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Jonathan Meese

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Jonathan Meese
Jonathan Meese, 2009
BornJanuary 23, 1970 (1970-01-23)
EducationHochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg
Known forPainting, Sculpture, Performance art, Installation art
Notable workDictatorbaby Mary Poppin's Cats, Dogs and Eggpies (The Revolutionbaby de Large is Back) (2008),
Spass an de Freud (Geburtstagsrevolution) (2008),
Der Parteitag des Erzes (Dein Kind) (2006),
MovementContemporary art
AwardsBerliner Bär (BZ-Kulturpreis), 2007

Jonathan Meese (born January 23, 1970, in Tokyo) is a German painter, sculptor, performance artist, and installation artist based in Berlin and Hamburg.[1] Meese's (often multi-media) works include paintings, collages, drawings and writing.[2] He also designs theater sets and wrote and starred in a play, De Frau: Dr. Poundaddylein - Dr. Ezodysseusszeusuzur in 2007 at the Volksbühne Theater.[3] He is mainly concerned with personalities of world history, primordial myths and heroes.[2] Jonathan Meese lives and works in Ahrensburg and Berlin.

Life and work[edit]

Childhood and youth (1970–1995)[edit]

Jonathan Meese was born as a third child of his parents, a German and a Welsh, in Tokyo, Japan. His mother, Brigitte Renate Meese, returned to Germany in the mid-1970s. His father, the banker Reginald Selby Meese, born in Newport (Wales), lived in Japan until his death in 1988. Since Meese only spoke English after his return to Germany, he had difficulties adapting.[4] After a period spent in Scotland, his mother-in-law suggested he study Economics.[5]

Study and first success (1995–1998)[edit]

Meese studied with Franz Erhard Walther, Daniel Richter, Martin Kippenberger, Horst Janssen, Vicco von Bülow alias Loriot, and Otto Waalkes at the University of Fine Arts of Hamburg from 1995 to 1998, but he left the university without a degree.[6] Daniel Richter recommended Meese to the gallery of Contemporary Fine Arts (Berlin, Germany).[4]

Jonathan Meese exhibited for the first time at the Frankfurter Kunstverein gallery in a group exhibition. The first solo exhibition "Glockengeschrei nach Deutz" followed in the Galerie Buchholz in Cologne.[7]

Inspired by Meese's space installations, the producer Claus Boje and the director Leander Haußmann commissioned him to produce a backdrop for their film Sonnenallee (1999). Finally, he also got a role in the film and played the role of a crazy artist. Meese's works for Sonnenallee were shown in 1999 in an exhibition at the Neuer Aachener Kunstverei art museum (Aachen, Germany).[8]

First Berlin Bienniale (1998)[edit]

Since 1998 Meese has attracted attention with installations, performances and other actions on the art scene. At the Berlin Biennale, curated by Klaus Biesenbach, Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Nancy Spector, Meese met a broad public.[9] Meese presented the installation Ahoi der Angst, a photo-collage dedicated to the Marquis de Sade, which was also to be considered later in the work of Meese. Politicians, actors and musicians were presented in photo-collage. The visitors could listen to music, read poems by Rolf Dieter Brinkmann or watch the video Caligula.[10] There were also posters by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Klaus Kinski, Nina Hagen, and Oscar Wilde.[11]

Due to the increased media presence at the Berlin Biennale, Meese's work was also analyzed and commented upon at home and abroad. Kunstmagazine Art described the installation as a "labyrinth of sentimentalities". The author, Peter Richter, also addressed the spatial aspect by describing the work as a "horror cabinet between porn, Charles Bronson and Slayer".[12] The Berliner Zeitung described it as a "stuffed boy's room".[13] Susanne Titz, writing about the Biennale said: "It was thus clear that Meese had indeed put his finger on the pulse of his generation and presented it."[14]

National and international exhibitions (1999–)[edit]

From 1999, Meese participated in a variety of national and international group and individual exhibitions. Particularly space installations and performances were shown. Often, the central figure of his works is Meese himself: whether in the form of self-portraits or disguised persona, in actions, collages, pictures and drawings.[2] The thematic contents stem mainly from national socialism, as well as linguistic and theatrical references to German philosophy and literary history.[15] In actions and performances Meese especially addressed Adolf Hitler,[1] showing repeatedly and provocatively the Nazi salute.[16]

According to Karel Schampers, "Jonathan Meese can tell a story in such a gripping way that you would never have the idea to doubt its truth. Especially his installations benefit from this quality."[17]

Meese photographed by Oliver Mark, Berlin 2009

Meese has been included in exhibitions "Spezialbilder" at Contemporary Fine Arts in Berlin, "Grotesk!" at Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt and "Schnitt bringt Schnitte" at Ausstellungsraum Schnitt in Köln. Recent exhibitions include Thanks, Wally Whyton (Revendaddy Phantomilky on Coconut Islandaddy) at Stuart Shave/Modern Art,[18] in London, and a performance at Tate Modern, entitled Noel Coward Is Back — Dr. Humpty Dumpty vs. Fra No-Finger.[19][20] He has exhibited at Stuart Shave/Modern Art,[18] London, Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris, and Centro Cultural Andratx, Mallorca.[2]

In 2008 Meese created "Marlene Dietrich in Dr. No's Ludovico-Clinic (Dr. Baby's Erzland)", an immersive multimedia installation within The Watermill Center on Long Island, New York.[21]

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA), North Miami presented in 2014 the first major solo museum exhibition in the United States for Jonathan Meese, which included Meese's paintings that mix personal hieroglyphics and collage, installations, ecstatic performances, and a powerful body of sculptures in a variety of media.[22] The exhibition was on view from December 1, 2010 – February 13, 2011, during Art Basel Miami Beach 2010. Jonathan Meese: Sculpture was organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami and curated by Director and Chief Curator Bonnie Clearwater. In 2007, he collaborated with the composer Karlheinz Essl on the installation FRÄULEIN ATLANTIS shown at the Essl Museum in Vienna/Klosterneuburg.[23]

For the Salzburg Festival 2010, Meese created an acclaimed stage design for the world premiere of Wolfgang Rihm's opera Dionysus.[24] For the Bayreuth Festival in 2016 Meese was offered a contract to direct a new production of Parsifal. This contract has since been rescinded, the official reason being that it would have been too expensive for the Festival to maintain.[25]

Controversy and criticism[edit]

In June, 2013 Meese was accused and brought before the German Court for performing the Hitler salute[26] in his stage performance "Megalomania in the Art World" which was organized by Der Spiegel in Kassel.[27] The artist claimed that it was an artistic gesture and he was acquitted from charges, in the same year, by the District Court of Kassel (Germany).[28][29]

Art market[edit]

Meese is represented by Galerie Templon in Paris (since 2001), David Nolan Gallery in New York, Tim van Laere Gallery in Antwerp, Galerie Krinzinger in Vienna and Sies + Höke in Düsseldorf.

He has worked collaboratively with the painters Jörg Immendorff, Albert Oehlen, Tim Berresheim, Daniel Richter,[30] Tal R, and the composer Karlheinz Essl.[31]

The best selling painting by the artist was Agamemnon's Hähnchenbesteck (2003), who sold by £132,500 ($269,506) at Christie's London, on 14 October 2007.[32][33]


Collections of art that own examples of Meese's work include:


