Clegg & Guttmann, The Art Collectors, 2008

In the field of contemporary art, a series of remarkable private collections have evolved in the past years the outstanding characteristic of which has been the direct contact between collectors and the artists and their works of the same generation. The Grässlin family belongs to just this circle of collectors. In contrast to other private collections one could think of the Grässlin Collection as a group of businesses, a sort of art collective to which each of the five family members – Anna, Bärbel, Thomas, Sabine and Karola – belong, and each of whom reflect different perspectives.

The roots of the Grässlin Collection reach back to the 1970s, a period when the parents Dieter and Anna Grässlin began collecting works by German Informel artists. That this would involve names that have today come to epitomise classical art historical values, such as the likes of Carl Buchheister, Karl Otto Götz, Gerhard Hoehme, Emil Schumacher or Wols, testifies to the courage and foresight of the couple Grässlin. The couple’s children began collecting artist’s positions of the 1980s back in 1981. Once again, their attention would be directed at the art of the immediate present in which was expressed both the belief in the forces of this art and, at the same time, the need to grapple with and comprehend the new. A risky undertaking, indeed, since the art of the 1980s for which they had opted was by no means pleasing and far from uncontroversial. Works by Werner Büttner, Martin Kippenberger, Albert Oehlen and Markus Oehlen, no less than the sculptural works of Günther Förg, Isa Genzken, Georg Herold, Hubert Kiecol, Meuser, Reinard Mucha or Franz West were rather considered as cumbrous, cynical or even hubristic. By way of their ironic take and disavowal, these embodied perspectives that flew in the face of bourgeois notions of contemporary art.

With the onset of the 90s, the Collection was augmented by international positions such as those represented by Kai Althoff, Michael Beutler, Henning Bohl, Cosima von Bonin, Tom Burr, Clegg & Guttmann, Mark Dion, Kalin Lindena, Michael Krebber, Christian Philipp Müller, Stefan Müller, Tobias Rehberger Christopher Williams or Heimo Zobernig, who critically grappled with conceptual questions and with affinity to location (Ortsbezogenheit).

Thus, the concept behind the Grässlin Collection is characterised by the family members concentrating on selected artists from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s whose works they have collated from all important creative phases. Frequently, such works are spatially dominating work-blocks suited rather to museum contexts than to private collections. Hence, this is what made it all the more important for the Grässlin family to make the Collection accessible to the public, to which end they commissioned the construction, in 2006, of the KUNSTRAUM GRÄSSLIN. The concept of the presentation of the Collection also drew on networking with the local urban city structure. In addition to the KUNSTRAUM GRÄSSLIN, there is the project RÄUME FÜR KUNST (Spaces for Art), in existence since 1995, whereby empty shops as well as the Plenary Hall in the town hall, the city gardens and private homes of the various family members are all used as exhibition locations. A visit to the museum hence becomes a stroll through the city.

Works from the Collection inventory are presented in alternate years at the KUNSTRAUM GRÄSSLIN and in the external RÄUME FÜR KUNST. The opening exhibition at the KUNSTRAUM GRÄSSLIN in 2006 displayed works by Martin Kippenberger, Mike Kelley and Albert Oehlen – three artistic perspectives exemplary of the Grässlin Collection and whose works reflect the social and political contexts in which they were produced. Over the foregoing years, works by all artists represented in the Collection have been exhibited in the KUNSTRAUM and in the RÄUME FÜR KUNST so as to provide an insight into the conception that informs the Collection. The tour thus shows a subjective, but no less representative panorama of present-day artistic production facilitating an overview of the art of our decade.

The Grässlin foundation was established by the Grässlin family in 2004 for the purposes of carrying the exhibition business. What personally unites all family members is the affinity to location. “The idea is that impulses emanate from this ensemble of art spaces that should reach beyond the picturesque Black Forest idyll into the community. We are hoping for a lively house that might no less allure guests from out of town into the city”.