Published 25/09/2023 | 15:52

Cecilia Alemani curates a major exhibition of Anu Põder’s works in Switzerland

Cecilia Alemani. Photo: private collection

Anu Põder: Space for My Body, curated by Cecilia Alemani, the curator of the 2022 Venice Biennale, opens on 3 January at Muzeum Susch in Switzerland. The main partner of the exhibition is the Art Museum of Estonia.

The exhibition is Anu Põder’s first major retrospective outside Estonia. Named after Põder’s sculpture Space for My Body (1995), the exhibition features over 40 works created between 1978 and 2012, mostly from the collections of the Art Museum of Estonia, the Tartu Art Museum and the artist’s estate.

“Põder is one of the most remarkable Estonian artists of the last five decades. Since the 1970s, her work has stood out for its unique execution, original ideas and deeply personal content. However, as it did not fit in well with the mainstream of the Estonian art scene at the time, it remained largely neglected for years. Põder’s work was primarily concerned with the human body: her highly evocative sculptures emphasise the fragility and transience of life. Throughout her career, she used unusual materials, such as textiles, wax, plaster, soap, plastic and wood to create astonishingly delicate and fragile assemblages,” said Cecilia Alemani, the exhibition’s curator, who also picked Põder’s works for the 59th Venice Biennale main exhibition.

Alemani, currently one of the world’s most influential curators, will visit Estonia this week, where she will be observing Põder’s works at the Kumu Art Museum on 28 September. Alemani will also give a lecture at the Estonian Academy of Arts on 27 September entitled The Milk of Dreams: A Look Back at the 59th Venice Biennale. Cecilia Alemani is visiting Estonia at the invitation of the Estonian Centre for Contemporary Art and the Estonian Academy of Arts.

Anu Põder (1947‒2013) was a sculptor and installation artist who experimented with new abstract forms and a wide range of materials, from plaster and wood to charcoal and textiles, to light, smells and tastes. Põder’s early works explore the transition from young woman to mother and middle-aged woman in the late Soviet era, while her later works comment on processes in Estonian society as it regained its independence.

In 2017, the Kumu Art Museum organised a major retrospective of Põder’s work, Be Fragile! Be Brave!, curated by Rebeka Põldsam. The exhibition, with the accompanying catalogue, became a catalyst for the wider discovery and international success of Põder’s art. Her work has subsequently been exhibited at the 13th Baltic Triennial in Vilnius (2018), the Pori Art Museum (2019), La Galerie, the Contemporary Art Centre of Noisy-Le-Sec in Paris (2019), the Liverpool Biennial (2021), the 59th Venice Biennale main exhibition and most recently in a major retrospective exhibition of Louise Bourgeois’s art in the National Museum, Oslo in summer 2023. In 2021, the second original of Põder’s installation Tongues (Activation Version) (1998) was acquired by the Tate in London. The first original is in the Art Museum of Estonia.

Anu Põder: Space for My Body will be open at Muzeum Susch from 3 January to 30 June 2024.

Muzeum Susch opened in 2019 in the Swiss Alps near Davos. It was founded by Grażyna Kulczyk, a Polish entrepreneur and art supporter, who is particularly fascinated by women artists and their often overlooked or under-appreciated works. The museum is housed in the grounds of a former monastery dating back to the 12th century and has almost 1,500 m2 of gallery space.