researchers, and the public with wide-ranging and accessible explorations of the changes taking place throughout the oceans at a high level of expertise.
TBA21 is continually extending its advocacy work by sparking new collaborations across the arts, humanities and sciences, partnering with other research and educational organizations, and municipalities and communities around the world.