Marie Luise Syring now Head of the German section of AICA
She is the first woman to occupy the chair of the German AICA.
For the first time in the more than sixty-year history of the German section of AICA, a woman has been appointed to its chair. On 25 January 2013, at the postponed 2012 Annual General Meeting in Düsseldorf, Marie Luise Syring was unanimously elected to that office. The Düsseldorf-based art critic and retired museum curator succeeds Berlin critic Thomas Wulffen, who retired for personal reasons from the office he had held for just under five years.
Ms Syring brings a wealth of apposite experience to her new assignment. From 2001 to 2010 she was General Secretary of the German AICA under the successive chairmanship of Vitt and Wulffen, and from 2008 to 2010 also held the post of General Secretary of the international AICA in Paris.
Born in Paderborn, Marie Luise Syring studied librarianship at Cologne, and later, in Paris, art history and philosophy of science. In the French capital, she was a freelance art critic from 1976 on and was accepted into the French section of AICA; on her return to Germany, she transferred to the German AICA. From 1985 to 1997, she was a curator at the Kunsthalle in Düsseldorf, and its director from 1998 to 2001. She then headed the Cultural Development Department at Düsseldorf’s Museum Kunstpalast (2001-6). Her publications include Marcelle Cahn (1983), Kunst in Frankreich seit 1966. Zerborstene Sprache, zersprengte Form (1986), Um 1968. Konkrete Utopien in Kunst und Gesellschaft/Around 1968: Concrete Utopias (1990) and Im Irrgarten der Kunstkritik – Eine französische Debatte in den 1990er Jahren (2012).
The AICA general meeting at Düsseldorf also filled the vacant post of General Secretary again. This went to the previous vice-chairman, Ludwig Seyfarth; his post as deputy was taken on by Danièle Perrier, for many years the director (now retired) of the Künstlerhaus Schloss Balmoral at Bad Ems. Berlin-based critic Bernhard Schulz continues in his role as vice-chairman.
Cologne, January 2013
Karl Ruhrberg, In memoriam / by Horst Richter
Karl Ruhrberg was a personality of a special kind. He was a mover on the German art scene from the early 1960s and was highly visible and highly present there – acting as museum man and exhibition maker, as art critic and organizer of national and international projects. He threw himself into the task at hand with great verve and came up with solutions that bore his unmistakable signature.
Yet, the range of his gifts extended well beyond the domain of the visual arts. Ruhrberg was fascinated by the theatre. Besides art history, he had also studied dramatics and German language and literature in Cologne and had filled the post of chief dramatic advisor at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein before advancing in 1965 to become founding director of the Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf. Even before that, though, he had been unable to resist other enticements, above all those of sport. In addition to amateur boxing, it was football that had given him his early qualifications as sports reporter before he switched to the “Düsseldorfer Nachrichten“ as features editor from 1956 to 1962.
In 1972, Wuppertal-born Ruhrberg received a call from Berlin, where for over six years he headed the artists programme at the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). As he himself felt, these were “perhaps the finest“ years of his professional life, since he was able “not only to make exhibitions with artists, but also to live with them, bring them together and develop concepts with them“. In 1978, he returned to the Rhineland and played a decisive role in building up the Cologne Museum Ludwig, which had been founded two years previously. The initial success gave way to demarcation and administrative problems that eventually prompted him to terminate his director’s contract in 1984. For three more years, he still worked as artistic advisor to the City of Cologne before finally gaining his “working freedom” and committing himself entirely to his own programme as exhibition maker and juror, but also as advisor and, above all, as author of several substantial art books.
In numerous essays penned in response to specific current events, Ruhrberg submitted his comments on the art scene and on culture policy and, in doing so, defended the ”right to exist for the freedom of the arts“, as Eberhard Roters put it on the occasion of Ruhrberg’s 70th birthday in a handsome tribute that appeared in 1994, not by chance under the title ”Der streitbare Liebhaber – Kunst gesehen durch ein Temperament“ (The combative enthusiast – art viewed though a temperament). In this, Ruhrberg himself noted: “In art, too, many feel that calm is the first civic duty. The opposite is the case: unrest is the first artistic duty.“
“Charlie“, as he was known to friends and colleagues, was a frank person. He thought and spoke in uncoded mode, was direct in expressing his views, also or particularly when he had to reckon with protest. He had talents in many areas of life, and he tried them out and used them. He had a special gift for absorbing new facts and findings, which he competently examined and incorporated into the further development of his ideas. The impact of his arguments was due both to his powers of persuasion and to his physical presence, which it was utterly impossible to ignore or circumvent.
