This exhibition at Portikus marks the start of a series initiated by Siemens Kulturprogramm entitled "Damenwahl" ("Ladies' choice") which are showcased in various places and institutions. Renowned and new female artists are invited to choose a respective artist-partner for a joint exhibition. Even though the mode is identical, each exhibition is autonomous and tuned to the respective site.

The two artist-personalities meeting at Portikus differ fundamentally in regard to their age, their origin, the themes they have chosen, as well as the medium in which they work. But, the Düsseldorf-based painter Monika Baer (b. 1964) and the Californian performance, video, and object artist Paul McCarthy (b. 1945) both dispose of a similar picture language in the works presented here, giving good reasons for their mutual interest: both stage sequences of action in which man appears as an unreal, puppet-like creature, a marionette or automaton.

In 1996/97, Monika Baer created a series of pictures showing a concert by 6-year-old Mozart at the court of Empress Maria Theresia as a play in a puppet theatre. The artificiality of the puppet play is countered by psychologizing the characters and employing abstract colour surfaces. The painting becomes increasingly free in the energetic and dramatic play of colours, removing itself from the figurative representation of the dainty rococo stage. In these plays with colour one can not only read, as it were, the music played by Mozart, but also the emotions of the listeners.

While Mozart belongs to the cultural possessions of Europeans, the Wild West is an American myth. The positive connotation associated with the fearless, pioneering cowboy, whose code of honour demands manly and righteous behaviour, is reversed by Paul McCarthy through sexualization and the depiction of violence. His installation "Bunkhouse" from 1995/96 shows a log cabin on tracks in which there are four life-size automaton figures. The violent homosexual harassment by a dog-headed cowboy turns into a nightmare or night-time fantasy of those present.

The representation of artificial figures is an approach that links Baer and McCarthy despite all differences in the way it is carried out. In the manner they are staged, the viewer of the works becomes at the same time a spectator of the puppet theatre and a voyeur.

Since the time of her studies, Monika Baer has created artificial pictorial spaces that merge with the realism in her painting in a peculiar way. In her recent works, however, she departs from the illusionary pictorial space. Paul McCarthy, who has become known since the late 60s by his live and video performances, has since the 80s created kinetic figures whose mechanisms lend their presentation a performative character. His installation "Bunkhouse" will be shown for the first time in Europe.

In the series "Damenwahl", the exhibition at Portikus is followed by further exhibitions of the female artists Marlene Dumas, Katharina Fritsch, Rita McBride, Corinne Wasmuht, Christina Iglesias, and Ulrike Rosenbach at, among other places, the Kasseler Kunstverein, Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Haus am Waldsee in Berlin, and the Staatliche Museum Schwerin.

Matthias Winzen is the curator of this exhibition series.

In collaborations with the Siemens Kulturprogramm, München. With this theme, Siemens Kulturprogramm varies its exhibition series entitled "Zuspiel" ("Pass the Ball") which also commenced at Portikus.