Museum Gunzenhauser
27. Jan 2018 – 8. Apr 2018



Although the focus of the Munich gallery owner and collector Dr. Alfred Gunzenhauser was on figurative painting of Classic Modernism, his collection also contains works by important protagonists of abstraction. With them, the collector demonstrated an extraordinary sense for the quality and relevance of individual contemporary artistic positions. A selection is presented in this exhibition. It illustrates the development of abstraction after 1945.

The visual language of abstraction challenges the viewer in a special way. If he or she meets this challenge, it can become a multifaceted mirror of his or her own thoughts, associations and emotions. It appears as a school of seeing and feeling, which confronts the viewer in a new and unique way not only with the emotional and mental world of the respective artist, but also with himself.

The development of abstraction goes back to the beginnings of modernism and reached its first peak in the early 20th century with artists such as Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), Robert Delaunay (1885-1941), Kasimir Malevich (1878-1935) and Piet Mondrian (1872-1944). It culminated once again after the end of the Second World War. In view of the atrocities experienced before then, turning away from the figurative seemed to be the only effective means of expressing the unspeakable and the speechlessness of the war and post-war generation.

In the 1950s and 1960s, abstraction was a general, almost unchallenged consensus in the West German art scene. Important impulses were taken up from France and the USA. As early as the 1940s, the so-called Informel was developed in France, while a little later Abstract Expressionism broke new ground in the USA with the Action Painting of a Jackson Pollock (1912-1956).

These influences can be seen in the exhibited works from the Gunzenhauser Collection. Gunzenhauser collected a particularly extensive body of work from Willi Baumeister (1889-1955). He belongs to the most important German representatives of abstract modernism. In the exhibition, a total of seventeen works illustrate his development from early constructivist
vistic tendencies up to his late work, in which the abstract language of forms is combined with organic forms and traces of representational elements.

The Russian Serge Poliakoff (1900-1969), who worked in France, is also represented in the Gunzenhauser Collection with a larger group of works. Inspired by his encounter with Kandinsky, he developed a geometric abstraction in the middle of the 20th century with surfaces that were often monochrome or only slightly varying in colour value. A similar development can be seen in the large-format paintings of Fritz Winter (1905-1976).

Ernst Wilhelm Nay (1902-1968), on the other hand, gained his main inspiration from his preoccupation with music and the attempt to transfer its principles to painting. In the process, he created powerful sound pictures from mostly circular colored surfaces, which are full of dynamics in their vibrating coloration.

Emil Schumacher (1912-1999), Bernard Schultze (1915-2005) and Fred Thieler (1916-1999) are among the main representatives of the German Informel, in which the latest developments in France and the USA were directly taken up. Their works live almost entirely from the gestural application of colour, in which colour in its materiality and complexity becomes the decisive expressive medium.

Finally, the exhibition is rounded off by individual paintings by representatives of subsequent generations of artists such as Arnulf Rainer (*1929), Dieter Krieg (1937-2005) and Clemens Kaletsch (*1957). In their work, the developments described above echo, but soon also combine with newly emerging narrative tendencies.

Artists of the exhibition

Willi Baumeister (1889-1955)
Karl Fred Dahmen (1917-1981)
Clemens Kaletsch (*1957)
Dieter Krieg (1937-2005)
Heino Naujoks (*1937)
Ernst Wilhelm Nay (1902-1968)
Serge Poliakoff (1900-1969)
Arnulf Rainer (*1929)
Bernard Schultze (1915-2005)
Emil Schumacher (1912-1999)
Fred Thieler (1916-1999)
Fritz Winter (1905-1976)