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Art Diary

Incomplete: Destroyed, Divided, Complemented

23 September 2022

Whether intentionally destroyed or simply unfinished, the fragments on display in this exhibition at the Kunstbibliothek in Berlin speak of mysterious histories (30 September–15 January 2023). Fragments are considered here as a form of artistic experimentation, as demonstrated by Adolphe Menzel’s Portrait of Woman (c. 1846), the canvas of which was intentionally dissected by the artist to create an unsettling effect. As well as intentional omissions, the exhibition raises questions about what makes an artwork complete. Early versions of The Adoration of the Shepherds (c. 1599) by the Dutch draughtsman Hendrick Goltzius reveals a process by which the artist omitted certain figures, leaving blank spaces in their absence. Museums themselves, of course, have played a key role in shaping our perception of incomplete objects; a section of the exhibition dedicated to ‘Completing and Restoring considers how the history of European collections has changed since the 19th century to increasingly value artworks in their fragmented state. Find out more from the Kunstbibliothek’s website.

Preview below | View Apollo’s Art Diary here

Portrait of Virginia da Vezzo (1606–27), Simon Vouet. Photo: © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gemäldegalerie/Christoph Schmidt

Gold glass base with depiction of the apostles Peter and Paul (350–400), Rome. Photo: © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Skulpturensammlung und Museum für Byzantinische Kunst/Antje Voigt

Portrait of a Woman (c. 1846), Adolph Menzel. © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie/Andres Kilger