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Paul Gauguin was one of the central trailblazers of Modern art, and his most famous paintings were produced on the Pacific island of Tahiti between 1891 and 1901.

Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), Arearea no Varua Ino. The Amusement of the Evil Spirit, 1894
Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), Arearea no Varua Ino. The Amusement of the Evil Spirit, 1894 © Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek

Paul Gauguin – Why Are You Angry? at the Alte Nationalgalerie looks at Gauguin’s oeuvre – which was also shaped by Western, colonial ideas of ‘the exotic’ and ‘the erotic’ –, juxtaposing the works with historical material from both Gauguin’s past and his present, and with international contemporary art.

Gauguin left the art capital of Paris, his wife and five children in 1891 to embark on a spiritual and artistic quest to French Polynesia, where he lived until his death, apart from one interlude. It was in this period that Gauguin created one of his major works, the painting Tahitian Fisherwomen (1891) from the Nationalgalerie’s collection.

Against the backdrop of historical influences and postcolonial debates, the exhibition interrogates Gauguin’s self-created myth of the “savage artist”. Gauguin made recourse to a colonialist dream of an earthly paradise, but at the same time managed to articulate a completely novel artistic vision.

Paul Gauguin – Why Are You Angry approaches Gauguin from various angles, and also provides a contemporary perspective through works by artists such as Angela Tiatia (New Zealand/Australia), Yuki Kihara (Samoa/Japan) and Nashashibi/Skaer (United Kingdom), along with the Tahitian activist and multi-artist Henri Hiro (French Polynesia).

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