The Collection profile highlights the abstract avant-gardes of the 20th century and international contemporary art, while also featuring 20 large sculptures in public spaces — for example at Mercedes-Benz’s headquarters in Stuttgart and at Potsdamer Platz in Berlin. Exemplary abstract artworks from the 20th century are part of the Collection, ranging from works from the Bauhaus and classical modernism, concrete art, constructivism and art informel after 1945 to the European ZERO movement, minimalism and conceptual art, Neo Geo, postminimalism, and conceptual tendencies.

The Collection profile highlights the abstract avant-gardes of the 20th century and international contemporary art, while also featuring 20 large sculptures in public spaces — for example at Mercedes-Benz’s headquarters in Stuttgart and at Potsdamer Platz in Berlin. Exemplary abstract artworks from the 20th century are part of the Collection, ranging from works from the Bauhaus and classical modernism, concrete art, constructivism and art informel after 1945 to the European ZERO movement, minimalism and conceptual art, Neo Geo, postminimalism, and conceptual tendencies.

Classical Modernism – Constructivism and Concrete Art

Josef Albers, Study for Homage to the Square: ›Opalescent‹, 1962

The group of Classical Modern works in the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection consists primarily of paintings, but also contains sculptures, wall objects and graphics. They present an image of the development of art up until the 1960s, relating mainly to South-West Germany (the Stuttgart avant-garde—from Hölzel to Bauhaus—the ‘concrete’ artists: the Ulm Hochschule für Gestaltung, the Zurich Concrete Artists, links with ‘De Stijl’). Two compositions by Adolf Hölzel date from the first decade of the 20th century, thus forming the chronological starting-point of the collection. Hölzel, who was appointed to the Stuttgart Academy of Fine Arts in 1905, taught some of the pupils who were later to achieve the greatest distinction in his class at the academy: Willi BaumeisterCamille GraeserOtto Meyer-AmdenOskar Schlemmer and Johannes Itten; they are represented by work groups or by key single works. Schlemmer—who has a particularly strong presence in the Collection with nine works created over three decades— worked from 1921-28 as a teacher at the Weimar and the Dessau Bauhaus.

Josef Albers, whose biography was also significantly shaped by study and teaching at the Bauhaus, emigrated to the USA, where he became one of the leading figures in education, in 1933. Four works in the Collection illustrate the important stages of his development during his American period. Max Bill is another key artist in the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection. He studied at the Dessau Bauhaus under Schlemmer, Kandinsky and Klee, and was co-founder and first director of the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Ulm. Bill became a member of the ‘abstraction—création’ group, founded in Paris in 1931, which also included, among others, the artists Arp, Baumeister and Vantongerloo, who also feature in the Collection. With Camille GraeserVerena Loewensberg and Richard Paul Lohse, the last-named of these form the core of the ‘Zurich concrete’ artists, whose spokesman and chief theorist was Max Bill, whose tenure extended into the 1960s. Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart— a member of ‘De Stijl’, briefly a student at the Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau, co-founder of ‘die abstrakten hannover’, friend of Bill and later a teacher at the Academy in Ulm—is connected with all these circles and can be seen as the most important pioneer of Concrete Art in Germany.

Art Informel, Representational Painting, The Karlsruhe School


Peter Brüning, Ohne Titel, 1962

The tendencies of art informel are represented in the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection in exemplary fashion with names such as Bernd Berner, Peter Brüning, Karl Fred Dahmen, Gerhard Hoehme, Horst Kuhnert, Uwe Lausen, Georg Meistermann, Fred Thieler, and Fritz Winter. The gestural developments of the movement are visible in the work of the Stuttgart painters Rudolf Schoofs and K.R.H. Sonderborg. The Collection also includes the figurative counter-movement to art informel in the form of the Stuttgart painters Leonhard Schmidt and Manfred Pahl, as well as Lambert Maria Wintersberger and Ben Willikens, and the figurative-expressive Karlsruhe School with its father figure HAP Grieshaber and his students Horst Antes, Dieter Krieg, and Walter Stöhrer.

The Stuttgart School

At the beginning of the 1960s, a group of young artists, moving forward from art informel, developed a large-scale color field painting that exploded the traditional picture format in an object-like manner and, at the same time, sought connections with architecture and urban planning. The names Otto Herbert Hajek, Georg Karl Pfahler, Thomas Lenk, and Lothar Quinte are examples of the artists of this trend. Their works, along with those of their American contemporaries, were brought together in an epochal exhibition at the Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart in 1967 under the title Formen der Farbe [Forms of Color].



Heinz Mack, Lichtfeld II, 1966-67

The European ZERO and New Tendencies movements — in a transition towards minimalism—are represented in the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection by the names of Enrico Castellani, Getulio Alviani, Dadamaino, Gerhard von Graevenitz, Jan Henderikse, Heinz Mack, Almir Mavignier, François Morellet, Jan Schoonhoven, and Klaus Staudt, among others. Loners within this spectrum, who touched on but rejected the various currents of these movements, are Rupprecht Geiger, Günter Fruhtrunk, and Herman de Vries. They are represented in the Collection with significant work groups that offer distinctive accents.

