Installation View – Martin Kippenberger, Entwurf Verwaltungsgebäude für Müttergenesungswerk in Paderborn, Ertragsgebirge mit Wirtschaftswerten von Joseph Beuys I, 1985, © Collection Grässlin Photo: Bernhard Strauss

“I think, I won this piece during a game of Mau-Mau [card game] with Kippy!”

Those are the kind of stories that Sabine Grässlin and the members of her family can tell. Founded by Anna and Dieter Grässlin in Sankt Georgen in the 1970s, their children Bärbel, Carola, Sabine and Thomas have been developing the family’s private art collection until this day. One could say they have become somewhat of an art dynasty, known for their close relationship with the artists, whose works they collect. Such as with Martin “Kippy” Kippenberger, who found a second home in Sankt Georgen and a family of choice in the Grässlins.

One premise of private collections will always be the fact that they are not necessarily accessible to the public. In an attempt to provide a platform for private collections and collaborations, Museum für Neue Kunst Freiburg has developed the ongoing exhibition series Friendly Game. Starting in 2014, the Museum invited the Berlin based collection by Anna and Michael Haas, in 2016 the Istanbul based collections of Ayşe Umur and Agah Ugur followed the invitation. The latest edition of Friendly Gamepresents works from the Black Forest based Collection Grässlin in a dialogue with the Museum’s collection.

Installation View – Left: Kalin Lindena, Around when you are, 2001, © Collection Grässlin; Right: Susi Juvan, Frau Wenks Haus, 2009, © Museum für Neue Kunst Freiburg Photo: Bernhard Strauss
Installation View – Left: Günther Fruhtrunk, Drei Lichtquellen, 1953-1954, © Collection Grässlin, VG Bildkunst 2019; Middle: Isa Genzken, Christiane, Dan, Kai, 1998-2000, © Collection Grässlin, VG Bildkunst 2019; Right: Kalin Lindena, Around when you are, 2001, © Collection Grässlin Photo: Bernhard Strauss

With the sculpture “Around when you are” (2001) Kalin Lindena created a drawing in space. Kite-shaped lengths of fabric, attached to the wall, standing on their tapered ends, seem to dance along the white walls. The abstract forms in motion alternate between freedom and fragility. One only waits for the breeze, that takes them away through the skyscraper referencing column-shaped sculptures of Isa Genzken. Between 1994 and 2003, the German sculptor made a series of pillars, adorned with a wide variety of materials, comprising predominantly glossy and reflective foils as well as pieces of metal. Each of them represents a very personal form of the proof of friendship, the individual names of the pillars correspond to the artist’s individual close friends, who find themselves portrayed in the works. Three of them protrude in the space: “Dan” (1999), “Christiane” (1998) and “Kai” (2000). In front of them you’ll find Susi Juvan’s work “Frau Wenks Haus“ (2009). The colours are applied in layers on top of each other, while a black silhouette runs over the entire surface, giving an impression of an architectural drawing. Juvan offers a tectonic framework, which takes up the formal language of Genzken’s sculptures.  

Installation View – Left: Christa Näher, untitled, 1986, © Collection Grässlin; Middle: Günther Förg, untitled, 2001, © Collection Grässlin, VG Bildkunst 2019 Photo: Bernhard Strauss
Installation View – Left: Cosima von Bonin, Hasbian (#33), Wurzbian (#34), THERAPIE (#45), 2001-2002, © Collection Grässlin; Right: Christa Näher, Kardinal, 2014, © Museum für Neue Kunst Freiburg Photo: Bernhard Strauss

Another of these dialogues is found between Cosima von Bonin, Christa Näher and Günther Förg. Christa Näher’s painting “Kardinal“ (2014) reveals the artist’s fascination with the motif of the Dance of Death(fr. Danse Macabre). A dark, demonic skeletal figure, wearing a black crown, clasps the neck of a prancing horse. The background is held in an opulent, expansive block of warm yellow and contrasting violet. The elegance and strength of the white horse collides with the incarnation of Death. In their intimate dance, both figures coalesce into an allegorical unity that celebrates the relationship between life and transience. Näher’s almost mystical creation is underlined by Cosima von Bonin’s signature motif of the mushrooms. Technically an homage to her late colleague and friend, Ingeborg Gabriel (1951–1995), who also incorporated mushrooms into her graphic art, the installation, consisting of “Hasbian (#33)“, “Wurzbian (#34)“ and “THERAPIE (#45)“ (2001-2002), grows into a forest of oversized creatures, that provoke an “Alice in Wonderland“-like fascination, curiosity and a soft shudder. Meanwhile Günther Förg’s untitled sculptures leave a feeling of not really belonging in this context. Mounted on pedestals, the objects, formed of plaster and found materials, exude a dirty trash aesthetic. At first seemingly worthless, these fractured props comprising everyday materials become profound and enigmatic variations of form.

Tobias Rehberger, Tokonoma (A. Dvieler), 2001, © Collection Grässlin Photo: Bernhard Strauss
Mark Dion, The Library for the Birds of Antwerp, 1993, © Collection Grässlin Photo: Bernhard Strauss

The exhibition “Friendly Game. Grässlin Collection : Museum für Neue Kunst“, curated by Dr. Christine Litz and Florian Flömer, is on display until September 8, 2019 at Museum für Neue Kunst Freiburg and features works by Max Ackermann, Michael Beutler, Cosima von Bonin, Mark Dion, Günther Förg, Günter Fruhtrunk, Isa Genzken, Georg Herold, Susi Juvan, Paul Kayser, Martin Kippenberger, Kalin Lindena, Stefan Müller, Christa Näher, Albert Oehlen, Max Pechstein, Tobias Rehberger and Amelie von Wulffen.

Elena Frickmann

Elena Frickmann is a curator, art historian and writer, currently based in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. She studied linguistics, literature and art history in Trier and Florence and graduated from Goethe University and Städelschule – Academy of fine Arts with an M.A. in curatorial studies. Her curatorial projects include several exhibitions in Madrid, Frankfurt am Main and Freiburg im Breisgau. She has worked for Städel Museum, Galerie Parisa Kind and Museum für Neue Kunst. Her texts have been published in various edited volumes, magazines and exhibition catalogues. 

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