[artinfo] Anonymous: In the Future No One Will Be Famous

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Fri Oct 27 13:51:37 CEST 2006

Under the programmatic title Anonymous: In the 
Future No One Will Be Famous, the Schirn 
Kunsthalle Frankfurt presents an exhibition with 
works by 11 international artists who – like the 
curator – will remain unnamed. In their Notes 
toward a Manifesto, the initiators of the 
exhibition proclaim: “Anonymous artists wish to 
wriggle the status quo into a status incognitos. 
Their aim is to remove the increasing 
barbarization of thought via short circuits and 
fast lanes created by the marketing of artists as 
brands whose works have become masterpieces in 
ignorance of philosophy.”

Unlike other manifestations of anonymity in the 
current contemporary art scene – where artists 
take on pseudonyms – this exhibition is unique in 
gathering a group of artists who have put 
themselves undercover for a certain period of 
time (vaguely stated as “until the expiration 
date has been reached”).

In recent years, critical observations of the art 
market and its influence on the discourse of 
contemporary art have increased noticeably. 
Artworks have turned into branded commodities and 
the artist’s name has become the primary means of 
distinction. Content fades into the fog, 
magazines feature artists who have not even 
graduated from art school, and dealers purchase 
works en masse in advance. Exhibition curators 
have changed into impresarios setting the tenor 
for the reception of the work with their names 
and the themes associated with them. Under such 
circumstances, the work of art is forced into the 
background and loses its disturbing and 
subversive potential. An exhibition in which the 
artists remain unnamed, however, takes on the 
social and aesthetic task of revitalizing access 
to art and individual experience by leaving out 
certain codes that have become primary, as it 
were. A playful situation is created where the 
work can be critiqued ad hoc without having to 
read t he label.

The enormous quantities of data with which the 
contemporary art system operates today is 
difficult to ignore. What art is today and how we 
think and talk about it is dependent not least on 
how we deal with this data and what weight is 
given to various bits of information.
Whether it is a specific artist or the depiction 
of a certain theme, the perception of an artwork 
is immanently informed by the prior experience 
one brings to the exhibition. Artist names 
inevitably structure subjective experience and, 
at times, even hinder spontaneous reactions and 
aesthetic encounters.

In addition to keeping the artists’ names 
undercover, the exhibited works have been placed 
within an architectural puzzle piece, a labyrinth 
of deferred meaning. By taking up the theme of 
anonymity as well, the exhibition transposes the 
subject of hidden authorship onto another level. 
Is there an author of the five white cars 
mysteriously parked one after the other? Has the 
hand of the artist intervened within recognized 
“acts of nature” – is the bird’s song making that 
branch move? Did the dog’s bark spark a fire? Why 
are the authors of city fountains most always 
anonymous, and was Duchamp cognizant of this fact 
when he titled his famous latrine “Fountain”? And 
what happens to the notion of sculpture when the 
sculpture begins to drip? The phenomenal 
questions raised by these works yield to an 
unparalleled autonomy of the spectator.

In the case of an exhibition that casts an opaque 
veil over names and whose works not only 
communicate this enigma but themselves contain 
traces of anonymity – laying a trail replete with 
mysteries and myths – the ability to read art by 
means of its metadata shifts to a lower-lying 
level. As if a space has been folded into 
multiple strata, in which the ceiling becomes the 
floor and the window only lets in that which 
already exists inside, viewers are continually 
cast back on themselves, on their own 
observations, and they are, thus, connected with 
the works whose reality is shaped in part by 
their perception and a language that explains 

Well-known artistic strategies like Appropriation 
or Conceptual Art recede to the periphery of 
perception – and the metalanguage that has long 
since permeated and “managed” artistic works (or 
manipulated the reception thereof) undergoes a 
recession. Under the bright light of aesthetic 
perception, the names of the artists appear as 
distracting prosthetics, supplemental limbs that 
keep us from falling into a conceptual void. It 
is precisely this gap that anonymous works seek 
to fill. Removing the names produces a strange 
chaos, a game that is more than an obvious trick 
and also more than a deliberate deception. As 
viewers, we stand at the edge between knowing and 
not knowing the work, and at the same time we see 
the names that appear in our consciousness and 
their meaninglessness, and stand in the center of 
a mysterious or rather unknown language.

In art, the known and the unknown are not 
mutually exclusive opposites. Not infrequently, 
the idea is to foreground the unknown aspect of a 
known artist, to confront the unknown side of an 
artist with what is known about him or her, 
increasing the significance of his or her work. 
This legitimizes not only the repeated 
exhibitions of so-called classics but also 
results from the variety of perspectives and 
interpretations of a work of art that ensures 
that its meaning is not restricted but demarcated 
(or stripped of its boundaries). It proves more 
difficult – though many ambitiously contemporary 
galleries and exhibition spaces pursue 
competition on this front – to make previously 
unknown artists known, and the chances of success 
in that venture are in no small measure based on 
how well the institution – or curator – is known 
that shows the unknown artist’s work. In both 
cases, the unknown is less a failing of art than 
a guarantee of its continuation.

Andy Warhol – whose artistic reproduction of 
everyday images and celebrated faces became 
world-famous even beyond connoisseurs of art – 
made the prophetic statement in 1968: In the 
future everyone will be world-famous for 15 
minutes. Undoubtedly, this certainly approximates 
the truth of the devaluation of the status of 
fame and the assembly line production of 
so-called art stars. With the popularization of 
fame, however, comes an unwieldy hunger for fame 
that must be fed – a vicious circle as more and 
more famous people are fabricated, who, likewise, 
possess less and less of the “aura” of fame and, 
consequently, are quickly and easily replaced. 
Anyone who is world-famous today, thus the 
tautological formula, will be soon forgotten 

One Will Be Famous,” anonymous and Max Hollein 
(eds.), with a preface by Max Hollein and texts 
by Dominic Eichler, Stephan Heidenreich, April 
Elizabeth Lamm, Eckhart Nickel, and Hans Ulrich 
Obrist. German/English edition, 160 pages, 32 b/w 
illustrations, Snoeck Verlagsgesell-schaft mbH, 
Cologne, ISBN 3-936859-51-5, hardcover, linen.
In addition, 500 blank catalogues with 160 empty pages will be published.

DIRECTOR: Max Hollein
CURATOR: Anonymous

60311 Frankfurt, Germany

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