Ecstasy in Art, Music and Dance


Ecstasy is one of the oldest and perhaps most fascinating anthropological ubiquitous phenomena. Originally rooted in a ritualistic-religious context, the borderline experience of ecstasy was first described in antiquity. It is an integral component of initiation rites and, in more recent times, general social theories. And yet, its definition and significance have steadily changed and expanded over time. While ecstasy is attached to predominantly positive connotations in indigenous cultural spheres and is contextualised as part of ritualistic actions, it has a more threatening connotation in societies marked by industrialisation, globalisation and self-optimisation. In such cases, ecstasy is equated with a loss of control and the risk that individuals or collectives could run afoul of accepted norms. In terms of its cultural significance and complexity, ecstasy has entered the realm of the fine arts and forged extraordinary alliances with the disciplines of music and dance. In fact, art curators have noticed growing interest in ecstatic experiences in contemporary art.
The exhibition “Ecstasy in Art, Music and Dance” was the first of its kind, devoted extensively to the phenomenon of ecstasy. Based on paradigmatic examples from the present day back to antiquity, the exhibition highlighted the spiritual, political, psychological, social, sexual and aesthetic implications of euphoric and rapturous states between ascetism and excess.
Featuring over 50 international pieces of art, the exhibition examined this virulent, transcultural phenomenon. In nine theme-based rooms installed in the special exhibition area of the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, along with two installations within the collection, the project presented a diverse array of thematic facets, such as the Cult of Dionysus, the unio mystica, the Brazilian Candomblé and drug-induced ecstasy. With paintings, graphic art, video works, installations and a kinaesthetic room of experience, the exhibition explored states of ecstasy as rendered by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Francisco de Zurbarán, Lovis Corinth, Wifredo Lam, Günter Brus, La Monte Young, Marlene Dumas, Aura Rosenberg, Wolfgang Tillmans, Rineke Dijkstra, among others.

Curators: Ulrike Groos, Markus Müller, Anne Vieth
Artists: Gian Lorenzo Bernini (IT), Louise Bourgeois (FR/US), Lovis Corinth, Ayrson Heráclito (BR), Carsten Höller (BE), Marlene Dumas (ZA), Pablo Picasso (ES), Aura Rosenberg (US) Hannah Wilke (US), Francisco de Zurbarán (ES)


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Previous events

  • 29 September, 2018 to 24 February, 2019: Exhibition

    Kunstmuseum, Stuttgart


Kunstmuseum Stuttgart

Kleiner Schlossplatz 13
70173 Stuttgart (external link, opens in a new window)