Origin of Minimal Art Gallery

Origin of Minimal Art Gallery

The dollhouse is a place of possibility, where a child can order the world according to her desires or recreate it according to her imagination.

In Minimal Art Gallery, Suntje Sagerer draws on these associations with the child’s dollhouse to transform the traditional exhibition space – the gallery – into an artist’s playground.

Origin of Minimal Art Gallery

The concept of the Minimal Art Gallery grew out of Sagerer’s previous work with dollhouses. As a Masters’ student at the Dresden University of Fine Arts, she has produced two photo series that take the dollhouse as their subject. In Masters of Society and to many children, the artist poses old-fashioned dolls in a variety of precarious scenarios within the rooms of a home, photographing the tableaux in bright, stark color.

The images, some of which include photographs of the artist’s own childhood embedded in the space of the rooms, are at once vivid and alienating. With their sordid, half-told narratives, they undermine both conventional ideas about the innocence of childhood and the home as a place of comfort.

Origin of Minimal Art Gallery

Whereas these earlier photo series subvert expectations of the domestic realm, the installation/sculpture, Minimal Art Gallery, offers a playful alternative to the contemporary art space. 

The first version of the Minimal Art Gallery was exhibited in the Galerie Mikky Burg, collective in Dresden’s Hechtviertel. For this project, Sagerer invited fellow artists to reimagine the dollhouse – asking a group of collaborators to install miniature artworks in its rooms or to redesign the rooms entirely. A second iteration of the idea, Minimal Art Gallery (Reloaded), was created in association with a different group of artists and exhibited in the Galerie Baer.

MAG / Minimal Art Gallery Reloaded, Galerie Baer / Foto: Robert Vanis 

Both versions of the Minimal Art Gallery are characterized by their punk spirit, bypassing the authority of the art world with a chaotic DIY (do-it-yourself) energy.  Rather than striving for inclusion in the mainstream, the artist throws her own party. The appearance of the rooms varies wildly, depending on the artist who designed them, but the core structure – the house itself – remains a 70s-era bungalow, sliced open to reveal its contents. The handmade coarseness of the construction mocks the clean, white, stereotypical exhibition space.        

The title of the project – Minimal Art Gallery – likewise underlines a playful opposition toward the Minimalism movement from which it takes its name. The only thing minimal about the installation is its size; its boldly heterodox approach, which brings so many competing aesthetics into one space, could not be farther from the standardized, uniform works of twentieth-century sculptors like Donald Judd and Tony Smith.

Origin of Minimal Art Gallery

The artists who participated in the two iterations of the Minimal Art Gallery have taken the miniaturized dimensions of the houses as a challenge, redesigning rooms to house their tiny works or exploding the concept of the room itself.    

The flexibility of the Minimal Art Gallery concept allows for any number of approaches to the task and permits the work to be remade in new forms, again and again.

The only rule is that the artwork must fit. This is the magic of the piece for the viewer; bending over, peering in, we glimpse a super-small painting on the wall (Michael Klippmann) or monumental-looking sculpture reduced to the dimensions of the house (Silke Wobst). 

There are jokes of scale: hanging on the wall across from Klipmann’s painting is a pink rabbit’s head that in context seems as big as a bear’s; jammed into the space of the bathroom is a regular-sized folded paper ship, which dwarfs the doll bathtub for which it is made (Stefanie Busch); and finally sitting on a table is a small, white house, an even more miniature version of the structure that contains it (Robert Papperman). In every room, the viewer is offered enchantment, visual wit, and the chance to re-immerse oneself in the dollhouse’s realm of imagination and the possible.

 Jessica Buskirk, Ph.D. in Art History, University of California, Berkeley