When Fascist soldiers intercepted Walter Benjamin as he attempted to sneak across the Pyrenees into Spain in 1940, they took away the briefcase containing his magnum opus, The Arcades Project, a sprawling, unfinished tome that attempts to describe the whole of Parisian social life during the 19th Century. After being caught, Benjamin died (perhaps by his own hand), and the work was presumably lost, until the early 1980s, when a copy was found hidden in a library. Once a minor figure, Benjamin has become one of the fiercest and most respected cultural critics of the 20th Century. Visual artists are particularly smitten with him, owing to his seminal 1935 essay, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, which, in retrospect, music label executives probably should have paid more attention to.
Gallery Diets exhibition The Benjamin Project takes the message of the work at face value. Organized by the German collective Empfangshalle, whom you might have seen at the 52nd Venice Biennale, the exhibit is composed of a series of large oil paintings that attempt to exactly reproduce pages of the essay. Overly clever? Perhaps, but the finished work is exceedingly beautiful, and today between 11am and 5pm is your last chance to see it.
Sat., April 4, 11 a.m., 2009