Tag Archives: Berlin

Alfred Flechtheim: Kunsthändler der Moderne

Rudolf Belling Dreiklang 1919 Bronze 905mm Foto G Ladwig Sammlung Karl H Knauf VG Bild Kunst

Update: My article about this exhibition, Alfred Flechtheim: Kunsthändler der Moderne, has been placed in the Routledge / Taylor & Francis publication Journal of Visual Art Practice.


Unfortunately there are no photos with the story but there are many on the website of The Georg Kolbe Museum, (Sensburger Allee 25, Charlottenburg, Berlin).



‘Animaloculomat’ • Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin

Klara Hobza, Animaloculomat, 2017

Already by 1909 Jakob Johann von Uexküll had, in Umwelt und Innenwelt der Tiere, given a great deal of consideration to the „Innenleben“ of animals. For Franz Marc this led to the question of how a horse, an eagle, a deer, or a dog saw and experienced the world, prompting the reflection „die Tiere in eine Landschaft zu setzen, die unsren Augen zugehört, statt uns in die Seele des Tieres zu versenken, um dessen Bildkreis zu erraten“.[1]

A painting like Liegender Hund im Schnee, a depiction of Marc’s dog Russi, radiates the oneness between the surrounding nature and the resting dog – „eine gemeinsame Stille von belebter und unbelebter Natur.“[2] .“ But Marc was interested in the actual physical reality of the dog’s vision as well.

Without specifically referencing Marc or von Uexküll, the scientific part of this proposition is taken up,  switching between animal and human perspectives, in the Animaloculomat (2017) by Klara Hobza. The technology really works, as you can see, like a regular Passbild machine that generates a split view between the sitter’s and the chosen animal’s – some invertebrates such as spiders and squids but also horses. The contraption sits in the dinosaur area, which is frequented by a lot of children, and my first impression was that this setting, and the toy-like features of the Animaloculomat, took away from the serious nature of this question so central to understanding animals. After I thought about it, though (and experienced having a photo made), I changed my mind and now think that such a lower-key approach that admits both a possibility for failure and a sense of humour is, as an art installation, very successful.

Inside Klara Hobza’s Animaloculomat

Hobza’s piece is part of Art/Nature, which is a pilot project initiated by the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin and the Kulturstiftung des Bundes, employing artists to create new works for the natural history museum. Though the taxidermy is very creepy and gives me nightmares, maybe this is a good way for contemporary, conceptual art to transcend some of its normal boundaries.

Now finally on to documenta 14, “fixing” CAA,  and the Georg-Kolbe Museum…

Klara Hobza • Art/Nature III  • Museum für Naturkunde Berlin  • 25 April-23 July 2017  • Curator: Bergit Arends (London).

[1] Gunther Meißner. Franz Marc, Briefe, Schriften und Aufzeichnungen. (Leipzig: Seeman, 1980) 50.

[2] Franz Marc, August Macke: Briefwechsel. (Köln: DuMont, 1964) 30.

Franz Marc painting still missing at Haus am Waldsee

“Vermisst: Der Turm der blauen Pferde von Franz Marc” at Haus am Waldsee, Berlin

Franz marc painting missing but theme still clear

Marcel van Eeden, High Mountains, a Rainbow, the Moon and Stars, 2017

I really wanted to like Haus am Waldsee’s thematic “Vermisst: Der Turm der blauen Pferde von Franz Marc,” but was also nervous about all the expectations of the referenced Franz Marc painting that I would bring to the exhibition. To (un)prepare, I imposed a media blackout upon myself, not reading up on who the artists were or any other reviews,[1] avoiding a seminar and joint show co-sponsored by the Pinakothek der Moderne in München. Vermisst’s concept was to pair some scholarly discussions of Marc’s missing 1913 masterwork with the expansions of contemporary artists upon its theme.

Franz Marc Painting Still Missing

Beyond mild speculation, a purpose of Vermisst did not seem to be to offer any type of meaningful investigation into where the painting might actually be. It is not incumbent upon Haus am Waldsee, where the Franz Marc painting was last seen in 1949, to conduct such an inquiry…and yet the stubborn refusal, still, of German museums and art historians to grapple with the issue of Raubkunst, particularly in a case as famous as that of  Turm der blauen Pferde, where someone knows something, is a real problem. (I have an article coming out on this very subject, so I’ll just leave this here for now.)

Of contributions by a dozen artists, one seemed to address both the absent presence of TdbP and also the circumstances of its disappearance. In fact if Marcel van Eeden’s High Mountains, a Rainbow, the Moon and Stars (2017), a series of 26 prints including the text of a short story revealing some fantastical open-ended conclusions about what happened to the painting, had been the only component of the exhibition, that would have been fine. Only two of Eeden’s panels are in color, both reproductions of aspects of TdbP, which makes a nice allusion to the Wizard of Oz (1939), both in temporality and in the vibrancy of the world of dreams, and of lost alternative futures. Continue reading

Last Night at the Castle…

Some intermittent institutions … I’m probably not going to see them again. I always wonder what “the last time” doing something or going somewhere will be like, if it’s better if you know beforehand or preferable to find out the continuum is now a memory afterward.

