This is the story of 4 significant sculptures by a significant living artist flanking the entrance to the world’s leading printing museum.
The Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany.
It’s a tale of neglect, appalling stewardship and plain ignorance.
These sculptures – dating back to the museum’s opening in 1962 – were dumped in a builders yard in 2001, forgotten and only rescued through media intervention.
In 2017, they’re once again at risk.
If you really want to exasperate or even (in some cases) annoy the customer-facing staff at Mainz’s Gutenberg Museum, just go along and ask them about the bronze panels leading into their courtyard.
The museum counter staff will say that you have to ask the people in the Gutenberg shop, the people in the Gutenberg shop will try to send you back to the museum before admitting that they know absolutely nothing about them “but we might have a postcard….sorry, it doesn’t appear that we do…”
They might even say “Well, you know how it is – other people know more about one’s city than we as locals do” before coming up with a heroically creative story about how the panels are arranged in chronological order, with “the earliest printers plates over here and the newer ones over there. Oh, no, that doesn’t seem quite right. Well, I don’t actually know. But I’m sure the artist’s name is here somewhere….no, I can’t find that either. Sorry…”
And of course there’s nothing on their website.
Nothing about the panels
Nothing about the artist, Karl-Heinz Krause.
Back in 2010 when Mainz Daily Photo was still a going concern, I wrote a flippant post (here) about the panels perhaps being the Moguntian answer to the Hollywood Walk of Fame – squish a book into the concrete instead of your hands.
Now, I DO know about the Hollywood Walk of Fame – my friend Sherry Lansing (I worked on her biography), erstwhile Chairman of Paramount studios, the most powerful woman in Hollywood history and daughter of Margot Heimann, a Meenzer Mädche who fled the Holocaust, is immortalised there – and it was a tongue-in-cheek post which I corrected the next day with the true story.
But the interest in the sculptures incented me to research further.
What I came up with was quite astounding – a major work by a major living artist, no-one at the museum knowing anything about them and showing little interest in remedying that knowledge gap, coupled with a scandalous disregard for their significance – at one stage, they were removed, dumped in a building material yard and forgotten.
At the time, I wrote a 12 part series on the history of the panels, met the artist (then in his late 80s, now over 90) and documented quite an arresting story.
And these sculptures are again threatened.
So here’s the complete story in one place
The 4 massive bronze panels that flank the access to Mainz’s Gutenberg museum have a chequered history.
They were commissioned by Rainer Schell, the architect who designed the 1962 museum, and created by Karl-Heinz Krause, an artist acknowledged as being a leading exponent of post-war German figurative sculpture.
In the original concept, they formed the gates to the museum, designed to echo the courtyard of the imposing Zum Marienberg, a Renaissance building dating back to the Thirty Years’ war.
(Image courtesy of Tony Hadland)
The museum underwent a facelift in 2001, the gates were “temporarily” removed and dumped in a building material yard and forgotten.
Only after a concerted effort by a previous director of the museum were they “rediscovered” and installed in a modified layout, 90° to their original alignment.
Its now 2017 and a similar fate threatens them.
2 years ago, the city tendered a pan-EEA architectural competition for a complete make-over and extension of the original (1962) and extended (2001) museum with a total project volume of €5m
This was the winning submission, featuring a 23m high tower on a 10m square base extending well outside the current museum footprint, relocation of the museum shop and cafe into the historical facing the market square and major excavations for subterranean storage facilities, extending well under the decorative gardens and requiring the removal of four 60 year old plane trees lining a side of the square.
And the re-removal of the Gates of the Gutenberg Museum.
I asked the museum’s current director, Dr Annette Ludwig, about the museum’s plans for the gates.
There are none.
I asked DFZ architects, commissioned with the planning and creation of the new museum, the same question.
They’re also kicking the can down the road, with no concept for the future integration.
(It might happen in Phase 2, but given that Phase 1 has eaten up the funds earmarked for the development, don’t hold your breath
“Until then the stylized doors are secured and stored”
Both the proponents and opponents of the new design are blissfully unaware of the significance of these sculptures and have no idea that there’s a significant risk of their ending up as scrap metal.
