Bellissima / 2002-2004

With the slogan “Beauty now” a major exhibition project heralded at the end of the 90s the return of one of the themes of contemporary art, which the Avant garde had gingerly given up to the media and consumer culture. The reactualisation of the question of beauty, a question that seemed up until the 19th century un-seperable from art, is of course not limited to a inner-aesthetical discussion. The viability of achieving ideals of beauty with a living body through surgical and soon possibly through genetical procedures, pushes the question of the cultural construction of a beautiful body into the foreground: What aesthetical assumptions follow these ideals, in which relation do they stand in regards to social, sexual, racial standards?

In the past at least since antiquity, art was assigned the function, together with religion, philosophy and science, to illustrate the definition of the perfect, the beautiful and the ‘normal’ body. Today this is the place of the (critical) analysis of these constructs; and perhaps also – in cross over with subcultural currents and cyborg-utopias – a testing ground for the arrangement of ‘other’ beauties?

As part of an effort to explore the definition of beauty, the teaching project “bellissima” led by Alba D´Urbano, Tina Bara and Susanne Holschbach was created at the HGB Leipzig in 2002/2004, with the support of the HGB gallery director Christine Rink.

The project – accompanied by a seminar, a lecture series and two exhibitions, brought theoretical and artistic reflections about the theme into interrelation. Aside from the research on the theme “beauty” in the media society and in the field of art, the project reflected on the social implications of the inflated presence of “beauty” and made it possible to experience today’s social and cultural paradigm shift in regards to the aesthetic experience of what is the most beautiful, and equally most fragile, and contradictory.

Tina Bara, Alba D’Urbano, Susanne Holschbach,  2006

Seminar & Lectures

The seminar was accompanied by a lecture series:
Mona Hatoum, artist; Prof. Dr. B. Wegenstein, media theorist, Baltimore (“Getting under the Skin”); Dr. med. Z. Al Chiriki, surgeon, Leipzig; K. Schmid, journalist and author (“Digital Beauties. In Search of the Perfect Face”); Jan Winkelmann, curator (“Andy Warhol’s Glamour Factory”); Dr. Ute Ritschel, specialist for performance studies (“Beauty and Performance); and Prof. Dr. Claudia Benthien, theorist (“Beauty as Stigma. Suffering from Physical Perfection”).


Midway through the project, an exhibition of international artistic positions (also titled Bellissima: body_construct_beauty) was held at the Academy’s gallery and at other school spaces from May 15 to June 25, 2003; it concluded with the exhibition Bellissima: reaction_construction_reflection (December 12, 2003 – January 10, 2004) in which Academy students presented their works on this subject.


Participating students
Yvonne Chabrowsky   Judith Miriam Escherlor
Alexandra Gaul & Alice Münch   Grit Hachmeister
Verena Helbig Esther Hoyer Berit Hummel
Susanne Huth   VIP   Marianna Krueger   Lichtblick
Julia Müller   Christian Naujoks   Stefan Passig  Anne Richter
Jana Seehusen Cornelia Starke   Sophie von Stillfried
Rolf Sommer Anne Stolmar   Diana Wesser

Press / Communications Material

The graphic design of the entire project was overseen by Anna Lena von Helldorf, whose stamina we greatly appreciated.