Saturday, August 20, 2011

Has 81-year-old German sculptor Gunther Uecker traded nails for sails?

Is legendary German contemporary artist Gunther Uecker trading nails for sails?

Not on the secondary art market, according to Sotheby’s and Christies.

But at Art on Lake, the unique 25-sculpture contemporary marine show in Budapest, there´s a floating perception in “Water-sail Statue” suggesting he´s started another chapter as Germany´s most renown living sculptor at age 81.

Uecker, who is giving his six-sail, 24 iron barrel object art to the Museum of Fine Arts Budapest when the show closes at Budapest´s City Park Lake on 4 September, may be sailing onto newer and stranger ventures.

“Uecker places great emphasis on the interaction between light and movement in all his works, as for him these represent the connection between space and time,” wrote curators of Art on Lake, in the Art on Lake catalogue, released this month.

The show started 22 May as partial commemoration of Hungary´s first six-month presidency of the European Union. The EU helped fund the show.

Art on Lake curators refer to Uecker´s gift as a “monumental work….which is a mere ethereal imitation of reality.”

“Water-sail Statue” was built specially for Art on Lake from plans created for an identical 18-metre wide water, sail vehicle for Wagner´s Lohengrin, performed at the Bayreuth Festival in 1979, from the plans owned and donated by the Lehmbruck Museum.

In an earlier attempt at describing Uecker´s sailing but anchored concept, the same curators wrote: “It symbolized the compatibility of nature and art, and indicates the duality of the emotional overtone of a ´boat´as a concept.”

Uecker, born in Mecklenburg, former GDR, was trained under the Soviet mantra of socialist realism, which he practiced, until taking up nails in 1957.

He joined the avant garde Zero group. 

At first, he nailed mathematical sequences onto wood or canvas or……most anything. 

Then he experimented with oscillating patterns, pumping nails into tables, pianos, chairs, sometimes mixing all this with light machines, sand machines. 

According to Wikipedia, “the nail-covered surface became the antithesis of a painted surface,” allowing him to play with light and shadow. 

Thus, did Uecker become a kinetic artist.

"Water-Sail Statue" by Gunther Uecker Photograph by Stefan van Drake (2011)
But he also creates monochrome embossed prints and has film credits for set and costume design (Fidelio 1974 and Parsifal 1976).

What´s the “Water-sail Statue” (I assumed it´s signed.) worth?

Uecker´s lives to see a vibrant secondary market for his works.

Christie´s online reports that from 1992 to 28 June 2011, 25 sales in London, Amsterdam and New York grossed 11.9 million sterling an average of 76,000 pounds per lot including buyer´s premium.

At Sotheby’s between 1999 and 2001, 16 of his works sold for an average of €57,000, although four additional works each sold between €998 and €5,688 and were not considered as statistical outriggers.

At Sotheby’s again, but between 2008 and 2011, 18 of his works brought in about 5.3 million pounds sterling or an average per lot of 293,584 pounds sterling.

Uecker lives and works in Dusseldorf.

Rock on and practice peace and love.
Stefan, the ArtTraveler ™

ArtTraveler notes:

After living at the Hotel Queen Mary in Budapest (3.5 stars), I heartily recommend it: old on the outside, otherwise totally modern (23 rooms); 

The owner and staff are affable and speak English and German. Tel: 0036-1-413-3510;;

Visit Andalusia for a walking holiday or week-long sculpture or mosaics workshop. 

"Spanish Life Stilled," photograph by Stefan van Drake (2009)

You may reach me at or by calling (34) 915 067 703 or from the UK at BT landline rates, 0844 774 8349.  

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