Press Release

From June 22 to October 1, 2023, the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt is dedicating a large thematic exhibition to the eventful history of plastic in visual art for the first time. Plastic World brings together around hundred works by over fifty artists who work with plastic in diverse ways.



International exhibitions

International ongoing exhibitions

Plastic World

Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt am Main (Germany)

22.06 - 01.10.2023




Plastic is everywhere: It permeates the present, is cheap, is available nearly all over the world, and is omnipresent in everyday life. Whether hard or flexible, transparent, opaque, patterned, smooth, delicate, or colorful, today it can be used to produce nearly anything. Synthetic substances had their major breakthrough in the 1950s and became both a symptom and symbol of mass culture—he “lastic age”was born. And plastics also found their way into art early on due to their enormous design possibilities, quickly becoming a central material and a vehicle of innovation.

Dr. Sebastian Baden, the director of the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, states: “ith Plastic World, the Schirn is presenting a hitherto unique and long overdue overview of the use of synthetic materials in visual art. The versatile material quickly conquered three-dimensional, physical space in sculptures and architecture. This history of the plastic age testifies to a pleasure in innovation and creativity. From an ecological perspective, however, plastic is currently developing a particular urgency; it is still ubiquitous in today’ mass culture. Our exhibition points beyond purely aesthetic and formal aspects. Rather, it invites a critical examination of this formative material culture."

The exhibition Plastic World opens up a broad panorama of the artistic use and assessment of the material from the 1960s until today. The spectrum extends from the euphoria of pop culture to the futuristic influence of the space age, and from the trash works of Nouveau Réalisme to the ecocritical positions of recent times; it includes architectural utopias as well as experiments with material properties. Objects, assemblages, installations, films, and documentation show the diversity of the substances, forms, and materials and thus also reflect the respective social contexts.

It becomes visible how plastic as a successful, multifaceted material has gone in its brief history from being an embodiment of progress, modernity, a utopian spirit, and a democratization of consumption to being a threat to the environment.

Dr. Martina Weinhart, the curator of the exhibition, explains: “lastic is the emblematic material of our present and it has radically changed art and society in a very short time. What has now turned out to be an enormous burden for the environment denotes a huge enrichment for art as well as for architecture and design. A look at the extremely rich history of plastic as a material opens up a narrative full of ambivalences: of a future-oriented innovative ability and of seductive-seeming objects; of damaging effects, but also the question of new approaches to dealing with this material, which is here to stay.”


Raimund Abraham, Monira Al Qadiri, Francis Alÿ, John de Andrea, Ant Farm, Archigram, Arman, Richard Artschwager, Evelyne Axell, Joachim Bandau, Thomas Bayrle, Lynda Benglis, Lourdes Castro, Céar, Christo, Constant, Coop Himmelb(l)au, Wolfgang Döing, Övind Fahlströ, Berta Fischer, Richard Buckminster Fuller, Piero Gilardi, Tue Greenfort, Hans Haacke, Richard Hamilton, Haus-Rucker-Co, HazMatLab, Eva Hesse, Gerhard Hoehme, Hans Hollein, Alain Jacquet, Craig Kauffman, Mike Kelley, Kiki Kogelnik, Nicola L., Konrad Lueg, Gino Marotta, Claes Oldenburg, Walter Pichler, Otto Piene, Bernard Rancillac, James Rosenquist, Niki de Saint Phalle, Dennis Siering, Elias Sime, Ferdinand Spindel, Graham Stevens, Alina Szapocznikow, Pascale Marthine Tayou, Paul Thek, Tom Wesselmann, Pıar Yoldaş

The exhibition Plastic World is supported by the Kulturfonds Frankfurt RheinMain.

A catalog edited by Martina Weinhart has been published, with contributions by Heather Davis, Anna Huber, Dietmar Rüel, Pamela Voigt, Friederike Waentig, and Martina Weinhart, as well as a foreword by Sebastian Baden.

For the exhibition, the Schirn is developing the new digital format SCHIRN 3D PARCOURS, which will be launched on June 28, 2023.

Director: Dr. Sebastian Baden

Curator: Dr. Martina Weinhart, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt

Exhibition 22 June - 1st October 2023. Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, Röerberg - 60311 Frankfurt am Main (Germany). T +49 69 2998820. Opening Hours : Tuesday, Friday Sunday 10am – 7pm, Wednesday, Thursday 10am – 10pm






Cassie Sullivan, Mayana Trawna | Body Country (still), 2021. Courtesy of the artist.

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