Among his chief book publications were monographs on Werner Gilles (1961), Bernard Schultze (1984), Emil Schumacher (1987), Georg Meistermann (1991), Alfred Schmela (1996) and Hundertwasser (1998) as well as representational general surveys like “Der Schlüssel zur Malerei von heute“ (The key to the painting of today, 1965), ”Kunst im 20. Jahrhundert im Museum Ludwig“ (Art of the 20th century in Museum Ludwig, 1986), “Die Malerei unseres Jahrhunderts“ (Painting in our century, 1987, ²1997), “Die Malerei in Europa und Amerika“ (Painting in Europe and America, 1992) and ”Die Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts“ (Art of the 20th century), volume 1 (1998).
Ruhrberg was an activist, not least on behalf of the AICA. From 1970 to 1975, he was President of the German Section. In these years, he devoted his efforts to a radical reorganization of the association, which finally led to his selection as honorary member. On 5 April 2006, Karl Ruhrberg passed away in his 82nd year in Oberstdorf, home of his loving wife Elfriede.
Cologne, April 2006
Kurt Leonhard, In Memoriam / by Walter Vitt
The German AICA mourns the death of longtime member Kurt Leonhard.
The critic, poet and translator passed away on 10 October at the age of 95 in his adopted home of Esslingen. In the end, Kurt Leonhard withdrew completely – exactly as he described in the last twelve lines of his 1951 poem “Absage” (“Refusal”): “...keine Hast mehr / kein Hort mehr / keine List mehr / keine Last mehr / keine Lust mehr / kein Feind mehr / kein Freund mehr / kein Gast mehr / kein Wirt mehr / kein Wert mehr / kein Wort mehr / AMEN.” (“…no more haste / no more hoard / no more cunning / no more burden / no more desire / no more enemy / no more friend / no more guest / no more host / no more worth / no more word / AMEN.”)
In 1997 he left AICA his wonderfully handwritten aphorisms on the topic “Ist Kunst mehr als ‘Kunst’?” (“Is Art More than ‘Art’?”), composed in 1994. I printed a facsimile of these “thought experiments” as he called them, in an appendix to Heinrich Hahne’s essay “Sprache und Kunstkritik” (“Language and Art Criticism”), (volume 5 of “Schriften zur Kunstkritik” (“Essays on Art Criticism”), Cologne 1997, pp. 33-40).
Born in Berlin on 5 February 1910, he studied art history and philosophy there, but discontinued his studies in 1936 because his doctoral thesis on Marées, Hildebrand and Fiedler was “politically undesirable” (Leonhard). He worked in Berlin as an art dealer and editor for a publishing company before having to go to war in 1941. In 1946 he returned to Germany from an American POW camp in Italy, making his home in Esslingen am Neckar, where he became co-founder and the first managing director of the adult education center.
Leonhard began writing about modern art in 1947. He described his texts as “engaged in the mediation of modern and contemporary art.” In 1947 the collected essays appeared as the book “Die heilige Fläche” (“The Holy Surface”), considered today as much a cult favorite as his 1955 “Augenschein und Inbegriff” (“Appearance and Epitome”). His lyric poetry is, without a doubt, motivated by Dada. For me, many of his poems belong in the fixed inventory of 20th century poetic arts. Axel Marquardt included four examples from Leonhard’s lyric production in his 1992 anthology “100 Jahre Lyrik – Deutsche Gedichte aus zehn Jahrzehnten” (“100 Years of Lyric Poetry – Ten Decades of German Poems”), and rightly so. Leonhard’s verses stand for the “rift in consciousness” (Marquardt) which separates the inhuman 20th century from all of its predecessors. His position as representative of a “critical modernity,” which as such would be unthinkable without Nietzsche, is also clear when one looks at the authors Leonhard dealt with as translator: Paul Valéry, Henri Michaux, E.M. Cioran, Romain Rolland.
The fact that his family used one of his own poems to bid Leonhard farewell in his obituary illustrates the full respect afforded his poetry in the private sphere as well. The verses should also be read here: “Ich liege / Völlig entspannt / Will nichts / Weiß nichts / Denke nichts. / Ich bin alles / Alles ist nichts.” (“I lie / Completely relaxed / Want nothing / Know nothing / Think nothing. / I am all / All is nothing.”)
