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Issue 16


Mariana Castillo Deball selects four artworks and archaeological artefacts

BY Mariana Castillo Deball in Critic's Guides | 26 AUG 14

courtesy: Michael Hofmann


In 2005 excavations began in front of the Rote Rathaus in Berlin. Archaeologists were searching for settlements from the Early to Middle Ages. Among the ancient pottery, modern foundations and layers of war rubble, other objects were slowly unearthed. A worker came across a heavy metallic object resembling a bronze sculpture. Afterwards more of its kind appeared. Eventually these were identified as part of the collection of artworks that had been deemed ‘Entartete Kunst’ (Degenerate art), among them Otto Baum’s Stehendes Mädchen (Standing Girl, 1930–31). This bronze sculpture was not fully restored. The decision was made to leave the patina of what it had gone through over the years. That way it became an archaeological artefact of the recent past.

courtesy: Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin


Persischer Teppichhändler auf der Straße (The Carpet Seller on the Street, 1888) is held in the collection of the Nationalgalerie in Berlin. Aside from being a painter, its author Osman Hamdi Bey (1842–1910) was also an intellectual, archaeologist, and state official known for his role in founding the Archaeological Museum in Constantinople. He was also in charge of regu­lating excavations in the Ottoman Empire and was responsible for issuing permits for archaeological explo­ration to the French, British and German empires. Hamdi Bey often used himself as a model in his paintings. Many of his compositions started from photographs of himself in traditional costumes. Each painting is a collage of the objects, people and places that surrounded him. In this particular scene, he seems to have depicted himself twice: as a local to the left of the street vendor, and as a tourist guide, translating his culture to foreigners.

courtesy: The Archaeological Museum, Istanbul


A massive stone head stands in a desert landscape, gazing to the horizon. The top of the head is probably hollow. Standing on a pile of stones a man is looking into it as if he has dropped something inside. In 1883, together with Osgan Effendi, Osman Hamdi Bey organized the first archae­ological dig at the Commagene Tumulus, Nemroud-Dagh in southern Turkey. The man pictured isn’t Hamdi Bey but one of the Kurdish workers he employed during the expedition. The image shows the stone head in relation to human scale and gives a sense of continuity between the an­cient monuments and the modern inhabitants of the region.

courtesy: Mariana Castillo Deball


On 8 September 1989, two visitors arrived at the Galerie der Romantik at the Schloss Charlottenburg in Berlin, one pushing the other in a wheelchair. All of a sudden they ripped two paintings from the wall and jumped through a window into the adjacent park. One of the paintings they took was Der arme Poet (The Poor Poet, 1839) – one of the most well known and beloved oil paintings by German painter Carl Spitzweg. The only clue the thieves left behind was a foldable, red wheelchair with the inscription ‘null Problemo’ written on its side in black marker. The painting has never been recovered. The image below shows a replica I made of the wheelchair, based on images I found in newspapers of the time.

Mariana Castillo Deball is an artist who lives in Berlin. In 2013, she was awarded the National Gallery Prize for Young Art. Her corresponding solo exhibition Parergon will be on view at Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, from 20 September 2014 until 1 March 2015.