The going rate for bronze is around €3.90 per kilogram, a far cry from the DM140,000 (these days around €330,000…) that the city paid for the work of a renowned sculptor in 1961
The original research
This would appear to be the Moguntian equivalent of the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Take your favourite book and squish it in the wet concrete.
Keeps your hands from getting mucky, that’s for sure…..
The interest in yesterday’s post incented me to rock into the Big Smoke this am and do some research.
1. They’re not concrete (for those who thought I was being serious)
2. They’re 4 double-sided bronze panels with a positive imprint on one side and a matching mirrored image on the other.
3. No-one has a clue what they are.
The museum doesn’t know.
The museum bookshop doesn’t know.
The museum library doesn’t know.
The nice ladies in the Museum Director’s office don’t know.
(Someone even asked “Which bronze panels…?”. Oops… )
What we’ve established, though, is that they date back to 1962 (which was the year of the museum’s reopening) and that it would be a good idea to find out.
Quite understandable, of course – the people who worked there 40 years ago would be pushing 70 or 80 (if not the daisies up…) these days, everyone assumed that everyone knew about the panels and no-one documented them in an accessible form.
I’ve seen it happen in business.
All the Fortran and Cobol programmers retire, the machines tick over nicely, Y2K rears its ugly head and the shout goes out “Who can still program in Fortran?”
But I’m on it.
Always was a troublemaker…..
So I followed up on the sculptures in front of the Gutenberg Museum and actually got a response from one of the academic staff.
We now know that the panels are the work of Karl-Heinz Krause, a Berlin sculptor commissioned with creating gates for the museum and that they date back to the museum’s re-opening in 1962
And it was suggested “that I Google for the rest of the details.”
The “rest of the details” are: the panels were cast in bronze by a fine art foundry in Berlin.
There is NOTHING ELSE of relevance on the interweb. (And people say that I’m a really skilled researcher…)
- A total of 2 hits for a search on “Karl-Heinz Krause” AND “gates” (“tore”, actually) AND “Gutenberg Museum”.
- A total of 18 (with 4 redundancies) for a less stringent search
- The work doesn’t feature in various lists of Mainz’s monuments, fountains and sculptures.
- The artist’s Wikipedia page didn’t even REFERENCE the work. (Does now…)
- The foundry doesn’t even list the artist as a reference
Which isn’t a big surprise, because on the interwebs you can only Google for content that someone has actually made available in a searchable form.
Given that there are only 2 sources for knowledge on this sculpture – the artist and the museum (the former knowing everything, the latter knowing very little) – might it not be a GOOD IDEA to create some content before he drops off the perch?
He’s 86, after all…
Something along the lines of
“In 1961, the Berlin sculptor Karl-Heinz Krause was commissioned to create a work representing the gates of the newly re-opened museum. The 4 panels, each measuring wugga wugga wugga, were cast in bronze by the renowned Berlin art foundry wugga wugga wugga and depict three dimensional positive and negative images of traditional printing plates wugga wugga wugga.
The individual plates are replicas of wugga wugga wugga
So if the new director of the museum (a breath of fresh air after her predecessor, btw) happens to be reading this – I’m looking at you to fill in the gaps….
Commenter Jean Spitzer suggested “I think you just created the content and are now the best source in the world for info on this sculpture.”
Not far off the truth probably.
If things work out, I’m meeting Karl-Heinz Krause and his wife Ursula at precisely….NOW… to learn the history, concept and technique of the 4 bronze gates of the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz.
Easy enough to track him down, too.
Called the owner of one of the galleries in Berlin which represent him and asked if he could point me towards a source of information.
“Best thing would be to call him” he said “You DO know that he lives in Mainz?”
And it appears that I’ve thrashed past their house frequently on the way into and out of town on the trusty velocipede.
This is getting to be fun…
This is a good story.
Elements of revolution and conspiracies, provincialism and politics, neglect and vandalism, war and peace, fire and water.
And two lovely people.
Yesterday, I had coffee with Karl-Heinz Krause and his wife, Ursula Krause-Oehme to shed some light on the mystery of the gates at the Gutenberg museum.
