ABY WARBURG

Mnemosyne Atlas – The Original

10 March to 25 July 2021

In the 1920s, the scholar of art and culture Aby Warburg (1866-1929) created his Bilderatlas Mnemosyne tracing recurring visual themes, gestures and patterns across time, from antiquity to the Renaissance and beyond to contemporary culture.

Aby Warburg studied the interplay of images from different periods and cultural contexts. He designed the Mnemosyne Atlas to provide a pictorial representation of the influences of the ancient world in the Renaissance and beyond. The Atlas consisted of large black panels on which he placed photographic reproductions of artworks from the Middle East, European antiquity and the Renaissance, alongside contemporary newspaper clippings and advertisements. In the years leading to his death in 1929, Warburg and his closest colleagues Gertrud Bing and Fritz Saxl experimented with the form and function of the Bilderatlas. Their goal was to present a publication designed for discussion among experts as well as the broader public. During the course of its creation, the Atlas developed into an instrument of cognition.

«I'd rather be wrong with the eagles than be right with the worms.» Aby Warburg

Warburg’s method set new standards: it consisted in rearranging canonized images and looking at them across epochs. His project traversed the boundaries between art history, philosophy and anthropology and was fundamental for the modern disciplines of visual and media studies. Today, his use of visual memory provides inspiration and alternative routes through a reality dominated by visual media.

«God is in the details.» Aby Warburg

The exhibition restores the last documented version of the 1929 Atlas almost completely with the original images. In collaboration with the Warburg Institute, the curators Roberto Ohrt and Axel Heil have located most of the originals, some partly in color, 971 images from the 400,000 individual objects in the Institute’s Photographic Collection to show all 63 panels of Warburg’s unfinished magnum opus for the first time since his death. In addition, 20 unpublished large-scale photographs of panels that were previously only accessible in the Warburg Institute archives will be shown: Most of them made in autumn of 1928, they originated from the previous versions of the Atlas and are presented as large prints of the original black and white negatives.

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Due to changes in the COVID infection rate, there is always the risk of the exhibition being canceled on short notice.
More information

Show bibliography
Illustrations

Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland

Museumsmeile Bonn
Helmut-Kohl-Allee 4
53113 Bonn
T +49 228 9171–200

Opening hours

Mondays closed
Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m.–9 p.m.
Thursdays–Sundays, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.
(including public holidays even those which fall on Mondays)