Pati Hill

Something other than either


Once in a while bodies of work emerge out of nowhere, artistic works that astound us thanks to their idiosyncrasy and brilliance. They seem brand new and everyone asks themselves why they had been unknown. This is the case for the oeuvre of Pati Hill (1921-2014). Kunsthalle Zürich follows in the footsteps of the Kunstverein Munich, showing the most comprehensive exhibition of the artist's works to date – an artist who was equally an author, columnist, model, antiques dealer and gallerist. Pati Hill's oeuvre includes four novels, short stories and artist's publications as well as a collection of instruction manuals and the invention of a new Symbol Language (1977-78), as well as thousands of photocopies from 1974 onwards. The latter make up her central practice and are divided into different work groups such as the Common Objects (c. 1977–79) and Photocopying Versailles (c. 1980–2005). Photocopying Versailles, for example, arose from the idea that Hill would photocopy the entire Chateau of Versailles 1:1, an undertaking that was as feasible as it was unrealistic.

As Maurin Dietrich, Director of the Kunstverein Munich, writes in a detailed article, Pati Hill's oeuvre is not easy to classify. This may be a reason why Hill's work is only now being seen by a broader public, for she stood apart from the canon and the avant-garde as well as being distinct from emancipatory movements like feminism. Hill's artistic approach can neither be classified in conceptual art nor in Pop art or photography. She used her photocopier to capture the world, to fetishize it and to delegate the creation of art to a machine. Marshall McLuhan's foresighted dictum «the medium is the message» from 1964 is applied literally in this work. Machines know no morality but can generate unexpected poetry as is the case here, where mundane objects are used like words and write stories. How significant this now appears in the contemporary context of memes and social media!

The third edition of Letters to Jill from 1979 is published on the occasion of this exhibition, a book in which Hill explains to her New York gallery Jill Kornblee how her work can be read. Letters to Jill is as instructive as it filled with a humour that should not be underestimated. The exhibition is co-curated by Maurin Dietrich, Director of the Kunstverein Munich; it takes on and expands the artist's first posthumous solo exhibition in Europe, which was shown from 7 March–16 August in Munich. The exhibition will now be on display on the 3rd floor of Kunsthalle Zürich and runs until 2 May 2021.

Kunsthalle Zürich is very grateful to Richard Torchia, Director of Arcadia Exhibitions and The Pati Hill Collection at Arcadia University, Glenside (Pennsylvania) for the work loans and generous support.

Fr 11.12.


Sa 12.12.


Sa 03.04.
100 Years Pati Hill