this issue contains
>> Re-reading the 80s
>> Tim Rollins and K.O.S.
>> Barbara Kruger
>> Interview Rainer Fetting

>> archive

"I was always where the exciting things were happening"
An interview with Rainer Fetting

Rainer Fetting, New York Painter, 1983,
Courtesy Galerie Deschler, Berlin,
©Rainer Fetting/V.G. Bild-Kunst

He brought van Gogh to West Berlin: in Rainer Fetting's early paintings, the master loiters beneath the elevated train; he hangs out near the Wall. The intensity with which the Dutch artist lived and painted impressed the young German. Fetting's paintings of cities and landscapes and his male nudes and portraits harbor an inner glow that set them apart from the dismal grey of '80s Berlin and the austerity of the art made within the confines of the Wall. In the Deutsche Bank Collection, the artist is represented with numerous works from the '80s and '90s. One of them is Girl und Vogel. This work on paper was the cover motif of the book Contemporary Art at Deutsche Bank documenting the art found in the twin towers in Frankfurt. Fetting's tempera drawing with its radiant color shows a kind of dialogue situation and virtually became an emblematic image for the concept "Art at work" which enables Deutsche Bank employees to directly encounter works from the corporate collection.

Portrait Rainer Fetting 1983
Photo Rolf von Bergmann
©Rainer Fetting

The painter, born 1949 in Wilhelmshaven, became known together with a circle of colleagues who together founded the artists' gallery at Moritzplatz and were soon known as the "Moritz Boys." Rainer Fetting became their star. At the beginning of the 1980s, his paintings were on view in important exhibitions such as A New Spirit in Painting at the Royal Academy in London and Zeitgeist at the Martin Gropius Bau in Belin. In addition, he showed his work at top galleries such as Bruno Bischofberger, Mary Boone, and Anthony d'Offay. Together with the band Geile Tiere, whose members included the "Moritzboys" Salomé and Luciano Castelli, Fetting gave a series of performance concerts in 1983 at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. In 1983 the artist moved to New York; it was here that he created his first material paintings and sculptures. He was drawn back to Berlin in 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell.

Rainer Fetting, Taxis (City Canyon), 1992,
Deutsche Bank Collection

While Rainer Fetting seemed to have retreated into the background over the past several years, he is currently being rediscovered, and his paintings are in high demand at auctions. Rainer Fetting's career has been marked by breaks, detours, and quarrels; despite all the turbulence, however, he has remained true to his artistic interests and preferences. Daniel Völzke met the painter on a stormy day in his huge studio apartment in South Kreuzberg, at Südstern—a plaza Rainer Fetting painted early on. And Moritzplatz is just a stone's throw away.

Rainer Fetting, Girl and Vogel, 1982,
Deutsche Bank Collection

Daniel Völzke: Mr Fetting, more than any other era, the '80s have exerted the strongest influence on our past decade—in music, art, and in fashion. It must have been a fantastic time, and you were right in the middle of it.

Rainer Fetting: A lot of it wasn't all that great, particularly in the art scene. And a lot of it was too great for me to find it great. But there were some really good things outside the art establishment, like the music scene, which we painters loved.

"We painters?" Do you mean the "Moritz Boys?" You all showed together at Moritzplatz in West Berlin.

Right. Bernd Zimmer, Helmut Middendorf, Salomé, and me. Luciano Castelli joined later. Music was an important influence.

New Wave?

I preferred Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones.

You even painted Hendrix. But wasn't that kind of music frowned upon?

It was considered mainstream. On the other hand, I found New Wave dull and too cold. What turned me off were the same things as in the art scene: a dryness that I also didn’t like in Minimal Art; all that heavy concept. We hated the stuff. I always say “we,” but each of us had his own preferences and intentions, which made our works completely different from one another’s. It’s only seen as one brand of soup from the outside.

Portrait Rainer Fetting at the Palast der Republik, Berlin 2005
©Rainer Fetting / Galerie Deschler, Berlin

You were the "New Wild," as it was called.

I dislike the term, because it was used to defame us. It's a shame that people didn't examine the works instead and treat each artist individually.

Didn't you influence one another in your circle of friends?

The Galerie am Moritzplatz started as a self-help project, so to speak. But one prerequisite was that we had similar interests and preferences, of course, which resulted in mutual influence and inspiration.

Weren't you also perceived as a group because the coloration in your paintings was so different from the art of the time?

Back then, monotonous grey prevailed, the crippling of the crippled. It was said that "one was only allowed to use red in old age," or something like that. We countered these attitudes and positions with our own.

Rainer Fetting, Doppelportrait, 1990,
Deutsche Bank Collection

[1] [2]