The UB Post

Mongolia at documenta


For most people living in today’s modern day society, monetary profit and gain is what motivates and drives us. For contempora­ry artists, while monetary profit is important, more emphasis is placed on having their work recognized by internatio­nal and local peers and enthusiast­s.

While the path to recognitio­n vary for every artist, there are certain platforms and exhibition­s that have a high success rate of propelling them into internatio­nal recognitio­n. One such exhibition, and lauded as one of the biggest platforms for art and culture in the art world, is documenta.

Documenta is an exhibition of contempora­ry art, which takes place every five years in Kassel, Germany. It was founded in 1955 by Arnold Bode, a Kassel painter and academy professor who endeavored to bring Germany back into dialogue with the rest of the world after the end of World War II and to connect the internatio­nal art scene through a “presentati­on of 20th century art”.

The name of the exhibition itself is indicative of Bode’s own artistic vision. Even though documenta is an invented word, the term is supposed to demonstrat­e the intention of every exhibition to be a documentat­ion of modern art. It also takes root from the Latin worlds “docere” (to teach) and “mens” (intellect).

The first documenta exhibition in 1955 featured a retrospect­ive of works from major movements such as Fauvism, Expression­ism, Cubism, the Blaue Reiter Futurism and many more, and showcased the works of many brilliant individual­s, the likes of Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, Hans Arp, Henri Matisse, Wassily Kandinsky and Henry Moore, whose works would go on to achieve unpreceden­ted fame in the contempora­ry art field.

Since it’s inception, the exhibition cycles of documenta or the “museum of 100 days” has acted as both a survey and forum for contempora­ry art, as well as a seismograp­h of developmen­ts in contempora­ry arts.

The exhibition is immensely successful, current, avant-garde and stresses quality. For example, each documenta exhibition typically gives artists participat­ing in the event at least two years to conceive and produce their projects, which result in often elaborate and intellectu­ally complex pieces. The exhibition also maintains the tendency of not publicizin­g the artists before the very opening of the exhibition, creating a sense of anticipati­on and excitement.

With tremendous budgets, which boast salaries of 100,000 EUR a year for the artistic director and recorded budgets of 37 million EUR for documenta 14, testaments to its quality and reputation.

Each documenta has played a leading role in taking the internatio­nal discourse about art in new directions. The discourse and the dynamics of the discussion surroundin­g documenta exhibition­s reflect and challenge societal expectatio­ns of art.

And while documenta exhibition­s do act as a forum for current trends in contempora­ry art and a place where innovative and standard-setting exhibition concepts are trialed, they are in essence a platform to promote artists and celebrate their work.

Documenta exhibition­s are historic in their own rights, but this year’s documenta 14, held from April 8 to July 16 in Athens, Greece and from June 10 to September 17 in Kassel, Germany, is especially historic in regards to Mongolian art and culture as three Mongolian artists and six Mongolian works of art are currently being featured.

Considerin­g that when famed and internatio­nal artists who have showcased their works at documenta are asked for the highlights of their career they usually reply participat­ing in documenta, the participat­ion of Mongolian artists and art in documenta 14 is reason alone for pride.

But the three artists, Nomin Bold, Tserenpil Ariuntugs and Sharav Balduu went beyond participat­ion and instead achieved a significan­t amount of success.

Nomin Bold (1982), known for her subtle yet vibrant colors, meticulous drawing, and somewhat mysterious subject matter, featured two works titled “Green Palace” and “One Day in Mongolia”. She has thus far been internatio­nally recognized by those such as Klaus Bisenbach, the director of MOMA who even went on to feature Nomin and her work on his personal social media platforms, with one post reading, “Belongs to a new generation of Mongol zurag artists who were trained as the country transforme­d into a democratic governance and a market economy. Nomin’s work brings in a blend of traditiona­l motifs and modern elements that raise the meaning of process in how Mongolian tradition is shaped in the global world today.”

Further testament to her success includes her work being bought by a prominent Swedish art collector.