Cologne, Oktober 2005
German AICA Pioneer / Hanns Theodor Flemming, In Memoriam
No other German art critic was active in his field for so long: his first critiques appeared in 1945, and in May 2005 “Weltkunst” published his obituary of Bernard Schultze.
Barely thirty years old, he returned from the war and captivity in England and immediately got involved “in the service of the interpretation and promotion of contemporary fine art” (H. Th. F. 1952) with programs on Nordwestdeutschen Rundfunk (NWDR) radio, and with newspaper articles. He wrote for “Die Welt,” “Die Neue Zeitung,” “Tagesspiegel,” “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” and for magazines, particularly “Das Kunstwerk“. He reviewed exhibitions in Hamburg, Hanover and Berlin, and interpreted the work of those artists whose talent he was the first to recognize. That was Bernard Schultze in 1947, Paul Wunderlich in 1955, Horst Janssen in 1957. But let us not forget, contemporary art of this time also included Picasso, Matisse and Chagall, artists whom he visited in 1951 in Vallauris, Nice and Vence. In 1947 he already visited Beckmann in Amsterdam, and reported on this along with his studio visits with Nolde, Kokoschka, Dali and many others. His conversations with Max Ernst, Duchamp, Miró, Hockney and Warhol appeared mostly in “Die Welt.”
At the same time he completed his art history degree, writing his dissertation on the painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 – 1882). This at a time when the pre-Raphaelites earned nothing but contempt. Even as assistant professor, and later professor for art history in the School of Design at Hamburg’s Technical University (1959 – 1981), he continued to be active as a amazingly productive newspaper critic. His published books include monographs on Mataré, Moore, Heiliger, Seitz and Hausner. In his articles “Figur und Raum in der Plastik der Gegenwart” (“Figure and Space in Contemporary Sculpture”) in 1964, and “Gedanken zum Beurteilen von Kunstwerken” (“Thoughts on the Assessment of Artworks”) in 1966, Flemming developed a structural analysis of artistic creation and “a kind of theory of relativity of art criticism,” as he called it, the “aesthetic relevance” becoming its criteria.
Flemming was highly active in the International Association of Art Critics (AICA) for a long time. In 1951 when a committee formed to establish the German section, including Bruno E. Werner, Franz Roh, Will Grohmann and Carl Linfert, he and Werner Haftmann represented the young generation. At the 1952 AICA congress in Switzerland, two Germans were accepted as “membres sociétaires”: Roh and Flemming, the president and the secretary of the German section. In this way Flemming played the decisive role, next to Roh, in the exchange of ideas amongst German critics, soon to include Hans Hildebrandt, Benno Reifenberg, Hans Maria Wingler and Leopold Zahn. In 1958 he became vice-president. In those first years, no one participated in as many congresses as he did, and each time he wrote about them, thereby informing newspaper readers about the situation of international art criticism.*)
Flemming took his work as an art critic very seriously. In nearly 60 years, he published several thousand critiques. In 2001, when the Hamburger Kunsthalle put out the catalog book “Private Schätze. Über das Sammeln von Kunst in Hamburg bis 1933” (“Private Treasures. Collecting Art in Hamburg Until 1933“), he wrote a piece on his father, consul Max Leon Flemming, and his important collection of modern art which included works by Picasso, Chagall and Kandinsky. In his advanced age, he remembered the man whom he had to thank for his love of art.
Hanns Theodor Flemming passed away on 5 August in his home in Reinbek bei Hamburg. He left his immense literary estate to the Archive for Visual Art in the German National Museum in Nuremberg.
Hamburg, July 2005
HELMUT R. LEPPIEN
A Great Inciter/ On the Death of Art Historian Lothar Romain
An exceptional art historian has left us. On 14 July, Lothar Romain died in Berlin. He had been president of the University of the Arts there since 1996. He achieved great things in those years, but even before, he never shied from being part of a committee, nor from cultural policy or cultural administration. He always understood social integration and artistic autonomy as the poles between which his career biography was spanned. He was an AICA member for a quarter century.
Born in 1944, Romain studied art history, German, theater and philosophy in Cologne. As an editor at Südwestfunk radio, he got to know the practical side of cultural mediation. Subsequently, he served as consultant for the SPD party leadership in the “barracks,” after which he was features editor at the magazine “Vorwärts.” Beginning in 1991, Romain taught at the Art Academy in Munich. As president of the Berlin University of the Arts, he was later elected as the spokesman for all German art academies.
