Jeff Wall : Authentication. Claus Jahnke, costume historian, examining a document pertaining to an item in his collection
13 September – 16 September 2012
On the occasion of abc art berlin contemporary, Johnen Galerie shows a work by Canadian artist Jeff Wall: Authentication. Claus Jahnke, costume historian, examining a document pertaining to an item in his collection, a documentary-style photographic work in four parts of the artist’s last work cycle. The subject of the work is rather painful in many respects: one photograph shows the costume collector Claus Jahnke from Vancouver in his apartment. He checks the authenticity of a white cotton shirt in his collection by comparing it to a reproduction in an antiquarian catalogue of the Jewish department store Nathan Israel. This scene does not only remind the viewer of the history of the once great Nathan Israel department store in Berlin but it is at the same time key to the history of the Israel family with its most glamorous and best-known member Wilfrid Israel. He served as inspiration to one of the main characters of Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin and his courageous efforts for the so-called ‘Kindertransporte’ saved many lives.
At the same time, Wall also shows the cover of a 1932 winter season N. Israel-catalogue with Leni Riefenstahl in an alpine outfit on the cover. The parallel existence leads to a complex chain of references and questions.
However, these semi-documentary images do not only remind of the fate of the Israel department store. They also show quite plainly the destruction of the entire fashion industry in Berlin under the Nazi regime (see also Broken Threads, Roberta S. Kremer, ed., 2007). Until the beginning of the 1930s, Berlin was the center of the ready-to-wear clothing industry, but the mostly Jewish-led department stores were in subsequent years almost completely annihilated by the Nazis.
The stories of the clothes, shoes and other accessories that were taken on the run and dispersed in all parts of the world are closely connected. Some of them finally found a home in Claus Jahnke’s collection. Jahnke puts a big effort in researching the provenances and lives of the onetime owners of these clothes and thus prevents them from being forgotten. Jeff Wall’s four-part cycle unfurls a whole panorama of a lost culture and thus brings it back to the viewer’s conscience.
At abc art berlin contemporary, Johnen Galerie presents Jeff Wall’s work along with some original clothes from the Jahnke Collection.
Jeff Wall was born in 1946 in Vancouver, Canada. From 1964 to 1970 he studied art history and visual arts at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. In 1970 he received his MA in art history. Jeff Wall has been recipient of numerous prizes, including the Audian Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Visual Arts (2008), the Roswitha Haftmann-Preis (2003), as well as the Erna and Victor Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography (2002).
Solo shows of his work include Pinchuk Art Center (Kiev, 2012), Staatliche Kunstsammlungen (Dresden, 2010), Tamayo Museum, Mexico City and Vancouver Art Gallery (2008), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (San Francisco, 2007), The Museum of Modern Art (New York, 2007), The Art Institute of Chicago (2007), Tate Modern (London, 2005), Schaulager (Basel, 2005), UCLA Hammer Museum (Los Angeles, 2003), Astrup Fearnley Museum, (Oslo, 2004), Hasselblad Center (Gothenburg, 2002), Museum für Moderne Kunst (Frankfurt, 2001), Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg (Wolfsburg, 2001), Whitechapel Gallery (London, 2001). Jeff Wall participated in documenta X and XI. Jeff Wall lives and works in Vancouver.
Claus Jahnke was born in 1962 in Edmonton, Canada. He studied fashion merchandising at John Casablanca College of Design in Vancouver, graduating in the early 1980's. Claus Jahnke specializes in the study of fashion design history of Germany and Austria and now he has one of the most important collections of historical clothing existing outside of Europe. His collection includes men's, women's and children's garments from the 1720's to 1960's and now he is consulted by historians and other researchers from all over North America and Europe. One of the most noteworthy displays of his collection was the ground breaking exhibition Broken Threads hosted by the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, which dealt with the pre-war Jewish garment industry of Germany and Austria. Claus Jahnke has also contributed artefacts and curatorial expertise to various museums notably the Museum of Vancouver, the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto as well as the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.
Since 1981 Jahnke lives and works in Vancouver.