Thomas Schütte eröffnet eine Bodenstation für das weitgespannte Schüttereich

Nicht von Pappe

Chapel for Art. Schütte’s sculpture hall in the Kulturraum Hombroich, interior view. Photo: Nic Tenwiggenhorn

If you approach via the L201, then right high above the narrow, here moderately ascending Berger Weg of the rocket station Hombroich, the new hall appears at the top left. Unmistakable, but by no means intrusive, strange and strangely familiar, emphasized modern and again not at all. It would be hard to say what this building is for.

Sports hall for the gymnastics club from nearby Holzheim? New laboratory for the biophysicists based here? Temple of a rather friendly wind and sun sect? Or an elegantly built geothermal power plant for the self-sufficiency of Kulturaum H.? Hard to say. Anyone who, like Schütte, understands the world as a possibility and model and can only endure it in this way, will appreciate all the more the playful poetry that also encompasses this latest ground station for explorations in the field of sculpture.

The new Schütte Pavilion fits perfectly into the tradition of the wondrous island of Hombroich and yet wants to be an exception, solitaire among solitaires, special features and special features. Since Erwin Heerich placed the first pavilion in the Erftaue in 1982, “the island”, from 1994 also the “rocket station”, has developed into a loose association of barracks, stations, chapels, pavilions, which is difficult to grasp under the term “museum”. In any case, a producer’s museum made by artists and not by art historians and conservators. Even Heerich’s “Hohe Galerie” is more of a walk-in sculpture than an exhibition building. Heerich, too, proceeded from sculptural ideas that sculpture is not only something that is understood from the outside as the skin of a mass, but as a process that develops from the core and identifies itself as sculpture from the inside.

Schütte’s new sculpture hall is also based on the idea of the (total) work of art that can accommodate and contain others, a negative form that impressively asserts itself as a positive on the hill. It is closed space (in the sense of Remy Zaugg) and open (in the sense of Paul Scheerbart).

Models for the sculpture hall by Thomas Schütte

It is also the last offshoot and reminder of the large-scale project “Raumortlabor”, which petered out in the channels of official approvals, and at the same time the latest, largest and most ambitious building to date, which was created according to a model by Thomas Schütte. But Schütte’s hall also contradicts Heerich and classical modernism. He cites Étienne-Louis Boullée, Erich Mendelsohn, the pre-Bauhaus period of Peter Behrens and Bruno Taut as his role models, but also Rudolf Steiner’s Goetheanum and the organic architecture of Hermann Finsterlin.

Schütte also does not plan his buildings like architects on the drawing board or by computer program, he tinkers with cardboard. Imaginary buildings stand at the beginning of his work (“Western Art Models”, “My Grave”, “Bunker”, “Tower with Landscape” or “Model for a Museum” (1982 – 2007), “Studio”, etc.). For many years, these models remained finger exercises and thought games, poetic images for the life and work of the artist, fictitious designs that left open whether they ironically commented on contemporary building or whether they actually sought realization. It was not until the “Ice” pavilion for Documenta 8 in 1987 that such a cardboard model became a usable temporary building. The highlight at that time was that most visitors did not necessarily perceive the building as a work of art, it fit so well into the Kassel floodplain meadows, so perfectly it feigned a benefit. In fact, ice cream was sold to art and park visitors in the housing, whose main structure was designed on the model of an upside-down paint bucket. With its simple, windowless form, to which a smaller cylindrical volume (for the toilet) was attached, the building also looks like an elementary sculpture. Even then, Schütte invited Mario Merz inside as a guest exhibitor, and even then there was a Fibonacci sequence in neon numerals.

“Ice”, established in a border area between art form, practical usability and implied social symbolism, was quickly understood as a landmark of the Documenta (“new ambiguity between autonomy and function”, “return of art to the social dimension” Manfred Schneckenburger). It is an art that eludes and attracts at the same time, functions as an attraction for tourists as well as a magnet for the art world in equal measure. In this way, the ice pavilion of 1987 is the model for the model for the sculpture hall. Without ice, but with basement.

Gradually, collectors came forward who wanted to turn the models – One Man House, Holiday and Tea House or a temple into reality. In fact, with the support of architects, a whole series of buildings based on Schütte’s models were created. While these were for private use, the model for a sculpture hall was added in 2011 as a project that was to be reserved solely for the artist’s purposes. A self-commission. The sculpture hall also had a permanent building site right from the start: Looking ahead, Schütte had acquired a plot of land on which he wanted to build the hall. In addition, there was the Thomas Schütte Foundation, which will formally serve the hall as the client and later operate it as a user.

