About the Sculpture Collection
A collection of contemporary visual art of national importance
The beginnings and objectives
The "Skulpturensammlung Viersen" (Sculpture Collection Viersen) is a private initiative of the Verein für Heimatpflege e. V. Viersen, which has set itself the task of giving the visual arts of our time an opportunity to develop in the centre of our town and, to this end, acquiring important works of sculpture for the district town of Viersen.
The "Viersen Sculpture Collection" presents exemplary positions of contemporary sculpture in a special urban situation. In the process, thoroughly different and also contradictory artistic tendencies are to be brought together in works of the highest quality. The city thus becomes a permanent venue for a polyphonic artistic event.
To found a project like the "Skulpturensammlung Viersen" as a civic initiative with the highest quality standards and a great deal of financial effort and to continue it steadily for over 30 years without using budgetary funds can confidently be called a stroke of luck for a town. Incidentally, it is not just a weekend event, but is open to the interested public 24 hours a day, all year round.
The "Viersen Sculpture Collection" is no longer a stranger to our town. A sign of this attitude is the unanimous decision of the council of elders of the city of Viersen to make this collection of sculptures recognisable as a cultural landmark of the city in appropriate signage on the federal motorways in the vicinity of the city and at the same time to advertise our city and invite people to visit it. The city wants to present itself to the outside world with these works of art and identify itself with their artistic and cultural significance. The motorway sign was erected on the A 61 in the direction of Venlo and Koblenz in 2013.
The first step - Pohl's donation
The first step was made possible by a patron, William Pohl, a citizen of Viersen who had emigrated to the United States of America. However, he had wanted his donation to the Viersen Heritage Society to be used for the preservation of his parents' house as a museum of local history. A purpose that became unattainable after the town had planned the land on which his parents' house stood for the extension of the then girls' grammar school on Lindenstraße (now a comprehensive school). It was only in the second attempt that an earlier consideration of William Pohl's wife, Dr. La Vera Pohl, who had been director of the Milwaukee Art Museum in the USA for many years, could be taken up, according to which the donation was to serve the artistic enrichment of the city.
As already mentioned, the donation was intended for the Verein für Heimatpflege Viersen, an association which - like other local history and historical associations - was primarily committed to the history of the town, the protection of monuments, dialect, customs and, if at all, so-called local art. If it was nevertheless possible to obtain the approval of the association's general meeting for the use of the funds for the foundation of a sculpture collection of contemporary art, this was not least due to the artistic conception of Dr. Joachim Peter Kastner, which was worked out in consultation with the board and presented at the meeting.
After this, sculptures by Erwin Heerich, K. H. Hödicke and David D. Lauer were initially acquired with funds from the Pohl donation. These three sculptures were installed in September 1989 in the surroundings of the classicist Municipal Gallery in the Park built in 1868 and the District House of the District of Viersen, completed in 1984 in the post-modern style, and handed over to the public.
What happened next?
The funds of Pohl's donation were thus exhausted. However, the previous purchases as well as the sculpture plan for an expansion of the collection, which initially envisaged the acquisition of a sculpture by Mark di Suvero, convinced the "Foundation for Art and Culture of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia", which, under the chairmanship of the then Minister President Dr. h. c. Johannes Rau, declared that it wanted to honour the "outstanding activities around art in Viersen" with a grant.
Support from the State of NRW
The fact that the "Viersen Sculpture Collection" could be complemented by the installation of the sculpture "New Star" by Mark di Suvero, created in 1987, is therefore primarily due to the "Foundation for Art and Culture of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia" and its then secretary, Fritz-Theo Mennicken, who acquired the sculpture for the foundation via the art trade (John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco) at the suggestion of the Verein für Heimatpflege and made it available to the city of Viersen as a loan. It was erected by Mark di Suvero himself on Diergardtplatz in Viersen on 14 April 1992 and handed over by Johannes Rau.
Donations by Erwin Heerich
Afterwards, the town of Viersen was able to accept donations made by Erwin Heerich to the Verein für Heimatpflege. Erwin Heerich added a bird bath made of the same material as a floor sculpture to his sculpture made of Eifel basalt lava, which was set up as part of the Pohl donation. He also created stone and metal benches that correspond to the artistic features of the sculpture collection and replaced the usual garden benches.
While the first three acquisitions were possible thanks to the Pohl donation and the sculpture by Mark di Suvero was on loan from the "Foundation for Art and Culture of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia", a further expansion of the collection was only possible in view of the renewed support from the Foundation if local sponsors could be found to the same extent. In this way, it was not only possible to increase acceptance, but also to gain many friends and sponsors from the citizenry.
