The Conference of the Animals (A Mural)
Sep 16 2020
Aug 22 2021
The Conference of the Animals (A Mural) remains on view as an extension of a two-part project that included The Conference of the Animals (An Exhibition of Children’s Drawings) curated by Amy Zion and was on view at Queens Museum from September 16, 2020 – January 31, 2021.
As a painter, Ulrike Müller’s seemingly abstract vocabulary of colors and shapes is emotionally and politically charged and encourages figurative readings. In past installations, Müller has used colored walls to act as backdrops for her enamel paintings, woven wool rugs, and works on paper. In The Conference of the Animals (A Mural), she foregrounds the painted wall with giant animal-like shapes. Their muted palette and monumental scale draws on histories of public art and muralism before and after World War II.
The project’s title comes from German writer Erich Kästner’s children’s book The Animal’s Conference (1949), a political satire about a group of animals frustrated by the inefficacy of human international conferences, who convene to save the planet. While conceiving of the mural, Müller became interested in artwork by children, specifically how scale and perspective shift our understanding of ideas, spaces, and ourselves. She invited curator Amy Zion to realize an exhibition in the adjoining gallery. Both the exhibition and the mural were conceived as site-specific projects hugging the 45-foot-high wall that encircles The Panorama of the City of New York, and referring to the building’s history as host to the United Nations from 1946-50.
A selection of cityscapes by children reproduced from Zion’s exhibition was installed on the surface of Muller’s mural, inviting closer inspection, along with three collagraph prints by Müller. Taking seriously the creative production of children, alongside that of a professional artist, The Conference of the Animals foregrounds perspectives that have been sidelined, overlooked, or silenced and draw attention to art’s role in the formation of political representation.
This project is organized by Larissa Harris, Curator, and Sophia Marisa Lucas, Assistant Curator.
The Conference of the Animals was produced in collaboration with Phileas and with the generous support of legero united | con-tempus.eu. Major support provided by Helen and Charles Schwab and the Austrian Cultural Forum New York. Additional support provided by Richard Gerrig and Timothy Peterson, Alexandra Bowes, JoAnn Gonzalez Hickey LLLP, and Putter Pence. Special thanks to Benjamin Moore, Callicoon Fine Arts, and Gensler. The organizers of The Conference of the Animals (An Exhibition of Children’s Drawings) gratefully acknowledge our partner the Children’s Museum of the Arts.
Major funding for the Queens Museum is generously provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, the Booth Ferris Foundation, the Lambent Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the New York Community Trust, the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation, and the TD Charitable Foundation.
Images: Ulrike Muller, The Conference of the Animals (A Mural), 2020; (detail) The Conference of the Animals (An Exhibition of Children’s Drawings), organized by Amy Zion. Photos by Hai Zhang.