I told them to let me know when they’d had enough – he’s 87, she’s 79 – but the topics of conversation never dried up and 3 hours later we were still talking.
This a story you couldn’t make up if you tried.
It starts in Berlin at the end of the war with a young art student who’s recently been released from PoW camp and ends in a sunlight-flooded atelier in a house in one of Mainz’s leafy suburbs where one of the most important German sculptors of the post-war period lives, virtually unrecognised and where one of his major works sits anonymously between a 1000 year old cathedral and the most important printing museum in the world.
It’s going to be in episodes, it’ll start in a couple of weeks and by that time I’ll have learnt how to cast bronze sculptures in sand, cleared up some details with the Krauses and photographed great chunks of the gates.
And we’ll have done the Gutenberg museum’s job for them.
Which is to preserve cultural knowledge for future generations….
A while back, I did a fairly flippant post about the 4 bronze panels in front of the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz.
Walked past them often enough on the way to and from the market, but never thought to find out anything about them.
Tasked with doing so by the Faithful (Virginia, Kate, Paul, Gucki et al), I quickly found out that there is NO easily accessible knowledge about the sculptures.
- The museum shop knows nothing
- The museum management knows nothing (well, ALMOST nothing and if they know more, they’re not telling…)
- The city knows nothing
- The cultural chroniclers know nothing
- The guidebooks know nothing
- Wikipedia knows nothing
- Google knows
This is about to change.
- I’ve tracked down the artist
- I know the history of the commission
- I know the story of the gates and how they were made almost 50 years ago
- I’ve learnt the casting process from a local fine art foundry
- I’ve learnt that when you tell people the story, they’re spellbound
It’ll be an 12-part serialisation starting today.
I’ve now (2017) updated the information and rolled it into one article here
By the end of it, we’ll have a repository of available knowledge about a work of art from a sculptor described as “one of the most important artists of figurative sculpture of the second half of the 20th century”
What I can’t get my head around, though, is why I’m the only person who’s ever bothered to try and find out.
It’s not as if you can overlook them.
They’re as big as barn-doors , for goodness’ sake…
“What the world is today, good and bad, it owes to Gutenberg. Everything can be traced to this source, but we are bound to bring him homage, … for the bad that his colossal invention has brought about is overshadowed a thousand times by the good with which mankind has been favored.” Mark Twain
In 1900, a group of right-minded citizens built a museum to honour his 500th birthday (give or take a couple of years…) with a collection of books, apparatus and machines donated by publishers, manufacturers of printing machines and printing houses.
Initially a department of the City Library, it moved to the new library building on the Rheinallee in 1912 and then separated in 1927 to its (almost) final location in the Römischer Kaiser, a Renaissance building dating back to 1664 and originally part of Zum Marienberg, a private palace built by Edward Rokoch, a leading light in the business world at the time and the most significant private building of its time.
Fast forward to 27 February 1945:
Royal Air Force Bomber Command – Campaign Diary – February 1945
458 aircraft – 311 Halifaxes, 131 Lancasters, 16 Mosquitos – of Nos 4, 6 and 8 Groups to Mainz. 1 Halifax and 1 Mosquito lost. The target area Mainz was covered by cloud and the bombing was aimed at skymarkers dropped on Oboe. No results were seen by the bomber crews but the bombing caused severe destruction in the central and eastern districts of Mainz; this was the city’s worst raid of the war. 1,545 tons of bombs were dropped. 5,670 buildings were destroyed, including most of the historic buildings in the Altstadt, but the industrial district was also badly hit.
And that was the end of the Gutenberg Museum.
When you look at photographs of post-war Mainz, it’s difficult to imagine how anyone could have survived.
80% of its buildings and infrastructure were destroyed, its industrial and tax base arbitrarily amputated and assigned to Wiesbaden in the American sector on the other side of the Rhine.
The view from the Dom in 1945. HT swr.de
It didn’t help that the French occupation force wanted to rebuild Mainz from scratch as a Model City, consistent with the principles of the Athens Charter, a dogmatic separation of cultural, commercial and administrative and residential zones.
All that the folks in Mainz really wanted was a residential zone with a roof over their heads and it took until 1958 and the adoption of the May Plan for rebuilding efforts to make significant headway.
