Today I have exciting news: on November 13, the Fritz Ascher Stiftung (Fritz Ascher Foundation) was founded at Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin (City Museum Berlin) (link). The foundation’s board of trustees consists of Paul Spies, director of Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin, Eckhart Gillen, art historian and curator, and Rachel Stern, director of the Fritz Ascher Society.
The foundation was initiated by private collectors of the artistic work of Fritz Ascher, to give his work a publicly accessible home and to present it in the context of his artistic contemporaries in Berlin. We are very grateful to Eva and Peter Bünte for initiating this foundation, and to Verena Auerbach Velde for her generous donation. We hope that other collectors will donate works to the foundation.
Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin is one of the largest city museums in Germany, and we are thrilled for Ascher’s work to be placed among its extensive art collection. We thank director Paul Spies and Martina Weinland for their enthusiasm and look forward to much meaningful work in the years to come.
This fall, I saw another private initiative, this time in Austria: I visited the “Museum Kunst der Verlorenen Generation” (Museum “Art of the Lost Generation”) in Salzburg and met Prof. Dr. Heinz Böhme, a retired medical doctor, who started the growing collection in the 1980s, when only very few people were interested in collecting artists who were not known, because they were suppressed by the German National Socialists. He is an old fashioned collector, who meticulously and creatively researches the artworks and artists he buys, and has them restored, framed and photographed before they enter the museum. He is now preparing the third exhibition of his acquisitions, as well as a first collection catalogue. If you visit the museum, there is a good chance you’ll meet the collector in person. For a sneak peek into the collection (link), check out our facebook page.
Let me now share with you a timely early sheet by Fritz Ascher, which depicts a Winter Scene in black ink and graphite on paper, in which an adult and a child are looking at Christmas trees in the street. It measures 13.8 x 10.4 inches and is signed and dated either “91” or “01.” On the verso of the sheet we find a delicately drawn early Study of a Conductor, with intense stare, dominant nose, long flying hair and frack lap. With his left hand casually resting on his hip and the leisurely bent left leg, he has the air of a maestro, who is displaying his superior abilities. The small graphite drawing is signed but not dated. The dating of the recto might give us a hint to when the graphite drawing was made, even though the latter seems technically much more advanced.
This year, the Fritz Ascher Society is celebrating its fifth birthday. We are deeply grateful to those who believe in our vision and supported our first steps. Still far from being where we want to be, we look back to numerous meaningful events, which started with the 2016 opening of the first ever retrospective of the German Jewish artist Fritz Ascher (Berlin, 1893-1970) at the Felix-Nussbaum-Haus in Osnabrück. After traveling through six German museums, this year the retrospective made its debut in the US, at the Grey Art Gallery of NYU here in New York. On both continents we were reassured of the importance of our mission to present these artists, who were persecuted, ostracized and banned during the German National Socialist regime. By publishing and exhibiting these forgotten artists, we teach art and history, and are doing our part in righting history. In New York, in cooperation with the Goethe-Institut, we developed a successful program for Grade School and High School students, which will be further developed at the Joel and Lila Harnett Museum of Art in Richmond, Virginia (January 1 – May 24, 2020). Please join us for the opening reception on January 15, 6:00-8:00pm (link).
At the same time, we initiate a dialogue about the Other in our midst and at our borders. In October, “Welcoming the Stranger” was discussed during a day-long conference at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. with the theological underpinnings and the practical sweep of hospitality—and hostility—to outsiders, by those informed by these and other traditions, historically and from the Holocaust to the present day.
As all this is happening, we are in dire need for operational support. Please support our work as generously as possible (link).
Warmest wishes to you and your family for a peaceful 2020,
Rachel Stern, Director and CEO
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artwork Fritz Ascher ©2019 Bianca Stock, Photo Malcolm Varon