Along with security, mobility and the climate, the issue of health occupies a central place in the public debate. 2020 offered us a vivid demonstration of how health issues fit into a global context. In the changed ways in which we now live, the philosopher Paul B. Preciado diagnoses a profound need for new aesthetic forms of desire. At the same time, concern with our physical well-being in art is as old as art itself, with the sentient body as both instrument and object of observation. Art and medicine are two highly complex disciplines that enrich our lives but also require a great deal of interpretation. They are physically direct and foster empathy, but can also create great distance between those involved. This exhibition aims not to position art as the illustrator of medicine, but to set up a dialogue that advances our understanding of two systems that constitute part of our society. By interpreting through the senses and intuition, art can play a vital role in helping us to comprehend intertwined systems such as the body, sickness and recovery, medicine and environmental factors.
The exhibition retraces selected key moments in medical history from the 19th century to the present day, with works on loan from medical history collections along with some 80 artistic names including Sabian Baumann, Rachal Bradley, Georges Chicotot, Honoré Daumier, Adolf Fleischmann, Damien Hirst, Ferdinand Hodler, Martin Kippenberger, Paul Klee, Herlinde Koelbl, Manon, Wangechi Mutu, Maria Pomiansky, Marc Quinn, RELAX (chiarenza & hauser & co), Ana Roldán, Talaya Schmid, Kiki Smith, Veronika Spierenburg, Jules Spinatsch, Annie Sprinkle, Luc Tuymans and Varlin.
Ill: Herbert Ploberger, Self-Portrait with Ophthalmological Models, c. 1928 / 1930, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus and Kunstbau Munich, acquired with support from Munich Re, © 2021, ProLitteris, Zurich