On the occasion of the anniversary of the Hermann Noack foundry, visitors enter the eponymous workshop gallery with its museum-like rooms on two levels of the company premises to see the retrospective of sculpture positions from the past 125 years put together by the head of the collection and chief curator Isabella Mannozzi, and are presented with an overview ranging from modern to contemporary art. The exhibition features both important German and renowned international artists, and all of the 50 or so artistic positions shown in the exhibition have in common that all of the works were born in the Noack bronze foundry.
Image. above: View of NOACK’s new location on the Spree in Charlottenburg, which it moved into in 2010. Copyright: Archive Bildgießerei Hermann Noack
For the realisation of this exhibition project, Noack and his team used almost two years of preparation to supplement the majority of works from the company’s collection with rare and valuable exhibits from international collectors. The result is a show of superlatives in which the curator skilfully sets the visual axes for a dialogue. Once you have passed through the entrance area with historical photographs of Hermann I sitting in front of the bisons by August Gaul from 1913 with staff, to Hermann Noack IV and the installation with bronze sledges by Rolf Sachs of the sculpture “Stürzender II” (2006) by Rainer Fetting, the view of contemporary art continues in the large hall on the right.
The focus here is on the macroscopic “Drop” sculpture by the German-Russian sculptor Anna Bogouchevskaia, whose current work deals with nature and the climate crisis; topics that the opposite position of Elmgreen & Dragset confronts with an ironic statement through their gold-polished bronze “Dirty Socks” from 2019. It appears as a beacon of the fatalism displayed by a mindless generation for whom chilling out and not thinking too much is part of the affluent motto of life. Georg Baselitz’s sculpture “Pace Piece” (2003), shaped as a boot and shown here, is regarded by him as a self-portrait. While the German Neo-Expressionist defines the analogy here via the leg with boot, this is juxtaposed with an abstract head, known as an icon with the title “Sculpture 23”, by Rudolf Belling from 1923. Both artists are united here by the stylistically abstract level. Although Belling creates a space of association here in which the promise and horror of the machine age becomes palpable in its ambivalence, both artists are united by the fact that they were driven into exile by the Nazis. And so the dialogues continue in this exhibition, which is well worth seeing. The hanging sculpture by Jone Kvie meets Per Dybvik here and the two Britons, Eduardo Paolozzi, with his relief “Cityscape” from 1979, hangs here in calculated contradiction to the sculpture by Tony Cragg. The second large room to the left of the entrance promises similarly exciting triangles of tension.
While Alexander Archipenko, along with Picasso, was one of the first modern artists to reject the naturalism and neo-classicism of their time, but rather set a radically new understanding of form against it and did not allow themselves to be reduced to depiction, impression or natural model, but also grappled with Cubism and Futurism, in Archipenko’s case this created a form of abstraction that was entirely his own, which found its inspiration in ancient sculpture, but eluded clear stylistic or scholastic categorisations. From this period is the bronze “Flat Torso” shown in the retrospective at Noack, which the artist was to cast in collaboration with Noack in 1910 and which is here curatorially directly related to opposing views of the German sculptors Georg Kolbe through his bronze shown of the “Resurrection” from 1919 and Fritz Klimsch with “Sitting Girl” from 1936.
While in the reception of Kolbe’s work today the emphasis is still placed on the modern and innovative aesthetics of the 1910s and 20s, in which a life-affirming, vital and optimistic mission of sculpture can be discerned, the aesthetics of a later even more ideologised formal language can already be seen in the bronze produced by Fritz Klimsch in 1936. The animal sculptures in the juxtapositions of the positions of Renée Sintenis and Ewald Mataré produce similar contrasts here, and thus Donkey Meets Reclining Cow. However, the central position in the room is occupied here by Henry Moore’s medium-sized abstract sculpture. Just as in the company’s history, in which Moore advanced to become Noack’s most important artist for a long time due to his popularity and the volume of commissions.
The exhibition “125 Years of NOACK” opens on 11 November and will be on display until 03 February 2023. Opening hours are Monday to Friday between 12 noon and 5 pm. Admission is free of charge.
A 208-page exhibition publication in English and German is being published by DISTANZ-Verlag and is available now.
Exhibition Dates: Friday, 11. November 2022 until Friday, 3. February 2023
Bildgießerei Hermann Noack