Here, the Boss Herself Does the Painting
Reactions to the Exhibition "The Art of Tomorrow: Hilla von Rebay and
Solomon R. Guggenheim"
With the show
"The Art of Tomorrow", the
Deutsche Guggenheim is honoring
Hilla von Rebay’s achievements as an artist and curator. The
exhibition offers an overview of her entire artistic oeuvre and
demonstrates the considerable influence Rebay had on the rise of
non-objective art. She won the American industrialist
Solomon R. Guggenheim over for this "art of tomorro" and rose to founding
director of the
Guggenheim Museum in New York. Prior to the opening of
Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, however, the headstrong German
baroness fell in disfavor. The exhibition space at Unter den Linden in
Berlin is showing Rebay’s non-objective paintings, drawings, and collages
together with important works by her friends
Jean Arp, and Kurt Schwitters
. The press proved especially interested in Rebay’s personality and
achievements as a curator, while her artistic works usually play no more
than a limited role in the exhibition reviews.
Welt am Sonntag, "a late retribution" is what Dirk Krampitz calls "The Art
of Tomorrow" at the Deutsche Guggenheim. "She wasn’t invited when her
museum was opened in 1959 (…) the baroness had long since become a persona
non grata. Now, the Guggenheim art empire is paying tribute to its founder
in the museum at Unter den Linden." For Krampitz, Rebay’s significance
lies in the fact that she moved Solomon R. Guggenheim to "begin an
extensive collection of works and thus to bring modern art to America. (…)
She had the instinct for art, and he had the money." Yet Krampitz does not
mention a single word about Rebay’s own works.
Ruthe from the
Berliner Zeitung, as well, the "enthusiastic show" constitutes a
rehabilitation of a "missionary of abstraction" who "promoted other, more
talented artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, Hans Arp, and
Paul Klee with great passion. That’s what makes Hilla Rebay so great and
unforgettable. She is a part of the Guggenheim family. The grandchildren
have understood this – and taken action." Ruthe regards von Rebay’s
artistic production with mixed feelings, however. "Hilla von Rebay’s own
(…) works are rather mediocre – except for the poetic, bizarre watercolors
and the fresh and funny little panels from the twenties." Yet despite
this: “"he small Dadaist collages are very impressive."
More than anything else, Nicola Kuhn honors "The Stormy One", the title of her
article in the Tagesspiegel, for
her commitment to abstract art. "One of the most important collections of
non-objective painting as well as the first clearly modern museum
building of contemporary times – the
Guggenheim Museum – traces back (…) to her initiative." She compares
Rebay’s immense influence with the current situation in the art
establishment. "If you looked for a comparable figure today that is as
close to a collector as she was, you’d quickly wind up with the dealers.
(…) You’ll never find such a glittering figure and painter with the
temperament of a storm trooper."
BZ formulates Hilla von Rebay’s dual role as artist and founding director
of the Guggenheim Museum in the headline of their article on the
exhibition: "Here, the Boss Herself Does the Painting."
In the Berliner Morgenpost,
Gabriela Walde calls "The Art of Tomorrow" a search for lost traces,
because from the very beginning "Rebay’s own work disappeared behind her
Guggenheim activities." While Hilla von Rebay is "not a first-rate artist"
and her large oil paintings are "pretty much the works of an epigone (…)
under Kandinsky’s powerful influence, who outdoes her in a single
brushstroke", she nonetheless values "Hilla’s tiny collages, barely as big
as a hand, that in their tremendous dynamics seem illuminated from within.
Light, gay figurations that tumble across the paper, at times reminiscent
of colored Japanese ink drawings in their grace of line. Or her dance
sketches, in which she captures movement with a light hand. Rebay excels
when she follows her own impulses and doesn’t try to approach the greats
of her time like Kurt Schwitters or Hans-Jean Arp."
Werneburg from the tageszeitung examines
Rebay’s own works the most intensively. Her "great sensitivity for subtle
color gradations and a much less developed sense of a clear and
interesting division of the canvas into abstract formal elements often
lend her paintings a fairly decorative character. Indeed, Rebay herself
highly estimated the decorative as a valuable of non-objective art." More
than anything else, Werneburg is interested in the drawings in which Rebay
recorded the jazz clubs of Harlem. "A touch of Berlin, where she moved to
in 1913, can be felt in the almost caricature-like expressions of the
black faces and bodies, reminiscent of her watercolors of the
Ballet Russes from 1910, but also of
Dix and Grosz.
Perhaps there’s another connection to be found here if one considers that
this kind of expression could have provided the African American artist
Kara Walker with an art historical basis for her bitter silhouettes."