Home Magazine Our contemporary "Garden of Earthly Delights" at Berlin Gropius Bau

«...there are some panels on which bizarre things have been painted. They represent seas, skies, woods, meadows, and many other things, such as people crawling out of a shell, others that bring forth birds, men and women, white and blacks doing all sorts of different activities and poses.»

(Antonio de Beatis, about the "Garden of Earthly Delights" 1480-1490 by Hieronymus Bosch)

By seeing the title "Garden of Earthly Delights" our mind quickly imagines the great work by Hieronymus Bosch that, in addition to being a timeless masterpiece, is one of the most important metaphors of the human existence. After almost 6 centuries, with a clear homage to this artistic symbol, at the Gropius Bau in Berlin, Director Stephanie Rosenthal together with Clara Meister (associate curator), have collected works by 20 international contemporary artists, intending to use the space of the garden as a metaphor for the present state of the world, in an exploration of the complexities of our chaotic and increasingly precarious present.     

Running from 26 July to 1 December 2019, the show exhibits works by Maria Thereza Alves, Korakrit Arunanondchai, Hicham Berrada, John Cage, Tacita Dean, Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, Futurefarmers, Lungiswa Gqunta, Libby Harward, Rashid Johnson, Yayoi Kusama, Louise Lawler, Renato Leotta, Isabel Lewis and LABOUR, Jumana Manna, Uriel Orlow, Heather Phillipson, Pipilotti Rist, Maaike Schoorel, Taro Shinoda, Zheng Bo as well as a painting from the school of Hieronymus Bosch. 


Pipilotti Rist, “Homo sapiens sapiens”, 2005 Audio-video installation (video still) Pipilotti Rist, courtesy the artist, Hauser & Wirth and Luhring Augustine

If in the past artists worked on the theme of the garden as a place of inspiration and critical reflection, in today's era this place is signed by radical climate change and migratory flows. The garden can be seen as a place of paradise end exile, reflecting within its borders themes as pressing as Anthropocene, seed politics, the legacies of colonialism and historical segregation. The exhibition's combining of the catastrophic and the paradisiacal, as we already noted, takes its inspiration from Hieronymus Bosch's 15th-century triptych "The Garden of Earthly Delights", which also provides the exhibition's title. Bosch chose a conceptually polarized approach for this work, in which heaven and hell, joy and pain are closely intertwined. A version of "Garden of Earthly Delights" dating from 1535-1550, created by the school of Hieronymus Bosch, thus provides a point of departure for the exhibition and introduces visitors to the inner contradictions of the traditional Christian variant of the garden. A Persian Garden Carpet from the late 18th century expands on this point of view and can be seen in the same room. It depicts the concept of paradise as a walled space (pairidaeza), whose inner logic and harmony are ensured by the protection of a surrounding wall. As stated by Stephanie Rosenthal:

"The Gropius Bau's location provides an additional level of reflection for the exhibition: at times throughout Berlin's eventful history, temporary fields and vacant lots existed around the building. The Tiergarten, located close by, suffered significant damages as public pleasure garden during the Second Wold War and was used after the war by Berlin's citizens for subsistence farming. It was replanted again as a park after 1949."


Alongside the classical reading of the garden as a secluded and circumscribed place of yearning full of meditative, spiritual, and philosophical possibilities, in the exhibition it is viewed as a place of duality and contradiction. These myriad perspective are reflected in the selection of media, encompassing installation, performance, film and sound, paintings, photography, drawing, and sculpture. Discover more on the Gropius Bau official website


Korakrit Arunanondchai, “2002–2555” Installation view Garden of Earthly Delights, Gropius Bau, Berlin, 2019 Photo: Mathias Völzke, courtesy: the artist;
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York & & C L E A R I N G, New York / Brussels


Rashid Johnson, “Antoine's Organ”, 2016 Installation view Garden of Earthly Delights, Gropius Bau, Berlin, 2019 Photo: Mathias Völzke, courtesy: the artist and Hauser & Wirth


Cover image: Hicham Berrada, “Mesk-ellil”, 2015 Installation, ensemble of 7 stained glass terrariums, cestrum nocturnum, horticultural lighting, moonlight lighting, delay Exhibition view Paysages a circadiens, kamel mennour, Paris, 2015 Collection macLyon Hicham Berrada, Photo: archives kamel mennour, courtesy the artist; kamel mennour, Paris / London & & VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019


Stay Tuned to Kooness magazine for more exciting news from the art world.

Kooness Recommends