Georgia O'Keeffe

24.10.2003 – 01.02.2004
Curated by Bice Curiger.
Location Pfister-Bau (Grosser Ausstellungssaal, ehem. Bührlesaal).
The first extensive retrospective of a key figure and female position in American painting on the threshold to abstraction in Europe. A celebrated and household name in the USA, in 2003 Georgia O’Keeffe was still an insider’s tip in this country.
Georgia O’Keeffe is an outstanding figure in the history of art, and yet for a long time her pictures were not to be seen in large numbers in Europe. The reasons for this are many, but one of them is no doubt the fact that her work is often a highlight of the collection in the relevant institution, another that O’Keeffe’s works are not numerous in total. This also affected the number of exhibits in this retrospective, which, at 74, was relatively easy to encompass. Bice Curiger, the curator, needed great persistence to secure the loans from 42 mainly North American institutions and an unnamed number of private collections. The carefully made selection of the works on display also relativized the cliché of painting suggestive of female eroticism, which had been promoted especially with books in large editions and merchandising articles from big publishing houses using O’Keeffe’s flower motives. The cover motif was also doubtlessly selected as part of the curatorial striving to question pre-conceived opinions about painting by women. Curiger, as a Meret Oppenheim specialist, is also totally familiar with the work of other contemporaries of O’Keeffe and chose no colorful flower calyx but the reduced calligraphy-related motif “Winter Road I” (1963). In the foreground of the project should not only be O’Keeffe’s historical significance but also, and especially, the contemporary currency of her work, which was also atmospherically witnessed in the brief essays by 16 artists, such as Pipilotti Rist, Jeff Koons, Roni Horn and Olivier Mosset. The media response was overwhelming and numerous. For example, in the “Guardian” of October 27, 2003, under the headline “Flower Power” a long review by Piers Lechter appeared, where we read: “This autumn’s exhibition in Zurich is quite simply magnificent. It’s a terrific, open, cleanly-lit space, showing O’Keeffe’s works off to their very best. It’s also a rare chance to put the flowers – wonderful though they are – in perspective, and to learn that there’s so much more to the artist.” In general, it can be seen that yet again and repeatedly there is talk of O’Keeffe’s “intimacy” in her works, although it becomes clear that not only a bodily intimacy is meant but also one in every facet, for which this exhibition provided the pictures and the basis of knowledge.
[Cathérine Hug]
“Hold the hips high, paint the heaven that becomes visible through the gap in the bones, a bright-blue egg results, a medium-bright-blue bright-bright-blue. Paint the whole street in bright blue.”
Pipilotti Rist

100 days

1 Artist

1 Artist

KEEFFE PLAKAT B4 def page 0001
exhibition poster
Image: Georgia O'Keeffe