Wall Drawing 1180, 2005
10,000 black straight lines and 10,000 black not straight lines within a four-meter circle.
Installed in April 2015 by Nicolai Angelov.
“Arcs and Lines”, the 51 drawings by Sol LeWitt presented in the correct arrangement and sequence, required all the available wall space in the small gallery on Mühlegasse 27. The opening of the exhibition on October 16, 1975, was a major and important event for us and the history of the gallery. In light of the enduring partnership with Sol LeWitt who came to our opening and remained a close collaborator over a period of decades, this estimation was true and accurate in all respects.
On October 18, 1975, two further openings in Basel gained the attention of art connoisseurs who were able to recognize the potential and innovative power of Sol LeWitt’s work. Rolf Preisig showed three wall drawings in his gallery on Rheinfelderstrasse and the Kunsthalle presented the artist’s graphic oeuvre and the “Incomplete Open Cubes”.
On this occasion, we joined with Rolf Preisig and Marilena Bonomo to publish the artist book “Lines & Color”, which was printed in Zurich. This references another concern of LeWitt’s, one that preoccupied him throughout his life: the artist book, as he understood it, is a piece of art in the form of book or booklet, simply produced and affordably priced.
A skeptical review in the Zurich press stands out in memory. Sol LeWitt’s showing at the Kunsthalle in Basel was critically assessed, but the exhibitions of the two galleries only received peripheral mention. The manner with which American artists, in particular, had been conceiving of a renewal of art over the preceding years was not met with much understanding. Only a limited number of enthusiasts saw these works and ideas as representing a new and valid conception. The involvement of two young galleries was regarded as a concerted effort to locally establish an artist’s career.
The reviewer must have been unaware of an aspect of the Sol LeWitt ‘system’ that was of tremendous importance to us newcomers. The art of Sol LeWitt was much more than the work of a single self-empowered actor, the artist. The goal and intention of the artistic work was by no means the pure accumulation and dissemination of artifacts, subjugated by the art market into a vertically aligned scale of significance and price. The corresponding interest in art could also be described as a form of behavior, initiated and represented by the artist and also shared with him. The exclusivity of the art system and the artwork was to be undermined by way of greater inclusion.
Sol LeWitt liked it when a multiplicity of participants validated his work in different roles, when they profited from it in their respectively entitled ways. Time and again, we were able to count on his loyalty, support and even his benevolence, freely given as a matter of course. His whole life long, he managed to elude the art world’s pretensions to power and the schematic tendencies of art criticism.
The point of departure and focus of the Sol LeWitt ‘system’ was always Sol LeWitt. The studio was the site of intensive and concentrated activity. It took almost daily manual work to trigger the changes that preserved the tension and vitality for the intended dissemination of the work and allowed the family of concepts and inventions to take shape and develop.
Since 1975 we have presented fourteen solo exhibitions at four different gallery addresses. A total of seven Wall Drawings were installed in our respective premises. A Wall Drawing from 1987 (installed in 2013) and one from 2005 (installed in 2015) are currently on display on Neptunstrasse.
The fact that we have been able to arrange the installation of so many Wall Drawings over the years (Sol LeWitt always insisted on using this term) that are on permanent display at their particular locations is especially gratifying and meaningful. We were also frequently able to provide assistance and support for Sol LeWitt exhibitions in public institutions, which were unfailingly well received.
The year 1977 saw the production of a major three-dimensional work by Sol LeWitt, “Cubes with Hidden Cubes”, which we instigated and oversaw on behalf of the artist. The high-quality metalworking company of Rudolf Lehni in Dübendorf near Zurich handled the execution. The large-scale piece took up all the entire space of our exhibition stand at Art Basel the same year. Then in 1978, this major work was loaned by the FER Collection for the retrospective on the artist at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
In the following years, Sol LeWitt frequently counted on our cooperation for the production of individual pieces or entire groups of works. The master carpenter Peter Giger in Gontenschwil manufactured structures and “Complex Form” pieces. Kazuko Miyamoto in Manhattan constructed multi-part, large-format works that were entrusted to our gallery by Sol LeWitt. Today the “Four Tower Structure” from 2007 is part of the collection of Kunstmuseum Basel as an acquisition with funds of the Petzold Müller Foundation.
We have also served as the publisher of numerous editions of prints. “Complex Forms” from 1990 is worth special mention in this regard, published in a small-scale edition as a portfolio and in book form as a foldout booklet in collaboration with Brooke Alexander, New York.
June 28 to August 25, 2023
Publisher: ER Publishing, Edited by Molly Warnock
Joseph Egan and Anton Himstedt: Common Ground
Publisher: Josef Albers Museum Quadrat Bottrop, Ulrike Growe
INSIGHT #3 spotlights the graphic work of Fred Sandback through three examples from 1974 and 1982.