Art publishers cover everything from traditional art history and exhibition catalogues to the heroes of digital games

From Dürer to digital beauties

As well as traditional subjects such as architecture and the fine arts, new books from German art publishers cover a broad range, embracing cultural history, historical anthropology, film, photography and new media.

Deutscher Kunstverlag has issued the third and final volume of Das königliche Schloß zu Berlin (The Royal Castle of Berlin), a collaboration between Goerd Poeschken and Liselotte Wiesinger. It focuses on the baroque interior design of the royal residence built by Andreas Schlüter and only demolished five years after the end of World War II. It was one of the key buildings in Prussian architectural history and its reconstruction is still a major issue in the debate surrounding the redevelopment of Berlin.

Matthias Schirren’s monograph, Hugo Häring, published by Hatje Cantz, is a comprehensive, pleasingly presented account of one of the leading figures in modern German architecture. From Prestel comes the first of a six-volume series, edited by David Jenkins, on the work of Norman Foster, one of the best-known contemporary architects, famous for rebuilding the Reichstag in Berlin and designing the Great Court of the British Museum in London. Describing the first 20 years of Foster’s career, the first volume alone contains 600 pages and 1,600 illustrations.

While it is usual to search for the philosophical basis of modern architecture, in his book Der Klang der Steine: Nietzsches Architekturen (The sound of stones: Nietzsche’s architecture), Fritz Neumeyer takes quite the opposite approach. He sees architecture and architectural theory as the key to Nietzsche’s thinking. The philosopher’s preoccupation with architecture is reflected in his use of countless architectural metaphors, which at the same time enhanced his decisive influence on great modern architects such as Peter Behrens or Bruno Taut.

Outstanding among recent publications on painting and graphic art are a number of catalogues. Prestel has brought out the second volume of the catalogue of Dürer’s prints compiled and edited by Rainer Schoch, Matthias Mende and Anna Scherbaum. This is devoted to woodcuts, while the third and final volume, dealing with book illustrations, is due to appear in the autumn of next year. This is a large-scale, scientific project that will open up new perspectives in Dürer scholarship, especially his influence on the history of artistic endeavour throughout Europe, which continues to this day.

Fulfilling a long felt need among researchers is Gerd Woll’s complete catalogue of the graphic works of Edvard Munch, published by Beck. For the first time, this important aspect of Munch’s work which had such a ground-breaking impact on modern art is made accessible through over 1,100 illustrations.

Another important contribution is Gerhard Wietek’s Karl Schmidt-Rottluff: Plastik und Kunsthandwerk (Karl Schmidt-Rottluff: sculpture and craftwork), published by Hirmer. The book is the first to examine a largely unknown aspect of the work of this great member of Die Brücke.

Daniel Arasse’s monograph on Anselm Kiefer, published by Schirmer-Mosel, promises to be an exciting read. This beautifully presented volume looks at the complete works of a man whose trenchant confrontation with German history has placed him among the foremost living artists.

Poetry-writing painters and painting poets provide the opportunity for an unusual insight into different forms of artistic expression. “Spectacular” is the best way to describe the rediscovery of a bundle of drawings by Heinrich Mann. Volker Skierka presents a selection of them in a book entitled Liebschaften und Greulmärchen (Flirtations and horror stories), published by Steidel Verlag. Equally fascinating is Arnulf Rainer’s painterly reworking of drawings by Victor Hugo under the title of Schichten der Nacht (Layers of night), published by DuMont.

Scientific catalogues of important collections of 20th-century art are a rarity. Amerikanische Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts (20th-century American art) dealing with the collection at Munich’s Neue Pinakothek, compiled by Corinna Thierolf and published by Hatje Cantz, is a perfect example.

DuMont is publishing Leopold: Meisterwerke aus dem Leopold Museum Wien (Masterpieces from the Leopold Museum, Vienna) to coincide with the opening of the city’s new museum. This is a richly-illustrated survey of this unique collection, devoted mainly to works by Klimt, Schiele, Kokoschka and Gerstl.

Seminal research is often carried out within the framework of exhibitions, leading to the publication of correspondingly voluminous catalogues. This is also the case with the two-volume catalogue, published by Verlag Philipp von Zabern, for the exhibition “Otto der Große: Magdeburg und Europa” (Otto the Great: Magdeburg and Europe), set to become standard text for anyone interested in art and culture in the early Middle Ages.

