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Pinakothek Der Moderne Presents Passion for Art
Maryan | O.T., 1964. © Nationalgalerie Berlin.

MUNICH, GERMANY.- Pinakothek Der Moderne presents Passion for Art - Otto van de Loo and his gallery
until April 3, 2005. The exhibition »Passion for Art – Otto van de Loo and his Gallery« is meant as a tribute to one of the most outstanding 20th century German personalities of the gallery and collecting scene. Almost 100 works will be displayed by abstract artists of the Informel, and, above all, artists from the groups Cobra and SPUR who propagated a vibrant, expressive and spontaneous visual language that went beyond common norms and traditions.

The concept of the gallery, which was opened by van de Loo in Munich in 1957, was firmly anchored in the present-day: an emotional Informel, the group Cobra with Asgar Jorn, the SPUR artists and numerous others all influenced the innovative image of this »pilot gallery«, a seal of approval that was awarded to the only German gallery with an exhibition in Lausanne in 1963.

Attacked by the local, conservative cultural-political scene and viewed with scepticism by Left circles as a »capitalistic dealer« the perception of the artistic quality of van de Loo's gallery work was too easily obscured. Two events were representative of this: the SPUR trials and the scandal concerning the group of "International Situationists," a merger of left-oriented intellectuals and artists based in Paris. Within the perimeters of these extremely differing controversies, the expectations and self-conception, as well as the outward influence of the Galerie van de Loo, can be well understood. Both events took place at a time in which the western European and most especially the West German art scene were still far from normal. Art was still able to polarize and inflame passions. The confiscation of the periodical SPUR in 1961 by the Munich vice squad, and soon after the "Baselitz case," hotly debated in Berlin, as well as other similar rows, all culminated in an obscenity charge. The reaction, however, in Munich was more hostile and lasting in its effect than elsewhere. SPUR artists were considered here to have "fouled their own nest," defending themselves against smug complacency and intolerance. At a time that was marked by prudery and double morals, as well as the chimera of unlimited growth, every injury against well-guarded norms was considered an intolerable sacrilege.

From today's standpoint, the turmoil may seem absurd, however the oppressively narrow-minded argumentation of the public prosecutors, the suspended sentence for the SPUR artists and the ban on exhibitions all had drastic consequences for the gallery. As well, attacks from the left-oriented "Situationists," with whom the Galerie van de Loo artists were in cooperation, overshot their mark: in this case too the subject was not art, but political positioning. The Left saw in van de Loo a capitalist dealer who relegated his artists to becoming "art manufacturers;" for Munich's cultural bureaucracy, however, he was quite the contrary – literally a "red rag." It was not the artistic potential, but the intellectual leaning to the left that was decisive – a perception with blinders that was, first and foremost, the cause of shortfalls and wrong decisions. After the only work by Asger Jorn in the State collection in Munich was augmented as late as 1990 through acquisitions from this social group, the course was already set in a different direction: in 1992 Otto van de Loo decided to give part of his collection to the Nationalgalerie in Berlin, followed by a further donation in 2000 to the Kunsthalle in Emden.

When one considers these collections, together with the numerically modest but revealing Munich group of works, it is their inner unity that fascinates. What joins Van de Loo's artists is the amorphousness of their visual language in which they sought new points of orientation, remote from a society that had become inflexible through too many standards. It was a matter of art as language – an idea to which Otto van de Loo was committed. In this regard, he was to remain uncompromising, combative, and the representative of that legendary pilot gallery, which went beyond the "mainstream," fully resting upon the unspent power of the works.

After the exhibitions of the Van de Loo Collection in Berlin's Nationalgalerie and the Kunsthalle in Emden, which presented, for the first time, both of the respective endowments to these two museums in their entirety, the Munich project will additionally turn the spotlight more strongly on the gallery's biography. In turn, this will give expression to the decisive conflicts of those years vis-à-vis cultural-political and general aesthetic inquiries.

A catalogue will accompany the exhibition: "Passion for Art – Otto van de Loo and his Gallery." 184 pages with original text material, a chronology, contemporary photographic material and introductory essays by Carla Schulz-Hoffmann and Nina Schleif. This documentation about an unusual art dealer and his artists makes very clear which upheavals were already being ushered in and how the personal involvement of a dealer with an idealistic commitment to the objectives of art is expressed.
Pinakothek-Dumont Verlag. Price: 18.90 euros.

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