Exhibition | 16.10. - 19.12.2020

The exhausted man

Exhibition

Throughout history, men have created countless heroic ideals for themselves: radiant victors, autocratic creators, images of God. But on closer inspection every ideal turns out to be a task too big, ultimately overwhelming the man. The fourth exhibition by the two guest curators Stefan Zweifel and Juri Steiner at the National Museum Zurich takes a stroll through the European cultural history of mankind. Eyewitnesses from the past two millennia, drawn from philosophy, society and medicine, illustrate the concept of masculinity and the struggle surrounding it. Its traces can be found through the ages, in art, history, literature and cinema.

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The exhausted man

National Museum Zurich | 16.10.2020 - 19.12.2020
published on 15.10.2020

The National Museum Zurich takes a stroll through the European cultural history of the male. Eyewitnesses from the past 2,000 years, drawn from philosophy, society and medicine, illustrate the concept of maleness and the struggle surrounding it.

Throughout history, men have created countless heroic ideals for themselves: radiant victors, autocratic creators, images of God. If we take a closer look, these ideals often turn out to be a task too big, ultimately overwhelming the man. Since ancient times, the preferred arenas for demonstrating one’s masculinity have been war, technology, politics and sport, but also the broader field of marriage, family and sexuality.

Featuring around 200 objects from cultural history and art history, including precious items on loan from London, Vienna and Paris, the exhibition examines how ideals of masculinity have changed over the centuries. But the items on display also demonstrate how the drama of idealisation is repeated and how the fate of Zinédine Zidane, for example, is not so different from that of the Greek priest Laocoön. Laocoön had sex on the altar of Apollo, and was punished for this act of arrogance. He fought in vain against the snakes the Greek god had sent to wreak his vengeance. And because even French footballing ace Zidane was not immune to the error of pride, and felled his adversary with a vulgar headbutt at the moment of being overwhelmed, the two men’s stories are more similar than may appear at first glance. A plaster cast of the ancient Laocoön sculptural group and a contemporary video piece on Zinédine Zidane form the starting point of a densely structured and associative exhibition on the essence of man. But the female perspective hasn’t been left out, with the examination of maleness resurfacing in pieces by artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Maria Lassnig and Sarah Lucas.

At the other end of the exhibition, the famous sleeping hermaphrodite closes the historical circle. This life-size ancient masterpiece, with its male and female attributes, has been igniting smouldering fantasies and desires for centuries. The possibilities of an expanded concept of gender self-awareness are given visual form, leaving exhibition visitors with the hope that it will one day be possible to break free from the traditional role models handed down through the ages.

‘The exhausted man’ is the fourth exhibition at the National Museum Zurich curated by Stefan Zweifel and Juri Steiner, after ‘1900-1914. Foray into Happiness’ (2014), ‘Dada Universal’ (2016) and ‘Imagine 68. The Spectacle of the Revolution’ (2018). On their stroll through the history of European culture and its representation of man, the two guest curators take the Caucasian male as a test subject. The result is a wide-ranging and perceptive, but also paradoxical quest for the truth of what it means to be a man.

Images

Laocoön Group, plaster cast from the early 19th century based on the ancient marble original in the Vatican.

Antikenmuseum Basel und Sammlung Ludwig, Skulpturhalle

Juergen Teller, Self-portrait for Business of Fashion, London 2015, Ed.1/3, giclee print, 152.4 x 241.3 cm.

Juergen Teller

Thomas Hirschhorn mit Marcus Steinweg, Map of Headlessness, 2011, mixed media, 401 x 241 x 5 cm.

Musée Jenisch Vevey, photo: Florian Kleinefenn © Thomas Hirschhorn / 2020, ProLitteris, Zurich

Andy Warhol, Oxidation Painting, 1978, various materials on copper - metallic paint on canvas, 198 x 528 cm.

Bischofberger Collection, Männedorf-Zurich / © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / 2020, ProLitteris, Zurich

Andy Warhol, Pietà relief sculpture, 1976 / 1986, gelatin silver print, 25,8 x 35,5 cm.

Musée national d‘art moderne/Centre de création industrielle © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / 2020, ProLitteris, Zurich

Roman Signer, Portrait Gallery, 1993, photographs, oil drums, bell buttons, batteries.

Kunsthaus Zug, Schenkung Peter und Christine Kamm, Inv.-Nr. 1030.1-16. Photo: Swiss national museum

A view of the exhibition.

© Swiss National Museum

A view of the exhibition.

© Swiss National Museum

A view of the exhibition.

