Tue 19 February 2008
The Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum für Gegenwart - Berlin receives 166 contemporary artworks, donated by Friedrich Christian Flick
Friedrich Christian Flick explains: "We selected the works for their importance as museum pieces, most of them key works in the careers of their respective artists. Whenever I've developed an interest in a particular artist and decided that I like his or her art I've always tried to collect the artist's work in depth and put together blocks of works. I wanted this donation, too, to reflect that approach. I have also given a lot of thought to works that have a direct or indirect connection to Berlin or Germany. I say goodbye to many of my favourite pieces and I do it with joy but also with a bit of melancholy. More than anything, though, I do it with complete confidence in Berlin, in the full knowledge that I am doing the right thing for the artists and the right thing for the museum."
Says Klaus-Dieter Lehmann: "This gift is much more than the gesture of a collector. With regard to the stock already held by the Museum the items have been intelligently selected and the donation is an extraordinary expression of common understanding on how a collection might be created. The almost four years of collaboration with Friedrich Christian Flick have borne wonderful fruit in the form of this generous donation of art works."
The list of names alone is impressive. With the exception of the photographs of Albert Renger-Patzsch the donation involves artwork created over the last forty years, the period covered by the Hamburger Bahnhof. Names such as Vito Acconci, Robert Barry, Marcel Broodthaers, John Cage, Nam June Paik, Dan Graham, Dieter Roth, Gordon Matta-Clark and others provide the conceptual and crossover art of the 1960s and '70s. The middle generation of the 1980s is well represented by names such as Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Stan Douglas, Isa Genzken, Rodney Graham, Douglas Gordon, Martin Kippenberger, Axel Hütte, Pipilotti Rist, Thomas Schütte, to name a few. Artists of the calibre of Eija-Lisa Ahtila, de Rijke / de Rooij, Jason Rhoades, Christoph Büchel, David Claerbout, Andreas Hofer, Raymond Pettibon, Anri Sala und Wolfgang Tillmans are part of the 1990s generation who continue to determine the course being taken by art today.
From this hugely important mass of works we can consider only a few here in detail. Alone the donation of one of Bruce Nauman's central works "Room with My Soul Left Out, Room That Does Not Care" (1984) is an extraordinary gesture. This interior space sculpture is the largest and most spectacular of his famous corridor sculptures. Likewise "Saloon Theater", the 1995-99 work by Nauman's contemporary, the American artist Paul McCarthy, currently enjoying enormous success, is a key element in McCarthy's body of work and characteristic of the artist's working methods. The Museum also counts itself extremely lucky to have come into possession of Stan Douglas' 1994/95 Berlin creation, "Der Sandmann" and his thematically linked series of photos entitled "Potsdamer Schrebergärten". It is not only the Berlin connection that makes them interesting; they are also crucial works in the career of this internationally renowned artist.
The large-format work produced jointly by Isa Genzken and Wolfgang Tillmans and Tillmans' "Truth Study Center" are both spectacular gifts. The latter oeuvre fills an entire room with 37 glass display cases, a collection of materials and artefacts that might be described as the "internal", spiritual battery driving Tillmans' work. Both works here are "environments" that continue the collection of artist rooms begun in the Nationalgalerie / Hamburger Bahnhof and already numbering more than twenty. Room installations such as Franz West's "PA 1", Diana Thater's "Delphine", Roman Signer's "Helikopter mit Spraydose", Jason Rhoades' "A Few Free Years" , Richard Jackson's "5050 Stacked Paintings", Dan Graham's "Three Linked Cubes / Interior Design for Space Showing Videos", Peter Fischli's and David Weiss' "Sichtbare Welt", Rodney Graham's "School of Velocity" or Christoph Büchel's "Training Ground for Training Ground for Democracy" are all fortuitous and, for the Museum, highly cherished acquisitions. The raft of oeuvres also includes important photo series of great value to the art world: the early interiors of Thomas Ruff are landmark pieces in his body of work. The interior space series by Candida Höfer and the large photographs of Axel Hütte are perfect additions to the Museum collection. 22 drawings by Raymond Pettibon balance a thoroughly museum-like desideratum reflecting the drawn and sketched art of recent years.
A special place in every sense of the word is taken up by the 40 metre long "Gartenskulptur" of Dieter Roth, a complex work that assembles all its features in an imposing installation employing a variety of media and materials. The ensemble of works by Nam June Paik, some of them early pieces such as "Light Bikini for Opera Sextronique" (1966) or "TV Chair" (1975), together with the performance photographs of Vito Acconci or the "Pipe alphabet" by Broodthaers are all extraordinary works and of massive significance to a museum. Georg Baselitz' "Der Hirte", painted in 1966, was often referred to as the "Der Mauerbrecher" ('Wall breaker'). The picture is closely associated with Berlin and recent German history and is thus of special significance to the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz.
Previous collaborations between the Hamburger Bahnhof and the collector Friedrich Christian Flick - the exhibitions:
In 2003 the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz and the collector entered into a contract, initially for 7 years, regarding displays of Collection artworks. The first general exhibition "Friedrich Christian Flick Collection" in 2004/5 was the largest display of contemporary art ever to have been mounted by a European museum and featured important selected works covering the previous forty years. The exhibition took up the entire floor space of the Hamburger Bahnhof, including the Rieck Hall, which was modified at the collector's cost to serve as an exhibition building. The exhibition, spreading over 13,000 m², provided visitors with a thematic introduction to a collection which had never before been on view in a form that alluded to its entirety. Friedrich Christian Flick allowed the Museum wide-ranging freedoms in the use to which it put his Collection. It was Flick's avowed intent to create a whole new relationship between collector and museum. The exhibitions themselves have served as impressive documents of this relationship - in the eyes of the Museum a model relationship between museum and collector.
Following the first large exhibition, one that could hardly be outdone in terms of the sheer volume of art on display, thoughts turned to reduction in artistic production, as represented by the theme "Fast Nichts" (almost nothing). This exhibition, like the one that followed it ("Jenseits des Kinos - die Kunst der Projektion"), was a fine example of thematically linked exhibitions from the Collection. "Jenseits des Kinos - die Kunst der Projektion", which tackled the topical issue of film as a fine art, was designed by the Hamburger Bahnhof in a collaboration with the Canadian artist Stan Douglas and Christopher Eamon, curator from a private American collection. The involvement of one of the Collection's own artists in the design of the exhibition was one of the new paths being successfully trodden with the full backing of the collector. In 2007, to mark the early death of the American Jason Rhoades, some of whose key works feature in the Collection, the Museum curated an exhibition entitled "there is never a stop and never a finish", dedicated to the employment of discarded or prefabricated materials in current art as a response to the inflationary mass production of Western societies.
The Museum's monographic exhibitions have showcased artists who had not yet enjoyed a major presentation in Berlin. Works by Urs Fischer, a young and internationally respected Swiss artist, currently based in Los Angeles, were displayed in Berlin in 2005, the artist's first exhibition in the city. He was followed in 2006 by Richard Jackson, an American artist of the same generation as Bruce Nauman and Paul McCarthy and hitherto largely unknown in Germany. In 2007 the most comprehensive German exhibition yet of works by the Swiss artist Roman Signer, one of the most popular "artists' artists", was very warmly received by the media and general public alike. March 2008 sees a continuation of the monographs, with a display dedicated to Turner Prize winner Wolfgang Tillmans. Beyond this visitors can look forward to what is sure to be a high point in the Museum's calendar - the Bruce Nauman retrospective scheduled for autumn 2009.