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“Saxony – Works from the Deutsche Bank Collection” at the Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig
Pigments, Wax, Steel - Anish Kapoor at the MCA in Sydney


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Approaches to German Reality
“Saxony – Works from the Deutsche Bank Collection”
at the Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig

An investigation of German identity, visions of modernity, the ideologically charged clash of images between figuration and abstraction: The exhibition “Saxony – Works from the Deutsche Bank Collection” documents much more than just the vitality of the Saxon art scene. The show at the Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig also reflects a chapter of collecting history and explores various aspects of recent German culture, politics, and history.

Artist Talks
Sunday , February 17 | 11 a.m.
Thomas Scheibitz & Hans-Werner Schmidt

Sunday , March 3 | 11 a.m.
Cornelia Schleime & Friedhelm Hütte
Sunday , March 24 | 11 a.m.
Jörg Herold & n.n.

Sunday , April 7 | 11 a.m.
Via Lewandowsky & Frédéric Bußmann

What do Georg Baselitz, Wolfgang Mattheuer, and Eberhard Havekost have in common? Offhand, very little. Baselitz and Mattheuer are not only worlds apart formally, but also ideologically. And Havekost represents a kind of cool conceptual painting that is light years away from the postwar generation. Yet all three have influenced contemporary German art, albeit in different ways. Each of these painters stands for a very specific view of German reality. And – like nearly all of the 32 artists featured in the current exhibition of the Deutsche Bank Collection – they were born in Saxony.

Saxony is not only the birthplace, production place, or home of the artists, but a point of departure for completely different biographies and careers that have made history in the East and West. In this sense, Saxony – Works from the Deutsche Bank Collection at the Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig maps out a complex, very subjective topography of one of the most exciting regions for contemporary art in Europe. The drawings, prints, and paintings mirror myriad movements and styles, encompassing the entire spectrum of contemporary German art from the 1950s to beginning of the new millennium. Most of the works shown were acquired in the period between the Fall of the Berlin Wall and rise of the New Leipzig School in the late 1990s, a time in which Leipzig established itself as an art metropolis with a worldwide influence.

Shortly after German reunification, Deutsche Bank curators starting making regular visits to galleries and artist studios in Leipzig and Dresden. Many of the Saxon artists whose work was acquired during this period were at the beginning of their careers – for example, Neo Rauch, who worked at the time as an assistant under Arno Rink at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst in Leipzig. The show documents an important part of the history of a collection that has always promoted young artists and acquired their works early on. Equally, it was thanks to the purchase of young East German art that great mavericks of East German art could be rediscovered. They include Carlfriedrich Claus and Hermann Glöckner, who picked up on the legacy of Modernism in completely different ways.

The spectrum of artistic positions of Saxony – Works from the Deutsche Bank Collection ranges from Claus and Glöckner, to Carsten and Olaf Nicolai, to Neo Rauch and Thomas Scheibitz. Many of the artists were born in Saxony or live and work there. Others, including Cornelia Schleime, had to leave the GDR due to their critical attitude toward the country. Others were born in Saxony but embarked on their careers in the Rhineland or West Berlin in the 1960s. Among them are Gerhard Richter, Imi Knoebel, Blinky Palermo and George Baselitz. The exhibition follows all of these different threads, but consciously refrains from a chronological historical presentation. Nor is there a separation between East and West, between different schools and movements. Rather, the show is divided into six sections that invite viewers to take an associative journey through contemporary German art. The exhibition also reflects various aspects of recent German culture, politics, and history.

Neo Rauch’s “Werktätige” (Workers), who move through puzzling scenarios like sleepwalkers, are in the “Heroes/Anti-heroes” section, where they encounter monsters and heroic figures created by Baseliz and Eugen Schönebeck in the early 1960s. While these artists react to the repressed Nazi past and the stuffiness of the era of the so-called German economic miracle, Wolfgang Mattheuer’s Ikarus erhebt sich (Icharus Rises), the last painting in his series Suite 89 begun in 1988, refers directly to the political events of the final days of the GDR. “Hitting and fixating the nerve of the time, that neuralgic point that triggers desire and pain,” is how Mattheuer describes the goal of this artistic work.

The section entitled “On Cold Ground” is devoted to Constructivism and geometric abstraction. These formal themes are also ideologically charged, as abstract art was debased by official East German doctrine as being “cosmopolitan” and “imperialist.” The title of this section is taken from Hermann Glöckner, who stuck unflinchingly to non-figurative art in the tradition of the Russian avant-garde. Apart from Glöckner, Knoebel and Palermo are on view in this section. They influenced the Leipzig painter Kaeseberg, whose works are exemplary for the reception of the ideas of Kazimir Malevich and Joseph Beuys and his students in the young East German art scene.

Carlfriedrich Claus works as consistently and willfully as Glöckener on his “busy universe of enigmatic ciphers,” as the art historian Sarah E. James put it in the exhibition catalog. In “Codes,” Claus’ visual linguistic exercises are juxtaposed with other artistic forms associated with ciphers and calligraphy, language systems, writing systems, and systems of explaining the world. They include A.R. Penck’s simplified primitive sign systems and Via Lewandowsky’s diary-like series of wax crayon drawings from 1987. Lewandowsky, who co-founded the Autoperforation artists group in the mid-1980s and shook up the East German art scene with extreme performances, used the deformed body as a political cipher. It stands radically opposed to the optimistic view of people propagated by Socialist Realism.

The works in Saxony – Works from the Deutsche Bank Collection illustrate how often the different artists engage with similar issues: with German identity, visions of modernity, the ideologically charged conflict of images between East and West, figuration and abstraction. Whether it’s the scathingly ironic "Stasi Series” by Cornelia Schleime or the cool architectural studies by Eberhard Havekost – the question of how art and artists approach (German) reality is repeatedly taken up. The exhibition does not only show Saxony as a transformative place of production and discourse for 1990s art. It also tries to sketch a coordinate system for contemporary German art, giving visual form to topics and questions that have lost nothing of their up to the present day.

Saxony — Works from the Deutsche Bank Collection
February 7 to April 21, 2013
Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig

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