Elmgreen & Dragset Trick an Entire City for Their Latest Show

A family relocates to a museum in the spectre of post-Brexit Europe.

Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset. Photo ©Clint Spaulding/PatrickMcMullan.
Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset. Photo ©Clint Spaulding/PatrickMcMullan.

Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset‘s latest show “Die Zugezogenen” (The Newcomers), at the Kunstmuseum Krefeld, Germany, has caused quite a stir in the weeks leading up to the opening.

Earlier this year, a “For Sale” sign had gone up in front of the beloved Haus Lange, a Ludwig Mies van der Rohe villa from the late 1920s that has been used as an exhibition space by the Krefeld museum since 1955. A two-page ad was taken out in the local newspaper, and to complete the deception, a real estate agent enlisted by the artists answered calls, mostly by concerned citizens angered by the prospect of seeing the historical architectural gem privatized.

Then, the sign in front of the museum announced that it had been sold.

Haus Lange, with a "Sold" sign. Courtesy the artists/ Photo: Volker Döhne ©Elmgreen & Dragset and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017

Haus Lange, with a “Sold” sign. Courtesy the artists. Photo Volker Döhne ©Elmgreen & Dragset and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017.

Anyone familiar with the work of the Scandinavian artist duo will recall a similar lead-up to their 2009 presentation at the 53rd Venice Biennale, where the artists faked the sale of the Danish and Nordic pavilions, and staged a presentation called “The Collectors” inside.

And much like the show in Venice, in Krefeld too the lifeless “body” of a man in a black suit can be spotted floating in an outdoor pool.

But for this exhibition, which runs until August 27, the artists gave the fictive family who have “moved into” the villa a background story that echoes current affairs: Following Brexit, a wealthy German family moves back from the UK. The domestic setting is deceptive, with partially unpacked boxes strewn around the rooms. A Jaguar with a British license plate is parked outside, and the backdoor of the villa is open, inviting visitors to come in and discover the trickery.

In a statement about the museum show, their first in the Rhineland region, the artists describe the realistic, albeit invented, backstory of the site-specific show as a reflection on “the visions of Modernist architecture in light of today’s reality.”

Many of the ideals of that era, they note, “now seem distant from our current, global, geopolitical situation.”

Elmgreen & Dragset, "The Newcomers" at Krefeld Museum. Courtesy the artists/ Photo: Volker Döhne ©Elmgreen & Dragset and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017

Elmgreen & Dragset, “The Newcomers” at Krefeld Museum. Courtesy the artists/ Photo Volker Döhne ©Elmgreen & Dragset and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017.

Working together since the mid-1990s, Elmgreen & Dragset are known for site-specific installations that use humor to critique social and political themes, with slight manipulations and subversion.

This coming fall, they will curate the 2017 Istanbul Biennale—as the first artists to ever take on the job—titled “A Good Neighbor,” with a thematic focus on notions of home, neighborhoods, and how private spheres have changed in the recent past. The exhibition in Krefeld seems to offer a foretaste of their handling of these topics.

Elmgreen & Dragset, “Die Zugezogenen” is on view at Kunstmuseum Krefeld until August 27, 2017.


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