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Ernst Barlach Prize 2023 for Leon Löwentraut – Barlach Kunstmuseum Wedel | 01.12.2023-28.01.2024

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The artist Leon Löwentraut (born 1998) will be awarded the Ernst Barlach Prize 2023 for Fine Arts on Friday, 1 December 2023. The prize has been awarded by the Ernst Barlach Gesellschaft Hamburg since 1995 to draw attention to particularly innovative artistic positions. The jury, chaired by Dr Jürgen Doppelstein, Museum Director and Chairman of the Ernst Barlach Society, unanimously decided in favour of 25-year-old Leon Löwentraut. The award ceremony will take place at 7 pm in the Barlach Art Museum Wedel. At the same time as the award ceremony, the Ernst Barlach Gesellschaft Hamburg is honouring the artist with a retrospective exhibition that will provide an insight into Leon Löwentraut’s pictorial worlds until 28 January 2024. The museum is showing a cross-section of his work on three floors – a total of more than 70 works – paintings, graphic editions, sculptures and charcoal drawings – are on display.

Fig. above: Leon Löwentraut, Foto: Sebastian Drüen, Rechte bei Leon Löwentraut

Dr Jürgen Doppelstein, Museum Director and Chairman of the Ernst Barlach Gesellschaft, explains: “Leon Löwentraut’s works and his strongly media-based public communication have so far received little attention from traditional art critics. We are of the opinion that it is time for a change of perspective.” With regard to the relevance of Löwentraut’s work, he emphasises: “Leon Löwentraut shows modern man in all his isolation and fragmentation. And at the same time, he turns this human being into a great mystery. His depictions of robotic figures seem like messages from a distant, mysterious world. They are apocalyptic and utopian at the same time, oscillating between gestural, representational, abstract, ornamental and provocatively explosive in colour.

With its contradictory promise of uniqueness, Löwentraut stages his art as part of virtual reality. At the same time, he exaggerates the public nature of the private sphere in live acts and social media campaigns. He plays with the idea that the supposedly unique, genuine and authentic is itself only a construction and that his art alone is perhaps a last, desirable shelter. In it, the figures often appear distracted and fleeting, grotesque and clumsy, fragile and delicate and not infrequently fearful.

Löwentraut’s figures are trapped in a flood of images, signs and symbols that restrict their ability to move and escape. They often seem like masked lonely people in a crowded room. This feeling of loneliness in the midst of overcrowding and unmanageability is the starting point for Leon Löwentraut’s artistic work.” Doppelstein emphasises: “In this way, he touches a contemporary nerve and inspires younger people in particular with his art.”

He continues: “Of course, Löwentraut is also steeped in an artistic and aesthetic heritage that all young artists have to face up to. There’s always a tradition that comes through, the only question is how to not only overcome traditions, but how to reinterpret them.

The Abstract Expressionism of Willem de Kooning, for example, was characterised in particular by a gestural-expressive style. His works were always an exploration of abstraction and the constantly changing arrangement of human figures in the process of dissolution. He elevated the incompleteness of the individual picture to an important principle. And so Leon Löwentraut’s pictures sometimes appear strangely unfinished, often sketchy, as if interrupted in the middle of the painting process, suggesting that the artist will perhaps continue working on the work tomorrow or leave the completion entirely to the viewers themselves.”

Leon Löwentraut was born in Kaiserslautern in 1998 and lives and works near Düsseldorf and in Portugal. Since 2018, one of Leon Löwentraut’s paintings has adorned the lobby of the NRW state parliament. Kaiserslautern University of Applied Sciences awarded the Düsseldorf painter a lectureship in the Virtual Design course for the winter semester 2021/2022. Topic “Future Exhibition Design”. The aim was to develop intelligent staging formats for the art sector in order to make analogue art more tangible with digital possibilities. The jointly developed project “Volar” has now been awarded gold by the Art Directors Club (ADC).

The Ernst Barlach Gesellschaft e.V. has been looking after and researching the artistic and literary work of Ernst Barlach since 1946 and is dedicated to promoting art and culture. Its tasks include the conception and ongoing development of the museum programmes for the Ernst Barlach Museum Ratzeburg and the Barlach Art Museum Wedel as well as the organisation of current exhibitions and events on Ernst Barlach and socially relevant topics in cooperation with German, European and international cultural institutes. It participates in research projects and is committed to the visualisation of individual artistic and literary achievements through the regular awarding of the Ernst Barlach Prize.

Ernst Barlach
The sculptor, draughtsman and writer Ernst Barlach (1870 – 1938) is one of the most famous artists of German Expressionism. The rapid progress and political changes of the 19th and early 20th centuries meant a breathless adaptation to ever-changing living conditions. Although pioneering scientific and technical inventions promised relief and prosperity, at the same time the old value systems such as religion, appreciation of nature and family lost their binding character. In this time of great upheaval, Ernst Barlach confronted reality, which was perceived as cold and rational, with simple and unbiased images of mankind. His work is still relevant today.

Barlach Art Museum Wedel
Mühlenstraße 1
22880 Wedel


Opening: Friday, 1 December 2023, 7 p.m.

Exhibition dates: Friday, 1 December 2023 to Sunday, 28 January 2024

open Tuesday-Sunday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.

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