Decadence Now! opens at Galerie Rudolfinum
Prague’s Galerie Rudolfinum has officially opened one of its most ambitious projects to date: the exhibition Decadence Now! Visions of Excess, looking at the use of decadence in contemporary art. The show – featuring work by such artists as Cindy Sherman, Joel-Peter Witkin and the late Robert Mapplethorpe – will shock some but enthuse others, and in all cases draw a strong response.
Gallery director Petr Nedoma told me how the idea for Decadence Now! came about:
“The curator Otto M. Urban built on his experience from an earlier exhibition called Decadence in Morbid Colours, focussing on decadence in Czech art in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This show looks back at decadence in contemporary art going back the last 30 years. It is a broad subject matter and it is clear that decadence is not linked or limited to only one period. Like Romanticism, it continues to make resurgences. And just because it has come before, doesn’t mean it won’t come again.”
Despite the strong subject matter Petr Nedoma says the main intention of the exhibition is not to shock. He explains:
“It’s the other way around: it is what they reveal – not the works themselves – that are shocking. You can accuse some artists of intentionally setting out to shock. But in this exhibition we deliberately avoided such work. If you look at what’s on view, compared to the portion of violence, blood, and helplessness which we see every day on the TV news, this show is a walk in the park. These works reflect what already exists, rather than deliberately setting out to shock.”