The exhibition "Souvenir de Baden-Baden" initiates a series of exhibitions in which Thilo Westermann presents his reflections, as an artist and as an art historian, on the life of the Grand Duchess of Baden, Stéphanie de Beauharnais (1789–1860), for the first time to a wider public. Along with reverse glass paintings, photomontages, and color pencil drawings, the exhibition includes a selection of the letters that the artist has been writing to the Grand Duchess since 2018 as if she were an art collector who is still alive, and who he keeps informed about his works. Although Westermann is writing in the present, and although he knows that Stéphanie is dead (she never answers his letters), a lively exchange between the past and present unfolds over the course of his "Correspondance avec Stéphanie". What do our actions and thoughts reveal about ourselves when we delve into the life of a famous or historical figure? What qualities, opinions, and feelings do we project onto a person who we do not know personally? Where do objective facts blur with personal mythologies, and which narratives and values do we identify with?
In his letters and art, Westermann brings together scientific research on sociopolitical subjects with personal reflections and with the career as an artist. Scholarships in Paris and Baden-Baden, among others, serve him as a starting point to address, for example, Napoleonic colonial policies, the challenge of integrating refugees into society, intercultural and interdenominational exchange, and the history of the state of Baden.
While the exhibition's title—"Souvenir de Baden-Baden"—refers to Westermann's personal memories of Baden-Baden, it is also the name of an award-winning variety of roses. Since 2008, this variety has adorned Baden-Baden's Goenneranlage and Rose Society Garden. It will as such convey the images and texts on display outdoors, into the plein air of summer.
Lichtentaler Allee 10
July 14th through October 31st, 2021
A catalogue will be published to accompany the exhibition.