Anthony Cragg and Wolfgang Nestler
This is why the bronze "Wirbelsäule - the articulated column" (Spine - the articulated column), designed by Anthony Cragg especially for Viersen, was purchased and installed in 1996. This was followed in 1998 by a steel sculpture by Wolfgang Nestler "Position im Schwerpunkt".
Exhibition, Publication, Schools
With each further step towards expanding the "Viersen Sculpture Collection", it was a natural concern to open up access to the work of the respective artist through an exhibition in the Städtische Galerie im Park in Viersen, combined with an accompanying publication. Since artistic work requires a great deal of explanation, it was no less important to involve the educators and pupils of the schools in the town and district. This included not only the provision of publications in class sets and invitations to special guided tours through the respective exhibitions, but within the framework of lessons, pupils from all types of schools, including the vocational schools and the schools for the mentally and learning disabled, dealt with the sculptures. The results led to an exhibition in 1999 entitled "Sculptures Make School - School Makes Sculptures", which became the best-visited exhibition at the Städtische Galerie im Park. "The pictorial dialogue, the recreation or redesign of a sculpture from the "Skulpturensammlung Viersen" also guaranteed the pupils involved in the art project a new approach to the works".
(Barbara Wichelhaus, Kunst im Dialog, Schüler im "Gespräch" mit den Werken aus der Skulpturensammlung Viersen, accompanying text to a follow-up exhibition in Viersen from 9. 8. 1999)
Finally, in 1999, with the help of the board of Kaiser's Kaffee-Geschäft AG in Viersen, a graphic edition was published in their silk-screen printing shop for the benefit of the "Skulpturensammlung Viersen" (Viersen Sculpture Collection), the proceeds of which will be used for new acquisitions and accompanying exhibitions. The edition consists of a folder limited to 40 copies with 10 screen prints in paper format 100 x 70 cm and a title page. The portfolio, which is currently only available in a few copies, includes works by Anthony Cragg, Heinrich Gillis Görtz, Erwin Heerich, K. H. Hödicke, Peter Kastner, David D. Lauer, Michael Schoenholtz, Bill Scott, Mark di Suvero and Norbert Tadeusz.
Sculpture "Chaosmos" by Matta Echaurren
Another purchase was made in 2001. It is the bronze sculpture "Chaosmos" by Roberto Sebastian Antonio Matta Echaurren. The artist, who was born on 11 November 1911 in Santiago de Chile and was the great master of surrealist art, lived at that time in the ancient Etruscan city of Tarquinia near Rome. Due to his age, he was no longer able to attend the handover of his sculpture in Viersen on 5 May 2002 in person, but sent his wife, Germana Matta-Ferrari, who presented the "Skulpturensammlung Viersen" with the ceramic "Etre Cri" as a gift on this occasion. For the first time, the "Viersener Sparkassenstiftung" supported the acquisition of Matta's sculpture "Chaosmos" and subsequently became a guarantor for the steady development of the collection through its permanent support, which in turn made it possible to win over supra-local foundations such as the "Rheinische Sparkassenstiftung" and especially the "Kunststiftung NRW" for the remaining financing.
Optimus II by Günter Haese
On 16 September 2007, the collection was expanded once again with the sculpture Optimus II by Günter Haese. For the first time, the Minister President of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia could be won over for a sponsorship. This was decisively due to the commitment of the State Secretary for Culture of the State of NRW, Hans-Heinrich Grosse-Brockhoff, who is very familiar with the work of Günter Haese and who recognised what it meant that the artist ventured to create a monumental sculpture in public space for the first time in Viersen and did so with great conviction. In this way, the "Skulpturensammlung Viersen" once again produced a unique piece that has never existed in this form elsewhere.
Publications and website in several languages
The supraregional resonance was created not least by the fact that the participating artists, for their part, attached importance to the accompanying publication being sent to the museums in Europe and overseas where they are represented with their works or where they have already exhibited. For this reason, the publication, which is published by the Verein für Heimatpflege to accompany each new acquisition, is written in German and English, as is the website (www.skulpturensammlung-viersen.de), which now presents the complete collection with photos and textual explanations in German, French,Italian, Spanish and Dutch.
Working Group Sculpture Museums and Sculpture Collections
In the meantime, the collection has been elected a member of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Bildhauermuseen und Skulpturensammlungen e.V. (Sculpture Museums and Collections Association). This admission is associated with the highest recognition and confirmation of the collection's museum status, especially since the small circle of 34 members includes such illustrious institutions as the Nationalgalerie Berlin, the Skulpturensammlung Dresden, the Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum Duisburg and the Kunsthalle Mannheim.
