The major special exhibition of the federal state of Baden-Württemberg Body. Gaze. Power. A Cultural History of the Bath, will focus on a global social practice as old as humanity itself. Although bathing has always been associated with rituals of cleanliness, links are revealed over the centuries that go far beyond issues of hygiene, health, or a sense of well-being. In fact, the bath as a location and the act of bathing were always ideologically, religiously, socially, and culturally charged, and still are today.

This show will present masterpieces of art from the past centuries and antiquity, including a version of the famous painting The Death of Marat from the studio of Jacques-Louis David, alongside current contemporary art from various geographic and cultural contexts, presenting them alongside a variety of historical exhibits and objects from everyday life. Bathing culture is thus revealed to be a reflection of the society in question, touching on issues such as the sacred and the profane, purity and uncleanliness, the beneficial and the harmful, public and private, nudity and clothing, the aristocratic and the plebeian, and power, class, and gender relations.

Body. Gaze. Power. A Cultural History of the Bath was developed in cooperation with Marseille’s Mucem and will be shown not only at Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, but at various locations in the spa town.

At Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden

The large-scale show presents not only objects from everyday life, like old shaving bowls, bath heaters, or hammam sandals, but also major artworks by artists such as Albrecht Dürer, David Hockney, Joseph Beuys, Nan Goldin, Paul Chan, Monira Al Qadiri, and Thomas Demand. Organized by theme and grouped spatially in separate sections, a wide-reaching web of relationships opens up. In so doing, political implications of the bath emerge, gender issues and visual relations, artistic rituals and variants of orientalism with its exoticizing notion of the foreign and the beautiful, usually in the form of the female nude body.

For example, paintings by Émile Bernard, Maurice Bouviolle or Jules Migonney will be presented against a wallpaper by Iranian artist Parastou Forouhar, on which countless eyes and veiled body outlines emerge from the curving calligraphic lines, thus revealing the supposedly exotic other.

Artists: Patrick Angus, Hans Sebald Beham, Bernadette Corporation, Émile Bernard, Joseph Beuys, Maurice Bouviolle, Louis Brion de la Tour, Giuseppe Cesari, Paul Chan, Jules Dalou, Atelier de Jacques-Louis David, Thomas Demand, Maurice Denis, Joseph-Eugène-Armand Duquesne, Abraham-Louis-Rodolphe Ducros, Albrecht Dürer, François Eisen, Martin Engelbrecht, Rainer Fetting, Ken Friedman, Parastou Forouhar, Friedrich Wilhelm Gmelin, Nan Goldin, Ion Grigorescu, Jean-Jacques Hauer, David Hockney, Charles François Hutin, Nicolas-René Jollain, Othman Khadraoui, Ute Klophaus, Katarzyna Kozyra, Nicolas II Larmessin, Charles-Alfred Leclerc, Leonard Koren, Suzanne Lacy, Zoe Leonard, Massias & Durin, Masamoto, Hieronimo Mercurali, Jules Migonney, Lee Miller & David E. Scherman, Onésimos, Yoko Ono, Benjamin Patterson, Edmond-Jean-Baptiste Paulin, Pablo Picasso, François II de Poilly, Monira Al Qadiri, Delphine Reist, Édouard Frédéric Richter, Amable Ravoisié, Mieko Shiomi, Chiharu Shiota, Tomotoshi, Gaston de La Touche, Ben Vautier, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, Friedrich Weinbrenner, Yasumasa

At Stadtmuseum

The exhibition at Baden-Baden’s Stadtmuseum will spotlight an installation by Bianca Kennedy, presented in the light-filled museum annex with its high ceilings. It consists of a spatially expansive wooden construction housing a basin filled with transparent plastic balls. The visitors are invited to sit in the bath of balls and to immerse themselves in an interactive space using virtual-reality glasses. This is as humorous as it is unsettling, familiar as well as uncanny, and moves the subject of the exhibition to a dream-like digital intermediate world. In the museum’s upper floor, the exhibition subject of bathing is explored in light of a theme that is usually associated with the summer, sun, and luxury: the swimming pool.

Artists: Slim Aarons, Gigi Cifali, Noel Hazzard, Bianca Kennedy, Alexa Karolinski & Ingo Niermann, Michal Martychowiec, Robert Montgomery

In other locations across the city

Complementing the main exhibition in Staatlichen Kunsthalle and at Stadtmuseum, parts of the exhibition Body, Gaze, Power: A Cultural History of the Bath will be shown at the renowned Brenner Park Hotel and Spa and in the impressive park on Lichtentaler Allee.

In addition, the exhibition will also use the baths of the spa city as a venue: from Bertholdbad to Friedrichsbad to the Roman bath ruins. Here in particular, it becomes clear that the utilization of the hot springs during the Roman Empire can be understood as a social technology that is still used today.

In the spectacular and now disused spaces of the Kneipp bathhouse in Friedrichsbad, the visitors can view a group show with works by contemporary artists that illuminate various and unusual aspects of the cultural history of the bath in the present.

Artists: Olga Balema, Kira Bunse, Samantha Bohatsch, Martin Bothe, Daniel Dewar & Grégory Gicquel, Annelies Kamen, Bianca Kennedy, Inside Job (Ula Lucinska, Michał Knychaus), Annette Ruenzler, Mary-Audrey Ramirez

The exhibition is curated by Hendrik Bündge, Luisa Heese, Camille Faucourt and Florence Hudowicz, together with Carolin Potthast, Benedikt Seerieder and Lukas Töpfer.

Body. Gaze. Power. A Cultural History of the Bath is part of an extensive collaboration project BADEN of Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden with Mucem, Marseille, Stadtmuseum Baden-Baden, and Museum LA8. Based on an idea by Mucem.

A comprehensive catalogue will be published by Hatje Cantz to accompany the exhibition with numerous illustrations of the works exhibited.