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Hans Hartung (1904-1989)

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One of the exhibitions i thought to be one of the very best during the time i was working at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, was one curated by Franz Kaiser on the abstract artist Hans Hartung . Just one word describes the exhibition….impressive.

It showed that the art Hartung created was not just random, but a well thought over creation of abstract art in which a small sketch was turned into a large painting.

Here is the text on the exhibition:

Hans Hartung (b. Dresden, 1904) was regarded as one of the founding fathers of French Lyric Abstractionism, the European counterpart of American Abstract Expressionism: a term in which the word Expressionism refers to an extremely physical and spontaneous manner of painting. The members of the movement wanted, as it were, to work out their emotions on the canvas without any form of symbolism.

Hartung’s paintings displayed a plain ground covered with rough and apparently spontaneous brushwork, with all the paint spatters and brush marks that go with that way of painting. After his death, therefore, people were astounded when the study of unfinished pictures revealed that his paintings had not in fact been created in a wild and spontaneous way, but by carefully filling in predetermined outlines based in every detail, right down to the smallest flecks of paint, on sketches prepared in advance. This exhibition, which the Gemeentemuseum is holding to mark the hundredth anniversary of Hartung’s birth, reveals an artist who would better be described as a conceptual artist, were it not for the fact that conceptual art did not exist as a movement when he produced his works. In this first Dutch retrospective of Hans Hartung’s work, early drawings are presented next to the equivalent paintings, and early versions alongside later versions. The similarities in terms of motif are astonishing.

More about Hans Hartung: www.fondationhartungbergman.fr

There are some nice publications on Hartung available at www.ftn-books.com

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Minimal Art at the Haags Gemeentemuseum

minimal gm a

 

It was in the early Eighties that i learned of the Minimal Art collection and history of the Haags Gemeentemuseum.

Crucial for the collection was the interest of almost all modern art curators in Minimal Art. Starting with Enno Develing who introduced the key artists of the Minimal Art scene for the first time in a large exhibition in 1968. Among them Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Carl Andre and of course Sol LeWitt. Many of them would receive solo prentations in the years to follow, but this first time was a breakthrough for Minimal Art. The catalogue is arare book nowadays and i am lucky to have a copy for sale at www.ftn-books.com

After this first exhibition many exhibitions would follow. Enno Develing, Flip Bool, Rudi Fuchs and Franz Kaiser all took an interest in Minimal Art and because of this interest , exhibitions with LeWitt, Andre and Judd were organized in the decades after this first  1968 Minimal Art exhibition. I doubt that none was as important as this very first one, because after this first one Minimal Art was established as an art form, but another aspect that makes this first ( Develing ) exhibition important is that the relationship between the Gemeentemuseum and these artist was not only an artistic one.  The museum and its curators became friends with practically all Minimal Art artists, resulting in an ever growing collection of Minimal Art.

There is a nice link to a tribute to Sol LeWitt to be found over here:

http://www.gem-online.nl/files/media/gem/2016/sol_lewitt._a_tribute/ebook_sollewitt_web.pdf

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Bob Bonies (1937)

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For me the only true “Hard edge” artist in the Netherlands is Bob Bonies, however Michiel Morel refers to the art of Bob Bonies as a rearrangement of FORMS AND COLORS.

I read his excellent article and it is unfortunate that it is only available in dutch, but for those who understand the language here is the link :

Bonies: Ordening van vorm en kleur (periode  1964 – 1968) (3)

As you can read in the article . Bonies stayed true to his art of rearranging , shifting and placing forms and colors in a new context and one of the earliest silkscreen that was published in a larger edition was the one he made for the Stedelijk Museum catalogue VORMEN VAN DE KLEUR

in which his contribution stands out together with the one Ellsworth Kelly made for the same publication. This Wim Crouwel designed publication is available at www.ftn-books.com

left Bonies and right Kelly

I have a lifetime admiration for Bob Bonies. He was one of the first artists i personally met at the Gemeentemuseum and a few years ago i bought a small collection of his publications from another bookdealer who had bought them from a Bonies collector and within one of the publications i found the birth card of his son Jiri. Even this card shows the quality of his works. The card is for sale too together with many other Bonies publications.

 

 

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Concrete art …some recent finds

I am always on the look out for these little , thin,  even small sized books which are published in very limited editions. And lucky i was….

Last Thursday i bought some small books by artist which are among my favorites. The books are all published in the Seventies and the Eighties and are outright RARE. Sure you can find still copies if you really search well but i will predict that within 10 years none of these can be found anymore. Two reasons….. the artists who contributed to these books/projects grow more important by the year and secondly….the edition size is small, yes very small, in most of the cases not more than 500 copies of which probably many will have become displaced, destroyed or lost.