I have been going to the Castle, Tampa’s gothic and industrial music nightclub, in its various iterations, since I was a teenager. No matter how long I would move away for, it would always be here when I returned. Over the years, I was able to compare it experientially with all sorts of clubs, from Sanctuary in Salt Lake City to Warsaw in Miami to Berghain in Berlin and scads of “rave-themed” house parties in Antwerp and Brussels.

This past year I haven’t gone out as much in general, but I still met up with longtime friends on Mondays once in a while. We wouldn’t set up a date or anything, you’d just show up and some of the crew would be there. Attendance has been down on Mondays and while Ybor-City-in-the-Nineties legacies like the Senator and Theo Wujcik still make the scene regularly, eventually, the world will move on. It’s sad in a way to think of this last vestige of the once incredible Tampa Bay electronic music scene, which at one time including rotating DJ nights at Rene’s, Empire, Trax, Palladium, Club Detroit, Masquerade, and pop-ups at Act IV and other places (not counting London Victory Club, which began it all) falling into history but … I was really happy that the Castle has made so many attempts to keep up to date with electro and added lots of cool newish elements to its rotations, particularly in the music video department, mixing in Ladytron, Interpol, Cut Copy and Presets to the “hits.”

The last night I went to the Castle, I was braced to be a little disappointed, since I’m one of the people who actually prefers the new material to, you know, the entire Hacienda playlist from 1987. But actually it was just perfect. My friends were there, it wasn’t too crowded with glowstickers, and there was a lot of room to dance, yet it wasn’t empty. I don’t know if I will see the Castle again but this was a good way to remember it if I don’t.

The Castle

The Wilhelmine Insurgency

dem bayerischen Heere zum Ruhme

dem bayerischen Heere zum Ruhme

The Wilhelmine Insurgency

Franz Marc’s metaphysical visions were never far from him, occurring in “Two Paintings” in the confident statement, “What appears spectral today will be natural tomorrow.”[1] This sentence is in several respects characteristic not only of Marc but of that short period in European thought that runs from 1902 to 1914. It was the period in which Henri Bergson’s élan vital, and philosophical ideas about the confusion of immediate subjective experience, uncategorized and uncategorizable, became commonplace. As was the case with Wilhelm Worringer’s concepts, this discussion spread quickly into artistic and literary circles especially in France and in England but also in Germany. The rejection of scientific optimism touched a nerve. At the beginning of the 20th Century this was a mood that had been encouraged by the rapid introduction of new styles in painting, sculpture, and the applied arts that had accompanied each of the recent splits in the German art world, with one “Secession” leading to another, and with the “advanced” artists of one decade often becoming the reactionaries of the next. Throughout the 19th Century — especially in France — artists had been rebelling against the established academies and official salons and had looked for new ways of showing their work in rival salons des refusés.

In Germany by the end of the 1800s the situation had become dramatic. Many writers wondered about what was “German.” In the art world the question arose especially from the fact that, as Robin Lenman pointed out in an article preceding his book, Artists and Society in Germany, 1850-1914 (1997)[2], state and municipal patronage of the arts in Germany was on a particularly large scale, so that the relation of art to the state became of central importance for artists trying to make a living. Those artists who were not included, or who thought themselves inadequately represented in the large official exhibitions held in the major German cities, had economic as well as aesthetic reasons for creating new outlets for their work. As the painter Lovis Corinth remarked on joining the Munich Secession in 1892, “I had the instinctive sense that I could get ahead in this clique.”[3]

Akademie der Bildenden Künste München

Akademie der Bildenden Künste München

The first of these Secessions was that in Munich in 1892, the subject of a study by Maria Makela,[4] following to some extent the model of Peter Paret’s pioneering book of 1980 on the Berlin Secession. Similar movements were started in other German cities, for example Düsseldorf and Dresden. In Austria the Vienna Secession was founded in 1897.[5] Each of these movements had its own emphasis, but artists moved from one city to another. Many Munich artists went to Berlin at a time when the imperial capital seemed a richer and more dynamic place than Munich. In each center it had been the controversy over the showing of “foreign” art that had been one of the principal issues over which the split took place. The Munich Secession began by emphasizing naturalism in opposition to the sentimental scenes of Bavarian peasant life popular among local painters and patrons, but it too was protesting against the elaborate grandiose state portraits and history paintings of Franz von Lenbach and Anton von Werner, the director of the School of Fine Arts in Berlin.

