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Stadel Museum opens exhibition of new acquisitions for the collection of graphic arts
Installation view of the exhibition. Photo: Norbert Miguletz.

FRANKFURT.- A museum’s collection lives and thrives on the basis of carefully chosen acquisitions and donations that permanently augment the existing holdings and enhance the collection’s quality. With its exhibition “Give me five!” which will run from March 6 through June 23, 2013, Frankfurt’s Städel Museum is offering an impressive survey of some 100 major new additions to the Graphische Sammlung (Prints Collection) made in recent years. The works brought together in the Graphische Sammlung includes artists ranging from Adam Elsheimer through Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo to Louis Soutter, from Max Beckmann through Alfred Hrdlicka and Jim Dine to David Hockney, Anish Kapoor and Antony Gormley. The Städel Museum’s Graphische Sammlung comprises a total of more than 100,000 works of art in the form of drawings and prints, pieces dating from as long ago as the Middle Ages or as recent as the present. Many of the Collection’s patrons have made generous donations and endowments to this exciting miscellany and the growth it has seen is truly gratifying. These fragile works of art on paper are presented to visitors in changing exhibitions in ever new combinations.

“Every successful acquisition gives us a very special reason to be glad! The upbeat note of a gesture such as ‘Give me five!’ is thus the ideal motto for this exhibition,” exclaims Dr. Jutta Schütt, who is both the curator of the exhibition and the person in charge of the Graphische Sammlung, which houses prints and drawings from 1750 onwards.

“Graphische Sammlung’s current exhibition is an expressive demonstration of the lively nature of our museum’s activities,” emphasizes Städel Director Max Hollein. “Thanks to the Städel Museum Association and with the assistance of both public and private endowments, as well as gifts from private individuals, artists and dealers, over the past seven years, we have been able to realize a large number of our wishes and acquire numerous new pieces. Many of the latter now form part of the exhibition,” Hollein continues.

For this temporary presentation, a selection of considerably more than 100 positions was made from those works on paper that have either been purchased or donated. Although the exhibits chosen are especially diverse, they are not simply strung together but instead on display are interesting groups and arrangements of works that bear affinities and follow on from one another.

To begin with, there are examples of recently acquired material teamed up with the existing items in the Collection. For instance, Goya’s mysterious pictorial world is confronted with that shown in a silkscreen by Hans Schabus, and the intaglios produced in 2008 by Mark Quinn with their intense colorfulness and artificial compositions are to be found next to a Dutch still life that is 300 years older. Without the need for words and drawing on the special qualities of the Collection, this juxtaposition can spawn thoughts that cut across the different epochs.

One of the exhibition’s focuses is on recent acquisitions in US graphic prints: silkscreens by Jackson Pollock, a lithograph by Robert Longo, a mezzotint engraving, “Starfield”, by Vija Celmins, large-format prints by Robert Motherwell, Frank Stella and John Baldessari. For decades now, donations from a foundation have allowed us to consistently expand this area of our collection. Accordingly, we have also been able to purchase a complete series of Sol Le Witt’s “Distorted Cubes”, five linocuts printed in a masterly fashion, on show here alongside examples of completely different approaches to the same printing technique: Philipp Hennevogl’s powerful “Gerüst”, O. W. Himmel’s “Plattenlabels”, Wolfgang Mattheuer’s “Jahrhundertschritt” alongside his printing plate and a test print of the status of a so-called “lost woodblock” “abducted” from the linocutter’s studio – a rare combination which takes on particular significance as a means of explaining and demonstrating in the museum context.

The collection’s scope in the field of newly acquired graphic reproductions ranges from the “Varie Figure Gobbi” by Jacques Callot and Rembrandt’s “Sleeping Dog” to the expanses of color created by Anish Kapoor, from woodcuts to silkscreens, it shows the photograph and its inclusion in works of graphic reproduction as well as innovative technical combinations. An example of a work something between printing and drawing is the “Empire Theatre”, dating from 2010, by British artist James Brooks, produced using a needle.

The exhibition’s recently acquired drawings cover a period from the 16th right up into the 21st century. Pen drawings by Adam Elsheimer and Camille Corot, crayon drawings by Claude Lorrain and by Rudolf Schlichter, works by Henri Michaux and Antony Gormley with their watercolor brushstrokes, the small drawings in a late work group, “Leitern” by Karl Bohrmann and the superb “Pulcinella” drawing by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, unrivaled in German museums. A drawing acquired back in 1939, “Das Innere einer Scheune” by Adolf Menzel, was restituted by the City of Frankfurt in 2011 and then repurchased to ensure that visitors to the Städel Museum could continue to enjoy it.

The critical stance adopted in the 1960s and 1970s can be seen in drawings by the Berlin-based realist Peter Sorge, as well as in the disturbing self-portraits by Eugen Schönebeck and Jürgen Klauke. There are other portraits by Max Beckmann and Johannes Grützke to be discovered, although it has to be said that there has been an inventory of graphic reproductions of global repute by the former at the Städel since the 1950s, whereas until now no work by the latter has graced the collection. The Städel Museum collection, that stretches from the Middle Ages right up to the present day, has been growing since it was first established in the early 19th century. Every new acquisition takes into account the museum’s collecting profile which is expanded and continued to include contemporary works. Because of the delicate nature of both drawings and prints, be they old or new, they are only ever exhibited on a temporary basis in all museum collections. For conservation purposes, they are stored in their own department, the Graphische Sammlung, researched into and communicated. The collection’s inventory remains directly accessible to visitors to the museum, firstly, in the form of exhibitions on varying themes and secondly through the “Studiensaal” a hall where all visitors have the opportunity to personally access every one of the some 100,000 drawings and graphic reproductions during regular opening hours (Wednesdays, Fridays 2 p.m. through 5 p.m., Thursdays 2 p.m. through 7 p.m.).

The last show featuring recently acquired drawings and graphic reproductions at the Städel took place in 2005 and was entitled “Wahlverwandtschaften. Neu in der Graphischen Sammlung” (Elective affinities. New acquisitions at Graphische Sammlung).

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