Minimalism in Europe and the USA

The recourse to the origins of concrete, constructivist and minimalist art and their further development characterizes the most important abstract currents from the 1950s up until the 1970s, albeit each with its own particular emphases in Europe and America. The connections between European structuralist-constructivist painting and US-american tendencies, such as minimal art, color field and hard-edge painting, or op art, can be seen in the Collection with works by Adolf Fleischmann, Hartmut Böhm, Andreas Brandt, Ulrich Erben, Gottfried Honegger, Karl Gerstner, Manfred Mohr, and Anton Stankowski.

Outstanding positions of European minimalist art from the 1960s are represented in the Collection by groups of works by Peter Roehr, Charlotte Posenenske, Hanne Darboven, Eckhard Schene, Franz Erhard Walther, and Ulrich Rückriem. Important positions of minimalist painting from Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and Japan are now also included: Henryk Stazewski, Poul Gernes, Tadaaki Kuwayama, Keiji Usami, Arakawa/Gins, or Albert Mertz. Precursors of a European minimalism in the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection can be found in the works of Josef Albers, Hermann Glöckner, Richard Paul Lohse, or Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart. An important reference work for reductionist painting in the United States is a 1969 painting by Robert Ryman. Parallel to this growing emphasis, the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection is also dedicated to the precursors and early representatives of US-american minimalist painting, who have remained virtually unknown in Europe, with acquisitions by Gene Davis, John McLaughlin, David Novros, Jo Baer, Karl Benjamin, Ilya Bolotowsky, Marcia Hafif, Frederick Hammersley, Oli Sihvonen, Alexander Liberman, Larry Zox, and Mary Corse. British positions from the 1960s have been supplemented with names like Jeremy Moon, Robyn Denny, and Michael Kidner. This forms the intellectual basis for younger positions in the Collection such as Jens Wolf, Greg Bogin, Michael Zahn, Martin Gerwers, Martin Boyce, or Natalia Stachon.

Abstract, Conceptual and Medial Tendencies in Contemporary art


Sean Scully, Red Night, 1997

Collection focal points from its founding period—the reduced, constructivist/concrete, and minimalist directions of 20th century art — have been expanded since the 1990s to include works by the generation of artists born between 1945–1950: Ulrich Erben, Alfons Lachauer, Christa Näher, Günter Scharein, Artur Stoll, Ford Beckmann, Dieter Villinger, Sean Scully, and Yuko Shiraishi.

In the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection, the arc from the non-representational positions of post-war modernism to the multimedia field of contemporary art is essentially spanned by a group of artists born between 1930–45: John M Armleder, Charlotte Posenenske, Nam June Paik, Walter De Maria, Ulrich Rückriem, Auke de Vries, Daniel Buren, Roman Signer, Franz Erhard Walther, Imi Knoebel, Hanne Darboven, Bernar Venet, Olivier Mosset, Michael Heizer, Giulio Paolini, Peter Roehr, and Joseph Kosuth. They all work towards a redefinition of the concept of the work, override traditional genre boundaries, formulate the mental and/or physical activity of the viewer as part of the work process, and — against the dematerializations and politically motivated deconstructions of the 1960s and 1970s —assert the image in its broadest definition as a viable conceptualization of the present. To be mentioned in this context—and, as with the artists mentioned above, are represented in the Collection with groups of works or important individual works—are Gia Edzgveradze, Günther Förg, and Bertrand Lavier.

The work of artists in the Collection such as John M Armleder, Gerwald Rockenschaub, Peter Halley, and Andrea Zittel is fed by a fund of positional definitions and distortions, concepts and polemics, and attempts to erase and rescue the notion of the image in the 20th century. In neo-geo images, objects, and sculptures, poster and video works, these artists review the stylistic canon of modernism from the distance of the pop and Fluxus generations, and reveal it in its historical and ideological determinations.


Pietro Sanguineti, (now), 2001

Since the 1990s, tendencies of minimalism and conceptual art have been taken further in the work of Andrea Fraser, Karin Sander, Krysten Cunningham, Martin Gerwers, Gail Hastings, Greg Bogin, Andreas Schmid, Michael Zahn, Gerold Miller, Sylvan Lionni, Martin Boyce, George Henry Longly, Rupert Norfolk, Monika Sosnowska, Natalia Stachon, Leonor Antunes, Eva Berendes, and Alicja Kwade. The transition from traditional panel painting to wall-based objects, as well as the dissolution of genre boundaries, appear as themes in the works of Sylvie Fleury, Bernhard Kahrmann, Monika Brandmeier, Nikolaus Koliusis, Mathieu Mercier, Alf Schuler, Beate Terfloth, Tobias Hauser, Silke Radenhausen, Eva Maria Reiner, Madeleine Boschan, and Saâdane Afif.

Pietro Sanguineti, Markus Huemer, Isabell Heimerdinger, Takehito Koganezawa, Tacita Dean, Albert Weis, Katja Davar, Philippe Parreno, Marcellvs L., Shilpa Gupta, Berni Searle, Sharif Waked, Maya Zak, Ilit Azoulay and Sigalit Landau conduct significant research within the field of new visual media. Aspects of conceptual tendencies from around 1970 to the present have found their way into the Collection with works by Dan Graham, Michel Verjux, Heimo Zobernig, Sol LeWitt, Danica Phelps, Karin Sander, Jonathan Monk, Lasse Schmidt Hansen, Andreas Reiter Raabe, Wolfgang Berkowski, and others.


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