Günther Uecker

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Günther Uecker (2018)
Günther Uecker (2016)
Günther Uecker portrayed by Oliver Mark, Düsseldorf 2011
Günther Uecker photographed by Oliver Mark , Düsseldorf 2011

Günther Uecker (born March 13, 1930 in Wendorf bei Crivitz ) is a German painter and object artist . He was best known for his relief-like nail pictures. Some of his artistic objects can be assigned to kinetic art .

life and work

Günther Uecker grew up on the Wustrow peninsula from 1936 on , where his father was employed as an engineer on a test airport for the aviation industry. There he saw the end of the Second World War. When the Red Army claimed the Wustrow peninsula and the German civilians had to leave it, his father took over a new farmer's position in Groß Schwansee . Günther Uecker attended the local Diesterweg school in the former Groß Schwansee manor house .

After finishing school, Uecker did an apprenticeship as a painter and carpenter in Grevesmühlen . He then studied painting until 1953, first in Wismar , then at the art academy in Berlin-Weißensee . On the occasion of the World Youth Festival in East Berlin in 1951, he used the opportunity to visit West Berlin for the first time and came into contact with abstract art. In 1953, after the uprising of June 17 , he left the GDR and moved to West Berlin. There he dealt with religion and philosophy, which should influence his work.

Because Uecker wanted to study with his idol Otto Pankok , he went to West Germany in 1955. This went through the emergency reception center for young male GDR refugees in Sandbostel , where he was interrogated for weeks as allegedly smuggled in by the GDR. In the same year he brought his sister Rotraut from Groß Schwansee to the west.

Günther Uecker continued his studies at the Düsseldorf Art Academy with Otto Pankok from 1955 to 1957 . In 1956/1957 the nail pictures typical for him were created for the first time: three-dimensional, white-painted reliefs made of nails, which get their own dynamic through the alignment of the nails and the interaction of light and shadow. From 1962 Uecker provided everyday objects such as furniture with nail reliefs.

Günther Uecker on the ruins of his studio on Oberkasseler Strasse, Düsseldorf, around 1965. Photo: Lothar Wolleh
Günther Uecker. Photo: Lothar Wolleh

In 1961 Uecker became a member of the artist group ZERO founded by Heinz Mack and Otto Piene , whereupon he also turned to kinetic light art . Together with Gerhard Richter he staged the demonstration “Museums can be habitable places” . The performance of the terror orchestra in the Kunsthalle Baden-Baden , a noisy installation consisting of 20 machines, vacuum cleaners, a laundry drum and hammer and sickle, caused a sensation nationwide.

Together with Thomas Lenk , Heinz Mack and Georg Karl Pfahler , Uecker was German representative at the Venice Biennale in 1970 . From 1971 to 1974 he worked in South America, Africa and Asia, and from 1984 to 1985 in Japan, Siberia, China, Iceland and Mongolia. Since the 1980s he has been taking a stand on political issues in his works: this is how he reacted to the Chernobyl catastrophe with the cycle “Ash Pictures”. Other political references can be found in his works on Iraq, environmental problems and others.

From 1974 to 1995 Uecker taught as a professor at the Art Academy in Düsseldorf. His master students included Halina Jaworski , Klaus Schmitt and Matthias Hintz . In 1999 he designed the prayer room in the new Reichstag building in Berlin . In 2004 he designed the open-air stage for a performance of Wilhelm Tell by Schiller at the - allegedly - historical location on the Rütliwiese .

In December 2008 Uecker was a co-founder of the Zero foundation . Other founders were the ZERO artists Heinz Mack and Otto Piene and the museum kunst palast foundation . The foundation is based in the Düsseldorf Media Harbor ; it has set itself the goal of maintaining, presenting, researching and promoting the ZERO movement,

Uecker lives and works in Düsseldorf-Oberkassel and St. Gallen . From 2002 to 2008, with the consent of the investor and the city, the artist lived in a hut on the peninsula until the district administration banned him. There is also a studio in the Berlin garden city of Atlantic designed by the architect Rudolf Fränkel.

Uecker's main works, such as his nailed reliefs, are valued at half a million euros or more on the art market. B. "Spirale I", 1968, at Sotheby's (New York) $ 600,000 to $ 800,000 or "Feld / Field", 2012–13, at Dorotheum (Vienna) to € 400,000 to € 600,000 . At the beginning of the 1970s, such pictures were still sold for the equivalent of around € 10,000. The Bonn City Art Collection was even able to acquire such a nail picture at a friendship price of DM 4,000.


Günther Uecker is the brother of the artist Rotraut and brother-in-law of the late artist Yves Klein . With his wife Christine, Uecker has a son, Jacob (* 1986), who works for Christie's auction house .


Works (selection)

White Field , 1964, Tate Gallery of Modern Art
  • 1959: Structural column , wood, nails, painted, in: A forest of sculptures - Simon Spierer Collection, Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt
  • 1962: Salon de Lumière , light objects
  • 1964: Hair of the Nymphs , 150 × 150 cm.
  • 1967: Nail in a metal cage and conceptual design of the Creamcheese , Neubrückstraße 12, Düsseldorf
  • late 1960s: Hommage à Paul Scheerbart (Scheerbartwesen) , nails and white paint on burlap and wood, 175 × 176 cm.
  • 1974: Stage designs for the Beethoven opera Fidelio in Bremen.
  • 1977: Wall relief for the UN building in Geneva.
  • 1978: On the sign of writing or speechlessness - photos Lothar Wolleh.
  • 1979: Stage designs for Lohengrin in Bayreuth
  • 1981: Light column at Fernmeldeamt 1, Düsseldorf, Graf-Adolf-Platz, 26 m high steel sculpture with 294 programmed lights
  • 1982: Stage designs for Tristan and Isolde in Stuttgart
  • 1989: Stage designs for Die Bassariden by Hans Werner Henze , Stuttgart State Opera
  • 1986: expressive ash pictures (as a reaction to Chernobyl)
  • 1999: Prayer room in the Reichstag building in Berlin
  • 1999: Stone painting in Buchenwald - September 1, 1939 (sculpture in the cellar of the former prisoners' canteen)
  • 2000: Installation “Injury Connections, Fourteen Broken Crosses”, installed in the Marienkirche in Lübeck in 2003
  • 2004: Stage design for Wilhelm Tell with the German National Theater Weimar on the Rütli

