Amelie von Wulffen
They’re all too familiar – all those figurines, handcrafted tchotchkes, and flea-market finds that gather on bookshelves, desks, and in drawers like the flotsam that litters the planet’s coastlines. For her 2021 retrospective at Berlin’s KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Amelie von Wulffen – whose work is in internationally renowned collections including MoMA, Centre Pompidou, and the Städel Museum – erected a life-size papier-mâché dummy to preside over a kind of souvenir shop offering small sculptures made of seashells, pieces of wood, and broken glass. From this installation, the artist developed the idea for her edition “Bimpfi” (2022), a handpainted ceramic figure seated on a pile of seashells and wearing a sea urchin for a hat. Recalling ancient Egyptian guardian figures as well as the assemblages of the Renaissance painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo, who arranged flowers, fruits, and vegetables into portraits and still lifes, von Wulffen’s work revives a venerable avant-garde tradition that bridges the gap between recognized art and stuff we are apt to dismiss as detritus, drawing attention to the intersections between art and life. Therein lies a political act, too, hinted at by the title: in Ida Bohatta’s children’s book “Der verkannte Bimpfi” (“The Misjudged Bimpfi”), from which von Wulffen previously took inspiration for her solo show at London’s Studio Voltaire, a mushroom is unjustly accused of murder by poisoning. As von Wulffen illustrates, skipping the pleasantries, with this scene the charmingly diminutive and dainty can also be quite cruel.