September 9, 2014

Andrea Büttner: book launch and conversation with Chus Martinez

Andrea Büttner, Moss, 2010–2014. Photograph. Courtesy the artist; Hollybush Gardens, London; and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles. © the artist, VG Bildkunst, Bonn, 2014.

Book launch: Andrea Büttner’s artist book, Hidden Marriages: Gwen John and Moss

In conversation: Andrea Büttner and Chus Martinez

Exhibition viewing: Tate Britain’s exhibition BP Spotlight: Andrea Büttner will be open on the night of this event for ticket holders.

For tickets please book here.


To launch Andrea Büttner’s artist’s book, Hidden Marriages: Gwen John and Moss, Büttner will be in conversation with curator Chus Martinez, Head of the Art Institute, Basel. Their discussion will range from the Hidden Marriages project to the broader concerns of her practice, currently on view in her exhibition, BP Spotlight: Andrea Büttner, at Tate Britain.

In 2011 the artist was invited by Amgueddfa Cymru—National Museum Wales to explore its collections. Hidden Marriages is the culmination of this project which draws together a selection of objects from two disparate bodies of knowledge: the museum’s collection of drawings by Gwen John (1876–1939) and the extensive collection of mosses preserved in its herbarium. The findings of Büttner’s research were first presented as an exhibition at National Museum Cardiff in spring 2014, and culminate with this artist’s book.

Within the museum’s collection of almost 1,000 drawings by Gwen John, Büttner focuses on images of church congregations and portraits of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, a carmelite saint. St. Thérèse’s writings on ‘The Little Way’ played an important role in Gwen John’s life and work.

The concept of ‘littleness’ has also been of longstanding interest to Büttner. Much of her work makes connections between art history and social or ethical issues, with a particular interest in notions of poverty, shame, vulnerability and sexuality, and the belief systems that underpin them. Although working a hundred years apart, John and Büttner share an interest in the spiritual, social and aesthetic notions of ‘littleness.’

Büttner has discerned similar characteristics in the classification and description of mosses—plants that fall under the term cryptogam (meaning hidden sexuality). Moss is also described as a ‘lower plant’—incorrectly implying a lesser, or more primitive, evolutionary development than flowering or ‘higher plants.’ Hidden Marriages: Gwen John and Moss draws these two seemingly unconnected collection areas together, making links between the reproductive processes of ‘lower plants’ and the contested sexuality of Gwen John; between littleness as an aesthetic, biological, and social discourse; between the scientific ordering of the Museum and the harmony and beauty that John sought in her work; and, ultimately, the way institutions ascribe relative importance to objects, ideas and people.

This book includes over 60 drawings by John, most published for the first time, and essays about Gwen John and moss by art historian Lily Foster and biologist Ray Tangney, Principal Curator of Cryptogams at Amgueddfa Cymru—National Museum Wales.

Büttner’s work can be seen at Tate Britain in the exhibitions BP Spotlight: Andrea Büttner until September 28; Andrea Büttner. 2 at Museum Ludwig, Cologne, until March 15, 2015; and at Hollybush Gardens, London, from October 13 to November 15.

Andrea Büttner, Hidden Marriages: Gwen John and Moss (Koenig Books, 2014)
Contributions by art historian Lily Foster and Ray Tangney, Principal Curator of Cryptogams at Amgueddfa Cymru—National Museum Wales
Edited by Ben Borthwick
Designed by Studio Quentin Walesch
Published by Koenig Books, London
Distributed by Buchhandlung Walther König (Europe), Cornerhouse (UK & Eire), D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers (outside Europe)
ISBN 978-3-86335-609-5

This publication and event has been generously supported by:


Andrea Büttner book launch and conversation with Chus Martinez at Tate Britain

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