Cologne 07.–10.11.2024 #artcologne2024

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The Freedom of Abstraction

Classic modernism and postwar art have always held a special place at ART COLOGNE. The Swiss gallery Henze & Ketterer is one of their key mediators.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Three Nudes in the Forest (small version), 1933-1934, Oil on canvas. Courtesy Galerie Henze & Ketterer Wichtrach/Bern und Riehen/Basel

At ART COLOGNE, two exquisite small paintings by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938) capture the attention of visitors at the Henze & Ketterer Gallery stand. Titled “Nudes in the Forest,” these paintings, executed in 1933/34, showcase the new style that the renowned expressionist and co-founder of the Brücke artists group had developed from the mid-1920s. Markedly reduced in form and color, smoothly transitioning from figuration to abstraction, they bear witness to Kirchner’s formal proximity to the Abstraction-Création group founded in Paris just two years earlier. This group aimed for a painting style characterized by color fields and volumes.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner something like its patron saint

Galerie Henze & Ketterer has been dedicated to German Expressionism since 1946, with Ernst Ludwig Kirchner something like its patron saint. The gallery manages the estate and archive of this exceptional artist, and the spectacular museum dedicated to him in Davos would not exist without the generosity of gallery founder Roman Norbert Ketterer (1911-2002) and his wife Rosemarie.

Following the upheavals of World War II, Ketterer, previously managing a company selling special oils, founded the Stuttgart Art Cabinet. This institution aimed to raise awareness of expressionism, which had been defamed by the Nazis. Through auctions, Ketterer successfully placed significant works in museums and private collections (Heinrich von Thyssen, Bernhard Sprengel, Lothar Günther Buchheim).

The third generation, represented by Alexandra Henze, now continues the family business

The art work „Three bathers“ by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Three bathers, 1928, Oil on canvas. Courtesy Galerie Henze & Ketterer Wichtrach/Bern und Riehen/Basel

The gallery's commitment continued seamlessly into the next generation. Ketterer's daughter Ingeborg Henze-Ketterer and her husband, art historian Wolfgang Henze, maintained this legacy without interruption. In 1970, they established their art dealership in Campione d'Italia, focusing not only on expressionist prints but also on 1950s abstraction and emerging artists. The gallery later relocated to Wichtrach/Bern in Switzerland in 1993, opening a second branch in Riehen/Basel near the Fondation Beyeler.

The third generation, represented by Alexandra Henze, a Kirchner expert, now continues the family business. Galerie Henze & Ketterer has gained a high international academic reputation for its care of artists’ estates and archives, evident in numerous exhibitions, publications, certifications, and conferences.

Fritz Winter (1905-1976) is among the artists whose work is expertly handled by Henze & Ketterer. Born to a miner, he studied at the Bauhaus, exploring abstraction with Kandinsky, Klee, and Schlemmer before facing a ban on painting during the Nazi era and subsequent conscription. Following his return from Russian captivity as a prisoner of war, he swiftly became one of the leading abstract artists of the post-war period, earning international recognition.

This year, a work from his abstract beginnings, showcasing his considerable potential, will be on display at the Ketterer & Henze Gallery stand (C-119 in Hall 11.1) as part of the cabinet show curated by Wolfgang Henze, titled "World Art for Peace & Freedom."

The carefully curated exhibition spans from the Abstraction-Création of 1930 to the abstract world language of 1960, a period when abstraction, with its unrestrained yearning for freedom, established itself as the dominant painting style in the Western world. Alongside Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Fritz Winter, six other artists are represented: Francis Bott, Günther Gumpert, Bernard Schultze, Fred Thieler, Hann Trier, and Theodor Werner. Notably, one of Werner's major works from his Paris years, the "Figures" from 1934, is available for purchase.

Untitled art work by Fritz Winter

Fritz Winter, Untitled, 1932, oil on vellum. Courtesy Galerie Henze & Ketterer Wichtrach/Bern und Riehen/Basel

We also recommend a visit to the gallery’s online viewing room

This museum-quality presentation vividly narrates the story of the pivotal turning points in Europe during the mid-twentieth century and their profound impact on artistic creation through compelling case studies. Simultaneously, this compact exhibition serves as a poignant reminder of the ongoing need to defend the freedom of art. We also recommend a visit to the gallery’s online viewing room, where Wolfgang Henze shares his profound knowledge of various artistic personalities.