Meese, Jonathan

Tokyo-born, Berlin-based artist Jonathan Meese‘s work explores the social role and function of the artist, adopting a performative approach in which he assumes a variety of characters, including that of prophet and dictator. Working in a wide range of media, including painting, installation, photography, and performance, his work expresses a dark sense of humor, playfully addressing the relationship between art and ideology. Often described as the enfant terrible of the Berlin art world, Meese has placed himself at the center of a theatrical mythology of the artist, guided by his notion of the “Dictatorship of Art,” a “legal vacuum” in which fact and fiction blur freely, and the limits of propriety, taste, and decorum come undone in the service of artistic autonomy.

Meese studied at the Art Academy without completing a degree. With his presentation at the first Berlin Biennale in 1998, he startled, imitated, impressed, and enraged an international audience. Since then, he has emerged as a shooting star of the German scene. Meese’s achievements are being celebrated in a major retrospective at Hamburg’s Deichtorhallen. The show, entitled Mama Johnny, is a kind of homecoming for the artist, who has performed in front of a large international audience at Arario Gallery, Seoul, as well as the Tate Modern, London, and SITE Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Meese’s work has been exhibited at museums and galleries worldwide, including solo shows at the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin, Miami’s Museum of Contemporary Art, and the De Appel Centre for Contemporary Art in Amsterdam, among others. His work is in permanent collections of some of the most prestigious museums in the world including New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the Centre Pompidou, Paris. In 2016, he will direct and design costumes and stage sets for a new production of Wagner’s Parsifal at the annual Bayreuth Festival.