Miami collectors champion German painting, with the more traditional medium increasingly gaining favour over video works and installations

Leipzig School to the fore: “They didn’t know painting was dead”


An impressive Museum of Fine Arts opens today in Leipzig after a five-year construction period, further whetting collectors’ appetites for German art.

In the last year, Germany has attracted a lot more attention from the international art community, replacing the YBAs [Young British Artists] as the new hot topic. A German magazine cover was even headlined “Brit-Art war Gestern!” (Brit Art was Yesterday!), reporting Korean collector C.I. Kim’s Berlin-Leipzig buying spree.

This new gang of painters includes David Schnell, Matthias Weischer, Tim Eitel, Martin Eder, and Christoph Ruckhaberle. During ABMB this year, Rosa de la Cruz, the Rubells, and Dacra all exhibiting German painters. Currently the Rubells have on display five Eitels, four Ruckhaberles, three Schnells, four Weischers, and more than half a dozen Havekosts. The Dacra collection has acquired a number of Kippenbergers, as well as other works by German painters including Eberhard Havekost, Kai Althoff and Katharina Wulff.

So why have all these collectors all taken such an interest? A mild mannered David Schnell is unsure why his work has become so sought after. “I think that for some [collectors] it might be that we learned from an old school technique. The school was changing. Photos and media art were rising, and because of this we had to take a clear position against that, so we didn’t use painting in an ironic way. Instead we made painting in a traditional way.”

The fact is that contemporary art is driven by cycles, fashions and a touch of restlessness. People have been tiring of video works and installations, which, in addition, are not easy to display: they are ready to move onto something new.

Add in the influence of a few major collectors such as the Rubells or Britain’s Charles Saatchi (who is devoting next year’s show at his London gallery to paintings) and other buyers will quickly follow. “It may sound idealistic, but I believe that in the long run, good work wins out”, said Art Cologne director Gerard Goodrow, speaking to The Art Newspaper in October. “The academy system means that artists here are better educated. Even when they do ‘bad painting’, it’s really well executed”. A former teacher in Leipzig’s Artists’ School for Graphic and Book Illustrations is the hugely successful painter Neo Rauch. “People in Leipzig didn’t know painting was dead,” says dealer Gerd Harry Lybke from Eigen + Art, “and the girls in Leipzig like painters,” he jokes.

Collectors whose interest has been raised by exhibitions of these artists at private collections should note that Eigen + Art have sold incredibly well recently. The gallery has such reduced stock that they have only brought work by Martin Eider to this year’s fair.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Miami collectors are among the flight towards German painting'