The neighborhood was important to Schütte. The property is located between the grounds of the island of Hombroich, the Kirkeby field with its “chapels” and the rocket station with the converted military buildings and new pavilions by Raimund Abraham, Erwin Heerich, Dietmar Hofmann, Katsuhito Nishikawa and Álvaro Siza. Directly opposite, sunk into the hills and earth walls, is the complex of the Langen Foundation, designed by Tadao Ando.

“What to do with that stuff when you’re dead?” Thomas Schütte also asks himself this question. His artistic production grows from year to year to astonishing dimensions: drawings, sketches, watercolors, ceramics, bronzes, models, only the “Man in the Mud”, polystyrene, plaster, wood from 2009 alone is 8.50 meters high and just as wide. What is called “the hall” for short presents itself as an elegantly curved new building with a double floor, exhibition building for sculptures and graphics above, a spacious depot in the basement, whose access is hidden in the outbuilding. Three years of construction, seven designs, 2,037 m², 4.5 million euros, “without any public money”, as the artist emphasizes. He founded the “Thomas Schütte Foundation” especially for his hall and his estate, Schütte is the sole chairman of his foundation. RKW from Düsseldorf acted as architects. But actually, Schütte took care of every detail himself, from the concrete floor including underfloor heating to the beamless wooden stretch ceiling, from the freight elevator to the smoke detector. The elegantly clad building with slender wooden slats is accentuated by a cantilevered roof that lowers towards the middle. “The basic idea was a matchbox with a ring sign on it,” says Schütte in an interview. To smoke he has to go outside, “because of the smoke detectors”.

The exhibition hall, a good 700 square meters in size, houses another pavilion-like structure made of dark glazed bricks in its center. Its ceiling, however, is open. This kiosk serves both as a room divider and as a protected space to show works on paper.

Schütte worries not only about the time after his death, his afterlife as an artist, but also about survival in the present. The hall, with a varying height of almost six to nine meters, stands on a plinth floor, which almost completely disappears into the ground. Above, the sculpture hall, next to it an office for curators, a library and the ticket office. In the basement the depot. The foundation will also organize the exhibition operations above, such as the loan system, later it will take care of his estate. Until then, Schütte pays rent for the storage of his own works of art. Because he has made it his maxim to sell only a quarter of his art production. The depot will become the revolving stage for his exhibitions. Because he has long noticed how the lending conditions of museums and private collections are being increased more and more, he wants to “counteract” and keep himself independent. For Schütte, the obvious and nocturnal, the pragmatically best, is only one step away from the poetic throw, from the artistic vision. “Years ago I said to Mick Flick,” Schütte recounts in a conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist, “My sculptures today cost the same as real estate. So why are you still building apartments and houses? Everyone is only interested in real estate until he finds out that he has to take care of such an investment intensively. But if you no longer like a piece of art, make it in a van, drive up to Christies and collect ten times as much as you paid. This kind of speculation does not work with houses. But that’s exactly what interests me.” Schüte avoids art fairs and despises auctions, and he doesn’t think much of art prizes or other public events. He has always refused a professorship at an art academy.

“If I keep my stuff, I can do the exhibitions from one source. Because no museum can afford the expensive transports anymore, they can get everything from a single source. That’s why I’ve been able to do so many exhibitions lately.” Schäte’s keen observation has consequences. Accordingly, he has accumulated an exceptionally large stock of his own works. The construction of your own depot can be cheaper than paying high storage costs for years.

For example, his major exhibitions at the Bundeskunsthalle (“Big Buildings. models and views) and at the Fondation Beyerle, this will be the case in 2018 in New York, where MOMA is preparing a Schütte retrospective.

The new neighbour expects a lot from its proximity to the island of Hombroich. “What is missing here is a large hall. They have many rooms on the rocket station and Hombroich, but rather white cubes. Pictures, photos, videos – I’m not so interested, but this is meant for sculptures.”

Together with Arte Povera artist Mario Merz, Schütte will open the exhibition series on 10 April. Schütte was able to obtain the loan from two reliable sources. His long-standing Galerie Konrad Fischer and the Fischer Collection lent one half (including a wonderful spray paint (charcoal on jute) and the Fibonacci series, his gallery owner Pietro Sparta (Chagny Collection) and the igloo and early painting collages. The longest exhibition is planned with Richard Deacon, with whom Schütte has a long friendship. Schütte has also worked with Deacon on several occasions, for example in thecollaborationswith Konrad Fischer.

The various initiatives and institutes on Hombroich hope that Schütte’s Halle will provide fresh impetus. The opening of the hall will be the first joint opening: Markus Karstoß will show his ceramic works in the Siza and Fontana pavilions on the rocket station. De Langen Foundation will present “Images of God East Asia” from the remaining own collection and the Berlin artist Helen Feifel. Sunday belongs to Hombroich.


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