From 9 February, the ramps of the world-famous rotunda of the Guggenheim Museum in New York forms the setting for a large retrospective exhibition by the Danish-Vietnamese artist Danh Vo (b. 1975). The exhibition ‘Take My Breath’ sprawls over 2,500 m2 and presents more than 100 works of art, including a number of new works that Danh Vo created for especially for the occasion.
Danh Vo was born in southern Vietnam. When he was four years old, his family fled in a homemade boat. Their intended destination was the United States, but the family was picked up somewhere in the Pacific by a Danish container ship. This personal story, with the random character of the event that shaped the family’s history, is a persistent source of inspiration in Danh Vo’s art. Drawing on advertising images, historical objects and personal belongings, he explores the complex and conflicting conditions of modern globalization in an endeavour driven by equal parts humour, seriousness and astonishment. The personal and the political are thus inseparable in Danh Vo’s art.
“His work addresses sweeping themes colonialism, capitalism, religion and artistic authorship, but these far-reaching subjects are refracted through disarmingly intimate gestures and narratives – what the artist calls ‘the small diasporas in a person’s life,” says Richard Armstrong, director of the Guggenheim.
Lighters, chandeliers and the Statue of Liberty
The retrospective exhibition unfolds the central themes in Danh Vo’s practice via his most important works, including If you were to climb the Himalayas tomorrow (2005), a display case that shows his father, Phung Vo’s Rolex watch, Dupont lighter and U.S. military ring. The exhibition also shows larger installations, including We The People (2012), which consists of fragments of a 1:1 reproduction of the Statue of Liberty in New York, and 16:32, 25.05 (2009), which is a chandelier from the room in the Hotel Majestic in Paris, where the peace agreement between Vietnam and the United States was signed in 1973.
The exhibition is accompanied by a comprehensive catalogue, which is the first academic monograph to present Danh Vo’s work from the beginning until today. The exhibition curator, Katherine Brinson, is a main contributor to the ambitious monograph, which is funded by the New Carlsberg Foundation.
‘It is very satisfying to be able to contribute to such an important presentation of a Danish artist abroad. Although Danh Vo has established himself in the international art scene in record time, his full work deserves the comprehensive in-depth presentation that the Guggenheim is now enabling through the exhibition and catalogue,” says the chairman of the New Carlsberg Foundation, Karsten Ohrt.
The exhibition is open from 9 February through 9 May 2018.