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"In the beginning was MERZ: From Kurt Schwitters until today"
2000-11-25 until 2001-02-18
Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen
Dusseldorf, , DE Germany

The term MERZ, first used in 1919, was Kurt Schwitters' own invention. It came from a fragment of an advertisement for the Commerz- und Handelsbank which Schwitters had cut out and used for a collage, a picture composed from found objects and scraps of paper. Using the relics of everyday life, such as tram tickets, pieces of wood, scraps of fabric, Schwitters produced not only collages but also three-dimensional works, so-called assemblages.

He used the term MERZ for a concept which united all his artistic activities, naming his works MERZ drawings, MERZ paintings, MERZ sculptures, MERZ publications. He also organized MERZ soirées with recitations of his prose, poetry and his famous Ursonate (Primordial Sonata). In 1923, Schwitters began to build his MERZbau, a walk-through installation constructed from wood and plaster. By 1927, Schwitters had even begun to call himself MERZ.

Comprising more than 200 works - assemblages, collages, drawings, sculptures, prints and the replica of the MERZbau - the exhibition provides a comprehensive overview of this versatile artist's development, from the beginnings of his MERZ art, including the MERZbild 25A, Das Sternenbild, painted in 1920 and long since forming part of the permanent collection of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, and his Constructivist works to those collages and sculptures of the thirties and forties whose rounded, organic forms clearly evidence the influence of nature. Naturalistic landscapes and portraits, which Schwitters produced during his entire life as an artist, round off the selection of exhibited works.

As Schwitters has influenced subsequent generations of artists right up to the present day, the exhibition also includes works by those artists who, in their own particular way, have utilized and developed Schwitters' principle of art. Indeed, since the fifties, whole movements have been indebted to this allround artist, including British and American Pop Art, Nouveau Réalisme and Fluxus. More than 50 collages, sculptures, installations and objects by artists like Arman, Joseph Beuys, Anthony Cragg, Robert Filliou, Louise Nevelson, Nam June Paik, Eduardo Paolozzi, Robert Rauschenberg, Anne Ryan, Daniel Spoerri, Cy Twombly testify to the whole diversity of possible artistic approaches in every genre of art which can be traced back to the seminal influence of Kurt Schwitters.

The exhibition In the beginning was MERZ - From Kurt Schwitters to the present day comprises works loaned from collections both in Germany and abroad, including privately owned works which have never been exhibited before. The exhibition, which is under the patronage of Dr. Michael Naumann, Minister of State responsible for Media and Cultural Affairs, has been organized by the Sprengel Museum in Hanover. Following its Düsseldorf venue, the exhibition will be shown at the Münchner Haus der Kunst from 9 March to 20 May 2001.

Kurt Schwitters
Merzbau, Zustand um 1933 zerstört
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2000

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