Alexander Polzin


Appears on: Peer Gynt

Alexander Polzin originally trained as a stonemason. He launched his international career as a sculptor, painter, and stage designer in 1991, building on the success of his first exhibition in Berlin’s Kulturhaus Pankow four years earlier. In 1994 Polzin was invited by Dr. Gary Smith, founding director of the recently established Einstein Forum in Potsdam, to present the first exhibition of solo work at the Institute: Arbeiten im Einstein Forum. Polzin’s series of paintings, Monster, appeared in a collection of images and essays edited by the pioneering American cultural historian, Sander Gilman, published in 1995.

The following year Polzin became artist-in-residence at the International Artists House in Herzliya, Israel, an appointment marked by the creation of the towering granite sculpture, Der Steinhändler. He has held residencies at ETH Zurich (1998); Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga, California (2004); and the Center for Advanced Study at the Käte Hamburger Collegium for Research in the Humanities in Bonn (2010/11).  

Polzin’s sculptures and paintings can be seen today in public spaces and galleries across the world in cities like Berlin, Bucharest, Jerusalem, New York, Los Angeles, and Paris. Major exhibitions of his work have been presented at the Getty Center, Los Angeles (2000); Berlin’s Institute of Advanced Studies (2004); Bard College, New York (2006); San Francisco International Arts Festival (2008); and Teatro Real, Madrid (2011). In January 2015 solo exhibitions of his work were shown at Grand Théâtre de Genève to coincide with his designs for Iphigénie en Tauride. An exhibition of his work focused around his friendship with György Kurtág was featured at the Aldeburgh Festival in June 2016.

In his speech about Polzin’s exhibition The Age of Anxiety, the Nobel Prize-winning author Imre Kertész described the artist’s 99 intimate depictions of fear as a “good framework to overcome, at least in our minds, the Age of Anxiety which showed its terrible face…on 11 September 2001.” Others have written of the fear-defeating qualities and of the struggle between transcendence and immanence in Polzin’s art.

Polzin has worked extensively as a stage designer for dance, opera, and theater. His designs have been created for, among others, the Teatro Real Madrid (Pilar Jurado, La página en blanco, 2011; The Conquest of Mexico, 2013; and Lohengrin, February 2014), Salzburg Easter Festival, and Beijing Music Festival (Parsifal, 2013). Polzin's pictorial representation of Bernstein’s Symphony No. 2, “The Age of Anxiety,” for Aarhus Symphony Orchestra and the visualization of Grieg’s Peer Gynt for Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra were premiered in 2014.

He made his directing debut at the Tyrolian Festival Erl with Fidelio also in 2014. La Monnaie / De Munt closed their 2017/18 season with Verdi’s Aida, featuring set designs by Polzin. He will return to Brussels at the end of the 2018/19 season to design a new production of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde.