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Germany divided: Baselitz and his generation - British Museum

Exhibition preview

GERMANY divided: Baselitz and his generation. From the Duerckheim Collection will be on display at the British Museum (Room 90) from February 6 to August 31, 2014.

Featuring over 90 extraordinary drawings and prints, this exhibition explores how six key post-war artists redefined art in Germany on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

Half the works on display are by Georg Baselitz (b. 1938), and 34 works in the exhibition, including 17 by Baselitz, have been generously donated to the British Museum by Count Christian Duerckheim. An additional loan of around 60 prints and drawings from the Duerckheim Collection make up the rest of this fascinating exhibition.

The exhibition forms part of a series of shows examing Germany in 2014. A display of medals will look at how Germany saw WW1 and an exhibition looking at key moments in the long history of Germany will open in October 2014.

The works come from one of the world’s finest collections of contemporary German and British art. Count Duerckheim has presented the Museum with key works by Georg Baselitz, Markus Lupertz, Blinky Palermo, AR Penck, Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter.

Count Duerckheim formed his collection of contemporary German art largely from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s. After he first came across the work of Baselitz in the early 1970s, he decided to form a collection that would represent, through key works, the dramatic history of his own times.

Count Duerckheim was born in Saxony, near Baselitz’ birthplace, and has always shared a strong bond with the artist which led him to forming one of the most significant collections of his early works in private hands.

Count Duerckheim said: “I am pleased to give this gift to the British Museum so that the important graphic art of 20th century Germany is reflected with its international collection. The exhibition and my collection is a story of change and movement, of life in progress. I have always felt this constant change and have gone with it, very much inspired by the artists I have collected. For me as a collector it is a great honour to show my collection and to be a donor to the British Museum.”

The gift includes a group of 11 drawings by Baselitz from 1960 to the late 1970s, together with prints from the same period. They cover the principal phases of his career from the Pandemonium drawings of the early 1960s, the development of his ironic ‘Heroes’ in the mid-1960s, and the subsequent fracturing of his motifs to the eventual inversion of the motif from the late 1960s.

Other works on display include Richter’s Pin-up and Installation drawings, the characteristic Ice Age-meets-cybernetics stick-figures of Penck, as well as sculptural drawings by Lüpertz and Palermo, and a drawing and sketchbook by Polke satirising the ‘economic miracle’ of post-war reconstruction in West Germany.

All the artists in this exhibition came originally from eastern Germany and migrated to the West, the majority before the borders were sealed in 1961. Some had trained in East Germany, but it was in the West that their careers were established. As a generation, they came out of the experience of growing up in the aftermath of a Germany defeated in the Second World War, and its subsequent partition in 1949.

Much of their work is informed by the sense of collective guilt experienced by the German people over its recent past, the country’s physical and psychological destruction, and the division of the country by two opposing ideologies – the democracies of the free West and the Communist system of the Soviet bloc.

Image caption: Ein neuer Type (‘A New Type’), 1965, Georg Baselitz (b.1938), grey and yellow ochre watercolour, charcoal, graphite and white pastel on paper. Presented to the British Museum by Count Christian Duerckheim. Reproduced by permission of the artist. © Georg Baselitz.

British Museum, Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DG


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