(Rumour has it that Mainz was rebuilt in 4 years. Sometimes, it still looks like it…)
But 1962 marked the 2000 year anniversary of the founding of the city by Agrippa in 38 BC (it was actually a military camp and it wasn’t 38 BC, but what a are few years among friends…) and it was decided to build a new Gutenberg Museum.
Monies were collected.
Tender documents issued, concepts evaluated, a winner determined.
Rainer Schell, a student of Egon Eiermann, the architect of the Gedächtniskirche (Church of Remembrance) in Berlin
Rainer Schell’s concept is stunning today and must have utterly gobsmacked the populaceback then.
Hard-edged cubism, steel, glass and concrete
The Director of the Gutenberg Museum was catatonic.
He’d expected something mock Renaissance to match the Römischer Kaiser…..
It was almost as if Wiesbaden was rubbing salt into Mainz’s wounds after having
nicked been gifted the suburbs on the other side of the Rhine.
It wasn’t as if they hadn’t been WARNED, though – his Church of the Redeemer in Mainz-Kastel isn’t what you could call traditional…
And it gets better.
Rainer Schell wanted to counterpoint his architecture with a sculptural feature.
“I don’t want likenesses” he said to the 5 or so local and regional sculptors chosen for the competition “I want allegory. I want a sculpture that implies what the true meaning of the museum is“
And what did he get?
You guessed it.
Something like these
Rainer Schell went spare.
He refused to consider ANY of the proposals.
The Bundesbaudirektion – the Federal Building Administration – was founded in 1770 by Friedrich II to introduce what we’d these days call a Design Catalogue for state buildings and to establish an academy to train future civil servants to oversee planning and construction.
It was reëstablished in 1950 in Berlin by Konrad Adenauer (after being hijacked by Adolf and his evil crew between 1933 and 1945) with responsibility for creating a temporary capital in Bonn and overseeing federal building activities in Germany and embassies overseas.
Rainer Schell was well known in Berlin through his association with Egon Eiermann and was later to be commissioned with the building of the Goethe Institute in Paris
The Director of the Bundesbaudirektion was Karl Merz.
“Do YOU know a good sculptor who understands the word “allegory?”asked Schell.
“As a matter of fact, I do” said Merz “The guy you need is Karl-Heinz Krause….”
Karl-Heinz Krause was born in 1924 in Angemünde, a small town close to what is now the German-Polish border.
He’s the same age as my father-in-law and their formative years were probably quite similar – both 9 years old when the Nazis came to power, both conscripted into the army at the age of 17, both PoWs in France until 1946.
My father-in-law went back to the family farm, Karl-Heinz Krause attended the Academy of Applied Arts in East Berlin in 1947, switching to the Academy of Fine Arts in West Berlin in 1948 where Renée Sintenis and Richard Scheibe were his teachers.
In 1959, he was awarded the prestigious Georg Kolbe prize for young sculptors.
In the same year, he was discovered by Otto Stangl, a Munich art dealer and signed to an exclusive contract which secured his financial independence. (He told me “There are only 3 career paths for an artist – teaching, architecture or galleries. I was lucky enough to be presented with the latter path”)
By 1960, he was exhibiting at the Grace Borgenicht Gallery on Madison Avenue in New York and the Frank Perls Gallery in Hollywood.
His solo exhibitions – Basel, Bern, New York, New Delhi, Antwerp, Stockholm und Helsinki among many others – number more than 90.
His sculptures are displayed in the German Culture Institute in Paris, in the National Gallery in Berlin and the State Museum in Mainz.
The state of Baden-Württemberg purchased his “Großen Denker” – originally commissioned for the Goethe Institute in Paris, but objections were raised: Rodin’s “Thinker”, Rodin”s French, don’t want to offend the neighbours… – for the grounds of the University of Applied Sciences in Karlsruhe.
Karl Carstens, Germany’s President at the time, presented Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands with one of his sculptures.
From the laudatio at the opening of an exhibition in Berlin in 2007:
Krause has stayed true to the tradition of figurative sculpture. He belongs to a minority – frequently attacked or ridiculed – shrugging off the trends of minimalism, junk sculpture, hypernaturalism or environment sculpture. Clinging to the body, to the beautiful form, he masters them both.
