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>> "From a German Perspective": Interview with the curators
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It was important to all of us to demonstrate certain developments and stations of 20th century art using the examples of individual works. Thus, artists’ groups such as Die Brücke and the Blaue Reiter are fully represented in the exhibition, as well as art movements such as New Objectivity with its big city image, or post-war German art. The selection the Russian curators made was interesting for me, of course, because of their completely different view of art in Germany, which was new to us. One example was with the art following 1945: it was interesting to see which work of Markus Lüpertz they chose, a still life from 1984 that’s almost reminiscent of Picasso and Braque. The painting strongly resembles a Cubist work and doesn’t really fit in with the artist’s oeuvre at all. It has almost nothing in common with the works that have defined Lüpertz’ "dithyrambic" painting. There’s obviously a very different view of art’s development at work here, one with a heightened perception of lines of tradition leading back to Classic Modernism. This worked out very nicely in the juxtaposition of works in the exhibition. This way of seeing was very surprising for me, especially because the painting was hung next to A.R. Penck’s "stick figures," once again underscoring the connections to modernism’s fascination with "primitive art."

Markus Lüpertz: Untitled, 1984
Deutsche Bank Collection
In the beginning, we were intending to concentrate exclusively on German artists and to focus on nationality, but that just didn’t really touch the core of things. Had we taken this approach, we wouldn’t have been able to include artists such as Klee or Kokoschka, but that was particularly important to the Russian curators. In the end, it wasn’t about nationality, but primarily about what cultural environment was important and influential for the artists.

Was the hanging changed once more after the works arrived?

BF: The hanging was already basically established and had been developed out of our previous curatorial collaboration. In the details, however, the choices the Russian curators made were completely different than what we had in mind. What stood out the most was their decision to show all the Expressionist oil paintings – Kirchner, Nolde, Schmidt-Rottluff, Heckel – in a single room. For our part, we’d thought about loosening up the overall impression and saving some highlights for the other rooms, where the oil paintings could set certain accents in contrast to the works on paper. But the result of this concentrated presentation of paintings was amazingly powerful and exciting, and it actually made the whole show shine.

Karl Schmidt-Rottluff: Signalstation, 1920
Deutsche Bank Collection

Classic Modernism and post-war art are two points of concentration in the exhibition. Among the younger generation, artists from East Germany are especially represented, such as Neo Rauch, Cornelia Schleime , and Uwe Kowski . The Deutsche Bank Collection is known for collecting young contemporary work. Why was the choice limited in this respect?

BF: In the case of Uwe Kowski, we’re talking about a very young artist who’s still relatively unknown in Russia. We purposely chose a work of his for the catalogue cover to underscore that a wide variety of artistic movements converge again at the end of the 20th century. Kowski’s work places the human image at center stage, picking up on a theme that’s still crucial in art history – the cover image seems almost Expressionist and completes the exhibition’s historical circle in a nice way.

Uwe Kowski: Untitled, 1992
Deutsche Bank Collection

Ariane Grigoteit: The fact that prominent young West German artists such as Bernhard Martin or Frank Bauer aren’t part of the exhibition is chiefly due to a huge rift that existed in the Russian perception of German art, particularly since the sixties. Many younger artists are completely unknown here even today. Artists that grew up in the DDR with an approach to art that had a completely different take on history, a hunger of another kind, and a greater existential need were much closer to the Russian curators. Particularly in their approach to contemporary movements, it made a big difference to them if a young artist grew up in the consumerist society and arrived at a motif out of a state of overabundance – or was an artist that defined himself in a different way.

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