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Ulrich Rückriem. 40 Bodenreliefs – Neue Nationalgalerie | 21.12.2023-14.01.2024

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From 21 December 2023, Ulrich Rückriem’s main work “40 Bodenreliefs” will be shown in the upper hall of the Neue Nationalgalerie to mark his 85th birthday: The installation of forty square granite slabs is a homage to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The current three-week presentation is a re-enactment of the work conceived especially for the Neue Nationalgalerie in 1998.

Fig. above: Ulrich Rückriem, 40 Bodenreliefs 1998/2023, Installationsansicht Neue Nationalgalerie, 2009© Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Foto: Roman März

The German sculptor Ulrich Rückriem (born 1938) donated his main work “40 Bodenreliefs” to the Nationalgalerie in 1998. Rückriem is known for his massive stone sculptures, often divided into sections, and in 1998 he laid out 40 square slabs in the empty glass hall of the Neue Nationalgalerie. These “40 Bodenreliefs” became part of the Nationalgalerie’s collection and were shown in variations in 2004 and 2009. The Neue Nationalgalerie is now showing a re-enactment of the installation, which was specially conceived for the museum’s unique architecture, to mark the artist’s 85th birthday.

The 40 granite slabs were originally quarried and prepared in Normandy. The 120 x 120 cm size of the stones corresponds exactly to the size of the floor slabs in Mies van der Rohe’s hall. According to the artist’s ideas, the stones should be distributed across the hall floor in a loose “chessboard-like” form, so that one slab lies on each longitudinal track. Rückriem contrasts the strict grid of the interior with the playful rhythm of his floor design. The porous, broken-up surface structure of the stones, typical of Rückriem, provides an organic counter-element to the functional character of the architecture, which is characterised entirely by glass and steel. The stones act as “disruptions” that direct the view down to the ground, emphasising the horizontal layout of the building and restricting visitors’ ability to stroll freely through the hall. Due to the otherwise open hall and the open view in all directions, the installation takes on a landscape dimension.

The Nationalgalerie’s collection includes a number of works by Ulrich Rückriem. These include the large stone massif “Granit (Normandie)” (1985) and the “Stele for Mies” (2004), which is permanently installed on the lawn on the south side of the Neue Nationalgalerie. The dimensions of the tall, block-like stone pillar “Stele for Mies” correspond
exactly to the 120 x 120 cm ground plan of the “40 Bodenreliefs” and mathematically approximately to the 40 “Floor Reliefs” laid on top of each other.

Ulrich Rückriem beim Aufbau der „40 Bodenrelief“ September 1998. Foto: Roman März

Ulrich Rückriem was born on 30 September 1938 and turned 85 this year. “What I do is the minimal, the simple,” Ulrich Rückriem formulated in 1977, adding, “I believe that this is important, that it makes people take a closer look when there is little to see.” The artist has always been interested in placing his sculptures in a way that creates a dialogue with the surrounding space. “I look for places for my sculptures in the city or in the landscape. I often only start them once I have found an environment”.

With the “40 Bodenreliefs”, the Neue Nationalgalerie is continuing the architectural interventions by artists such as Monica Bonvicini, which are dedicated to Mies van der Rohe and his special architecture.

Kulturforum, New National Gallery
Potsdamer Straße 50
10785 Berlin

Thursday, 21 December 2023 to Sunday, 14 January 2024

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