HODLER, MEINE GROSSTANTE KLARA, BLOCHER UND ICH
– VIER FRAGMENTE ÜBER KUNST UND NATION

(Hodler, my Great Aunt Klara, Blocher and me – Four Fragments on Art and Nation)

2022

(video (49’19”), historical documents, photographs, and paintings)
Video (49’19”), Archivauszüge, Fotos, Malereien

The Swiss painter Ferdinand Hodler was a successful artist working during the emergence of an art market in the 19th century. The radically liberal elite of Switzerland in this period collected and sponsored Hodler, whose work provided them with representations of a new national identity, while helping them to bolster their political aspirations within the recently unified state. Hodler’s highest point of recognition came in 1917 with a retrospective at Kunsthaus Zürich, after which the art world lost interested in his paintings. Only now in the neoliberal 21st century, Hodler’s work has reemerged in museums.

Introduced through personal anecdotes and based on conversations with art historians and sociologists, the work examines interrelationships between art, nation and market. The film uses the example of Ferdinand Hodler and connects prevailing political currents of the Swiss nation state to the visibility of the artists work. In both periods of Hodler’s popularity the art world has been and now again is geared towards the market and market mechanisms. These mechanisms have a great influence on the recognition of artists.

first fragment /

NATION-BUILDING
(GESTALTUNG DER NATION)

The first fragment traces the radical liberal forces in power that supported Hodlers work as he produced an image of the nation, which reflected their views.

second fragment /

BEHOLDING THE NATION
(BETRACHTUNG DER NATION)

Although the art world lost interest in his work after his death in 1918 – the Kunstmuseum Zürich covered up the murals they had commissioned in 1910 – his work is receiving renewed attention in the 21st century.

The fragment examines and questions the mechanisms and interests that have contributed to this renewed attention.

third fragment /

FOSTERING THE NATION
(DIE PFLEGE DER NATION)

In this fragment, the Hodler collection from Jeanne Čišić Charles of the National Gallery of Sarajevo gets entangled in international politics through Swiss reconstruction fonds for post war Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The collection came to the National Gallery through Hodler’s mistress and model Jeanne Čišić-Charles who built a considerable collection of Hodlers work during the years she was his model in Geneva (1901-1916). Later in her life, she married a Yugoslav officer and moved with him to Mostar, Yugoslavia, taking along the collection. The National Gallery of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, acquired the collection in the 1970’s after the death of Jeanne Čišić-Charles.

During the last war in the 1990ties, the Gallery got damaged through shelling.

fourth fragment /

THE NATION AND THE MARKET
(DIE NATION UND DER MARKT)

The fourth and final fragment thematizes the neoliberal shift in Switzerland around the year 2000 and the subsequent change of cultural policies that orientate culture towards the market, ensuing a raise of interest in Hodler’s work.

This fragment explores how the state’s desire for a strong cultural economy in conjunction with neoliberal shifts in cultural policy in the 21st century has profoundly changed the art world. The merging of state and private funds used to promote culture, and the support of art market success through state funds allows private patrons and powerfull galleries to once again direct the art scene.

“Hodler, my Great Aunt Klara, Blocher and Me” is supported by Pro Helvetia, Switzerland and by Mondriaan Fonds, The Netherlands.