Portikus is pleased to present the first institutional solo exhibition of German-Turkish artist Elif Erkan (*1985 in Ankara, Turkey).

Konzentration der Kräfte (Concentration of Forces), the title of the exhibition, identifies a central theme in Erkan’s art. A recent graduate of the Städelschule who is returning to Frankfurt for this show while living and working in Los Angeles on a Fulbright grant, Erkan presents all new work. Two plaster-and-porcelain sculptures that lean against the Portikus’s walls are the centerpieces of the show. They may be highly fragile, but their dimensions counterbalance this delicate quality. They are products of a process the artist has explored for quite some time. In a performative act, she shatters china plates and, without arranging the shards, pours plaster over them. Once the resulting object has hardened, she sets it upright and carefully leans it against the wall of the exhibition hall. Although made of classical sculptural materials, the works suggest snapshots recording the brief moment of violence. This lets Erkan, whose primary genres are objects and installations, capture much more than a photograph could. Her works become capsules that preserve the action that ultimately generated their form. The everyday things she uses are deliberately selected media for that action. Erkan is interested in the breaking of plates as an act associated with rage, depression, and melancholy, but also with joy: we all know the characteristic scene in a movie classic in which the furious wife smashes the china, while a German custom calls for plates to be shattered during a bachelor party to celebrate a happy marriage. The isolated act associates images in the viewer’s mind and sets the plot in motion in our imaginations. In Elif Erkan’s work, these same objects function as reservoirs of memory. In earlier pieces, she used T-shirts or sweatpants instead of plates. Pouring plaster over them directs our attention away from the intended purpose or provenance of the objects and toward their social connotations: that one mental image we see as we are confronted with these objects.

Sculpture predominates in Elif Erkan’s exhibition at Portikus, but the focus is on the act that gave rise to the work’s form. The casts store knowledge of the action. Erkan has found an abstract approach that manifests emotions and reveals the psychological connotations of everyday things.

The exhibition is supported by the Stiftung Polytechnische Gesellschaft Frankfurt am Main. SAHA Association provided production support for Elif Erkan’s exhibition.


Elif Erkan’s project is one in a series of exhibitions; a cooperation between Stiftung Polytechnische Gesellschaft, Frankfurt am Main, the Städelschule, and Portikus. Once every year, the exhibition series seeks to show an exhibition created especially for Portikus by a former Städelschule student who has successfully pursued a career as an artist after graduation and is being exhibited on the national or international stage. By showing his or her work at Portikus, the series seeks to present the artist in Frankfurt and give his or her work local visibility. With this exhibition series, Stiftung Polytechnische Gesellschaft, Frankfurt am Main, seeks to draw attention to Frankfurt’s contribution to contemporary art and to support young artists from Frankfurt.

Stiftung Polytechnische Gesellschaft, Frankfurt am Main, was founded in 2005. Its philanthropic work is concentrated in three main areas: education, science, and technology; arts and culture, including preservation of the city’s cultural heritage; and social, charitable, and humanitarian work. It seeks to contribute to Frankfurt’s development as a model modern and citizen-centered urban society.