Manifesto: Art x Agency was a group exhibition that examined the art-historical impact of artist manifestos from the 20th century to the present day. Organized by the Hirshhorn’s Chief Curator Stéphane Aquin, Manifesto: Art x Agency included German artist Julian Rosefeldt’s Manifesto, presented as a multichannel film installation for the first time in Washington, DC, alongside a diverse selection of works from the Museum’s permanent collection. Comprising more than a hundred works of art and ephemera created over a century, Manifesto: Art x Agency explored how artists used manifestos to engage with the political and social issues of their time and how contemporary practices still employ art as a tool in the making of history.
Manifestos, a standard feature of modernist avant-garde movements, were often created to outline the principles of artist groups and to purport revolutionary social and political theories practiced by artists, writers, and philosophers. Exploring the idea of the artist manifesto as a major tenet of the twentieth century, the Hirshhorn’s exhibition was divided into three distinct sections. The introduction to the exhibition featured a powerful display of the Museum’s modern collection holdings, including seminal works by artists such as Jean Arp, Giacomo Balla, Alexander Calder, Salvador Dalí, Helen Frankenthaler, George Grosz, René Magritte, André Masson, Joan Miró, Joan Mitchell, Jackson Pollock, and Tsuruko Yamazaki.
Dating from the early to the mid-twentieth century, these works offered a historical framework for the ideas born out of the various manifestos from the time period. To further ground these works within the ideas that inspired them, a number of published manifestos, including texts from Futurism, Surrealism, Constructivism, and lyrical abstraction, on loan from North American art libraries, were on display as a key part of the exhibition.
In the second section, Rosefeldt’s titular Manifesto (2015) was displayed as a singular work. Conceived as an artwork, Manifesto has gained worldwide attention as a feature-length film. Presented at the Hirshhorn as a multichannel installation, chapters of the film played simultaneously on thirteen video projections, inviting visitors into an immersive experience. Featuring actress Cate Blanchett performing excerpts from some of the great manifestos of the past century, the installation served to demonstrate the contemporary resonance of the artist manifesto in today’s artistic and cultural climate while simultaneously connecting earlier aesthetic movements from the previous section.
The third section highlighted contemporary pieces from the permanent collection, spanning from the 1960s to the present day. This grouping encompassed works that provide a commentary on political movements and social change within contemporary contexts. Included among the artists on view were the Guerrilla Girls, Adrian Piper, Hurvin Anderson, Alfredo Jaar, Nam June Paik, Zoe Leonard, and Glenn Ligon.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Hirshhorn presented the Washington debut of In Search of the Truth (The Truth Booth), an ongoing global project by CAUSE COLLECTIVE artists Ryan Alexiev, Jim Ricks, and Hank Willis Thomas. The participatory installation was open on the Museum’s outdoor Plaza from June 8 to 23, 2019.
Manifesto: Art x Agency was organized by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and was made possible with major support from the initiative Wunderbar Together: The Year of German-American Friendship 2018/19.
Generous support for this exhibition wwas provided by the Burger Collection, Hong Kong; Ken Grossinger & Micheline Klagsbrun, CrossCurrents Foundation; and the Hakuta Family. Additional funding was provided by the Hirshhorn International Council and the Hirshhorn Collectors’ Council.