LONDON - It’s a special moment in London at present for lovers of contemporary German art – or to be more specific George Baselitz. New paintings from the artist are at Gagosian until the end of the month, while opening this week is an exhibition of Renaissance woodcuts from Baselitz’ own collection at the Royal Academy.
Of course anything by an artist of the calibre of Baselitz has an instant appeal, but for me the show with most personal resonance is at the British Museum. Entitled Germany Divided and running until the end of August, this show features works by not only Baselitz, but also Palermo, Richter, Lüpertz, Polke – all distinguished by coming from the collection of Count Duerckheim, who has given some 34 works of German art to the museum.
Georg Baselitz’s Ein neuer Typ (‘A New Type’), 1965. Presented to the British Museum by Count Christian Duerckheim. Reproduced by permission of the artist. © Georg Baselitz.
with Count Duerckheim was a number of years ago. I had come across the name while researching Baselitz, but he had turned down all requests to meet. One day a colleague in Munich rang and said they were visiting him in order to value his wine and why didn’t I come along. I walked into the house and it took Count Duerckheim about 10 seconds to work out I knew nothing about wine. He simply laughed and that was the start of an enduring friendship. I never really got to see any of his works though until one day he rang and invited me for tea, after which he said he’d like to show me his collection and that I was the first person outside of the family to see it.
Georg Baselitz’s MONUMENT – dithyrambisch (‘MONUMENT – dithyrambic’), 1976. Presented to the British Museum by Count Christian Duerckheim. © Markus Lüpertz/DACS 2013.
It was extraordinary – masterpiece after masterpiece, works that had never been seen before. It was like opening a treasure trove. The sale of the Duerckheim Collection in 2011 was a landmark for German contemporary art. It was the most successful sale of German art ever and we achieved world record after world record for Polke, Richter, Baselitz. Indeed one of the highlights of the auction – Baselitz’ Spekultius – is reminiscent of one of the signature works in the exhibition, Ein neuer Type (A New Type).
This donation transforms the British Museum’s holding of German graphic art, which now extend from Dürer to the present day, and gives the wider public the opportunity to explore the Duerckheim Collection.