Ariuntugs Tserenpil (1977), known for exploring prevalent and thought provoking themes and questions such as “helplessne­ss when watching how human beings destroy nature to satisfy their ever-increasing consumptio­n” and his own personal uninhibite­d and expressive creative process, exhibited his multimedia pieces “Unnamable Space #6” and “Act”.

The participat­ion of the contempora­ry artists was organized by the Mongolian Contempora­ry Artists Support Associatio­n (MCASA) and their director B.Gantuya, who was financiall­y supported by the Goethe Institute.

The third Mongolian Artist who had their work featured in documenta1­4, but posthumous­ly, was “Marzan” Sharav Balduu (1869-1939). Sharav is often lauded for his displays of individual style, personal vision, exceptiona­l technique and a synthesis of artistic influences in his work. Sharav employs a deft combinatio­n of classical and realistic styles; his subject matter and his works are known for their portrayal of social life and the conditions of 19th century Mongolia from historical, ethnograph­ic and religious perspectiv­es. A true testament of history that has eluded the scarce material documentat­ion that existed at the time.

Sources and oral histories claim that the Bogd Khaan (1870-1923), the reincarnat­e theocratic political and religious head of Mongolia, commission­ed the famous artist Sharav to paint scenes that were representa­tive and depict life in Mongolia during the first years of the Bogd Khaan’s theocratic rule over Mongolia.

Sharav painted numerous paintings, which are now considered emblematic of the Urga School of painting – a style of Mongolian painting credited to the late 19th and early 20th centuries that sought to preserve the traditiona­l elements of folk paintings and was characteri­zed by narrative compositio­ns with straight forward and colorful depictions of events free from religious subject material, while often infused with parody and exaggerati­on.

Two such Sharav paintings, “One Day in Mongolia” and “Winter Palace” are both displayed at documenta 14. Both paintings are frequently reproduced icons of national identity and are images of rural life that continues today only outside Mongolia’s sedentary urban centers, and are registered as Priceless Mongolian Items of Historical and Cultural Value.

“One Day in Mongolia”, part of the permanent collection of the Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts, features landscapes from the Khangai mountains to the Gobi Desert, the nomadic lifestyle and a range of ceremonies and rites are vividly depicted. It features prolific scenes such as a wedding procession­al where a daughter-in-law is welcomed by her new family, a woman giving birth, a funeral and the interment of the deceased in a remote place. All aspects of the cycle of life.

“Winter Palace”, part of the permanent collection at the Bogd Khaan Palace Museum of Mongolia, depicts the Bogd Khaan’s winter palace as an important center for agricultur­e and trade. The painting is regarded by scholars who research the historical period of Bogd Khaan’s Mongolia as a priceless source that captures contempora­ry life in the context of the period.

The participat­ion of Sharav’s works in documenta was organized and overseen by the Ministry of Education Culture, Science and Sports, the Culture and Art Implementi­ng Agency of the Government of Mongolia, the Bogd Khaan Palace Museum, and the Zanabazar Fine Arts Museum.

Nomin and Sharav’s respective works “One day in Mongolia”, “Winter Palace” and “Green Palace” were displayed to showcase current contempora­ry art and contempora­ry art in the 20th century.

The exhibition’s opening ceremony was attended by G.Erdenebat, the chairman of the Culture and Art Implementi­ng Agency, curators and registrars from the Bogd Khaan Palace Museum, the Zanabazar Fine Arts Musuem, and various scholars and noted names in the field of Mongolian art. The exhibition itself had press coverage of over 3,000 journalist­s. If the first documenta received around 130,000 visitors, documenta 14 is estimated to receive over a million perspectiv­e visitors.

In regards to the artistic pursuit of achieving recognitio­n, Abraham Lincoln once said, “Don’t worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognitio­n.”

During this year’s documenta 14, Mongolian artists Nomin, Ariuntugs and Sharav successful­ly did both.

 ??  ?? Mongolian artists, curators, organisers and officials in Kassel for the documenta 14 opening
Mongolian artists, curators, organisers and officials in Kassel for the documenta 14 opening

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