Jürgen Partenheimer (b. Munich, 1947) is one of the most striking, philosophical and most literary artists of our day. His work is renowned for its minimalistic but highly poetic visual idiom. Early in his career, he gained international fame at the biennales of Paris, Venice and São Paulo. The Archive looks back on a career that has lasted more than 35 years. The exhibition is the fruit of a unique collaborative project involving the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, the Deichtorhallen Hamburg / Sammlung Falckenberg and the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver. The show at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag will bring together paintings, works on paper, ceramics, sculptures and artist’s books. A particularly noteworthy feature will be the presence of the original model of Weltachse, a vertical axis built of stacked blue cubes, now on loan from a private collection in the Netherlands and back in the museum where it had its first showing twenty years ago.
The Archive will be the third presentation of Partenheimer’s work at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag. In 1993 Weltachse (‘World Axis’) was exhibited as part of one of the first site-specific shows to be held in the museum’s Projects Gallery. The original wooden version of Weltachse was to become the model for a bronze version twice its size, which was displayed in Amsterdam’s Vondelpark to coincide with the Partenheimer retrospective at the city’s Stedelijk Museum. The vast sculpture subsequently travelled the world, being exhibited as far away as China’s Forbidden City before returning to the Netherlands to be shown in the courtyard garden of the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag in 2000.
The forthcoming exhibition, The Archive is like a journey through memory. The artist has selected works from early and late in his career to form an impressively orchestrated presentation that unites the past with the present and blends personal recollections with associations and fragments from our collective memory. Partenheimer sums up the project as follows: ‘The exhibition alludes to an artist’s archive. I see this not simply as a physical place where artworks are stored. It is also a synonym for everything that exists, all fantasy and imagination, all memory and reality.’ The Archive has already been shown in varying forms at the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich and the Deichtorhallen / Sammlung Falckenberg in Hamburg. Following the presentation in The Hague, it will travel to the Contemporary Art Gallery (CAG) in Vancouver. Each of its appearances features a rather different selection of works. For example, the exhibition at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag will include additional works borrowed from collections in the Netherlands. The various presentations are linked by a book entitled Jürgen Partenheimer, Das Archiv / The Archive, published last January by German publishers Distanz Verlag. The book was designed in close collaboration with the artist and contains German and English-language contributions by authors from a range of disciplines, including Anne Carson, Franz Kaiser, Lebogang Mashile, Carla Schulz-Hoffmann, Rudi Fuchs and Nigel Prince.
Jürgen Partenheimer has carved out a niche of his own within the field of abstract art. Questioning the mainstream of development in trends, his ‘metaphysical abstract’ art has become a highly personal universe in which drawings, sculptures and artist’s books open the gates to a new spiritual reality. In his exploration, he links together art, music, philosophy and literature, but drawing remains the basis. Partenheimer is regarded as one of the most important artists working in Germany today. Not only has his work won a host of national and international awards and distinctions, but he was the first contemporary German artist ever to be given a retrospective in China (shown at the National Gallery in Beijing and the Nanjing Museum in Nanjing). This year he has received the Audain Distinguished Residency Award, one of the foremost Canadian art prizes, from the Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver.