I’ve been slow in getting this material online (and there is much more to come). Editing and posting these pictures is proving to be a lot of work, but also, readily confessed, a lot of fun. The Berlin and Paris shots are from a trip to Europe taken in early October to attend the Ulysses Prize deliberations, in which “Continent” was a prize candidate.
A few days before my arrival in Berlin, a city I had never managed to visit before, a show of Friedrich Christian Flick’s collection opened at the Hamburger Bahnhoff Museum to great controversy. The collection was extraordinary, as is the story behind it, a few snippets of which are told below in excepts from a characteristically strong Michael Kimmelman essay in The New York Times, and a Peter Bild review, published in The Guardian. See the jump below for the text. The link to the gallery is here:
Click to see photos
History’s shadow is cast at Berlin show
Michael Kimmelman NYT
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
BERLIN When a deranged protester did some handsprings and trampled on two works by Gordon Matta-Clark in an exhibition here of Friedrich Christian Flick’s collection, she proved again that art, even the art of a dead American sculptor far removed from German history, does not exist in a vacuum. Can art cleanse a name tainted by a sordid past? …
Berlin is a cultural capital lacking cultural capital when it comes to modern and contemporary art, so the city has become anxious – even desperate, as the Flick loan illustrates – to gets its hands on some now. Through his agreement with the government, Flick is lending his collection of 2,500 works to the Hamburger Bahnhof, the railway station turned museum for new art, where it will appear in exhibitions that change every nine months or so. The first show includes about 400 works.
It has caused a spectacular ruckus. Flick, 60, is a grandson and heir of Friedrich Flick, a notorious Nazi industrialist who employed thousands of slave laborers in his weapons factories and who profited from Hitler’s Aryanization program, which seized businesses from Jewish owners. His conviction at the Nuremberg trials (he was sentenced to seven years but released after three) did not stop him from rebuilding his empire in West Germany to become the world’s fifth-richest man before he died in 1972.
Since the 1970s, the younger Flick, investing his inheritance and creating a fortune on his own, has amassed one of the most glittery collections of contemporary art in Europe. It is thought to be worth $300 million. A plan to construct a Rem Koolhaas-designed museum in Zurich to house the collection ran aground a few years ago in the face of protests there. Berlin stepped in.
Opponents claim the collection is tainted by association with the family’s history, that Flick is trying to whitewash his name – which he adamantly denies, adding that he is not his grandfather. He did not enhance his reputation by declining, unlike his brother and sister, to contribute a few years ago to a government fund for slave laborers and their families. He has since paid $5 million to set up a foundation in Potsdam to fight xenophobia and racism…
Flick, a blustery man, anxious to appear open, gave a tour of the collection before the opening, with his public relations adviser and a curator from the museum in tow. His taste is for the kinds of artists “who ask irritating questions.” He stopped to admire Duane Hanson’s bloody, hyperrealist “Motorcycle Accident” and Jeff Koons’s gilded ceramic sculpture of Michael Jackson. Two photographs by Jeff Wall, he volunteered, to him represent flip sides of American culture, despair and aspiration. He said he enjoyed Paul McCarthy’s “Saloon Theater” because it mocked such American icons as cowboys…
The art is exhaustingly laid out along fuzzy curatorial themes in sprawling white-box quarters that spill from the museum into a newly converted two-story annex three football fields long. There are rooms for Duchamp, Dieter Roth, Nam June Paik, Jason Rhoades, Wolfgang Tillmans, Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Pipilloti Rist and Thomas Struth (one of the few other artists in the collection besides Richter to criticize Flick in Die Zeit, in this case for not paying into the slave fund). The impression is of a collection busily acquired and buzz-driven. It is astonishingly long on cruel, cold, black-humored art. It includes much of what has made news in New York and at mega-shows around the world in recent years.
Will it stay here after seven years? Flick professes to enjoy his relationship with the Hamburger Bahnhof so far, and insists he has no intention of selling anything. He paid for the renovation of the annex to the museum (nearly $10 million) but not for the rest of the museum renovation (including a bridge to the annex), nor will he pay to maintain the exhibition now. The German taxpayers (Flick not being one) will cover the costs…
Copyright The New York Times 2004
Peter Bild in Berlin, Maev Kennedy and agencies
Wednesday September 22, 2004
An installation by Bruce Naumann at the Flick collection art exhibition
An installation by Bruce Naumann at the Flick collection art exhibition. Photo: AP / Jan Bauer
A spectacular exhibition of contemporary art, which opened in Berlin yesterday amid Jewish protests, drew accusations that its billionaire owner was exploiting art to redeem his family’s Nazi past.
Christian Friedrich Flick, who inherited part of his grandfather’s fortune, originally built on wartime slave labour in explosives factories, told journalists yesterday: “I neither want to whitewash the family name, nor can art or the collecting of art compensate for my grandfather’s war crimes – but please at least view these works of art separate from politics or my family’s history.”
Jewish protesters say the vast collection is founded on “blood money”.
The quality of the art is not in question: the opening exhibition at the Hamburger Bahnhof, a converted railway station seen as a key to regenerating a still rundown corner of the city, is only a fraction of the collection which will fill the gallery for the next seven years.
The bitter criticism of the Flick collection has spread to the city leaders and the German government – chancellor Gerhard Schröder formally opened the exhibition last night – for accepting Mr Flick’s offer to create the gallery, paying the costs of the building and lending his collection.
Yesterday Mr Flick, who mainly lives in Switzerland, said wryly that the exhibition fitted Berlin like a hand in a glove – “or like a fist in the eye”. Copyright The Guardian Unlimited 2004