Throughout the second half of the nineteenth century it was Munich that was the artistic capital of Germany. The collections that King Ludwig I had assembled before 1848 and the neoclassical buildings that housed them, the number of artists living and working in the city (some 9,000 by 1894, rising to 14,000 in 1907), the possibilities of café life — all made the Bavarian capital an attractive place for artists, both from inside Germany and elsewhere, as well as writers, visiting connoisseurs, and tourists. Bavaria retained a strong sense of character and traditions. The inhabitants of Munich were very conscious of the advantages to their city of its reputation as a center of artistic life. One of the issues that had led to the founding of the Secession was the invitation to international artists to send work to the annual exhibitions, though even among Secession members there was soon a movement to limit the number of such works shown: in 1893 more than half the exhibitors were foreign; as a result of complaints by Munich artists the number had fallen to 17 percent by 1908.[6]

The applied arts showed even more clearly than the work of the painters how diffuse and contradictory the modern movement had become.[7] Indeed one of the characteristics of “advanced” art in Germany at the beginning of the century was, as Seth Taylor points out in his study of the influence of Nietzsche on certain aspects of Expressionist literature, Left-Wing Nietzscheans, the tension between the artist’s desire to become socially involved in the problems of an increasingly urbanized, society and the equally strong desire to withdraw from the world into a rural Arcadia was never really resolved: “The longing for social involvement was contradicted by a libertarian desire to withdraw from society completely.” [8]

One of the new artists in Munich made quite clear what he thought of the Secession’s exhibition in 1902:

Hanging on the walls, it seems, are the “same old things” we saw long ago, only somewhat faded — pictures that take as their point of departure the literal repetition of nature and thus forfeit the luster of the artist’s intentions.


The writer was Kandinsky. Many of Marc’s and Kandinsky’s works and other important collections and donations are now housed, ironically, in the mansion that belonged to Franz von Lenbach, the wealthy painter of official portraits and one of the main figures against whom Kandinsky was reacting. A study by the gallery’s then-director, Armin Zweite, with biographies of the artists and commentaries by Annegret Hoberg on the paintings reproduced, The Blue Rider in the Lenbachhaus, Munich (2000) provides an indication of the riches of the collection which also includes works by Münter, Macke, Alexei Jawlensky, and Paul Klee.

Marc provided a link between Munich and Berlin and between the Blaue Reiter and the very different artists of the Brücke and the circle around the Berlin dealer and critic Herwarth Walden’s literary and artistic weekly, Der Sturm. Marc collaborated with Walden to organize the Erster Deutscher Herbstsalon in Berlin in 1913. There, too, Marc met Walden’s former wife, the poet Else Lasker-Schüler. This relationship produced Marc’s Postcards to Prince Jussuf. The originals of these twenty-eight small paintings, all featuring animals, sent by Marc to Lasker-Schüler between 1912 and 1914, are now divided between the Bavarian state collections and the Nationalgalerie in Berlin and are reproduced together in a book by Peter-Klaus Schuster, which tells in a preface much about this collaborative project.[9]

The Symbolists at the end of the 19th Century had been concerned with “the Spiritual.” In France this had involved some of them with the Rosicrucian revival of the 1890s, and the Symbolist heritage left a strong imprint on Munich painters and writers, among them the criminally undertranslated poet Stefan George. They were interested in the new spiritualist movements, especially Theosophy, whose apostle Rudolf Steiner was read by Kandinsky. The Russians in Munich brought with them their own tradition of mystical speculation.[10]


[1] Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc, The Blaue Reiter Almanac, 104.

[2] “Painters, Patronage and the Art Market in Germany, 1880-1914,” Past and Present, No. 123, May 1989.

[3] Peter Paret, The Berlin Secession: Modernism and Its Enemies in Imperial Germany, (Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1980) 269.

[4] Maria Martha Makela, The Munich Secession: Art and Artists in Turn-of-the-Century Munich, (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1990).

[5] Carl Schorske, Fin-de-Siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture (Knopf, 1980), 200-209.

[6] For a valuable detailed account of the economic situation of Munich artists, see Robin Lenman, “A Community in Transition: Painters in Munich 1886–1924,” in Central European History Vol. 10, March 1983. See also his “Politics and Culture: The State and the Avant-Grade in Munich, 1886–1914” in Richard Evans, ed., Society and Politics in Wilhelmine Germany (Barnes and Noble, 1978).

[7] The monograph by Annelies Krekel-Aalberse, Art Nouveau and Art Deco Silver (1989), illustrates the tension in trends, and also shows, in such objects as a silver caviar dish or a tea caddy set with amethysts, the class for whom artisans were working.

[8] Seth Taylor, Left-Wing Nietzscheans: The Politics of German Expressionism 1910–1920 (Walter de Gruyter, 1990).

[9] Peter-Klaus Schuster, Franz Marc, and Else Lasker-Schüler, Franz Marc, postcards to Prince Jussuf, (Munich: Prestel, 1988).

[10] For a discussion of these see Rose-Carol Washton Long, Kandinsky: The Development of an Abstract Style (Oxford University Press,1980), especially Chapter 2.