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Antoni Tàpies

Image, Body, Pathos

November 13, 2011 − February 19, 2012

The Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen honored the Catalan artist with this exhibition, showcasing his oeuvre in its entire splendid variety – almost 40 years after he was awarded the Rubens Prize for his life’s work.

Antoni Tàpies, Matèria Rosada
Antoni Tàpies, "Matèria Rosada" (Pink Matter), 1991
© 2012 Fondation Antoni Tàpies Barcelona/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, provenience of the images Image Bank VEGAP, Madrid

Antoni Tàpies was born in Barcelona in 1923 and died there in February 2012. Alongside Dalí, Miró, Chillida, and Picasso, he was one of the great Spanish artist personalities who had a decisive influence on European painting in the second half of the 20th century. The early presentation of the 4th Rubens Prize to Tàpies by the City of Siegen in 1972 was more than justified. The exhibition “Image, Body, Pathos” permited us to take an up-to-date view of the artist’s astounding lifelong productivity. In Siegen it was possible to see his works from the 1940s – including 10 works from the Lambrecht-Schadeberg Collection – as well as the late work, which is hardly known in Germany. 

While the early work is still characterised by self-portraits, in the 1950s Tàpies developed an understanding of painting that presented a completely new pictorial corporeality. He began producing pictures using sand, clay, marble dust, and lime, which resembled impenetrable walls. The crannied backgrounds of his works, incorporating various materials, have an almost physical impact on the viewer. At the same time, he repeatedly broke open this wall-like surface by scratching in grooves or cryptic signs, making imprints or including other objects in a collage-like manner. In addition, he experimented with different paints and varnishes.

When we look very closely, the signs inscribed into the surface become letters or crosses and all at once they develop an aura of significance. A pale outline in varnish or a raised ridge suddenly metamorphoses into a body.

Depictions of the human body appear repeatedly in the material paintings, whether in imprints, symbolic suggestions, relief-like plasticity, or the integration of everyday objects. A chair, bed, door, or clothing, as depictions or as real objects, point to the simplest of human needs and open up diverse associative possibilities for the viewer. Suddenly, one finds oneself thrown back upon oneself, questioning one’s own basic existential needs. The viewer participates actively in the constitution of the image. Tàpies develops an impressive iconography with a motivation that is both personal and universal.

The more recent paintings from the late work phase, which appear almost bare and colorless, also create a fascinating effect through their reduction. They confront the viewer with an intensity that almost seems like a magical power of attraction. After the paintings of the 1960s with their overwhelming wealth of material, the canvases of the 1990s remain remarkably empty. Tàpies had allowed himself to be inspired by far eastern philosophy, so that the colorless canvases are primarily reminiscent of contemplation and meditation. In particular, the square formats of the late work period radiate an integral harmony. 

Tàpies’ paintings evolve in a dialogue between the body of the image and the materials; on occasion, he explicitly emphasized the picture carrier by piercing the canvas. In principle, the production of a painting is a process with an open end. Tàpies’ artistic work resembles philosophising about polarities: The poles of spirit and matter, form and formlessness, or reality and the imagination. In this context, the body, physical experience and investigation of the self are the extreme points of reference in a never-ending search for images. Once these images have been created, they develop a life of their own, unfolding a magical power and commanding the viewer’s participation.

The exhibition “Antoni Tàpies. Image, Body, Pathos” was developed in close cooperation with the artist and the Fundació Antoni Tàpies in Barcelona and was shown in the Art Museum of Reykjavík following its presentation in Siegen.

Opening hours

Open on holidays

11 - 6
11 - 8



5.90 €
4.60 €

all prices ››


Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen
Unteres Schloss 1
57072 Siegen

+49 (0) 271 405 77 0
+49 (0) 271 405 77 32