Markus Draper

28 April – 10 June 2023, Opening: 27 April, 6-9 p.m.

In his second solo exhibition “Wow!” at Galerie Poll, Markus Draper is presenting his work on ticker-tape parades for the first time in Germany.

The lead photo of the Daily News from 11th June 1991 shows General Norman Schwarzkopf amid a cascade of confetti, thrown for soldiers returning home from the Gulf War – and above it, emblazoned as a headline, the title of the exhibition. Celebrating with the troops in this “Desert Storm Parade”, the war’s commanding general raises his left arm in a joyous frenzy, as rolls of toilet paper and scraps of paper fly through the air. The spectacle, held to celebrate the US military victory in the first Gulf War, belongs to a tradition dating back to 1886.

After the Statue of Liberty was dedicated on 28th October 1886, an earlier parade passed through Wall Street, in front of the New York Stock Exchange. As an expression of joy, the traders threw bundles of paper strips out of the widows, taken from the news tickers that had been invented not long before. Since the global financial crisis set off in 2008 by the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, however, the scraps of paper once thrown down from these office windows have also come to be an emblem of ominous instability.

The tensions running between these moments of ecstatic joy and abrupt collapse is what motivated Markus Draper to engage with the oscillating symbolism of the ticker-tape parades. He first took up this topic in 2012, when he chose strips of paper thrown out of a window as a visual motif in his painting “Billions”. For the video “Seconds of Fame”, from 2014, Draper filmed YouTube clips of ticker-tape parades in a model he built himself. Unlike the celebrations in the real world, though, in his film the houses and streets are deserted – characterised by extreme enlargement, by being “blown up” almost to the limits of abstraction, and by the decomposition of the press photos on which they are based into several layers of colour. Painting precisely with a brush, the artist transfers the various layers onto the canvas or aggregates the paper scraps swirling through the air – applied over the photographs via silkscreen in different colours – until they swell up into a threatening storm (“The Storm”, 2019).

The photographic works “Heroes”, created in 2022, have an extreme vertical format reminiscent of the urban canyons between the high-rises of New York, while the title refers specifically to the Canyon of Heroes – the route taken by the Victory Parade through the Financial District in Lower Manhattan, where more than 200 granite strips set into the pavement commemorate the names of those honoured in past ticker-tape parades.

This is a hallmark of Markus Draper’s work: to consider significant events in recent history from neglected perspectives, to refocus the gaze in order to highlight ambiguities. How certainties collapse, and how this uncertainty is triggered by images in the media, are topics of his interest – as is the question of whether truth is not always necessarily a construct fashioned from multiple perspectives of history.

Markus Draper, born in 1969 and raised in Görlitz, studied from 1991 to 2000 at the Academy of Fine Arts (Hochschule für Bildende Künste) in Dresden, Central Saint Martins College, London, and Columbia University, New York. In 2000 he completed his studies as a master student with Professor Ralf Kerbach. Draper has been the recipient of the Marion-Ermer-Prize (2001) and the Vattenfall Art Prize Energy (2006), in addition to numerous scholarships. His work has been shown in solo exhibitions at the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (2007), the Berlinische Galerie (2014), the Kulturhistorisches Museum Görlitz (2015), and the Künstlerhaus Bethanien Berlin, as well as in institutional group exhibitions worldwide. Works by Draper can be found in the Collection of Contemporary Art of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Museum Folkwang in Essen, the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, and the Berlinische Galerie, among others. Markus Draper lives and works in Berlin.