  • Stefan Üner: Jonathan Meese. Spontan und unberechenbar, in: stayinart, Innsbruck 2021, p. 62–68.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Spears, Dorothy (3 August 2008). "Jonathan Meese, an Eclectic Artist With a Staple Gun, Takes Over the Watermill Center". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d Holzwarth, Hans Werner (October 1, 2009). 100 Contemporary Artists A-Z. US: Taschen America; 25 Slp Anv edition. pp. 372–377. ISBN 978-3836514903.
  3. ^ "Volksbühne Berlin". www.volksbuehne-berlin.de (in German). Volksbühne Berlin. Archived from the original on 30 July 2017. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Jonathan Meese aus: Deutschland, deine Künstler". Archived from the original on August 2, 2008. Retrieved July 28, 2019.
  5. ^ Von Cornelius, Tittel (26 August 2006). "Radikal schon vor dem Zähneputzen". Die Weltwoche (in German). Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  6. ^ "Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg wird 250 Jahre alt". Monopol Magazin (in German). 11 July 2017. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  7. ^ Von Ralf, Schlter (March 2004). "Der Erzkünstler". Art: Das Kunstmagazin. ISSN 0173-2781. Archived from the original on 6 May 2009. Retrieved 30 July 2017.{{cite magazine}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  8. ^ "Jonathan Meese". Archived from the original on May 6, 2009. Retrieved July 28, 2019.
  9. ^ "Insgesamt 77.000 Kunstinteressierte besuchten in drei Monaten die 2,5 Millionen Mark teure Ausstellung im ehemaligen Postfuhramt". Archived from the original on May 6, 2009. Retrieved July 28, 2019.
  10. ^ "Eine Sause in die Welt der Gefühle". Art: Das Kunstmagazin. November 1989. Retrieved 30 July 2017.[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ Verwoert, Jan (January–February 1999). "Berlin Biennale". frieze. No. 44. Archived from the original on 6 May 2009. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  12. ^ Richter, Peter (12 January 2004). "Schirn und Volksbühne: Freies Radikal des Kunstbetriebs: Jonathan Meese". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  13. ^ Ahne, Petra. "Jonathan Meese wurde mit seinen begehbaren Installationen zu einem der bekanntesten jungen deutschen Künstler. Für Theaterchef Frank Castorf hat er nun ein Bühnenbild gebaut: Der Verstörer". Berliner Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  14. ^ Titz, Susanne. (2007). "Mr. Deltoid's a.k.a. Urleandrusus' Sonnenallee AHOI DE ANGST FAIR WELL Good Bye". In Mama Johnny. Köln: Contemporary Fine Arts and Walther König, 321
  15. ^ Gartenfeld, Alex (4 February 2011). "A NOT-SO-MANIC DOPPELGANGER". Art in America. No. February 2011. Retrieved 30 July 2017. He also closely studied the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche, who would become a major point of reference in his later work.
  16. ^ Woolfe, Zachary (26 July 2012). "Evgeny Nikitin and Wagner's 'Flying Dutchman'". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  17. ^ Schampers, Karel (2006). Sherwood forest : Jörg Immendorff – Jonathan Meese. Köln: Haarlem. p. 321. ISBN 978-9086900077.
  18. ^ a b "Artists – Modern Art". modernart.net. Retrieved July 28, 2019.
  19. ^ Melissa Gronlund (February 20, 2006), Jonathan Meese, ARTINFO, retrieved 2008-05-14
  20. ^ Claire Bishop (January 3, 2006) Performance Anxiety, artforum.com
  21. ^ Spears, Dorothy (August 3, 2008). "Jonathan Meese, an Eclectic Artist With a Staple Gun, Takes Over the Watermill Center". Retrieved July 28, 2019 – via NYTimes.com.
  22. ^ "Jonathan Meese at Museum der Moderne (Contemporary Art Daily)". Contemporary Art Daily. 1 March 2014. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  23. ^ Essl, Karlheinz. "Karlheinz Essl: FRÄULEIN ATLANTIS (2007) – generative sound and video environment for Jonathan Meese". www.essl.at (in German). Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  24. ^ Hans-Joachim Müller (August 2, 2010), Das ist eine brutal gute Zeit für einen Neustart Die Welt, welt.de
  25. ^ Tom Service (November 19, 2014), "Bayreuth pulls the plug on controversial director", The Guardian, retrieved 2014-12-14
  26. ^ Evans, Stephen (19 July 2013). "Nazi salute puts German artist Jonathan Meese in court". BBC News. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  27. ^ "German artist taken to court for Hitler salute". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  28. ^ "German artist Jonathan Meese wins Nazi salute case". BBC News. 15 August 2013.
  29. ^ Neuendorf, Henri (6 May 2015). "Jonathan Meese Won't Be Trialed for Nazi Salute". artnet News. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  30. ^ "Daniel Richter und Jonathan Meese vereint". Der Tagesspiegel (in German). 14 December 2007. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  31. ^ "Jonathan Meese: artnet". www.artnet.com. artnet. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  32. ^ Christie's
  33. ^ LotSearch

External links[edit]

Media related to Jonathan Meese at Wikimedia Commons