The Art of Growing Old 

Louise Bourgeois, Marrie Bot, John Coplans (1920-2003), Anton Corbijn, Ines Doujak, Herlinde Koelbl, Maria Lassnig, Vera Lehndorff, Nicolas Nixon, Andres Serrano, Cindy Sherman, Miwa Yanagi

Press conference: wednesday, the 5th of september 2007, 10 am
opening Bolzano: thursday, the 6 th of september 2007, 6.30 pm (in cooperation with the opening of the music festival trans art in Bolzano)
opening schwaz: friday, the 7th of september, 10.30 pm (in cooperation with the opening of the music festival Klangspuren in Schwaz)

An exhibition catalogue will be published.

A group exhibition curated by Sabine Gamper, ar/ge kunst, Galerie Museum, Bolzano (I) and Karin Pernegger, stadtgalerie schwaz, Tirol (A)

List of artists at the stadtgalerie schwaz, Tirol:
Louise Bourgeois
Marrie Bot
John Coplans (1920-2003)
Anton Corbijn
Ines Doujak
Herlinde Koelbl Maria Lassnig
Vera Lehndorff
Nicolas Nixon
Andres Serrano
Cindy Sherman
Miwa Yanagi

List of artists at the arge kunst, Bolzano
Marina Ballo Charmet
Daniela Chinellato
Marcell Esterhazy
Elisabeth Hölzl Melanie Manchot
Aernout Mik
Imogen Stidworthy
David Zink Yi

The 21st century is re-inventing the over-50 generation, with its buying power and age-specific needs. Whether an integration of the aged into society can be successful, or whether the picture of old age commits young people only retrospectively, is the subject of this two exhibitions.

Confronted with the aging of our society and the challenges this raises, it becomes clear that we need new images to address the subject of aging. These two exhibitions investigate this subject by presenting contemporary artworks dealing with the topics of family and society, paying special attention to the aging body and moving between deprivation, anxiety and intimacy. Thus, the exhibitions offer impressive portrayals of the issues of aging, of nostalgia and of remembrance. They move between self-perception and the myths of youth by focussing on the view younger family members have of their parents and grandparents.

The exhibitions in Bolzano and Schwaz have different themes. In Schwaz there is an approach to the self-portrait and how we perceive ourselves; the emphasis is on the body and its natural sexuality. The exhibition in Bolzano focuses on the external awareness of the theme as mirrored in society and the family.

Both exhibitions try to outline a positive picture of old age with all its qualities and problems, which naturally excludes equating old age with illness and death, as both – despite their inevitability – are ultimately independent of age.

Our world is changing. Not just climate change, globalisation and the resulting convergence of economic powers, war, and the distribution of resources are presenting new problems, but the aging of society also requires new solutions. Whereas old age was still an intellectual concept in the ancient world with a statesmanlike reputation far removed from illness and death, old age has been given a personal face in the last 200 years. In the centuries between, old age was equated with death, in as far as one reached it at all. In the nineteenth century a turning point was reached not only with the discoveries of medical technology, but also when Otto von Bismark first introduced provisions for health, old age and care, and recognised the need for a state social system responsible for an aging society. The external perception of old age changed even more radically under the positive sign of the enlightenment, leading to sentimentalisation. In the future the aged were to live in the family circle on a level with the grandchildren, and were rapidly deprived of the insignia of a productive and independent life. Modern trends equate aging with guilt; and already in the seventies Simone de Beauvoir insisted that a reassessment of the theme was necessary. We still can´t estimate the consequences of aging in our society, but as Frank Schirrmachers study „The Methuselah Conspiracy” (2004) demonstrated, it is clear that we need new images to fight against ageism.

About the artworks (selction):

What does aging mean to the individual? What changes? Does one count the wrinkles? Does one disguise the layers of fat? Or do people remain as active in their lives as before?

The photo series of the American photographer Nicholas Nixon and the Japanese photographer Miwa Yanagi consists of extremely impressive portraits of aging. Since 1975 Nicholas Nixon has accompanied four sisters in the series “The Brown Sisters”. Every year he takes a portrait of them in the same position and pose. The changing features and the sisterly embraces are a sensitive and intimate contemporary document of shared aging.

The Japanese artist Miwa Yanagi compresses the documented time of aging with her photographic investigation „My Grandmothers“. The artist advertises for young women, and asks them how they imagine their lives will be in 50 – 60 years. The photographer poses and makes up the protagonists in line with their answers. Pictures are created which expose our pre-conceptions of age, as she presents the home-loving grandmother and the Harley-riding pensioner in the same fashion.

But what does the aging process really require of us? Is it enough to experience the signs of age in your own body, so that you can use every means to prevent or remove them? Or is the failure implicit in aging based on the myth of youth?

While Vera Lehndorff alias German supermodel Veruschka was achieving success as a model around 1960, she began early on to make the ambivalence she felt about her perfect slim body (she was 1.83m tall) into a theme of her art. In the 90’s she began to co-operate with the German Photographer Andreas Hubertus Ilse to re-create the "Veruschka Self-Portraits“. The results were striking portraits in which the ageless beauty of Vera Lehndorff not only eclipses the concept of age, but also reflect age in the myth of its youth. Myths do not age, but become a caricature of their own self-portraits.

The nude aging body, however, exists in the fullness of its beauty. The photo series of the Dutch artist Marrie Bot approaches this theme with great sensuousness. She shows old couples displaying their tenderness and affection to each other. In these photos, which are staged by the couples themselves, the intimacy of age is brought to the foreground, an intimacy all too often hidden by the mass media.

Andres Serrano is another who does not try to suppress age in his photo series „Sex“, showing a nude woman with the title „The Model“, smoking and leaning on a walking stick in a glamorous pose. A second glance is needed to make out another person lying on a mattress in the background.

The British photographer John Coplans (1920 – 2003) approaches his own naked body in an exemplary fashion, having made it the subject of his photography since his 64th year in 1984. His conscious decision to exclude his head gives his body the character of a sculpture and makes it the subject of a debate about changes in the accepted ideal of masculine beauty.

We live in as many images as age can show us, and with as few images as our active age can reflect. This exhibition tries to gives an impulse in this direction, by putting the beauty of the aging body into the foreground of our attention.