By on June 1, 2016

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The history of the city of Wolfsburg, Saxony, in Germany is inseparable from that of Volkswagen.

The municipality was established originally in 1938 as Stadt des KdF-Wagens bei Fallersleben. It was intended as a model town based around the factory the Nazis built to make Dr. Porsche’s KdF-Wagen, what became the Type I Volkswagen, or Beetle.

To put that historical link between the automobile company and the city into an artistic context, the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg is holding an exhibition running through November 9, 2016 titled “Wolfsburg Unlimited: A City As A World Laboratory“.

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The exhibit includes seven works, an eclectic curating featuring art works, documents, photographs, architectural models, advertising materials, videos, and even a very rare chassis of a 1934 Standard Superior “Volkswagen”, which is considered by more than a few people to have influenced Dr. Porsche’s design.

The Standard Superior chassis is part of a room sized installation titled “Nudnik. Forgetting Josef Ganz”, by Swiss artist Rémy Markowitsch. Ganz was the editor of Motor-Kritik magazine in the late 1920s and early 1930s and in its pages he advocated for the manufacture of “volkswagens” — inexpensive “peoples’ cars.” Dutch engineer and author Paul Schilperoord has made it his life’s vocation to restore Ganz’s role in automotive history and the Standard chassis belongs to him.

Markowitsch’s work includes a wall with reproductions of the covers of Motor-Kritik issues, ending in a scaled up repro of the cover featuring the Standard Superior chassis, only instead of using an image, it uses the actual chassis.

Schilperoord tells me that it’s likely one of only three Superiors that survived in any manner. It was recently one of 13 Cars That Changed the World, an exhibit Top Gear’s James May curated last year in London

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On another wall are prints of Markowitsch’s almost sinister looking black and white close-up photographs of industrial equipment and one wall features a large copy of a photograph from Schilperoord’s book on Ganz, showing the engineer at the wheel of his personal volkswagen prototype, which he nicknamed the Maikaefer (May beetle in German). In the middle of the hall is a realistic reproduction of a white duck (albeit with a neck that’s been twisted around) sitting on a gold colored globe. I’m not sure what the symbolism of the canard is, but the installation seems powerful from the photos that I’ve seen.

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Considering that Wolfsburg Unlimited is being at least partially underwritten by the Volkswagen company, the exhibition doesn’t shy away from unsavory aspects of the company and Wolfsburg’s histories. It even includes a work alluding to VW’s current diesel emissions cheating scandal. There is a wall sized version of one of the fake magazine advertisements critical of VW that went up around Paris when that city hosted the recent global climate change conference. It’s in the style of the classic ads created for Volkswagen in the 1960s and ’70s by the Doyle Dane Bernbach agency and shows a Jetta diesel sedan with “We’re sorry that we got caught” in the font VW has used for decades.

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Besides Markowitsch, artists involved in the exhibition are Franz Ackermann, Nevin Aladag, Christian Andersson, Peter Bialobrzeski, John Bock, Janet Cardiff / George Bures Miller, Christo, Don Eddy, Douglas Gordon, Heidersberger, Peter Keetman, Anselm Kiefer, Pia Lanzinger, Eva Leitolf,  Marcel Odenbach, Arnold Odermatt, Nam June Paik, Antoine Pesne, Peter Roehr, Didier Rittener, Julian Rosenfeldt, Werner Schroeter, Luc Tuymans, James Welling, and Charles Wilp.

Psychomotor-12 by Remy Markowitsch.

Psychomotor-12 by Remy Markowitsch.

A 352-page catalog, with essays by art critics and interviews of some of the artists, is available in the museum gift shop for €35. Guided tours are available. Check the museum’s website for the schedule.

The Wolfsburg Unlimited exhibition is supported and funded by the city of Wolfsburg, Niedersächsische Sparkassenstiftung (the North Saxony Banking Foundation), Sparkasse Gifhorn-Wolfsburg (a bank), Pro Helvetia (a Swiss government cultural support foundation) and by Volkswagen Financial Services AG.

[Images: Marek Kruszewski Courtesy Galerie Eigen + Art, Josef Ganz Archives / Paul Schilperoord, Den Haag, Remy Markowitsch]

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view over at Cars In Depth. – Thanks for reading – RJS

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