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Roth-Time: The Dieter Roth Retrospective in the Schaulager, Basel

The unconventional Schaulager, designed by the architects Herzog & de Meuron, reveals the scale of a new kind of institution which has been expanding and affecting Basel’s cultural life since May. Once each year, the Schaulager will be introducing the various aspects of its activities to the public in an exhibition. This begins with a retrospective of the works of Dieter Roth, which opened on May 24 and can be seen through September 14, 2003.

Schaulager Münchenstein/Basel
Herzog & de Meuron, Architects
Photo: Adrian Fritschi, Zürich

“Roth Time. A Dieter Roth Retrospective” is the first large, comprehensive exhibition to follow the artist’s death in 1998. The Schaulager in Basel will be introducing Dieter Roth’s work with well over 500 loans from 55 collections and spanning fifty years. One of the donors to the exhibition is the Deutsche Bank Collection. In the Schaulager, it will be possible to experience the variety of Roth’s work as a brilliant and exciting overall concept for the first time. For, a close friend of Dieter Roth’s recorded her impressions of the opening and exhibition: between 1967 and 1974, a love affair connected Dieter Roth and the American artist Dorothy Iannone that endured as a friendship up until Roth’s death (an article on the couple’s correspondence can be found here). “Dieter Roth is present here,” Dorothy Iannone wrote in her essay for the retrospective, which is also a declaration of love, both to her friend and his work.

Schaulager Münchenstein/Basel
Herzog & de Meuron, Architects
Photo: Adrian Fritschi, Zürich

The King is dead, long live his work!

Dorothy Iannone on the Dieter Roth Retrospective in Basel

The long awaited definitive retrospective of the mighty and majestic Dieter Roth has opened in Basel. The exhibition is overwhelming in its beauty and in its diversity. Dieter Roth was a master of everything he touched. It is astonishing in how many different manifestations of his vision he excelled. His inventiveness is unparalleled. After having seen just the first half of the exhibition, I was already filled with a feeling of exaltation which only an encounter with the very greatest of artists can produce.

Dieter Roth, Motorradrennfahrer III,
1970/1994 (Reconstruction) Dieter Roth Foundation, Hamburg
Photo: Heini Schneebli, Hamburg

In the sensational Schaulager, the new institution designed by Herzog and de Meuron, and commissioned by Maja Oeri, more than five hundred works of Dieter Roth from a 50-year period of creation have been brought together in a comprehensive exhibition curated by Theodora Vischer. The works exhibited include drawings, graphics, books, paintings, objects, installations, and video and audio works. We have never before experienced – not to this tremendous extent – the totality of Dieter Roth's creation. And it may be a long time before this many of his works are assembled in one place again.

Schaulager Münchenstein/Basel
Herzog & de Meuron, Architects
Photo: Adrian Fritschi, Zürich

In 1997, a year before his death, Dieter Roth invited me to participate in his exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Marseille. Writing about my work in the catalogue he said: "The better the (artistic) work of your lover is, the better you can love him/her, and the better you have a chance to grow (as an artist). Good work of a lover makes good talk for his/her lover." No one ever had better work to write about than this writer at this moment. An universal artist does not come along that often in our lifetimes.

Dieter Roth,
Portrait of the Artist
as Vogelfutterbüste, 1968
Photo: Martin Bühler,
Öffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel

The reception for the lenders took place one brilliant, sunny Saturday morning. The public opening was scheduled for the early evening and after that, a dinner for the friends at the Kunsthalle Restaurant which, along with Donati's, was Dieter's favorite restaurant in Basel. Old friends and colleagues from all over Europe and America arrived to celebrate the man whom it had been in Richard Hamilton' s words, "a privilege to have known". I had not slept much in anticipation of the great event. I was aware this would be a kind of farewell to Dieter. Up to this time, Dieters great exhibitions had been installed by himself. In Marseille, he even became a part of the exhibition himself when he set up a desk and a working space in the middle of the show and very often sat there, preparing the second volume of the catalogue. Now, shaping the whole experience would not be done by the artist anymore.After this retrospective, in a certain sense, Dieter Roth would belong – and rightly – to the world.

Dieter Roth, Flacher Abfall, 1975-76/1992
Flick Collection
Photo: A. Burger, Zürich

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