An audio guide is offered. The first sculpture construction kit by Prof. Ernst Althoff has been published and is already out of print. Intra-urban traffic signs have been designed, a postmark "Skulpturensammlung Viersen" is used by the town and district and a bus of the Niederrheinwerke meanwhile advertises the collection.
China Daily by Chinese artist Wang Du
On 30 May 2010, the "Viersen Sculpture Collection" had another new acquisition to report. For the first time in its twenty-year history, it was enriched by the generous gift of a Viersen family, the couple Jakob and Brigitte Peters-Messer and their sons Florian and Jakob. The monumental sculpture China Daily, Services top task for Games, by the Chinese artist Wang Du, created in 2007, was deliberately acquired by the family as part of a joint action at the Berlin art dealer Arndt und Partner in order to make it a gift to the "Skulpturensammlung Viersen".
Once again, the "Skulpturensammlung Viersen" is confirmed in the absolute singularity of its holdings and, at the same time, the Paris-based artist Wang Du is monumentally represented in public space for the first time in our country. The cross-generational character of the collection - between the years of birth of the artists Matta-Echauren (1911) and Wang Du (1956) there is already a time gap of almost half a century - is symbolically supported by the two generations of the Peters-Messer family and is also intended to address the idea that responsibility for this project is not only to be borne by one generation, but is to be passed on to the younger ones, and conversely the willingness is signalled that here civic commitment in matters of contemporary visual art is understood and understood by the younger ones as meaning and life task.
For the time being, the last new acquisition by Gereon Krebber, "Zirbel"
For this, thanks are due to the Chairwoman of the Board of Directors of Sparkasse Krefeld, Dr Birgit Roos, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Fritz Meies, who has always regarded the collection as a beacon project and has campaigned for it with great persuasiveness, as well as the no less committed Chairman of the Foundation, Stefan Vander, and the other members of the Board of Trustees. The sculptor Gereon Krebber, born in 1973, belongs to the younger generation of artists. As part of his professorship in the orientation area at the Düsseldorf Art Academy, he has been mentoring students who are at the very beginning of their artistic careers since 2012. He has closely followed the development of the Viersen Sculpture Collection for years. Together with the Münster professors Maik and Dirk Löbbert, Krebber has been a member of the "Art Generator" jury for several years. This scholarship, which has been awarded annually since 2008 by NEW Viersen GmbH and the city of Viersen, promotes young artists beyond regional borders and grants a studio and flat in the Alte Lateinschule in Viersen for the duration of one year. In a two-stage procedure, the jury decides on the award from among the numerous applicants. The jury meetings are always held in the Städtische Galerie im Park, which is the centre of the Viersen sculpture collection.
"The monumental sculptures of various shapes, sizes and materials have been created over the last 40 years and have been brought here from all over the world. Think of "Chaosmos", the bronze sculpture by the Chilean Matta Echauren, who lived in Paris and Tarquinia/Italy, "New Star" by the Italian-American Mark Di Suvero from the North American West Coast, "Wirbelsäule" by the Englishman Tony Cragg, who lives in Wuppertal, and "China Daily" by the Chinese Wang Du, who lives and works in Paris. This internationality is good for us, because it connects the name of our city with all kinds of parts of the world and helps us to look beyond the proverbial end of our noses - thus opening up new, unnoticed perspectives. And not only in artistic terms, but also with regard to the integration of the different people living in our city, as well as the cooperation of our companies and businesses and the expansion of their supra-regional and international connections. Applied to the sculpture collection as a whole, this means: "Nothing symbolises the freedom and versatility, the openness and seriousness of our world view better than this small but monumental, purposeless collection of works of art. It was created for our city and at the same time it should be a sign of our city and the thinking and acting that goes on in it".
(Günter Thönnessen, Acknowledgement by the Mayor of the City of Viersen in: Wang Du in the Viersen Sculpture Collection)
According to its press invitation, the reason given by the Landschaftsverband Rheinland for awarding the Rheinlandtaler to the chairman of the Verein für Heimatpflege e. V. Viersen on 8 September 2010 was as follows: "The Viersen Sculpture Collection is one of the most important contemporary sculpture collections in the Rhineland. The Verein für Heimatpflege e. V. Viersen has assembled the works of high-ranking international artists on its own initiative. The collection contributes to a new and future-oriented overall image of the town of Viersen".
Viersen, November 2020
Dr. Albert Pauly
1st Chairman of the Verein für Heimatpflege e. V. Viersen
Information, catalogues and posters
Information, catalogues and posters are available at the Städtische Galerie im Park or in our web shop.
City Gallery in the Park
Tuesdays - Saturdays: 3pm to 6pm
Sundays: 11am to 6pm