The Frieder Burda Collection
(Please note that the Frieder Burda Collection is not permanently exhibited!)
The internationally-renowned Collection Frieder Burda concentrates on Classical Modernism and contemporary art and now encompasses around 1000 paintings, sculptures, objects and works on paper.
At the outset, around thirty years ago, Frieder Burda's decision to buy a work of art was often motivated by spontaneous enthusiasm. Originally he did not intend to establish a cohesive collection of works. However, for about fifteen years now, the collection concept has determined the selection of works and since then the Collection has grown in an organic and consistent manner and with a great deal of personal commitment by the collector.
Frieder Burda was born in Gengenbach, Baden, in south-western Germany, in 1936 as the second son of the publisher, printing house proprietor and Senator, Dr. Franz Burda. He spent his childhood and youth in the town of his birth. After attending schools in Offenbach and Switzerland he completed an apprenticeship in printing and publishing. His commercial training was accomplished in his father's firm. This was later followed by a longer-term period in France where he worked for a magazine publisher. He spent several years in England and in the USA before taking over a printing house in Darmstadt. Frieder Burda expanded this operation into one of the leading job-printing houses in Europe. In 1975 he entered the services of Burda GmbH in Offenburg as shareholder responsible for finances, participatory interests and administration. Following the death of their father in 1986 the three sons decided to go their separate ways in future. Frieder Burda devoted increased attention to art alongside his entrepreneurial commitments to a number of corporate participations.
The fascination of colour and of the emotional expressive qualities of painting are at the centre of the collector's interest in art. This perspective has given rise to a Collection with a personal style, bringing together pioneering positions of painting in the 20th century. In so doing, the Collection concentrates on a select number of artists whose works are acquired with determination, assembling a comprehensive range of the oeuvre of some artists.
German Expressionism, with works by Max Beckmann, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Wilhelm Lehmbruck and August Macke, marks the chronological and conceptual starting point: The tension between the subject and the world, perceived as a crisis, and the feeling of the individual's fundamental forsakenness led to an intensified feeling of self amongst the Expressionist artists at around 1900 and to an increased need to express themselves. This went hand in hand with the search for a new originality. It was in radiant colourfulness and rough, peaked shapes dashed off like sketches that the young Expressionists found the artistic means which were to revolutionize painting and which showed the artist to be a prophetic innovator rather than the guardian of tradition he had been hitherto.
The late work by Pablo Picasso is a close intellectual relative of German Expressionism. In his later years Picasso achieved a depiction of the human figure, its visual expression, gestures and movement which was quick and formally reduced and yet with a highly confident brush stroke and strong expression. This late work by Picasso - although seen as controversial for a long period of time - has been highly esteemed for several years now as the final zenith in Picasso's multifarious work.
The Collection is custodian of a dense complex of Picasso's late work which is almost without comparison in Germany. Frieder Burda himself also feels personally associated with this creative period. Picasso spent the last years of his life as from 1961 in Mougins in the south of France, the very place where the collector has his second residence and where he had once considered building a museum.
A further focus of the Collection is on American Abstract Expressionism with works by Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still. In the New York of the mid forties and early fifties the young Americans developed new picture concepts, linked initially to European traditions: The aim was to involve the beholder in the happening within the picture by means of an emotional - and not intellectual or narrative - participation.
To achieve this, the content of the picture had to be abstract and the formats had to develop into huge dimensions. Akin to the Expressionism of Classical Modernism, the American post war Abstract Expressionism also sought to abandon painting traditions so as to unleash hitherto unknown freedom of expression in painting. With their gestural and colour chromatic abstractions, Abstract Expressionists not only opened up a new chapter in abstract painting but also created a genuinely American art tradition.
In post war West Germany the European counterpart, the informal, prevailed only a short time later as the predominant artistic language. Shapeless abstraction determined the artistic landscape for almost twenty years right through to the sixties when a young generation of artists such as Eugen Schönebeck, Georg Baselitz and Penck, Gerhard Richter and Sigmar Polke again sought unspent pictures. It is certainly no coincidence that all of the aforementioned artists came from eastern Germany, the former GDR, where the figurative-expressive painting tradition had remained valid without interruption.
Figurative elements played a significant role for the young artists. The question was, however, how to credibly, i.e. in a contemporary way, incorporate representationalism in the picture. In the works of the artists mentioned, figuration is therefore broken abstractly. Baselitz, influenced and impressed by the painting of Abstract Expressionism, stood his compositions upside down after 1969 in order to neutralise the object with respect to the painting qualities and yet to simultaneously guarantee a certain degree of commitment for the picture through the object.
In Gerhard Richter's oeuvre, abstract and non-abstract works have stood side by side from the very beginning; from these two poles they encircle visible, invisible and medial realities.
Irony, wit and magic are repeatedly intermingled in the pictures by Sigmar Polke, which are constantly experimenting in new techniques, here too sometimes in abstract, sometimes in non-abstract compositions. In his halftone pictures the object is reduced into the - here paradoxically - manually-produced raster system of the mechanical mass reproduction of a picture.
Arnulf Rainer, whose oeuvre is associated with tachism and informal, went his own special way from the fifties onwards. In his gestular-expressive overpaintings, in which the picture is made to disappear, almost "drowning" in the paint, he formulates his obsession with loneliness and death. He says that these works are "not abstractions but veiling".
With Baselitz, Richter and Polke, who are undoubtedly amongst the internationally most significant artists of our era, and with Arnulf Rainer, the collector Frieder Burda encounters the artists of his generation. Their oeuvre is particularly comprehensively represented and actually forms the core of the Collection.
A further speciality of the Collection lies in the tension between painting and sculpture. It therefore encompasses important sculptures by artists renowned for their painting - Pablo Picasso and Willem de Kooning for example.
One of the first works to be acquired by the Collection, a concetto spaziale by Lucio Fontana, formulates a recurrent art theme of the 20th century: Penetration of the two-dimensional picture by the third dimension. Imi Knoebel revolves around this theme in his own way in works interchanging between picture and sculpture.
Important sculptural works by Wilhelm Lehmbruck, Henri Laurens and John Chamberlain are also to be found in the Collection..
Over the past decade the Collection Frieder Burda has dedicated itself with increasing commitment to the current art of a younger generation of painters. Works by Heribert C. Ottersbach, Karin Kneffel, Eberhard Havekost, Corinne Wasmuht, Anton Henning, and Damian Loeb document the enduring fascination of the medium of painting and the search for new subject matter and themes. By presenting these contemporary positions the Museum Frieder Burda is taking part in the current discourse on art, which continues to raise questions about the foundations and essence of painting. The collection will continue to develop in this direction in the future.
In order to maintain the integral nature of the Collection and make it accessible to the public, a museum was built in Frieder Burda's home city of Baden-Baden. The plans for the 25 million euro project have been drafted by the New York architect Richard Meier. The Museum Frieder Burda was inaugurated in the autumn of 2004 and will be fully financed and run by the Foundation Frieder Burda which was established in 1998.
The Museum will show the Collection to the public in varying presentations and taking ever-changing factors and new contexts into consideration. A fundamental part of the alternating exhibitions will also relate to the Collection, so that with the museum a place will be created for animated reflection and discussion on the works of art of the Collection.