Cosima von Bonin: Character Appropriation at Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum

First Midwestern exhibition by acclaimed conceptual artist on view May 6-Aug. 1

Based in Cologne, Germany, conceptual artist Cosima von Bonin is among the most influential yet elusive artists of her generation. At once playful, seductive and satirical, her wide-ranging creative practice interweaves sculpture, installation, video, textiles, performance and electronic music with a diverse network of collaborators.

In her choice of materials (fabric, stuffed animals, slick minimalist sculptural objects), scale (often oversized) and eclectic subject matter (fatigue, cartoon characters, luxury lifestyle branding, pop culture), von Bonin creatively juxtaposes personal biography and art historical lineages while critically alluding to more sobering themes of global consumerism, gender inequality and social apathy.

This summer, the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum will present Cosima von Bonin: Character Appropriation, the artist’s first solo museum exhibition in the American Midwest. Organized by Meredith Malone, associate curator, the exhibition will survey the last decade of von Bonin’s career.

Inspired by the Kemper Art Museum’s acquisition of Rockstars (Character Appropriation) (2003), an early example of the artist’s signature textile “paintings,” the exhibition also will present examples of von Bonin’s architectural sculptures, outsized stuffed animals, and her latest works that embrace themes of idleness and mental and physical fatigue. Several exhausted stuffed animals will be accompanied by soundtracks composed by von Bonin’s collaborator, electronic music pioneer Moritz von Oswald.

“It is impossible not to be entranced with Cosima von Bonin’s playful works,” Malone says. “Her huge, floppy stuffed animals, outsized rockets, and large-scale textile ‘paintings’ exude a certain seductiveness and absurdity though one shot through with sardonic wit.

Cosima von Bonin: Character Appropriation explores the artist’s multidisciplinary practice and her ongoing engagement with complex social issues, including a rising social apathy infiltrating today’s networked society. I am thrilled to be bringing the work of such an engaging and internationally renowned contemporary artist to St. Louis.”

Exhibition brochure

Character Appropriation will be accompanied by an illustrated brochure featuring an essay by Malone as well as a new installment in a series of scripted conversations between von Bonin and Daffy Duck, written by von Bonin’s longtime collaborator Dirk von Lowtzow, a Berlin-based musician and art critic.

About the artist

Born in 1962 in Mombasa, Kenya, von Bonin lives and works in Cologne. In 2010, the Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria, presented The Fatigue Empire, a comprehensive one-person exhibition of the artist’s recent works. It was shortly followed by von Bonin’s Lazy Susan Series, A Rotating Exhibition, with venues at the Witte de With Rotterdam (Oct. 2010-Jan. 2011); Arnolfini Bristol (Feb.-April 2011); MAMCO, Geneva (June-Sept. 2011); and Museum Ludwig, Cologne (July-Oct. 2011).

Von Bonin’s first major U.S. survey, Roger and Out, opened in 2007 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Other institutional one-person exhibitions have taken place at Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne (2004); Kunstverein Hamburg, Germany (2001); Kunstverein Braunschweig, Germany (2000); and Kunsthalle St. Gallen, Switzerland (1999). In addition, von Bonin has participated in group exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York; Les Abbatoirs in Toulouse, France; and Documenta XII in Kassel, Germany, among many others.

Her work is included in many notable collections worldwide, including the Tate Britain in London; the Museum für Neue Kunst im ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany; and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam; as well as the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum.

Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum

The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, part of Washington University’s Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, is committed to furthering critical thinking and visual literacy through a vital program of exhibitions, publications and accompanying events. The museum dates back to 1881, making it the oldest art museum west of the Mississippi River. Today it boasts one of the finest university collections in the United States.

Support for the exhibition is provided by James M. Kemper, Jr.; the David Woods Kemper Memorial Foundation; John and Anabeth Weil; the Hortense Lewin Art Fund; and members of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum.

Cosima von Bonin: Character Appropriation will open with a public reception at 7 p.m. Friday, May 6, followed by an afterparty at Atomic Cowboy featuring a computerized dub set by von Bonin’s collaborator Mortiz von Oswald at 10 p.m.

The exhibition will remain on view through Aug. 1. Both the reception and the exhibition are free and open to the public. The Kemper Art Museum is located on Washington University’s Danforth Campus, immediately adjacent to Steinberg Hall, near the intersection of Skinker and Forsyth boulevards. Regular hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays; and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The Museum is closed Tuesdays.

For more information, call (314) 935-4523 or visit


WHO: Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum

WHAT: Exhibition, Cosima von Bonin: Character Appropriation

WHEN: May 6 to Aug. 1. Opening reception 7 p.m. Friday, May 6

WHERE: Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, near the intersection of Forsyth and Skinker boulevards

HOURS: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Closed Tuesdays.

COST: Free and open to the public.

INFORMATION: (314) 935-4523 or