“[They] had taken the initiative upon themselves and therefore, without knowing or even noticing it, had begun to create that public space between themselves where freedom could appear.”– Hannah Arendt
Richard Saltoun Gallery has announced a 12-month programme of exhibitions dedicated to the writings of the German-born, American political philosopher Hannah Arendt (1906-1975). Since the gallery’s inception in 2012, Richard Saltoun has sought to shed light on difficult questions concerning inequality and identity. Its unwavering dedication to Feminist and Conceptual artists particularly from the 1970s onwards has inevitably imbued its programme with a strong political focus, and the gallery’s curatorial approach has been guided by a vision to serve a wider societal purpose.
Following 100% Women, a year-long programme to support female artists and address gender imbalance in the art world, On Hannah Arendt: Eight Proposals for Exhibition looks to one of the most important thinkers of the post-war generation to confront some of the most pressing socio-political issues of our time. Launching in January 2021, On Hannah Arendt will be organised around eight exhibitions that seek to explore the questions put forth in the eight chapters of Arendt’s book Between Past and Future: Eight Exercises in Political Thought. The exhibitions will feature over 20 international artists working across a variety of media, including artists represented by the gallery and artists outside the gallery roster. Rarely does a commercial gallery dedicate an entire year to a single theme or collaborate with such a range of non-represented artists.
While the world has changed dramatically since Arendt published the final version of Between Past and Future in 1968, her call for thoughtful reflection on difficult subjects remains impressively relevant today. Arendt’s subtitle, Eight Exercises in Political Thought, reflected her desire to avoid providing definitive answers, instead instructing the reader that the “only aim is to gain experience in how to think.” Hence, artists have been selected who might suggest, interpret, extrapolate and elucidate ideas in the book, and by extension, their engagement with Arendt’s ideas should be approached less as descriptive or explanatory and more as something that has the potential to alter and inform our attitude toward phenomenological questioning, for example, towards issues of exile, agency, freedom, prejudice and spirituality.
“The international outbreak of COVID-19, and the subsequent lockdown that ensued around the world, has given us the time to deeply consider our programme and put the gallery to a more interesting purpose. Given today’s social and political climate, the exceptional circumstances we find ourselves in, we are devoting the entire program of 2021 to the writings of Hannah Arendt. We will share our resources with many artists; across gender, race and age and including many not represented by the gallery. We hope to learn and inspire others by showcasing how artists respond to the timely and poignant questions put forth by this great philosopher.”Richard Saltoun, Founding Director
Launching the programme in January 2021, The Modern Age addresses themes of dislocation, statelessness and social alienation, as well as the discomfort and uncertainty these conditions produce and will include key works by Siah Armajani (b. 1939, Iran; d. 2020, USA) and Vivienne Koorland (b. 1957, South Africa), amongst others.
The Concept of History, a solo exhibition by Peter Kennard (b. 1949, UK) in February, highlights the artist’s extraordinary contribution to politically informed art over the past 50 years. The exhibition will showcase three bodies of work: his little-known STOP Paintings from the 1960-70s informed by events such as the Paris student riots, The Prague Spring and Vietnam War protests; his series of Pallets from the 1990s, with traces of human images and figures barely visible on battered wooden pallets; and a new series of works on paper 2020.
In April, What is Authority? examines structural antagonism and everyday discrimination – thoughts, glances, implied judgments that flourish in an environment where more explicit acts of inequality have been outlawed, with work by Lili Dujourie (b. 1941, Belgium), Everlyn Nicodemus (b. 1954, Tanzania) and Lerato Shadi (b. 1979, South Africa).
Bracha L. Ettinger (b. 1948, Israel) puts us in relation to Arendt’s question What is Freedom? and relates to the tragic fate of women in periods of war, especially the Holocaust. Dealing with the themes of trauma and compassion, investigating the historical and psychological landscape of transgenerational memory, community and feminine subjectivity, Ettinger’s solo show, opening in June, will include a selection of paintings and drawings created during the last seven years.
A new light structure by Marinella Senatore (b. 1971, Italy) inspired by Arendt’s Between Past and Future will also be on view throughout the duration of the eight exhibitions, serving to illuminate one of the fundamental concepts of the show.
Further details regarding the second half of the programme – exploring The Crisis in Education (July), The Crisis in Culture (August), Truth & Politics (October) and The Conquest of Space (November) – will be announced in spring 2021, along with an accompanying series of special events and public lectures.