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The exhibition “Forbidden Fruit: Sculptor Chris Antemann at MEISSEN” will be on display at The State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg from 5th June until 1st September 2019. With this installation, American artist Chris Antemann expands the museum’s extensive porcelain collection, and draws on the long historical connection between Meissen and Russia. It was Augustus the Strong, founder of the MEISSEN manufactory, who first sent larger quantities of porcelain to the Court of the Tsar in St Petersburg in 1729. This was followed by Empress Catherine the Great’s “large Russian order” in 1772, as well as countless orders for personal use. This cultural exchange between the German state of Saxony and Russia, initiated by Augustus the Strong, continues to this day and is reflected through this very exhibition, featuring unique pieces and limited edition works of art.
Chris Antemann is the first American female artist to have a solo exhibition at The State Hermitage Museum. The manufactory has been working together with the sculptor since 2011 – she is known for her contemporary parodies of 18th century porcelain figurines. For her work, Antemann spent a great deal of time studying historical porcelain figurines and designs from the manufactory in depth. These historical designs form the basis of her modern stories of love, relationships and societal taboos. Antemann worked together with master artisans from the manufactory for more than two years on the idea of a table centrepiece in the style of Meissen master porcelain sculptor Johann Joachim Kaendler – a dream came true for the artist herself. The result: “Forbidden Fruit”, a grand installation that functions as a contemporary interpretation of and an impressive homage to the table settings of the 18th century.
"Chris Antemann’s sculptures allude to classic Baroque-era Meissen porcelain figurines while at the same time telling new, contemporary stories."
During this period, which has always fascinated Chris, banquets were a social construct involving festive formal dress, exquisite dishes, lavish decorations and, of course, porcelain. Chris Antemann draws inspiration from historic porcelain figurines and table settings and uses the individual pieces in her collection to tell stories of love, longing and desire. The five-foot-tall “Temple of Love” was inspired by Kaendler’s historic model from 1750. Together with the “Forbidden Fruit Dinner Party” – a work of art that is integrated into the temple itself – it forms the centrepiece of the opulent exhibition at the State Hermitage Museum. The artist stripped the original design of the Temple of Love down to its essential form, before adding her own embellishments and ornamentations to the construction. With delicate flourishes, Antemann creates a feminine counterpart to the masculine architectural elements by reinventing Kaendler’s masterpiece in her own unique style.
Chris Antemann’s sculptures allude to classic Baroque-era Meissen porcelain figurines while at the same time telling new, contemporary stories: scantily clad and gazing seductively, the guests sit around an opulent table that is overflowing with exotic dishes. The central figures were inspired by the “Three Graces”: the goddesses of grace, beauty and creativity in Greek mythology.
This elaborate centrepiece is accompanied by the impressive porcelain “Lemon Chandelier”. Embellished with intricate figurines, birds, leaves, flowers and lemons, the piece is evocative of the tradition of palatial porcelain rooms. The small, intimate vignettes depict playful scenes of temptation and seduction. As is the case for each work on display in Saint Petersburg, the masterpiece demonstrates the vision of the artist – respectful and knowledgeable of Meissen’s history, while signifying something boldly new for its and Antemann’s own place within the art world.