ART HISTORY

PUBLISHER
Hatje Cantz

BOOK FORMAT
Clth, 17 x 25 in. / 176 pgs / 63 color.

PUBLISHING STATUS
Pub Date
Active

DISTRIBUTION
D.A.P. Exclusive
Catalog: SPRING 2020 p. 25   

PRODUCT DETAILS
ISBN 9783775746939 FLAT40
List Price: $230.00 CDN $325.00

AVAILABILITY
In stock

EXHIBITION SCHEDULE

Berlin, Germany
Haus der Kulturen der Welt, 05/04/20–06/29/20

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HATJE CANTZ

Aby Warburg: Bilderatlas Mnemosyne

The Original

Text by Roberto Ohrt, Axel Heil, Bernd Scherer, Bill Sherman, Claudia Wedepohl.

Featured image is reproduced from 'Aby Warburg: Bilderatlas Mnemosyne.'

A legendary modernist epic of visual thinking from the founder of iconology, tracing the migration of symbols through art, history and cosmology—reconstructed and accessible for the first time

From 1925 until his death in 1929, the great German art theorist and cultural scholar Aby Warburg worked on an ambitious, unprecedented project he called the Mnemosyne Atlas: a series of 63 large themed panels, each featuring a constellation of images—postcards, maps, adverts, reproductions of artworks—that trace the migration of symbols from antiquity to the present. His goal was to show how certain gestures and icons repeated themselves across history, constituting what he called a “pathos formula”—that is, an enduring emotional metaphor. Warburg had the panels photographed, conceiving of their ultimate incarnation as being in book form—but never completed the atlas.

Warburg has become famed for many things—founding the discipline of iconology (what would now be called visual studies); his incredible library (and its idiosyncratic organization); his photographs of Hopi Indians; and the august institute in London that bears his name. But the greatest, most mythical aspect of his legacy is the Mnemosyne Atlas, which is to art history what Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project is to cultural history—an incomplete, collaged modernist epic attempting to comprehend the patterns of history and human emotion through flashes of insight that circumvent discursive thought.

Artists, theorists, writers and curators as various as Gerhard Richter, R.B. Kitaj, Joan Jonas, Charlene von Heyl, Giorgio Agamben, Marina Warner, Ernst Gombrich and Hans Ulrich Obrist have all paid homage to this mythic entity in different ways; many books have been written about it, and many exhibitions themed around it. Since Gombrich was tasked with its recreation in 1937, several scholars have attempted editions of the Atlas, all using Warburg’s indistinct, nearly illegible photographs. Now, for this major publishing event, Roberto Ohrt and Axel Heil have done what long seemed impossible, searching the 400,000 images in the archives of the Warburg Institute, identifying those from the Atlas and reconstructing Warburg’s panels, rendering the Atlas visually accessible to the world for the first time.


Featured image is reproduced from 'Aby Warburg: Bilderatlas Mnemosyne.'

PRAISE AND REVIEWS

Frieze

Brian Dillon

There is pain and suffering in these pictures, but also a sense of pure possibility, as though the space between images, or between panels, contained only wind, or the beating of wings.

New York Times

Martha Schwendener

A project of art history lore, predating works like Marcel Duchamp’s Boîte-en-valise…. the waves made by Warburg’s atlas still ripple in works like Gerhard Richter’s Atlas…. Warburg was interested in creating a visual system that would help us understand how we came to be where we are, and how we are profoundly tied to the past and to the natural world.

Art In America

Lucy Ives

If the Bilderatlas Mnemosyne shows more than it tells, this is by design. Warburg hoped to create a visual tool that would foster what he saw as art’s innate ability to generate reflective, dialectical distance for the viewer, a key to the civilizing process: by means of this Distanz, states of rational detachment can co-exist with animalistic frenzy, the sober philosopher meets the rampaging maenad, over and over through the ages. This seems like an odd intellectual goal now, but the panels hold an aesthetic fascination that either exceeds this magic theory or, paradoxically, proves it. I find them strange and hard to look away from ...

Aby Warburg: Bilderatlas Mnemosyne

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