The Collectors Committee of the National Gallery of Art recently made possible the acquisition of Condensation Wall (1963–1966/2013) by Hans Haacke (b. 1936), a breakthrough kinetic work from the artist's early career. Now on view in the East Building Concourse, this sculpture introduces an important example of kinetic art into the collection, joining works by Alexander Calder, Harry Bertoia, and George Rickey. It also has strong resonances with the Gallery's holdings of minimal art, in particular Larry Bell's Chrome and Glass Construction (1965), Anne Truitt's Knight's Heritage (1963), and Tony Smith's Die (model 1962, fabricated 1968).Reflecting Haacke's involvement with the West German-based group Zero, Condensation Wall is one of Haacke’s breakthrough works—part of a set of sculptures, including Condensation Cube and Condensation Floor, that combine geometric shapes and organic materials to reveal physico-dynamical processes. Contemporaneous with minimal sculpture, Haacke's work transforms the boxlike forms and industrial fabrication of artists like Donald Judd and Larry Bell into a micro-environment contingent with its surroundings: depending on the ambient temperature, the water inside collects and "rains." The transparent box allows the viewer to perceive this natural process, the gallery in which the works are displayed, and the surrounding works all at once.
Born in Cologne, Haacke is one of the leading figures of conceptual art and post-minimalism, and one of the most important political artists working today. After studying in Kassel and Philadelphia, he moved to New York in 1965. There he befriended the emerging circle of minimalist artists including Eva Hesse and Carl Andre, and participated in the seminal conceptual exhibitions When Attitudes Become Form (Kunsthalle Bern, 1969), and Information (Museum of Modern Art, 1970).