3 November 2017 until 4 March 2018

Animals are a frequent subject of debate. Do they have a soul? How much do they suffer? Are we under any obligation to protect their individuality by granting them rights? Are human beings morally authorized to do as they want with animals, to consume them, rob them of their freedom and train them for the purposes of entertainment? Scientific discussion takes the relationship between animal and human being very seriously. In the everyday life of our consumption-oriented society, on the other hand, that relationship oscillates between unreflecting exploitation and sentimental anthropomorphization. Against the background of these contrasts, the exhibition ANIMALS at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG) has been geared primarily towards informing visitors and sensitizing them to ways and means of respectful co-existence. With a view to the visual and applied arts but also to science, the show undertook to re-evaluate the common history of man and animal from the perspective of a wide range of epochs, cultures and media. Loans from museums as well as natural history and ethnology-oriented institutions of Germany and the world has enhanced the objects from the MKG’s own abundant and diverse collection. The chief focus has been on works of the visual arts in which the interaction between animal and man gives rise to something altogether new. So-called thematic islands united creations of high culture with those from popular contexts, while also integrated examples from indigenous cultures and natural history. The exhibition featured some 200 objects dating from antiquity to the present, including paintings, sculptures, prints, photographs, video art, large-scale installations and films. In addition to the 1,200 square metres exhibition there were 14 satellite locations throughout the entire museum that focused on animals. The exhibition has been accompanied by a catalogue published by Hirmer Verlag.

Artists: Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla | Max Beckmann | Joseph Beuys | Jean Carriès | Albrecht Dürer | Max Ernst | Emmanuel Frémiet | Johann Heinrich Füssli | Jean Paul Gaultier | Giambologna | Douglas Gordon | Francisco de Goya | Ernst Haeckel | Anna Haifisch | George Herriman | Akihiro Higuchi | Hans Hoffmann | Alexan-der von Humboldt | Fernand Khnopff | Athanasius Kircher | Walt Kelly | Paul Klee | Franz Marc | Gabriel von Max | Henri Rousseau | Michael Schmidt | George Stubbs | Franz von Stuck | Ai Weiwei and many others.

This exhibition explored the relationship of animals and mankind with a view on the arts and focusses on ethical, spiritual and emotional questions. The centre for Natural History (CeNak) at the University of Hamburg, as a cooperation institution of the MKG, completed the perspective with a scientific view of mankind in the animal world. Beside the joint projects with the Zoological Museum, CeNak presented a special exhibition “Vanishing Legacys: The world as a Forest” (10 November 2017 – 29 March 2018) addressing the current research results regarding species extinction, deforestation and climate change.

The exhibition has been made possible by funds from the Ausstellungsfonds der Freien und Hansestadt Hamburg and the Hubertus Wald Stiftung and with the kind support of the Justus Brinckmann Gesellschaft, the Martha Pulvermacher Stiftung and the Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung.

Photo: Renjô, Rats, early 20th century, ink drawing/Sumi on paper, rolled out: 201 x 742 cm, F.G. Naerebout, Delft, © Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg