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Carlos Cruz-Diez among others

Carlos Cruz-Diez [left] on view in Back to the Present. New Perspectives, New Works - The Collection from 1945 to Today. Exhibition view. Photo: Städel Museum - Norbert Miguletz



Starting on 19 May 2020 – nearly a decade after the opening of the Garden Halls – the Städel Museum’s Collection of Contemporary Art will be presented anew for the first time. A history of art after 1945 fans out proceeding from the central square of the Garden Halls, which cover an area of some 3,000 square metres, beginning with major works of art dating from the recent past to the present. A total of approximately 230 works by 170 artists of various schools, styles and groups will reveal surprising comparisons, viewpoints and visual axes between the immediate present and its roots in past decades. In honour of the occasion, a large number of the museum’s most recent acquisitions and gifts will be on exhibit for the first time, for example works by Miriam Cahn (b 1949), René Daniëls (b 1950), Carlos Cruz-Diez (1923–2019), Jimmie Durham (b 1940), Asta Gröting (b 1961) and Victor Vasarely (1906–1997). With a wide array of narrative threads, the new presentation will allow experiencing post-1945 art from a thematic rather than a chronological point of view. The dissolution of the depicted object in formless, abstract painting, as seen in works of different decades, will be one thematic focus; another will be the advent of gestural painting and its impact on the generations that followed. The presentation will also address itself to the aesthetic of geometry and objects of everyday life – an aspect that turns up time and again in the period in question, charged with ever new meanings and references – in all its various forms and thematic premises. As visitors make their way through the rooms and squares of the Garden Halls, they will moreover gain insights into how the figure found its way back into the picture, how painting conquered – real – space, how the alleged competitors painting and photography entered into a mutual exchange, and much more.


One chief concern of the new permanent exhibition is the development of a unifying narrative between modern art and that of the post-1945 period – the so-called first and second avant-gardes. In the geometric abstraction of the post-war era, artists quoted, revised or deconstructed the formal language of the Bauhaus, Russian Suprematism etc. In a concentrated assemblage, works by Victor Vasarely, Mary Heilmann (*1940), Carlos Cruz-Diez, Josef Albers (1888–1976) and others demonstrate how the renunciation of representation and a personal style sharpen the visual perception of colour and form. In the work of Robert Breer (1926–2011) or Rupprecht Geiger (1908–2009), on the other hand, geometric abstraction is the road to colour-field painting.