But back in 1961, Rainer Schell came looking for an artist for his museum in Mainz…..
Karl-Heinz Krause came to the attention of the Bundesbaudirektion early in his career.
Possibly through recommendations from his tutors at the University of Fine Arts.
Possibly through personal contacts (a girlfriend of a fellow student worked there).
But probably because he was simply very talented.
When Rainer Schell came looking for a sculpture for his Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Karl-Heinz Krause had already completed a commission for a relief for the German Embassy in Dehli.
Schell saw it, said “That’s my guy” and the 2 of them starting working together.
Karl-Heinz Krause sketched the draft concept that he presented to Rainer Schell for me the other day.
It was in two parts.
A powerful larger-than-life (2.20m head to toe) figure on a high plinth stretching to the sky with hands open for inspiration for his creativity in front of the museum. Karl-Heinz Krause talks of a “Jüngling” – a word that’s gone out of fashion, but translates as “stripling”.
High metal gates that Rainer Schell wanted as a metaphorical link to the enclosed courtyards of Renaissance Mainz and to the Zum Marienberg private palace that originally stood at this location.
And the gates WOULD be allegorical, presenting the visitor with an intimation of what lies behind them by using imprints of historical printing blocks.
Exactly what Rainer Schell wanted.
Design sketches were made, quotes calculated and a proposal was made to the City of Mainz.
The mayor of the time was Franz Stein, a traditionalist at heart. (People refer to his mayoralty – 1949 to 1965 – as the Steinzeit – “the Stone Age”…)
The gates were OK, but he wasn’t too keen on the Jüngling.
Naked for a start and – to top it all – standing in FULL VIEW of the Cathedral, junk hanging out and giving the bishop’s residence a full FRONTAL.
A council meeting was called as a jury – Schell and Krause summoned from Wiesbaden and Berlin respectively as the accused – with the contract for the works open on the desk in front of the mayor for signing.
The discussion went back and forth between proponents and opponents of the Jüngling until the mayor says “Enough of this – let’s find out what the public thinks!” and sends out for his secretary and another (female) office worker.
“So what do YOU think of this?” booms the mayor
Vox populi I: “Ei, der iss mir viel zu dinn” (“Much too skinny“)
Vox populi II: “Ei, wenn Se misch frage, moi Fall isser nett” (“Not my type one bit”)
Mayor closes his folder, unsigned.
Karl-Heinz Krause told me that Schell went white with rage, stood up and said “Mr Krause has a plane to catch. Thank you”
The City Fathers never actually rejected the Jüngling. The submission to council was regularly revisited and just as regularly filed away “For future review”.
A knight in shining armour in the form of the Finnish Society finally saved the day (and face) with a gift of a bust of Gutenberg by Wäinö Aaltonen to sit on the plinth.
Not at all skinny.
Fully clothed, too.
And not at all allegorical…..
In 2013, Karl-Heinz Krause completed his last body of work.
One of these works – Jüngling mit erhobenen Armen – (Stripling with raised arms) is the spitting image of the figure he sketched for me in 2011 on my notepad.
Half scale at 1.16m high, it was cast as a limited edition of 10.
Kunsthandel Dr Wilfried Karger has one for €17,000
I’m very tempted….
Images courtesy of K-H Krause
Mainz’s more wealthy citizens in past centuries built their own palatial residences, richly decorated and with enclosed courtyards to keep the paparazzi and the general riff-raff at a safe distance.
Zum Marienberg was no exception.
After the bombing raid of 27 February 1945, only the shell of Zum Römischen Kaiser, part of the Zum Marienberg complex, remained and Rainer Schell, the architect of the new museum, aimed to echo the historical courtyard with his new design offering a modern counterpoint to the recreated Renaissance structure.
The original design was to link high streamlined concrete pillars with Karl-Heinz Krause’s bronze panels hinged as functional gates.
Someone ventured that the gates might be a tad HEAVY and that a finger caught between gate and jamb would rapidly become an EX-finger.
Or ex-HAND, for that matter.
