Fools. Artists. Saints.

Masters of Chaos

31 August to 2 December 2012

Eccentrics exist in all human societies, people who live on the edge as outsiders, who are despised on the one hand, and perceived as special and outstanding on the other hand.
The show with its approximately 250 exhibits explores the different manifestations of this universal figure and traces it throughout all cultures and epochs. In chronological terms, the pieces on display range from ancient Egyptian artefacts to recent works of the 21st century. In spite of all superficial differences regarding expression, the archetypical figure and its function have not changed in 3000 years of human history and are still relevant today.

The exhibition reveals similarities and consistencies: fools, artists, saints, smiths, prophets, poets, shamans, and priests all belong to these wanderers between worlds; they connect the human with the superhuman. Strange-looking pictures and spiritual signs, for instance from ancient Greece, the Far East, Oceania, Africa, Siberia, and South America are presented alongside European, baroque, modern, and contemporary works.

The show not only includes pictures and representations of eccentric figures, but also their magical tools and auxiliaries, such as costumes, masks, wands, musical instruments, fetish objects, and drugs.
These eccentric figures fulfil an essential role. Just as there is no life without death, order and normality cannot exist without the incomprehensible, mystical, and unusual. The world would be in great danger if there were no "masters of disorder", no magicians, artists, or saints, and if there were no Carnival to turn things upside down or no "Fools for Christ" to offer nightly prayers. In everyday contexts, the absolute necessity to be different as a prerequisite for a functioning human life is often neglected. This exhibition, on the other hand, focuses on these peripheral characters and emphasises the vital importance of their role. Consequently, the show itself serves as a special place: one of the exhibits is an activated Voodoo altar.

The pieces on display were loaned from about 60 public and private collections and museums such as the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, Musée du Louvre and Musée du quai Branly, Paris, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Brooklyn Museum, New York, The Field Museum, Chicago, The British Museum, London, The Russian Museum of Ethnography, St. Petersburg, Rietberg Museum, Zurich, National Museum of Capodimonte, Naples, National Museum Copenhagen, MAS Museum aan de Stroom, Antwerpen, Musée International du Carnaval et du Masque, Binche, Belgium, Museo do Homem do Nordeste Recife, Brazil, Deutsches Historisches Museum and Museum Europäischer Kulturen – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde, Munich.

Show bibliography
Illustrations
  1. Image from ExhibitionPhoto: Dr. Mark Brandenburgh © Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland GmbH

Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland

Museumsmeile Bonn
Friedrich-Ebert-Allee 4
53113 Bonn
T +49 228 9171–200

Opening hours

Mondays closed
Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m.–9 p.m.
Thursdays–Sundays, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.
(including public holidays even those which fall on Mondays)

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