In most all of the world’s larger cities, traditionally the grandest buildings have been religious in orientation. As places of congregation, they were necessarily characterized by large open spaces. As conduits to the spiritual, their design included surging spires, pagodas or minarets. The current exhibition at the Tomio Koyama Gallery in Kiyosumi, “Wonderwall — Constructing the Sublime,” is an open-ended exploration of holy and sacred buildings by 10 German contemporary artists.

“Open-ended” because the show is not strictly dedicated to a survey of church architecture, far from it. Rather, curator Anna-Catharine Gebbers, long active on the Berlin art scene, uses the theme as a point of departure for a number of very different explorations of and experimentations with the concept of “the sublime.” Religious buildings appear in many of the works, serving to stimulate a dialogue on the relationship between people and these environments and their identities: we design, build and sanctify churches, mosques and temples and so on, and they in turn shape us. This is where the exhibition directs its attention, with mixed results.

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