Back to the drawing board and what came out was what you see above – the panels anchored between the pillars, alternating with double glass gates with a portcullis pattern.
Karl-Heinz Krause flies back from Berlin (these were the days when only the 3 occupying powers were allowed to fly along the corridors over East German territory – he told me that he preferred Air France, because they had the Caravelle, arguably the prettiest jet aircraft ever built. And the food was better…) and is taken to a storeroom somewhere in Mainz where the treasures of the Gutenberg Museum are stored.
People had other things to do in the immediate post-war years than to catalogue museum inventories and he could pretty much choose which printing blocks he wanted.
Has them packed into crates, shipped back to Berlin and sets about arranging them for the final design and casting at the Noack fine art foundry
Oh, and his disappointment at the rejection of his “Jüngling” figure is short-lived.His gallery owner partner, Otto Stangl, has a rich industrialist (with exquisite taste and heaps of folding stuff) as an in-law…….
At this point in 2011, Blogger (my platform at the time) misplaced scheduled posts of around 0.16% of its users.
It took me about a month to recreate them…..
I had difficulty getting my head around the casting process.
I knew that Karl-Heinz Krause had used antique printing blocks from the Gutenberg Museum’s inventory to create the imprints for the bronze panels, but I couldn’t for the life of me understand the complete process.
Bernd Hettinger (pictured) of the KunstgussKastel art foundry in Mainz-Kastel was kind enough to spend an hour or so showing me (as in ”recreating-the-entire-process-apart-from-pouring-the-bronze” showing me) how the panels for the gates would have been made back in 1961.
And a HT to Dorothee Wenz for pointing me in his direction.
Karl-Heinz Krause started off with a box full of printing blocks that he’d chosen primarily for their shape and size.
“I was looking for balance and rhythm” he told me “And some of the blocks were so pleasing that I used them more than once.”
And in an aside ” And I had to duplicate some, because we didn’t actually have enough…”
These he set in a 1.6 metre by 1 metre plaster of paris base in a high-sided frame (called the “drag”) and filled with moulding sand with the profile that he wanted extending above the sides of the box. (Think of an iceberg with only part of the ice above water and you’ve pretty much got it.) The sand is tamped down hard so that it forms a solid mass.
Don’t think “sandcastle-solid” mass. Think “drying-concrete-solid-break-it-up-with-a-sharp-object” mass.
The sand in the drag is smoothed off to an almost polished finish and the sand and printing blocks are sprinkled with a fine talcum-like powder to make for easy separation.
Now a second frame (the “cope”) is set on top of the drag, the printing blocks and the surrounding sand in the drag are covered with a fine sand followed by moulding sand, tamped down hard.
Now you hold you breath and separate the cope from the drag, revealing a perfect female indentation – a legible mirror image – in the cope.
Now comes the tricky bit.
You take the female mirror image you’ve just made as the drag, place the cope on top, spread the talc powder over it, cover it with fine sand and then tamp down the moulding sand,
Hold your breath again, separate the two frames and – eureka! – you’ve got perfect male and female images.
Which aren’t really much use, come to think of it, because they fit so perfectly that there’s no cavity for the bronze to flow into.
So you take the male image and remove just enough sand from the surface to correspond to the thickness of the panel that you want.
Then you make the pouring hole (“sprue”), the gating system that takes the molten bronze from the sprue to where it needs to go and the riser (which shows you when the mould cavity’s full)
Put the cope and the drag together again – you’ve now got a gap between them for the molten bronze to flow into – heat up the bronze to around 950ºC (depending on the alloys) and pour.
It looks like a biblical image of Hades
Let it cool, split the cope and the drag and you’ve got your panel.
Tidy up the excess flashings and pouring remnants and you’re finished.
More over here at Wikipedia
Well, actually, you’re not, because the bronze didn’t flow evenly throughout the mould, so you have to cut out the faulty bits, recast them and weld them in to the panels using a new and – for the time – highly experimental electric welding technique.
And THEN you have to weld the 18 castings together to form 6 panels measuring 1.6m wide by 3m high.
And then you have to get them to Mainz in time for the Grand Opening of the museum….
