KaM Brochure English chapter 1

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pp. 6 – 12

A homage to Jochen Krüper

by Uwe Rüth, Cologne

Everything has a history which fills the present with amazing meaning. And it is only this history which imbues the present with a real and complete life.

The association Kunst am Moltkeplatz (literally: Art at Moltke Square) which is now celebrating its tenth anniversary, has always stressed the memory of the origin and history of the art works standing in the square. It also regards itself as the successor of the man who established this public art display, Jochen Krüper. Taking his lead, the association sets out to „preserve, promote and develop the art there, to care for the sculptures and art objects and in this spirit to influence any changes in their presentation“ (in the words of the association’s bylaws).

The present publication provides an opportunity and reason to commemorate Jochen Krüper and his commitment to art, a commitment which has also had a lasting impact at other places in Essen. An outline will be given of how the art location in the Moltkeviertel or Moltke District came into being. Manfred Schneckenberger wrote in 2007: „I know of few such harmonious, expressive sculptural ensembles in a public space.“

Jochen Krüper was born in Essen in November 1948 as the son of the gallery owner Herbert Krüper, who ran Galerie Heimeshoff, Essen’s oldest art dealers – founded in 1878. He studied architecture and wrote his degree dissertation on Afghan clay architecture. He not only approached this subject theoretically but he also travelled far and wide in Afghanistan to check and verify his studies with reference to original structures. His travels to the roof of the world – Tibet and Nepal – were not only a diversion. Even subsequently they provided stimulation and inspiration for new ideas and developments. In 1979 he took over the gallery from his father and enhanced its national profile prudently and rigorously as a centre for German post-war art. Whereas his father had represented the art of the immediate post-war period – and specifically informal art – Jochen Krüper supplemented the gallery’s portfolio with the art of subsequent generations. Painting clearly played a central role here.


In 1981 he acquired the house at No. 5 Moltkeplatz. At the press presentation it was already described as a second pillar of the gallery since he intended to use his residence at the same time as an exhibition venue. With characteristic zeal he proceeded to incorporate the Moltkeplatz green in front of his house in his project. The intention here was to place „free-standing works as a testimony to modern sculptural creativity“, according to an article in the regional newspaper WAZ dated 16 February 1982. This initiative was agreed with the city administration and the Folkwang Museum, and thus received official approval and support at the highest level. For example, Essen’s councillor responsible for cultural affairs at that time, Dr. Wilhelm Godde, welcomed the large steel sculpture Hannover Tor / Hanover Gate by Friedrich Gräsel (*1927 in Bochum, †2014 in Osnabrück) as the first large sculpture on the green in mid-March 1982 with the words: „This work is undoubtedly a gain with respect to the problem of art in an urban setting.“

Gräsel’s work already had a history of its own. Created in 1978 for an exhibition at Galerie Brusberg in Hanover, it had been so severely damaged by a car crashing into it that Gräsel treated it as a complete write-off. The insurance company reimbursed the production price but kept the „destroyed“ work and subsequently set it up in Hanover in front of their own building. It could be seen there until a few years ago, damaged and written off as an authentic artwork, but nevertheless representative. Gräsel made a new version of the work and Jochen Krüper managed to bring it to Essen. This launched the ensemble of sculptures at Moltkeplatz.


With a party and a representative and extensive exhibition entitled Eine neue Richtung in der Malerei – 1957. 25 Jahre danach / A New Direction in Painting – 1957. 25 Years On the gallery owner opened the new residence and exhibition venue at Moltkeplatz on 6 June 1982. Works by ten of the most important German post-war artists were shown: Erwin Bechtold, Karl Fred Dahmen, Winfried Gaul, Karl Otto Götz, Gerhard Hoehme, Horst Egon Kalinowski, Heinz Mack, Bernard Schulze, Emil Schumacher, and Fred Thieler. Krüper thus established an artistic centre at Moltkeplatz where, in the following years, important one-off and theme-based exhibitions were held in rapid succession, a vital and colourful series. Slowly but surely, and with much deliberation, the project to set up major sculptural works on the green in front of the house moved forward.

Then in 1983 came the next exhibition with the sculpture ohne Titel / untitled of green Anröchter lime sandstone by Ulrich Rückriem (*1938 in Düsseldorf). It appeared at the same time as the Rückriem sculpture in front of the Folkwang Museum – both set up by Jochen Krüper. Only in 1986 did the next work appear, Zwei Türme / Two Towers by Jo Schöpfer (*1951 in Coburg): the two towers of reddish-brown squared timber rose for up to seven metres from the green grass, visually striking as architectural figures strangely interlocked. Later they had to be dismantled in the 1990s because the timber had become rotten. The large forged steel sculpture Paarweise / In Pairs by Ansgar Nierhoff (*1941 in Meschede , †2010 in Cologne), which continues to be part of the ensemble, was added in 1988. Other works such as the ground-based sculpture of wood by the Cologne artist Karol Heinz Bethke (*1940 in Posen) and the wood-and-cloth works by Thomas Rother (*1937 in Frankfurt/Oder), which mainly hung from the trees, were, like Jo Schöpfer’s work, victims of the passage of time.

