Installation Shot, Sonja Yakovleva at Kunstraum Potsdam, by Roman März


Solo Exhibition:
Sonja Yakovleva
Béstaire d’amour
Kunstraum Potsdam
24.11.2023 to 22.12.2023

We are delighted to announce Sonja Yakovleva’s upcoming solo exhibition Bestaire d’amour at Kunstraum Potsdam.

Kunstraum Potsdam is pleased to present “Bestiaire d’Amour”, the solo exhibition of Frankfurt-based artist Sonja Yakovleva (*1989) from 24 November 2023 to 22 December 2023. With around thirty works and a room-filling paper cut-out installation, “Bestiaire d’Amour” outlines Yakovleva’s oeuvre of recent years, which has been perceived above all in the context of sex-positive feminism. 

In her paper cuts created between 2019 and 2023, women have taken over the sexual regime and subjugated the patriarchal system. Without shame, Yakovleva’s super-sexual über-women use men as objects to satisfy their lust or declare themselves to be objects. But it is about more than the utopian-hedonistic reversal of gender relations. Yakovleva uses the paper-cutting technique, connoted as “feminine” and “homely”, to create precarious grey areas and to renegotiate political and social power relations, representation, sexuality and violence. It shows the permeation of pop culture and life by patriarchal and capitalist ideologies, the assertion of liberalism and progressiveness, and the repressive, exploitative structures that lie behind them.

For the exhibition hall, which can be seen from the street through a glass façade, Yakovleva has realised an installation of oversized paper cut-outs. In a historical location that long served as a laundry, she installs monumental yet delicate paper lingerie, bras and briefs hanging on the line like laundry – larger than life. The installation corresponds with her paper cut Wäscherinnen (2019), in which naked women enjoy themselves in a utopian community and wash their laundry. The image is a reaction to chauvinistic, violent male fantasies. In Rococo and Classicist painting, the “laundress” epitomises the erotic seductive power of the lower classes. The figure stands for the frivolous, somewhat simple maid, who is to be exploited without restraint both as a labourer and as a sex object. Countless motifs in the history of art and film show soldiers looking at provocative washerwomen, similar to hunting prey on the banks of a river. The situation is often associated with war and rape. Yakovleva develops a feminist counter-design on her paper cut-out: “In my version, the women are naked and sexualised by me, but they decide for themselves how they organise their working hours and their time together in this society and who is allowed to watch them. It’s a kind of safe space in which the women feel comfortable naked and can protect each other from unwanted guests.” 

Just as in Festival de Cannes, a five-metre-wide paper cut-out created in 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic in response to the #MeToo scandal surrounding Harvey Weinstein, Yakovleva develops a vision of feminist domination that is unusual in contemporary art. Her papercuts, often based on amateur pornography, not only violate the conventions of poetic-political art in their “too much”, exuberant, ornamental, extremely decorative, almost ostentatious look. Their female figures are extremely dominant, sexualised, emphatically materialistic, nouveau riche, like footballers’ wives – only without footballers. Like the artist, who grew up in St. Petersburg as the daughter of Russian army personnel, they often have a migrant background. It is the rebellion of a new, not-so-minimalist and prissy S-class, a kind of bachelorette class struggle that also critically examines the exclusivity, progressive political aspirations and “good taste” of the art world.

Bestaire d’amour is on view from 24 November 2023 to 22 December 2023, at the Kunstraum Potsdam, Potsdam, (DE).