To say that the city of Mainz is profligate is almost like saying that Paris Hilton isn’t averse to be a bit of media attention.
It takes a certain talent to build up a backbreaking debt of close to €1bn in a city with a population of barely 200,000.
They do it without even trying – run the idea for converting a city building into a prison facility up the flagpole, spend multiple €100k on studies and expert assessments and then say “Oh, no, we’ll convert it to apartments instead”.
This sort of stuff hardly causes a ripple in the local media.
And it seems to have always been like that.
Even back in the 1970s.
Someone in the town hall appears to have been overcome by an urge for retail therapy and said “The city needs some sculptures” and promptly went on a shopping spree, bought three and had them installed in what later became the Sculpture Park on the banks of the Rhine.
Phillip Harth’s “Tiger“
Emy Roeder’s “Tripolitanerin“
And Karl-Heinz Krause’s “Feuervogel” (Firebird) – here a smaller model in his studio.
This was the time of student revolution – Paris’s Left Bank in an uproar, Berkeley the focal point of Vietnam War protests, Bader-Meinhof just getting traction in Berlin – and protests against anything and everything bourgeois were on every university’s curriculum at the time.
And this art was nothing if not bourgeois from the student’s perspective.
“The city’s wasting money on bourgeois art for the RULING CLASSES and the university doesn’t even have decent TOILETS” was one of the cries and things got more and more fervent – supposedly helped along by some fairly radical academics on the staff – until someone decided to DO SOMETHING to show THEM.
No idea why they chose “Feuervogel” – perhaps out of respect for the dead, Harth and Roeder having dropped off the perch – but one morning, the pedestal was empty.
The newspapers at the time were full of pictures of Dieter Plod from the local constabulary and other similarly bewildered luminaries standing around and scratching their heads.
It wasn’t until the perpetrators skiting to their mates about the previous evening’s activities and what they’d done with that bourgeoisie rubbish [sic] that the police frogmen were called in to prod around in the murky depths of the Rhine, looking for something that didn’t resemble a pram or a bicycle.
And “Feuervogel” wasn’t the only thing to go missing….
“With all the charm of a roller-skating rink” was the way Hans Halbey, a retired Director of the Gutenberg Museum, described the courtyard of the Gutenberg Museum in April 2001.
1989: Architectural competition to extend the museum
1990: No money (as usual)
1991: As above
1992: As above
1993: As above
1994: As above
1995: Have another look at the plans. Do it cheaper.
1996: Planning phase starts
1998: Work starts
2000: Grand opening
Rainer Schell doesn’t appear to have hit it off with the Grandees of Mainz – in an unprecedented breach of protocol, he wasn’t invited to speak at the opening of his museum in 1962 and is supposed to have then said “Fine with me, YOU try and open the door without the key…”.
The architects for the extension, Rossmann + Partner, don’t appear to have been too keen on Rainer Schell’s concept of the traditional courtyard, either.
They wanted to open it up to the public and the fact that the patrons in the newly opened café would coincidentally have a clear view of the cathedral had NOTHING to do with it, of course.
The gates obviously needed to be removed temporarily to allow building site access, but the strange thing is that if you look at the documentation (pdf, 2.2MB, German language) of the extension, you’ll find nary a MENTION of the gates and no indication on the plans that the architect had the SLIGHTEST intent of integrating them in his design.
A year after the grand opening, along comes Hans Halbey and talks to Werner Wenzel from the Mainzer Allgemeine Zeitung, questioning the whereabouts of the gates and a stone sculpture of an open book by the renowned stonemasons Wilmsen-Kubach.
The head of Mainz’s cultural office, Peter Krawietz, is quoted as saying that “of COURSE the book will be returned to its rightful place, but I’m not sure if we’ll be able to meet the ex-Director’s expectations as far as the other objects are concerned…”
After all, they only cost DM180,000 back in 1962. Plus the artist’s fee..
Then it occurred to the city that no-one had the VAGUEST idea where the gates were.
A retired mayor and cultural head honcho, Anton-Maria Keim is supposed to have said to Karl-Heinz Krause “You’ll have to lodge a complaint with the police” to which he replied “Well, they’re not actually MINE. I believe they’re now the property of the city…”
Frantic activity and in no time at all, they’re tracked down to a building material depot in Henkackerweg.
