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›Vanitas Fair‹ 08/04/2017 — 13/05/2017

›Vanitas Fair‹ 08/04/2017 — 13/05/2017

Constance 08/04/2017 — 13/05/2017

The term 'vanitas' comes from Latin and means 'empty appearance' or 'futility' and in the Judeo-Christian imagination stands for the transitory and transience of all earthly things. From an art historical perspective, vanitas still lifes as a style of still life painting experienced a great boom in the Baroque period. Vanitas symbols such as the depiction of a skull, an hourglass, wilting flowers or a dying candle were common and popular and, usually with a moralizing intention, showed the viewer the transience of life; they showed that humans had no power (to make decisions) over life. The attempt to capture everything earthly is not and never was crowned with success, which is why the depiction of something earthly, for example the beauty of youth, money, precious objects or the image of full life, in combination with the depiction of a vanitas symbol, was given an increased value through the juxtaposition.
Other symbols of a vanitas still life, particularly in Dutch painting of the late 16th and early 17th centuries, could be a pocket watch, which was meant to embody the unstoppable passage of time. There were also musical instruments, often a violin, whose music fades away from one moment to the next and is thus fleeting, and a quill and inkwell, which together could indicate the transience of literary fame. Tables or tabletops on which the objects were carefully arranged also often bore inscriptions such as 'nil omne' (everything is void). All symbols had one thing in common: they pointed to the insignificance of worldly values ​​such as fame, power, beauty and time, as they were all signs of the transience of human life and proclaimed the relevance of turning to God.
The origin of the word ›Vanitas‹ can be found in a text of the Old Testament (Book of Ecclesiastes, Ecc. 1,2) in a compilation of life advice and exhortations to the right way of life. In antiquity, the transience and unstoppable nature of life were already addressed (e.g. in Heraclitus: ›Panta rhei‹ = everything flows), but in antiquity human pride and the desire for earthly goods that often goes with it were not yet as harshly criticized and ostracized as was common in Christianity. While in the Middle Ages fools often stood for Vanitas because they were allowed to depict the ridiculous and inappropriate, since they themselves were ridiculous and inappropriate, the unimportance and meaninglessness of every human illustration was fundamentally a fundamental idea of ​​the Christian worldview. By confessing one's own insignificance as a message of remorse, medieval depictions of all kinds prevailed against this idea. During the Renaissance, the tension between the Middle Ages and modern times grew ever greater: the conflict between the humility of the population and its burgeoning self-confidence reached its zenith in the Baroque period. At the end of the 18th century, humility lost its predominance in the course of the Enlightenment. Pride and vanity no longer had to justify or humiliate themselves in artistic representation. Today, the incorporation of vanitas symbols in art, film, music and literature is back in vogue.

The English term ›fair‹ (funfair, year market, church fair) forms a counterpoint here that embodies exuberance and joy. Both can be experienced to a large extent in the works of Zohar Fraiman and Nika Fontaine. We are delighted to have realized this double exhibition with two internationally successful and outstanding artists.

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