The bed in history and contemporary art

More than forty years ago, John Lennon and Yoko Ono got into bed to protest against the war. The world’s most popular artist couple of that time made their honeymoon public by stating: “Make love, not war!”. Simultaneously, the bed turned into a political instrument of visual art.

The exhibition Sleepless. Beds in History and Contemporary Art focuses on the historical as well as iconographic significance of the depiction of the bed and will include and juxtapose paintings, sculptures, drawings, photos, and video works spanning from old masters to present-day artists, subdivided into themes and arranged according to visual associations.

As the territory of birth, love, illness, and death and as the most anthropomorphic shape in the history of all civilizations, beds are possibly one of the most reproduced objects in art and one of the most common metaphors for the human condition. The vast majority of people are born on beds; one can even claim that the inexplicable miracle of life starts on a bed. A key work of the show is a sixteenth-century painting by Lavinia Fontana, who rendered a secular portrait of an infant in a cradle – supposedly the first of its kind in art history. This tradition of the display of birth in art has continued down to the present day - realised in works by Robert Gober or Sherrie Levine.

Many artists made use of the bed’s idiosyncratic shape in their work, from Nobuyoshi Araki, Diane Arbus, Lucian Freud, and Yayoi Kusama to Jannis Kounellis, Antoni Tàpies, Rosemarie Trockel, Egon Schiele, Jürgen Teller, or Franz West, and Rachel Whiteread. Others, as Tracey Emin, Mona Hatoum, Damien Hirst, Jim Lambie, and Sarah Lucas demonstrate, used the bed as a ready-made itself.

Curated by Mario Codognato.

With works by

Miles Aldridge, Nobuyoshi Araki Diane Arbus, Rudolf Bacher, Georg Baselitz, Franz von Bayros, Cecil Beaton, Vanessa Beecroft, Richard Billingham, Herbert Boeckl, Pierre Bonnard, Marino Bovi, Cecily Brown, Agostino Carracci, Jota Castro, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Anetta Mona Chi?a & Lucia Tkácová, Larry Clark, Francesco Clemente, Gustave Courbet, Michael Craig-Martin, Gregory Crewdson, John Currin, David Dawson, Lucinda Devlin, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Otto Dix, Sante D’Orazio, Leopold Johann Dorfstätter, Marcel Duchamp, Jimmie Durham, Martin Eder, Elmgreen & Dragset, Tracey Emin, James Ensor, VALIE EXPORT, Werner Feiersinger, Martha Fein, Domenico Fiasella, Urs Fischer, Fischli & Weiss, Peter Flötner, Lavinia Fontana, Heinz Frank, Lucian Freud, Kerstin von Gabain, Ryan Gander, Artemisia Gentileschi, Bruno Gironcoli, Robert Gober, Nan Goldin, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Douglas Gordon, Antony Gormley, Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, Heidi Harsieber, Mona Hatoum, Damien Hirst, Howard Hodgkin, Ludwig Hoffenreich, Richard Horlemann, Rachel Howard, Alfred Hrdlicka, Jörg Immendorff, Birgit Jürgenssen, Johanna Kampmann-Freund, Herwig Kempinger, Fritz Kern, Anselm Kiefer, Martin Kippenberger, Douglas Kirkland, Ronald Brooks Kitaj, Gustav Klimt, Pierre Klossowski, Jannis Kounellis, Paul Kranzler, Alfred Kubin, Hans Kupelwieser, Yayoi Kusama, Jim Lambie, Maria Lassnig, Louise Lawler, Gonzalo Lebrija, Erich Lessing, Sherrie Levine, Max Liebermann, Pietro Falca detto Longhi, Los Carpinteros, Sarah Lucas, Meister mit den Blumenrahmen, Meister der Divisio Apostolorum, Meister von Großgmain, Inge Morath, Otto Muehl, Ugo Mulas, Vik Muniz, Johann Michael Neder, Shirin Neshat, Helmut Newton, Hermann Nitsch, Yoko Ono, Pablo Ruiz Picasso, Walter Pichler, Giulia Piscitelli, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Robert Polidori, Robert Rauschenberg, Man Ray, Josef Karl Rädler, Johann Baptist Reiter, Bettina Rheims, Gerhard Richter, John Riddy, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, Thomas Ruff, Ed Ruscha, Erich Salomon, Caspar Franz Sambach, Egon Schiele, Markus Schinwald, Gundula Schulze Eldowy, Johnnie Shand Kydd, Sudarshan Shetty, Dayanita Singh, Alexandre Vincent Sixdeniers, Jan van der Straet, Mikhael Subotzky, Harunobu Suzuki, Antoni Tàpies, Juergen Teller, Liliane Tomasko, Oliviero Toscani, Rosemarie Trockel, Kaari Upson, Borjana Ventzislavova, Manfred Wakolbinger, Nari Ward, Franz West, Rachel Whiteread, Francesca Woodman, Tobias Zielony und Gilberto Zorio