Karl-Heinz Krause receives a handwritten note from the mayor notifying him of the “existence and appropriate storage” of the “objects” and that they’ve had a concept for “their future use for some time”.
Appropriate storage? Just look at the deformation of the panels, for goodness’ sake.
And the concept for future use?
Line the narrow dark passage that used to be the Seilergasse before it was enclosed by the linkage between Schell’s museum and the new extension.
The late night reveller’s favourite micturatorium…..
The artist is supposed to have said “Well, in THAT case, why don’t we just arrange them in a hollow square somewhere and designate them as a public pissoir..?”
Back to the drawing board.
It’s difficult to find someone who can shed light on the background to the current placement of the panels.
Purged from collective memories most likely (and Freud would probably have something to say about that), but someone had the bright idea of relocating them in their original position, but swivelled 90º.
So that the café patrons can have an unobstructed view of the cathedral…
I wanted to close the circle.
I wanted to find one of the original plates that Karl-Heinz Krause used to model his panels and then juxtapose it with the imprint.
We know that he returned them (if there was ever any doubt…) because the galleon under full sail that you’ll see on one of the gates turned up on a poster printed by the museum’s print shop.
But where are they?
I drifted into the Print Shop and told a lady there what I was doing and what I was looking for.
“You actually KNOW something about the gates? REALLY? I can’t BELIEVE it! People ask us ALL the time and we can’t tell them ANYTHING about them”
So I relate the story and she’s saying ” Oh, this is GREAT! We help people do rubbings of the plates and we even do impressions in clay with littlies for them to take home”
She didn’t have the plates but she knew who might be able to help me further.
The museum’s printer, Herr Hoffman.
No, HE didn’t have the plates, but there’s a cupboard he inherited from his predecessor and he’s not quite sure what’s in it.
Perhaps the plates.
Except that they’re doing some work in the basement and the cupboard would appear to be currently inaccessible, hemmed in by pallets of papaer.
He’s promised to get back to me sometime next month.
Let’s keep our collective fingers crossed…
Did he call me back?
Didn’t anyone at the museum return my calls
Was I expecting too much?
Petrea Burchard of Pasadena Daily Photo recently wrote a kind comment on one of the posts in this series:
“I understand that Mainz Daily Photo is now the main repository on the internet of information about these gates. This is how one becomes an authority–one simply decides to be one, and becomes one.”
Unfortunately, this really does seem to be the case.
I still find it absurd to the point of parody that neither the museum nor the city knows ANYTHING about a major work by a major artist sitting right in front of their noses.
And both showing little apparent interest in changing that status.
On reflection, it’s fairly obvious that Rainer Schell wasn’t flavour of the month with the city fathers at the time and their cordial dislike of him might have been unfairly transferred to Karl-Heinz Krause.
I have no idea how that could happen – he’s a lovely man, his wife Ursula (an artist in her own right) is a sweetie (and makes great coffee to boot) and the ructions all happened decades ago.
Water under the bridge.
For the conspiracy theorists: Perhaps there IS a plot to rewrite history. How else would you explain away this image of the museum’s courtyard sans gates in the June issue of the house publication of the Mainzer Volksbank?
It must date back to the first 2 years of the millennium when the panels were languishing in a building material depot.
Either that or someone’s a dab hand with Adobe’s PhotoShop
There are a few things that the Gutenberg Museum and the City of Mainz could do to ensure that the knowledge isn’t subject to
Blogger’s WordPress’s capriciousness.
Things have been known to disappear….
The city needs to update its Wikipedia content ( the list of statues and monuments is one example.) Including the gates in their tourist information wouldn’t be a bad idea, either.
The museum needs to provide at least SOME information for the public about a significant sculpture in its courtyard.
(Informing their own employees would be a good starting point, too. Just how embarrassing IS it to know NOTHING about sculptures that you walk past every day?)
And given that next year (that would have been 2012, actually…) is the 50th anniversary of the opening of the new museum, perhaps they’d care to honour the work and the artist.