Up to 1990 only slow progress was made at Moltkeplatz. Krüper’s focus continued to be painting and drawing, while the three-dimensional appealed to him as an architect. But from its early days the gallery was differently oriented. This troubled Jochen Krüper’s restless spirit and so in late 1988 He and I had a conversation in which he put forward the idea of a major initiative involving contemporary sculpture. He asked me to assist him by acting as the „director of the project“ – as he called it. And so in the following period we began to develop the project Material und Raum / Material and Space, which opened up both for me as director of a sculpture museum and for him as an architect and gallery owner new opportunities for research and exhibition.


For Jochen Krüper the project became the focus of his activities in the following years with amazing intensity and scale. It was certainly his aim to involve himself more deeply in the field of the three-dimensional arts. It was certainly also one of his aims to expand the gallery work credibly in this direction. But in addition to these reasons, which related to himself and his environment, it was equally important to him to make this artistic genre more attractive to the general public and to enhance the way it was seen. He launched into this adventure full of energy and attempted to recruit many collaborators: artists and exhibition houses, experts and museums. Whereas initially only an extensive exhibition was under discussion, the plans grew and grew thanks to this man’s boundless entrepreneurial spirit. I had the good fortune to be able to support and advise him, but I occasionally had to persuade him to abandon some of his more exuberant ideas. This fruitful collaboration led to a two-volume catalogue, individual exhibitions by sculptors in the rooms of the gallery at Essen’s Salzmarkt and on the residential and exhibition premises at Moltkeplatz, and also, supported financially and organisationally by Jochen Krüper, presentations in Marl’s sculpture museum, in the Museum Schloss Morsbroich in Leverkusen, in the Ostwall Museum in Dortmund and in the Art Museum of the City of Mülheim.

In addition to these activities there was a focus on erecting works in public spaces – in particular in Marl and, placed centrally and sensitively, in Essen, as well as elsewhere. As a major and specifically targeted element of this project the gallery owner Krüper continued in 1990/91 to incorporate the green at Moltkeplatz as a sculpture park: Christa Feuerberg (*1955 in Essen) created a ground-based work in lead, ohne Titel / untitled (1990). Raised slightly from the ground this horizontal work suggested, like a sewing pattern, something whole, complete. The wooden core under the lead cladding gradually rotted away and the work has since been destroyed. Hannes Forster (*1955) in Tuttlingen ) constructed one of his brickwork architectural creations bearing the title Eine echte falsche Geschichte / A Genuine Fake Story on the upper periphery of the square, right next to a low, narrow junction box. This work gives the impression of an architectural relic from earlier days, but the accurate brickwork and the straight, precise course of the vertical, not high, walls speak a different language – thus creating a „genuine fake story“. In May 2010, after 20 years, the artist finally completed the work: also planned in 1990 but never implemented, Forster now laid a paved floor with red bricks in the interior of the structure. This rounded the work off, thanks to a major extent to the Kunst am Moltkeplatz association – who provided the initiative and the funding – and it fully accords with the spirit of Jochen Krüper. With Gloria Friedmann’s (*1950 in Kronach/Baden) Denkmal / Monumenta tree trunk with branches embedded in a 6.5-metre-high, red stone wall – the Moltkeplatz acquired its most visually striking work: in the summer the „installation“ is truly thought-provoking when seen against the backdrop of the living trees and their green foliage. Lutz Fritsch’s (*1955 in Cologne) roughly ten-metre-high coloured steel pole on the small green island at the Moltkeplatz/Ruhrallee junction is a high, vertical symbol pointing out to passers-by something which is beyond the normal and functional. With its bottom section in intense red and its top part dark blue, the EIN•STAND / MONO•POLE (1990) stands alone like an acupuncture needle indicating a neuralgic point: the art within it and at Moltkeplatz.

