With the exhibition From My Heart the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München would like to extend most heartfelt wishes to Kiki Smith (*January 18, 1954) on her special birthday. Dedicating a solo show to her in this way underlines the gratitude to this New York artist with whom the museum has felt a strong affiliation since she donated the totality of her published prints to the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München a few years ago. In future she plans to further enhance this globally unique collection housed at the museum with newly created prints – a tremendous stroke of luck for Munich. The 2019 exhibition project and eponymous publication Touch. Prints by Kiki Smith featuring over 150 works from the period spanning 1985 to 2018 afforded an initial view into this magnificent donation.
Currently, the curatorial eye has turned to two key aspects running through her works perhaps only subcutaneously but which are elementary for the understanding of her oeuvre.
In the first part of the exhibition, individual graphic works by Kiki Smith are juxtaposed with historical works from the holdings of the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München spanning the centuries. For instance, a medieval book illumination is shown next to Kiki Smith’s Untitled (Kidneys), 1995; to name just one of the 12 different juxtapositions. The interplay beautifully demonstrates that Smith’s work can be viewed across space and time, and that her artistic universe is deeply rooted in the history of art and culture.
In the second part, the exhibition essentially concentrates on a single subject (one not without reason lending its name to the title of the exhibition) despite the fact the heart motif was only used by the artist very selectively in her work, precisely because of its worldwide popularity and overuse. The resulting selection of works shows all the more impressively how the artist manages to breathe new life into this much-used symbol and directly address us as viewers.
Working closely with Kiki Smith herself, the team sought the “heart” in the artist’s oeuvre: a few representations were known from the published literature on Kiki Smith’s work. The essential part, however, was found in the artist’s own possession. Many hearts are now shown for the first time and published in the exhibition catalogue: The heart theme opens with a printed T-shirt from the early 1980s, the beginning of Kiki Smith’s artistic career. It concludes with most recent etchings as well as glass works the artist made especially for the exhibition, all from 2023.