Rare surrealist art collection goes on display in Berlin (Feature)
By Clive Freeman Jun 24, 2009, 2:08 GMT
Berlin - A publicity-shy German business couple have put on display one of Europe's most significant collections of surrealist and early American abstract expressionist art, assembled over a 45-year period.
The so-called 'Pietzsch Collection' of more than 300 paintings, sculptures and photos, is normally housed in a spacious villa in Berlin's tree-lined Grunewald district, purpose-built by Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch.
But 180 items from the collection have been moved to Berlin's New National Gallery where the exhibition 'Picture Dreams' opened to the public on June 19.
The display includes paintings and sculptures by Andre Breton, Salvador Dali, Paul Delvaux, Max Ernst, Rene Magritte, Joan Miro, Andre Masson and Yves Tanguy amongst others.
A core aspect of the show is work by American abstract expressionists, whose art movement rose directly from the roots of surrealism, to flourish in New York in the 1950s.
Artists including Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman - who have all become legends in their own rights - are represented, along with Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.
Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch say they first got the art collecting bug in the 1960s, when they started investing their gains from plastics and holding companies into a contemporary art collection now worth millions.
Initially, Heiner Pietzsch was drawn towards abstract expressionism, while his wife Ulla preferred the work of the Surrealists.
Then, in 1972 both were inspired by an encounter at Hanover's Sprengal Museum with German artist Max Ernst, then a pioneer of Surrealism and the Dada movement.
Ernst, who died in 1979, was not just a painter but also a sculptor, graphic artist and poet.
Pietzsch said he and his wife were enthralled by the artist's charm and decided to collect works which were 'still affordable from the Master and his circle.'
Ulla Pietzsch said Ernst was 'a simply splendid chap whose posture, charisma and eyes one never forgot,' during an interview on Berlin's local television network.
Fascinated by women's art, Ulla Pietzsch said she began building up a parallel collection to her husband's.
The Pietzsch collection at the New National Gallery includes work of the Surrealists from World War II, when many artists were living in exile in New York and other parts of the United States.
Visitors to the New National Gallery will also be able to view works by Hans Arp, Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder, Neo Rauch and Francis Bacon.
After World War II, Berlin suffered for years from a dearth of wealthy art entrepreneurs and collectors. But that has changed in the past 20 years.
One of the most prominent art collectors to return to Berlin was the late Heinz Bergruen, who opened a contemporary art museum opposite the city's Charlottenburg Palace in the early 1990s.
That was soon followed by Erich Marx's involvement with a modern art project at the city's Hamburger Bahnhof.
Today the city includes a Helmut Newton photography museum and a glittering modern art gallery run by wealthy businessman, Christian Boros, in a former war-time bunker.
Heiner Pietzsch, 79, was born in the east German city of Dresden, but has long been based in Berlin. The couple now hope to find a permanent home in the capital for their art treasures.
New National Gallery director Udo Kittelmann has already shown interest. 'We love the Pietzsch collection and the Berliners will also love it,' Kittelman said.
Only twice before has a part of the Pietzsch collection ever been on public showing.
The first occasion was in Dresden several years ago. This was followed by an exhibition in 2005, at the Peggy Guggenheim museum in Venice, where 43 works were put on show, including rare works by Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman from the mid-1940s.
The exhibition at Berlin's New National Gallery runs until November 22.