26 August 2014 – 25 January 2015

From the collection: Under the Magnifying Glass. Minimal, Post-Minimal and Pop in Dialogue

Roy Lichtenstein, The Magnifying Glass, 1963 © 2014, Estate of Roy Lichtenstein/ProLitteris, Zürich
In the manner of its namesake, "Under the Magnifying Glass" sets out to investigate the esprit of the suspense-laden field of art of the 1960s in the USA by drawing on selected artworks from our own collection.

This presentation makes reference to the exhibition "Between Sex and Geometry" on Gary Kuehn’s oeuvre that goes on show in September and focuses on his artistic environment in the 60s. This “zoom-in” brings together selected works of Pop, Minimal and Post-Minimal art in a dialogue full of energy, presence and humour that activates the mind and the senses.

The current retrospective view of the field of art in 1960s USA is marked by a dynamic simultaneity of different movements. But what is the overarching social context of this time and locale considering the fact that these years are commonly seen as the starting point of a significant change in art? Theorists often tend to refer to art since 1960 as “postmodern art” or, according to art historian Philip Ursprung, as “contemporary art”.

The 1960s were defined, among other things, by burgeoning mass consumption, that is to say, the predominance of industrially manufactured mass products and, concomitantly, a wide section of customers. The underlying conditions of this development included improved, automated production methods, the development of markets with different focuses, astutely conceived marketing strategies, increasing competition, and falling prices. What is more, society was equally under the influence of political and economic processes such as civil rights, women’s rights, and student movements, increasing
internationalisation, and the growing break-down of ossified working structures.

In the wake of the Second World War, the USA saw constant economic upswing and progress, having been largely untouched by armed conflict in the country. Nevertheless, American society was also profoundly constituted by the explosive political conflicts and military activities of the time – be it the ramified consequences of the Second World War, the bellicose rhetoric of the Cold War or the real armed conflicts in Korea and Vietnam.
If we take a look at the high-energy art system of the 1960s, we can highlight the growing audience, whose role was changing, and the increasingly complex interplay of artists, gallerists, collectors, curators and critics as characteristic aspects. The idea of the artist personality was also undergoing change, as Allan Kaprow, for example, put it in his treatise The Artist as Man of the World at the time: “Society nowadays […] pursues artists instead of exiling them.”