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A Passion for Art
The Grässlin Collection in St. Georgen

Their roots date back to the seventies, when Dieter Grässlin, an entrepreneur from Baden, began collecting art from the German Art Informel movement together with his wife Anna. Their four children have been carrying on the family tradition since the early eighties. Since then, the Grässlin Collection has grown to become one of the most prominent private collections in Germany. Now, the family has founded a museum in their native city of St. Georgen - reason enough to take a trip to the small city in the Black Forest, where there's more to discover in the new exhibition hall than contemporary art.

Elegant cubes: Lukas Baumewerd's building
for the Grässlin Collection in St. Georgen,
Photo: Georg A. Hermann, Munich

St. Georgen, situated in the Black Forest, is home to Germany's only Phonograph Museum , where visitors can admire antique gramophones and sleek high-tech record players. But it's not only hi-fi fans that have been traveling to the former center of the Black Forest's wristwatch industry since 1995; at the time, the Grässlin family began presenting works from their contemporary art collection in empty stores and disused commercial spaces around the small city.

Works by Werner Büttner in the former "Süßen Eck",
Photo: Nic Tenwiggenhorn, Düsseldorf/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

Now, instead of couch sets and beds, the Finkbeiner Furniture Store is showing installations and canvases by Markus Oehlen, while Werner Büttner's Cultural Imperialist Boy's Piece, a soccer team made from rosewood, occupies the former "Süßes Eck" (Sweet Corner) shop. Instead of hiding their art away behind walls, the family has always sought out public confrontation with the oftentimes difficult and controversial works of their collection - particularly in their own hometown. Many of the artists that fascinate them have been guests here. And more and more people have come to St. Georgen to experience the Grässlins' "Rooms for Art."

Light objects by Tobias Rehberger und paintings by Martin Kippenberger
in the museum's restaurant Kippys,
Photo: Nic Tenwiggenhorn, Düsseldorf/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

The new starting-off point for an art tour throughout the city is the Kunstraum Grässlin, which was opened parallel to the Art Basel fair. The white and grey ensemble by the Cologne-based architect Lukas Baumewerd consists of sleek, elegant exhibition rooms flanked by a depot and a restaurant called Kippy's . Here, visitors can enjoy Italian and Southern German cuisine beneath light objects by Tobias Rehberger. "Kippy" was the nickname of Martin Kippenberger, whose works have left a profound mark on the Grässlin Collection.

Martin Kippenbergers "Transportabler Lüftungsschacht" in front of the new museum,
Photo: Nic Tenwiggenhorn, Düsseldorf/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

The family entertained a close friendship with the enfant terrible until his death in 1997. The artist lived and worked for a time in St. Georgen, and it was here that he celebrated his 40th birthday in 1993 together with the family in a three-day extravaganza. Hence, it's no wonder that two of his painting series form the core of the opening exhibition at the Kunstraum. Kippenberger's works are also, of course, installed in "his" restaurant, and his huge Portable Air Shaft greets visitors in front of the museum.

Kippenberger's series "Berlin bei Nacht"
on view at Kunstraum Grässlin,
Photo: Nic Tenwiggenhorn, Düsseldorf/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

Dialogue with Youth depicts the artist with a bandaged face. Rioting punks had beat up the former manager of the SO 36 Club in Berlin because they found the price of beer there too high. With its crude realism, the self-portrait is a perfect match for Kippenberger's dictum "Think today - finish tomorrow." His ironic motifs and conscious transgression of the boundaries of "good" taste and art genres link him to his friend Albert Oehlen and to Mike Kelley, whose works can also be seen in the new exhibition space.

View into the opening exhibition of the Kunstraum Grässlin,
Photo: Nic Tenwiggenhorn, Düsseldorf/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

Oehlen's paintings, for instance Adolf Hitler Bridge in Crefeld with its gaudy blue, red, and yellow, combine the optimistic colors of avant-garde art movements such as De Stijl with the destructive forces of fascism. Mike Kelley's Orgone Shed is a reference to the legendary Orgone Accumulator of the controversial psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich. The simple box of plywood and sheet iron is purported to absorb cosmic rays and to redirect magnetic and sexual energy.

Kippenberger's birch forrest installation at the Grässlin family villa
Photo: Nic Tenwiggenhorn, Düsseldorf/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

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