Now is the time to pick up these books at www.ftn-books and expand your collection with these titles that will not be available in the years to come.

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David Tremlett at Coazzolo / Italy

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Last 10 days we spent in the beautiful Langhe e Roero area near Alba (Italy). There is not a great number of Modern Art to be found in the joining areas. There is of course Modern Art in Torino and Rivoli. But in and near Alba almost nothing. One exception. David Tremlett decorated a church at Coazzolo which is well worth visiting and Sol LeWitt decorated a chapel in the wine fields.

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Both are well worth a vist but none is that spectacular it is worth a detour still when in the neighborhood visit them because this is one of the most enchanting regions in Italy and well worth visiting even if there is hardly any modern art to be found. For some Tremlett publications visit www.ftn-books.com

tremlett cata a

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Kenneth Noland (1924-2010)

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I love color field painting and what i think interesting about the works by Kenneth Noland is that he applied the color theories of Josef Albers to his own art.

Noland developed a signature style based on simplified abstract forms, including targets, chevrons, and stripes. Noland’s paintings are characterized by strikingly minimalist compositions of shape and color. In this regard, Noland’s art has influenced a wide range of contemporary abstractionists who continue to experiment with highly simplified forms and pure saturated color. The beginning of Minimalism is not far away in these works.

Noland applied Josef Albers’s theory of “the interaction of colors” to his own compositions, which explore the relationships between contrasting or complementary colors; painted in thin yet opaque layers, each tone reveals its particular characteristic weight, density, and transparency.

In the late 1960s, Noland’s approach to Color Field Painting grew even more reductive, but no less bold. Having run through multiple permutations of both the target and chevron format for the time being, Noland switched to using rectangular canvases and horizontal lines in a new series he called Stripes (1967-70). In his Targets and Chevrons, the artist tended to juxtapose color bands of equal width and to impose some form of axial symmetry on the canvas, leaving portions of unprimed canvas blank in contrast to the color. None of these features occur in Noland’s Stripes. Instead, Noland began playing with scale, color, and form on new levels. He reduced his compositions to a basic formula: parallel horizontal lines of varying widths and colors, running along the entire width of the canvas.

An interesting artist of whom not many publications are available in Europe, still there are some available at www.ftn-books.com

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Ewerdt Hilgemann (1938)

 

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For me Hilgemann was one of the first Zero artists i learned to appreciate, but there is so  much more to Hilgemann as an artist. Here is an excellent article i found on Hilgemann  at the Borzo site / www.borzo.com

Borzo still sells his works and perhaps now is right the time  for Hilgemann.

A child of about six in the war, Ewerdt Hilgemann searches through the rubble of the bombed ruins of his hometown Dortmund for shrapnel. He finds them interesting, exciting too, these sharp-edged metal splinters.

Forty years later, and now an artist, Hilgemann works in the marble quarries of Carrara (1975-1985). A truck transports a perfectly sawn one and a half metre cube of marble that he has carefully polished, to the top and then with a thunderous crash sends it toppling off the steep mountainside. And a marble sphere of a similar size, polished to a perfect sheen, has explosives inserted and is then blown up.

Both conceptual ‘performances’ are recorded on film. The artist creates perfect forms, which are then deformed using forces of nature: a sort of reverse creative process.

Thirty years later, in the summer of 2014, Hilgemann exhibits his Magnum Opus. In response to an invitation from the City of New York he places a series of implosion sculptures on Park Avenue. ‘Dancers’, ‘Triples, ’Flowers’ and ‘Cubes’, six metres high, gleaming in the sun, the deformed surfaces of these Titans of steel distort and reflect the overwhelming architecture of the buildings on each side of Park Avenue.

From his earliest days in a devastated Dortmund to the Park Avenue manifestation in New York, Hilgemann has been consistent in his fascination and his art. In his own words: “To deform a perfect shape without me hammering on it”.

From the start the cube and the square are his best-loved shapes. Hilgemann studies and comes to understand these solid forms. He learns it at the Saarbrucken Art Academy under his tutor Oskar Holweck. (In 1958 Holweck had joined the Zero movement, founded that year by Mack and Piene). Here the young art student Hilgemann learns to respect material and form in their most elementary states. Plasticity is achieved through the effect of light on the surface and the – mathematic – interventions performed thereon by the artist.

