Recognized German art collector dies – ARTnews.com

Erich Marx, a well-known art collector and patron whose decision in the 1990s to donate most of his prestigious contemporary art collection to the German state transformed the public exhibition of contemporary art in the country, died on Wednesday, September 9, at the age of 99. The news was announced by the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, which manages Berlin’s art museums, and was first reported by the Art journal.

Marx, who was named on the ARTnews The list of the top 200 collectors each year between 1990 (when it was launched) and 1996, may be best known for its decision to give the Nationalgalerie (also known as the Berlin State Museums) much of its collection’s work. post-war key art, centered on the work of Joseph Beuys, Anselm Kiefer, Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly and Andy Warhol, which Marx collected in depth.

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When Marx donated the works to the Nationalgalerie, the institution, which runs several art museums in the capital, needed a place to exhibit them. Then came the idea of ​​transforming the Hamburger Bahnhof building into an art museum.

The neoclassical building opened in 1846 as a station for the line between Berlin and Hamburg, but finally closed in 1884. Over the following years, the building served a variety of purposes, including as a museum of transport at one point, until it was transferred to the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation in the late 1980s.

After a building renovation overseen by Josef Paul Kleihues, the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart opened in 1996 with the ambitions of a museum for daring contemporary art in a recently reunited Germany. Among the emblematic works that Marx entrusted to him was that of Rauschenberg pink door (1954), Warhol Double elvis (1963) and Mao (1973), and that of Beuys Straßenbahnhaltestelle (tram stop), from 1976.

Marx also collected works from other major contemporary figures from the 1960s including Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Roy Lichtenstein, Cindy Sherman, Sandro Chia, Georg Baselitz, Günther Förg, Keith Haring, Jeff Koons and Matthew Barney, as well than other recent pieces by Thomas Struth, Andreas Gursky, Rachel Whiteread and Ugo Rondinone.

Among the most important works in Marx’s collection is a more recent addition, the Beuys installation in 1980 Das Kapital Raum 1970-1977 (The Capital Room 1970-1977), which includes, among other things, 50 blackboards covered with text, an ax resting on a piano, a ladder, a microphone and film projectors.

“I took it as a general statement made by Beuys,” Marx said of the work in an interview with Udo Kittelmann, who was then the director of the Nationalgalerie, which was published by the English-language publication. DW. “He brings together everything he has created in a single work. It is what it is.

Kittelmann then said: “It expresses the idea that ‘real capital’ is human creativity. “To which Marx replied:” Yes. It’s exactly that. If you don’t understand this sentence, you don’t understand Beuys and you will never understand him.

Marx donated this work, which was exhibited for the first time at the Venice Biennale in 1980 and is currently installed in the Hamburger Bahnhof, at the Nationalgalerie in 2015 as a permanent loan. he had bought Das Kapital Raum the previous year for an undisclosed prize (several millions, according to Marx) from a Swiss museum, the Hallen für Neue Kunst, where he had resided since 1984 and where Beuys himself had reconstructed the piece. (The Hallen für Neue Kunst was forced to close its doors after a legal battle involving Beuys’ piece and its owners.)

Erich Marx.  A man in a suit jacket with gray hair stands in a museum gallery decorated with Warhols.

Erich Marx.
AP Photo / Jan Bauer

Speaking more broadly about Beuys’ contribution to the art that informed his own great, Marx added: “I have always seen in Beuys something out of the ordinary when it comes to appreciating art. You have to be open-minded about it to realize that it is something entirely new that you have never experienced. That is, the fact that you have art that is portrayed in this way.

Erich Marx was born in 1921 in a village in the south of the Baden region, in western Germany. He studied law after WWII and worked as legal counsel for Berda Verlag, the German publishing house which was co-run by another notable art collector, Frieder Burda, who died last year.

Marx quickly quit law and started his own real estate and property development company in 1967, which focused on building hotels and, later, clinics and rehabilitation centers. Through this business, he amassed a fortune which eventually enabled him to purchase art. He went on to build one of the largest collections of post-war and contemporary art in the world.

Marx’s dedication to collecting art was unwavering. As he once said, according to RBB 24, “The deciding factor is the curiosity you have. Either it jumps out at you, or you get curious and say, I’d like to know what’s behind it.

After Marx donated his collection to the Nationalgalerie, the Hamburger Bahnhof reoriented its exhibitions in such a way that Marx’s collections were subsequently augmented by other notable donations from prominent collectors. This allowed museum curators to rotate works in Marx’s collection, much to the collector’s dismay.

This experience will eventually lead him to be the driving force behind the development of another museum in Berlin, the Museum of the 20th Century, which is currently under construction. When it opens, part of the Marx collection will also be on display and the focus will be on 20th century art, as opposed to emerging art.

It is his experience of Marx’s first art acquisition, however, that perhaps best sums up his dedication to collecting art. While on vacation on the German island of Sylt, he bought five works by graphic designer Friedrich Meckseper. “I would say it was actually no coincidence that I discovered a gallery while walking,” said Marx. “Did I go to this gallery to see what’s new?” I just saw that art survived after the war and came back to life.

Norma D. Ross