The list of his functions and honors is lengthy, but dates and positions create an insufficient picture, especially of this art historian. For three decades, Romain stood, without any actionism, as one of the great inciters, advisors, and provocateurs on the behalf of art. Twice, he was my most important dialog partner on the way to Documenta 6 and 8. Time and again during the 30 years in which we were friends, his bold, enterprising spirit for change took aim at projects which set precedents. In the 1970s he and Rolf Wedewer invented the socially-focused, analytical, thematic exhibition. As curator, he oversaw the first retrospective of “Positionen” (“Positions”) of West German painting in the then-GDR (1986), as well as the collected German outdoor sculpture “Bis Jetzt” (“Until Now”) in Hanover (1990). What didn’t he initiate, organize, and see through with his level-headed energy! The sorely missed publication “Orte – Kunst für öffentliche Räume” (“Places – Art for Public Spaces”) was also his brainchild. He brought other magazines into play ahead of their time or under poor conditions.
Romain therefore experienced even greater satisfaction with his boldest, most ambitious journalistic idea, realized jointly with Detlef
Bluemler in 1988 and which both have developed successfully. Under the title “Künstler. Kritisches Lexikon der Gegenwartskunst” (“Artists. A Critical Encyclopedia of Contemporary Art“), it continues to exist and is thriving in its 17th year of publication. It has grown to over 500 volumes: a unique, forward-thinking encyclopedic compendium. A number of art awards can also be attributed to Lothar Romain’s gentle power of persuasion. Enough to fulfill an art historian’s life on their own! In addition, he wrote ca. 30 books, including important monographs on Warhol, Heiliger and Bernard Schultze, as well as countless catalog essays and other articles on contemporary art. His contemplative style reflects the genre’s views, and gives lasting clarity to its reflections. For many young artists, he was the first author or opening speaker to give their self-image a firm basis. Altogether, this was much more than simply a prelude to the presidency of the University of the Arts which, in its current form, is Romain’s final great contribution to a new foundation. The overextended, barely operable institute has him to thank for its modernization and viability, especially the streamlining of the eleven departments into four faculties. Many will miss him. Not only the president, but also the good friend.
Cologne, June 2005
His Friends Call him Charly / Karl Ruhrberg on his 80th Birthday
The German section of AICA has selected Karl Ruhrberg, who turned eighty on 9 November, as an honorary member. In doing so, the chapter pays homage to a critic, art publicist and museum man whose commitment to art and artists for more than a half-century has been extraordinary. He was president of the German AICA from 1970 to 1975.
After the Second World War, Ruhrberg was a leading light who, in word and deed, authoritatively supported the ambitious Rhein art scene that was breaking new ground in Germany during the 1960’s and 70’s. A dramatic advisor, amateur boxer and football fan, among other things, his temperament and interests predestined him to become a full-blooded critic. Pugnacious but intermediary, practical and yet not without farsightedness, and assertive to the limits of feasibility, as founding director of the Düsseldorf Kunsthalle he set the course for an exhibition policy which proved itself exemplary far beyond Düsseldorf. In the 1970’s, he brought new momentum to the German Academic Exchange Service’s Berlin artist program. He was later appointed founding director of the new Museum Ludwig in Cologne, in order to give impetus to its “Westkunst” exhibition.
Aside from his institutional duties, Karl Ruhrberg made a name for himself as author of several standard references and numerous essays on 20th century art. He continues to be a sought after advisor and source of inspiration, who doesn’t hesitate to go to the barricades when he believes that the art world’s freedoms for which he fought are threatened. His friends call him “Charly“. We offer him our heartfelt congratulations.
AICA President Walter Vitt Re-elected / Peter Herbstreuth New to Committee
At the assembly of AICA members in Cologne on 27 October, Cologne art critic Walter Vitt (68), head of the art critics’ association for the past 15 years, was unanimously re-elected for three more years as president of the German section of AICA.
Also re-elected were secretary general Marie Luise Syring (60) from Düsseldorf and vice-president Klaus Honnef (65) from Bonn. Potsdam critic Andreas Hüneke (60) retired after nine years as a committee member, and Berlin critic Peter Herbstreuth (45) took his place as additional vice-president. Herbstreuth, born in 1959 in Dortmund, was accepted into the German AICA in 2000. He writes for the Berlin “Tagesspiegel”, the “Kunst-Bulletin” in Zürich, and “Flash-Art” in Milan, among other publications. The German chapter selected former presidents Karl Ruhrberg (Oberstdorf) and Horst Richter (Cologne) as honorary AICA members. Ruhrberg will be 80 years old this year, Richter is 78.