Hirmer is bringing out an outstandingly beautiful catalogue to go with the exhibition entitled “Ars vivendi, ars moriendi” (The art of living, the art of dying) which presents some important Books of Hours from a private German collection. In recent years, art history has contributed decisively to the methodological discourse in the humanities. At the same time, fine art and architecture have become crucial “sources” for historians and sociologists, theologians and philosophers, anthropologists and those engaged in the study of literature.

This new approach has aroused interest in the Europe-wide phenomenon of the cabinet of curiosities. Taschen has now published a lavishly presented reprint, with extensive commentary, of Albertus Seba’s cabinet of natural curiosities, which first appeared in 1734-65. A work which had a highly significant influence in the fields of botany and zoology, the book combines life-like representations and richly ornamented plates: a major aesthetic event. Fire and blood, basic existential themes in the cultural history of humanity, are the subjects of the next two works on our list. Feuer (Fire), published in Cologne by Wienand, is an anthology edited by the Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, shedding light on this primitive phenomenon, from both cultural historical and anthropological standpoints. Paintings, drawings, sculptures and video installations feature in the catalogue, published by Prestel, of an exhibition staged at Frankfurt’s Kunsthalle Schirn on the theme of Blut, Kunst, Macht, Politik, Pathologie (Blood, art, power, politics, pathology). The history of a nation and the collective memory and identity of its people are closely tied to specific locations. Taking their cue from the French publication by Pierre Noras, entitled Lieux des mémoires, Étienne François and Hagen Schulze have devised Deutsche Erinnerungsorte (German places of memory). This monumental work, published by Beck and extending over three volumes, is one of the most important enterprises in German academic historical research in recent years. Although the term “place” is defined in the broad sense, “real” places, like the Wartburg, the church of St Paul in Frankfurt, Neuschwanstein, the Brandenburg Gate and Berlin’s Museum Island play a central role.

Film, photography and new media spread ideas and attitudes beyond national frontiers and thereby contribute to the creation of an ever more globalised culture. Twentieth- and 21st-century art impressively reflect the growing importance of these media at the leading edge of culture. “Kiosk” was the title of a recent exhibition at Agfa Foto-Historama in the Ludwig Museum, Cologne, documenting the history of photo-reportage from 1839 to 1973. The comprehensive catalogue, published by Steidel, contains more than 1,200 pictures, illustrating the artistic potential and far-reaching effects of this photographic genre.

Fashion photography, another genre with a defining influence on present-day culture, is the subject of the catalogue, published by Schirmer-Mosel, for the exhibition, “Archaeology of elegance: 20 Jahre Modefotografie, 1980-2000” (Archaeology of elegance: 20 years of fashion photography, 1980-2000) scheduled to visit Hamburg, London, Tokyo, New York and other venues next year. The 5th International Photo-Triennale in Esslingen is entitled “Moving Pictures: Fotografie und Film in der zeitgenössischen Kunst” (Moving pictures: photography and film in contemporary art). The catalogue, published by Hatje Cantz, shows the impact of both media on the work of leading artists, such as Mariko Mori and Cindy Sherman. Taschen’s Movies of the 90s is the first volume of a new film history series edited by Jürgen Müller, reflecting the role played by film in shaping late 20th-century culture.

Twenty-first-century aesthetics are the subject of Julius Wiedemann’s Digital beauties, also published by Taschen. The new heroes of the digital age are fast outstripping the real-life idols of the film and fashion worlds and already setting their own standards of what constitutes beauty. Two publications stand out among the many dealing with contemporary photography: Roni Horn’s philosophical meditation on the River Thames, Dictionary of water, published by Edition 7L, and Mineros (Miners), from Edition Braus, featuring Jean Claude Wicky’s images of Bolivian mineworkers elevated to the splendour of sculpted monuments.

Also impressive is the catalogue published by Schirmer-Mosel to coincide with an exhibition at the Kunsthalle Bremen of works by Jörg Sasse. Entitled Arbeiten am Bild: Photographien 1981 bis 2001 (Reworking the image: photographs 1981 to 2001), it presents photographs digitally manipulated by the photographer with the deliberate and paradoxical aim of making them look like the paintings of the Old Masters.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'From Dürer to digital beauties'

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 118 October 2001