Franz Ackermann makes exuberant paintings and installations centred on themes of travel, tourism, globalisation and urbanism. Mental Maps, his first major series, were produced during a stay in Hong Kong. Combining the factual precision of traditional street maps with his own interpretation of the local environment, these small watercolours documented the artist’s perception of the great cities of Asia, South America and Australia.
Ackermann has since created large-scale dynamic installations that are built up from individual components comprising paintings, drawings, photographs, wall drawings and sculptural, billboard-like constructions. His work frequently deals with the double side of tourism – the glamour, speed and consumption of international travel but also the detritus, architectural scarring and garbage that it leaves behind, and his installations often take on the appearance of strange advertisements for a global tourism industry run amok. The places he depicts have a generic quality, and yet they look strangely familiar: non-places where the traveller’s desire replaces the local culture.
For example his exhibition, Home, home again (White Cube, 2006) brought together a series of large-scale paintings, drawings and sculptures that focus on London as their point of departure. Ackermann presented a large-scale drawing that provides a metaphorical link between his ongoing Mental Map series – watercolours made while on the move in hotels around the world – and his paintings, constructed from memory in the studio.
Beyond the fanfare of a gallery weekend, there remains the perennial question: to what end does such an event serve a city? During this year's Gallery Weekend Beijing (22–29 March 2019), this question was raised during a snippet of the inaugural Beijing Art Summit (22–24 March 2019) on a chilly Saturday morning, staged at Ullens Center for...