MThe German Pavilion in Venice is alerically located on a hill in the Giardini, surrounded by mighty trees and the blue of the lagoon. The temple building with the jagged neoclassical columns is the pride of foreign cultural policy. Exciting German positions on contemporary art are presented here every two years. And very successfully so: No other country has received as many awards in Venice as the Federal Republic, including four Golden Lions for the best national contribution, most recently in 2019 with “Faust”, staged and choreographed by Anne Imhof, with angry barking dogs behind glass all in one basement.
A lot seems different this year. The Biennale, founded in 1895, is still the measure of all things, the heliocentric meeting point of the art world. But it seems as if the German Pavilion has lost a lot of its luster, and this time it is not under a lucky star.
On the one hand, this is due to the work of the artist Maria Eichhorn, who wanted to beam the pavilion away. The original draft of a “translocation” envisaged transporting the building to the mainland by crane and ship and parking it in Mestre for the duration of the Biennale. After that, the pavilion should return. Little more than an excavation pit would then have remained of the German contribution. A project that would not only have devoured astronomical, completely unreal costs (a large part of the expensive 1.6 million budget plus sponsorship money was spent on planning alone). The move could have also triggered an ecological disaster and claimed an award for the Biennial’s least sustainable artwork.
After those responsible in Berlin became aware of the absurdity of the project (they let the “relocation plans” crash into the wall only half a year before the opening), the concept artist Maria Eichhorn came up with a plan B. The foundations of the previous pavilion, the slender so-called “Bavarian Pavilion” from 1909, were to be uncovered, the seams to the more monumental extension made visible, which the architect Ernst Haiger built at Adolf Hitler’s personal behest in 1937/38.
Just one year after the “seizure of power” Hitler met his role model Mussolini on the grounds of the Biennale. Maria Eichhorn and her curator Yilmaz Dziewior would now like to persuade the visitor once again to deal with the Nazi history of the building.
However, that is long since cold coffee. Whole generations of German Venice artists, starting with Joseph Beuys and his famous “Tramway Stop” from 1976, have already worked extensively on the subject. Hans Haacke even received the Golden Lion in 1993 when he maltreated the floor of the pavilion with a pickaxe and thus symbolically questioned the foundations of German history. That said it all. Going back to the history of architecture is no proof of the exuberant originality of the artist Maria Eichhorn. Rather, one has the impression of sitting on something epigonal after the original plan to send the pavilion on trips had collapsed.