The work by Katja Hajek (*1950 in Stuttgart, †2008 in Berlin) Blaues Pigment / Blue Pigment (1990) still exists on the façade of Krüper’s former house at Moltkeplatz 5. With the intense ultramarine, heterogeneous coloured surface the front of the building stands out from the phalanx of adjacent residences, radiates an expressive aura and alludes strikingly to the former House for Art. The paint has been applied to the brickwork and is constantly exposed to the weather, which means that Blue Pigment will very probably fade in the medium term. In front of this paintwork there stands the barely three-metre-high bronze Stele (1990) by Jo Schöpfer (see above) in the front garden of the house. With its fine, straight, decidedly minimalistic cannelures it embodies both calm and differentiation. Dark blue is a signal colour which often plays a conspicuous part in the ensemble. The wood sculpture Pappel / Poplar (1990) by Stefan Pietryga (*1954 in Ibbenbüren/Westphalia) rose to more than four metres from an unpainted tree stump as its base and was also in this intense colour. The contrast between the „artistic“ poplar sculpted in its „spiritual“ blue from a poplar trunk and the trees growing above it together with the Monument by Gloria Friedmann exhibited a remarkable bond. It is a pity that this work has been withdrawn by the artist. This has definitely created a gap in the internal cohesion of the square’s overall design. This also applies with respect to Norbert Radermacher’s (*1953 in Aachen) Das Klettergerüst / The Climbing Frame (1990), which stood on the green close to the patch. This was a climbing frame of narrow, round iron tubes built up as a pyramid with cube-shaped segments. It was only conspicuous by virtue of the fact that the (similarly) dark blue paint on the original frame from the 1950s appeared to have been „splattered“ arbitrarily at a number of points with yellow paint. It was a children’s toy commonly seen on open spaces which could have been a source of irritation due to the almost imperceptible elements of alienation, but not necessarily. This work was also removed because the iron had corroded to the point where it was too dangerous for children to climb on it.


All these works were installed as part of Material und Raum / Material and Space in 1990. They transformed Moltkeplatz into a successful example of art in a public space. At the end of 1990 Jochen Krüper could say with justifiable pride: „The project is intended as an example for other activities in the town.“ (NRZ 22 December 1990)

The ensemble was now complete – but a few years later another work was added whose unique character and general aura ensured that it soon fitted into the overall picture: Heinz Breloh (*1940 in Hilden, †2001 in Cologne) employed a unique performative approach which involved the use of his own body. With this he had created the sculptural cycle Lebensgröße / Life Size since the mid-1980s. The movements of his body in immediate contact with a plaster compound caused material to be eroded, creating three-dimensional forms in the soft material. The cavities that arose are manifestations of the movements of the artist’s body. It is, as Rolf Wedewer wrote, „the life trace left by the artist in his work“. In 1994 Jochen Krüper arranged for three copies of Life Size to be cast in bronze and the copy 1/3 was set up at Moltkeplatz. Subsequently the two-metre-high sculpture was taken back by the artist’s heirs but it was returned to its original site in February 2016 after successful negotiations with the heirs and the city of Essen. A good solution which brings Moltkeplatz closer once again to completion of the old ensemble. For shorter periods works by Anna Schuster (*1963 in Marburg/Lahn) and the sound artist Rilo Chmielorz (*1954 in Lünen) could then be seen at Moltkeplatz.


With the founding of the exhibition company Ausstellungsgesellschaft für zeitgenössische Kunst Zollverein mbH jointly with Ulrich Ströher in 1993, the local activities were relocated to the newly installed exhibition hall 6 on the site of the former coal mine Zeche Zollverein in Essen. Krüper now continued primarily with his exhibitions of contemporary sculpture and art, although the other exhibition venues were still constantly used by the gallery owner. A final high point of the Material und Raum / Material and Space initiative was reached at the turn of the century with the catalogue and exhibition in the sculpture museum Glaskasten Marl Standpunkt PLASTIK – Aspekte künstlerischen Denkens heute / Standpoint SCULPTURE – Aspects of Artistic Thought Today. Both – the exhibition and the publication – sum up more than ten years of intensive work on the subject of space and sculpture conducted in equal part by Jochen Krüper, Rolf Wedewer (*1932, †2010), the former Director of the Leverkusen museum Schloss Morsbroich, and myself. An exciting, trend-setting and sustainable initiative reached its end point.

Jochen Krüper, this go-getting and art-crazy gallery owner full of energy and an exuberant torrent of ideas, this mostly obliging, often childishly smiling and occasionally abrupt man had a personality which was very difficult to grasp as a whole. His striving was too complex, his thought processes too diverse. But if you accepted his way of doing things he was also capable of being a friend and buddy. In 2002 he died much too early as a result of a serious illness. He would have been able to achieve much more for artists, art and the city of Essen – I’m sure of that.

P.S. I would like to thank Frank Schlag, who runs the gallery Frank Schlag & Cie in Essen. During the times mentioned above he was a leading colleague in Jochen Krüper’s gallery. I am grateful to him for some important details. UR

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