The Gallerist and the beautiful Anti-Capitalist

by Julian Lietzmann

“The Gallerist and the Beautiful Anti-Capitalist Pt.1”

Verena Dengler ( *1981, in Vienna) studied fine art with a focus on sculpture in Vienna and London. As an author, she writes about art and pop culture topics for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Monopol and Jungle World, among others. In addition to installation works for galleries and museums, she has designed sets and costumes for theater productions, for example for the Berliner Ensemble (2018, 2021) and Schauspiel Frankfurt (2020). Meanwhile, her work is shown internationally at the Vienna Secession, as well as the Kunsthalle Bern and the New Museum Triennale in New York. In 2017 she won the “Museion Prize”, in 2018 the “STRABAG Art Award” and the “Outstanding Artist Award”. Dengler taught at the Haute école d’art et de design Genève as well as at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna.

“The Gallerist and the beautiful Anti-Capitalist”, Collectors Card Astrid Meyerfeldt

STRUCTURALISTS HATE HER

For all of us who prefer to think of our environment in terms of categories, a confrontation with Verena Dengler will certainly be an imposition. Is she a sculptor, a painter, a feminist activist, a critic, or an author, they will ask themselves. Dengler’s answer to that: “yes”. In addition to phenomena of trash and pop culture, the Viennese artist also repeatedly deals with the structures of the art world and its schizophrenic relationship between the market (on the one hand) and subversive aspirations (on the other). The eclectic combination of these positions into new, cross-genre narratives is one of her expertise. The fact that she herself is now a part of the art establishment is reflected in her work as accurately as it is humorously. Contradictions are generally less of a problem for Dengler than a source of her work. The staging of these paradoxes, however, never has the intention of something like “Enlightenment” — there is certainly no moral here. Rather, it is a poetic joy in the formations of our contemporary spirits that motivates and drives Dengler; rarely is a work “completed” in itself, but lives on in the discourse between creator and viewer, whereby even this categorization can be a makeshift and at most transient.

“The Gallerist and the beautiful Anti-Capitalist”, Collectors Card Leon Kahane

BARK MULCH IN THE TEMPLE OF ART

Most recently, she demonstrated her special power of observation in the exhibition “Die Galeristin und der schöne Antikapitalist auf der Gothic G’stettn“ (“The Gallerist and the Beautiful Anti-Capitalist at the Gothic fallow”) which took place from July 3 — September 6, 2020 in the rooms of the Vienna Secession. In that institution, which prides itself as the inventor of the White Cube, which once wanted to restore art’s “purity” and ultimately laid one of the foundations for today’s art hype and dizzying auction prices, Dengler arranged a garden landscape that, parallel to various allusions to the Viennese art scene, also refers to the problematic history of the exhibition venue. In addition to the centrally positioned bronze of the “Gardener” (Barbara Urbanic), a limited-edition Bösendorfer grand piano (“Secession Edition”) can be seen, as well as large-format canvases that, provided with slogans (“Carpe fucking Diem”), are reminiscent of the wall tattoos of petit-bourgeois living rooms. An empty bottle of Corona-Extra peeps out of the bark mulch, as if Dengler wanted to tell us: “Relax, we can’t go down this ridiculous”.

NON-FUNGIBLE-TELENOVELA

Almost parenthetically, the exhibition at the Secession also shows excerpts from Dengler’s video project “Die Galeristin und der schöne Antikapitalist”, which she launched via her Instagram account in early 2020. In this work, she again shows how she humorously and critically engages with the dispositifs of the art world. Together with the actress Astrid Meyerfeldt and the artist Leon Kahane, she fabricates an art milieu love story and uses the attributes of common trash or pulp novels: excessive exaggeration, schmalz, drama and lots of pseudo-philosophy. The tokens available here on portal correspond to the first two episodes of the series, as well as individual trading cards of its cast members. This work also joins the Denglerian discourse on art and the market, and thus becomes a recursive element of their artistic exploration, of course. So let’s celebrate together with Verena Dengler — and as long as the market allows it — a “right life in the wrong one”, to quickly drop a quote by Adorno that has long since found its place in the canon of pop. Have fun!

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