Walter Vitt recognized Hüneke’s actions within the committee as part of the long-standing effort to achieve a unified German AICA. This process is now concluded within the critics’ association, but certainly not yet in society as a whole, Vitt said. The former and current AICA president reiterated that he, too, would have liked to have put his committee work in other, younger, hands this year. However, despite months of effort he was unable to find anyone within the association who wanted to vie for his position. The change of personnel in this office is deemed necessary not only because he gradually finds himself too old for the work, but also because bringing a new generation into the committee is necessary with regards to content. The ideas of younger colleagues must be brought in, in order to revitalize AICA’s work. Vitt announced that, were a suitable successor to appear, he would not hesitate to resign before his 3 year term is over.
Walter Vitt has belonged to the German section of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA) since 1978. From 1986 to 1989 he was secretary of the German AICA. Since 1989, he has served as president of the German AICA, which developed into an AICA association representing all of Germany after unification. In 1993, Vitt founded the “Schriften zur Kunstkritik” (“Writings on Art Criticism”). To date, 14 volumes have been published in this “library of art criticism.” Vitt received prominence in part due to his books on Dada artist Johannes Theodor Baargeld and pioneering constructivist painter Walter Dexel.
Federal Cross of Merit for Gisela Burkamp
Germany’s President has awarded art critic Gisela Burkamp with the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.
She was honored for her unsalaried position as curator of the art society in Oerlinghausen (district of Lippe, North Rhine-Westphalia). Gisela Burkamp has overseen the institute for 25 years as its artistic director. The District Administrator of Lippe, Heuwinkel, presented the AICA member with the award on 22 June in Detmold. Since 1979, Burkamp has organized more than 150 exhibitions in the former synagogue in Oerlinghausen. Part of her concept is presenting Jewish traditions and history. A main focus of her exhibition work is formed by her interest in the subject of the persecution of Jewish fellow-citizens during the Nazi dictatorship in Germany.
Gisela Burkamp is one of the founders of the Copernicus Circle which, since 1982, has been committed to the social support and the residence of Polish students, scientists and artists in Germany. Together with her husband, she has curated numerous exhibitions by Polish artists in Germany and abroad. In 1998, the Burkamps were awarded the Polish Cavalier's Cross, Order of Polonia Restituta, in acknowledgement of their contributions to the strengthening of the German-Polish cultural exchange.
Cologne, June 2004
Marie Hüllenkremer Dies
The German AICA is mourning the loss of Marie Hüllenkremer, a member since 1987. The head of Cologne’s Department of Culture died in Cologne on 16th May, aged 61, after a long and painful illness, of cancer.
The city of Cologne has launched an electronic condolences book at www.stadt-koeln.de/kondolenz. Mayor Schramma (CDU) paid tribute to the prominent politician in the field of culture policy, describing her as a personality characterized by an insatiable curiosity and a capacity for enthusiasm.
Marie Hüllenkremer was born in Eupen on 14th March 1943 and began her career in journalism, working for the Aachener Nachrichten in the mid 1960’s. There she was responsible for cultural matters from 1970 to 1978, succeeding Klaus Honnef in the post. Further stage posts of her career were spent as a culture and art critic at the Hamburg-based art magazine ART, for which she reported from New York, as culture editor of the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger and the „Zeit“ magazine. She returned to the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger as acting editor-in-chief in 1992.
The Social Democrats won the independent journalist over in 1998 for the important task of heading Cologne’s Department of Culture – on the threshold of the city’s as yet not fully recognizable financial crisis. Among her most important personnel decisions were the appointments of Kasper König as director of the Museum Ludwig and Albin Hänseroth as head of the Philharmonic. Her plan to get Barbara Mundel for the Cologne Opera, foundered on the objection of the mayor, who in the end also overruled her in other crucial decisions.
Marie Hüllenkrener liked to be characterized as „down-to-earth“ and as a „strong woman“, but at the same time she was extremely sensitive. Above all, she had style. Her talent in bringing people together and her open nature meant that meetings with her were invariably profitable. Right to the end she concealed many of her major worries, concerning her public office and those relating to her illness, beneath a generally optimistic disposition.
We will treasure Marie Hüllenkremer’s memory.
Cologne, May 2004