In 1970 Hilgemann and his wife Antoinette settle in Gorinchem and here a close friendship develops with Ad Dekkers, Marinus Boezem and herman de vries. In these days Gorinchem is apparently a hotbed for avant-garde art. Irritated – provoked even – by a conservative artistic climate in this small town on the River Merwede, these artists discover common ground for their minimalistic and conceptual ideas.

Their haven at the time is Riekje Swart’s legendary Amsterdam gallery. Hilgemann exhibits his white objects oriented according to mathematical studies here from 1966.

In 1973 the four artist friends – and their partners! – take the initiative for a much discussed and now legendary symposium, whereby the town wants to be a centre for “examining the position of the visual arts in our society”. Fifteen European artists stay together in Gorinchem for six weeks. These include now famous artists such as Kenneth Martin, Morellet, Panamarenko, Pohl, Prantl and Winiarski. Exceptional works of art, lectures and performances fill the town. For Hilgemann ‘Gorinchem’ is an extraordinarily significant period in which his art reaches full maturity and he also establishes his international orientation.

Hilgemann produces his first sculpture created through implosion in 1984 for the exhibition “Beelden aan de Linge” by collector Piet Cleveringa from the neighbouring town of Acquoy. He moves to Amsterdam the same year and from that moment on this visual language of imploded constructions will always typify the art of the ‘air-smith’ Ewerdt Hilgemann.

m has some Hilgemann publications available.

 

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Blinky Palermo (1943-1977)

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Decades ahead of his time, the art of Blink Palermo has proven to be “classic”. The use of color and the forms he useed makes him stand out from his contemporary artists and in the decades after his death this art form developed into an art that i personally am a great fan of. Look at Piet Dirkx, Richter, Forg and many others who must be inspired by Blinky Palermo. His works are a combinaton of Constructivist and Minimal paintingsPalermo was born as Peter Schwarze, but took the name Blinky Palermo as an artist name at the time he studied with Joseph Beuys at the Dusseldorfer Kunstakademie. In 1973 he moved to New York where he stayed and worked until his death in 1977.

In the short time Blinky Palermo lived and worked as an artist he did not receive the recognition he deserved, but soon after his deat . Retrospective exhibition were being held and showed the importance of Palermo. Some of these publications are available at www.ftn-books.com

among these venues are Moma, Hirschhorn, Mocba, Lacma and Serpentine galeries. These are not the least venues to be presented as an artist and i predict that the works by Blinky Palermo prove to be highly original and groundbreaking in the years to come.

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Art prices… gallery versus auction

auke de vries gele labels

Today i added to my inventory a book by Auke de Vries for his Museum Wiesbaden exhibition from 1990. i knew the title and had sold copies before, but what made this one special is that on ca. 10 of the pages yellow post-it’s were fixed with gallery prices in guilders. I leafed through the book and was surprised to find the prices to be as steep as 50.000 guilders. It was not long ago that i attended 2 auctions where several small and larger sculptures by Auke de Vries were sold , fetching prices between euro 2500 and 4000 for a larger sculpture.

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I compared these with the 1990 gallery prices within the Wiesbaden catalogue and found that prices had devaluated with over 60% when compared with the actual auction prices including premium in 2017. Of course the gallery fees are  between 40 and 50%, but when you consider that money has devaluated too in these past two and a half decades the devaluation of Modern Art of a very good artist like Auke de Vries is over 80% compared with the original gallery price. Should i then still buy art?……YES! because you can have tremendous pleasure from it. You search for and find good art and enjoy it at home when you bought or rent it and yes… you support the artist with your buy, but if you ask me , should i buy art as an investment? my advise would be …be careful for the artist you select, because most of them will not be worth very much after a few decades.

But when you are patient, that means a period of 20+ years, you will discover that works by the artist you admire start to appear at auction and are much more affordable and even can be bought by most collectors for as little as a few hundred euro.  I can give you an example of a great Arie van Geest which recently was added to our collection for an extremely fair amount.

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You only learn of the auction records by artist like Warhol, Koons and Hirst, but you can ask yourself…are these works by these artists really that special or are they a marketing product… a true hype? if i did not know who the artist is and  did not know the value of a work …would i buy it ? In the case of Auke de Vries i personally would do so at the price level that i recently experienced at auction, but for the prices in the Wiesbaden catalogue i would “pass”. Art should not be bought as an investment and i dare say that the great collectors in the world never have bought art for its value, but because they admire the artist and his or her works and you should do the same, because there is still some great art to be found and bought at fair prices. www.ftn-blog.com and www.ftn-books.com have art for sale which is published in edition and is still affordable.