Allen Memorial Art Museum

Can art defend society?

The Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College was founded to enrich to enrich the lives of the College’s students, faculty, and staff and the surrounding community by teaching through art. It holds over fifteen thousand works spanning six thousand years and many of the world’s cultures, as well as the archives of artist Eva Hesse. For FRONT 2022, the museum featured Bakunin’s Barricade, a monumental installation by Kurdish-born artist Ahmet Öğüt.

When the Prussian army attempted to suppress the socialist insurgency in Dresden in 1849, revolutionary anarchist Mikhail Bakunin suggested an unusual defense: placing paintings from the National Museum’s collection in front of the barricades. He speculated that Prussian soldiers wouldn’t dare destroy the priceless works and would therefore not breach the barricade. Although the original proposal was never realized, Öğüt’s installation recreates the idea of the barricade with works selected by the artist from the collection of the Allen Memorial Art Museum staff and student researchers from the museum’s collection. A conceptual contract accompanying the installation stipulates that the artworks may be requested by activists and deployed in the case of future social uprisings.

This iteration is the North American premiere of the project. Öğüt, who works across media, often using humor and small gestures to offer commentary on serious social issues, has exhibited widely, including representing Turkey at the Venice Biennale in 2009. Created in collaboration with students at Oberlin College and the museum staff, Bakunin’s Barricade connects with Oberlin and nearby Kent State University as historical sites of protest and political activism. It questions the power of art and the role that higher education plays in developing new models for society, bringing to the fore issues of value, law, activism and agency.

Installation view of 'Oh, Gods of Dust and Rainbows' at Allen Memorial Art Museum. Photography by Field Studio.

Presented by The Eric & Jane Nord Family Fund, The Nord Family Foundation, and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York.

87 N Main St
OH 44074
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