© Swiss National Museum

Swiss National Museum press contact

+41 44 218 66 63 medien@nationalmuseum.ch

Exhibition imprint

  • Overall management Andreas Spillmann
  • Curators of the exhibition Juri Steiner, Stefan Zweifel
  • Project direction Anna Wälli
  • Scientific collaboration Manda Beck, Regula Moser
  • Scenography Alex Harb
  • Exhibition Graphic Studio Marie Lusa, Marie Lusa, Dominique Wyss
  • Graphical realization André Bex, bex.fm
  • Audioguide Texetera GmbH, Erik Thurnherr
  • Cultural services and museum education Stefanie Bittmann, Maria Iseli
  • Marketing and communication Andrej Abplanalp, Alexander Rechsteiner, Carole Neuenschwander, Sebastiano Mereu, Anna-Britta Maag
  • Technical management Debbie Sledsens
  • Technical assistance Viola Valsesia
  • Exhibition construction Janine Auf der Maur, Kim Badertscher, Bachir Ezzarari, Ladina Fait, Marc Häggeli, Mike Roder, Dave Schwitter
  • Conservation management Natalie Ellwanger, Iona Leroy
  • Conservation and montage of objects Véronique Mathieu, Jürg Mathys, Françoise Michel, Ulrike Rothenhäusler, Alexandra Schorpp, Peter Wyer, Tino Zagermann
  • Logistics of objects and montage of objects Christian Affentranger, David Blazquez, Simon D’Hollosy, Reto Hegetschweiler, Markus Scherer
  • Loans Maya Jucker, Angela Zeier
  • Advisory committee Heidi Amrein, Beat Högger, Markus Leuthard, Sabrina Médioni, Andreas Spillmann
  • Controlling of project Sabrina Médioni
  • Head of legal affairs and contracts Beatrice Käser, Jana Pfyl
  • Photography Jörg Brandt, Zvonimir Pisonic
  • Photo library Andrea Kunz, Fabian Müller
  • Editor Pasquale Pollastro
  • IT | Web Thomas Bucher, Ulrich Heiniger, Pasquale Pollastro, Danilo Rüttimann, René Vogel
  • Translations and final editing Bill Gilonis, Anne-Outram Mott, Laurence Neuffer

Items generously loaned by

  • Aargauer Kunsthaus Aarau
  • Site et Musée romains d’Avenches
     
  • Antikenmuseum Basel und Sammlung Ludwig
  • Kunstmuseum Basel
  • Öffentliche Bibliothek der Universität Basel
  • Antikensammlung Bern, Institut für Archäologische Wissenschaften
  • Kunstmuseum Bern, Stiftung Kunsthalle Bern
  • Schweizerischen Eidgenossenschaft, Zentralstelle Historisches Armeematerial, ZSHAM, Bern
     
  • Bündner Kunstmuseum Chur
     
  • L.A. Galerie – Lothar Albrecht, Frankfurt
  • Militär- und Festungsmuseum Full-Reuenthal
     
  • Collection du Fonds d’art contemporain de la Ville de Genève (FMAC)
  • MAH Musée d’art et d’histoire, Ville de Genève
  • Neue Galerie am Universalmuseum Joanneum, Graz
     
  • Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne
  • Juergen Teller, London
  • Tate, London
  • Museo d’arte della Svizzera italiana, Lugano
     
  • Bischofberger Collection, Männedorf-Zurich
     
  • Albert Watson, New York
  • The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, New York
     
  • Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris
  • Centre Pompidou, Paris – Musée national d’art moderne / Centre de création industrielle
  • Collection Fondation Giacometti, Paris
  • Galerie 1900–2000, Paris
  • Musée de l’Armée, Paris
     
  • Musée Jenisch Vevey
     
  • Anna Grzelewska, Warschau
  • Bundesmobilienverwaltung, Hofmobiliendepot, Möbel Museum Wien
  • Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien
  • Sammlung Fotomuseum Winterthur
  • Stiftung für Kunst, Kultur und Geschichte, Winterthur
     
  • Kunsthaus Zug
  • Bildhalle Zürich
  • ETH-Bibliothek, Zürich
  • Graphische Sammlung ETH Zürich
  • Hauser & Wirth, Zürich
  • Karlheinz Weinberger Stiftung, Zürich
  • Kunsthaus Zürich
  • Museum der Anthropologie, Anthropologisches Institut der Universität Zürich
  • Rico Scagliola & Michael Meier, Zürich
  • Universität Zürich, Institut für Evolutionäre Medizin (IEM), Zürich
     
  • Florio Puenter
  • Nicola Erni Collection
  • Sammlung Ringier, Schweiz
  • Sammlung Thomas Koerfer
     
  • Private collections