Exhibitions (selection)

Films (selection)

  • 1989 Like a farmer in the field (German / Chinese), 45 min. A film by Michael Kluth , camera: Hubert Neuerburg. Production: Metrovision-Film on behalf of the WDR
  • 1993 The battered man, workshop film , 17 min. A film by Michael Kluth, camera: Hubert Neuerburg. Production: Metrovision-Film on behalf of the Institute for Foreign Relations
  • 1999 Günther Uecker's world of images , 45 min. A film by Michael Kluth, camera: Uri Adar. Production: Metrovision-Film GmbH on behalf of ZDF
  • 2001 Günther Uecker in Belgrade (German / French), 14 min. A film by Michael Kluth, camera: Patrick Metzger. Production: Metrovision-Film GmbH i. A. of the WDR in cooperation with ARTE
  • 2004 Günther Uecker and the Rütli , 15 min. A film by Michael Kluth, camera: Uri Adar. Production: Metrovision-Film on behalf of Lukas Leuenberger Produktion
  • 2004 Günther Uecker (German / English / Spanish / French), 44 min. A film by Michael Kluth, camera: Uri Adar. Production: Metrovision-Film GmbH on behalf of IN-Goethe
  • 2005 Günther Uecker - Poetry of Destruction , 52 min. (45 min. - German / English / French) A film by Michael Kluth, camera: Uri Adar. Production: Metrovision-Film i. A. of the WDR in cooperation with ARTE
  • 2007 The battered man. Injuries / connections , 28 min. A film by Michael Kluth, camera: Uri Adar. Production: Metrovision-Film i. A. of the Institute for Foreign Relations (ifa)
  • 2009 Poetry of Memory , 45 min. A film by Michael Kluth, camera: Uri Adar. Production: Metrovision-Film GmbH.
  • 2014 The battered man, Havana , 29 min. A film by Michael Kluth and Henry Schmahlfeldt, camera: Henry Schmahlfeldt. Production: Metrovision-Film i. A. des IfA and Geuer & Geuer ART GmbH
  • 2013 Injury - connection, about Günther Uecker's exhibition at TMOCA in Tehran, Iran
  • 2015 Power man and poet - the world artist Günther Uecker , 45 min. A film by Michael Kluth and Anke Rebbert. K: Adar / Neuerburg / Schmahlfeldt. Production: Metrovision-Film GmbH and WDR
  • 2016 Günther Uecker - Homage to Hafez 2 , 40 min. (Long version), 12 min. (Short version), A: Michael Kluth / Henry Schmahlfeldt, K: H. Schmahlfeldt, T: N. v. Leuchtenberg, S: Lutz Becker, Production: Metrovision Film, i. A. Kunstverlag Till Breckner, Düsseldorf.

Literature (selection)

  • Mack, Piene, Uecker, O - Zero , with an introduction by Wieland Schmied . Exhibition catalog for the exhibition 7. 1964/1965 of the Kestner Society, Hanover.
  • Dieter Honisch / Museum Folkwang Essen (ed.): Lenk mack pfahler uecker, XXXV biennale di venezia padiglione tedesco , Essen and Stuttgart 1970. Exhibition catalog of the German pavilion of the XXXV. Venice Biennale 1970, in it 4 single issues with articles by Dieter Honisch, Thomas Lenk , Heinz Mack , Georg Karl Pfahler and Günther Uecker, in it 4 single issues with original graphics, studio and exhibition photos.
  • Günther Uecker. Shadow. Appearance . In: Documents of Our Time . Volume IV, With texts by Dorothea van der Koelen, Siegfried Salzmann, Günther Uecker (German, English) 84 pp., 99 illustrations, 23 of them in color, Mainz 1987, ISBN 3-926663-04-9 .
  • Günther Uecker. Roman stones 1987 . In: Documents of Our Time . Volume X, With texts by Karl-Viktor Decker, Dorothea van der Koelen, Günther Uecker (German, English) 72 pages, 67 illustrations, 50 of which are in color, Mainz 1989, ISBN 3-926663-10-3 .
  • Dieter Honisch: Uecker - catalog raisonné. Klett-Cotta , Stuttgart 1983 and 1989, ISBN 978-3-608-76150-4 .
  • Heinz-Norbert Jocks: Archeology of travel. Another look at Günther Uecker . Dumont, Cologne 1997, ISBN 978-3-8321-3944-5 .
  • Heinz-Norbert Jocks: The ear at the crime scene, Heinz-Norbert Jocks in conversation with Gotthard Graubner, Heinz Mack, Roman Opalka, Otto Piene and Günther Uecker . Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern 2009, ISBN 978-3-7757-2509-5 .
  • Bettina Countess von Pfeil: Günther Uecker. Correlations , 160 p., Approx. 250 color illustrations, Mainz 2000, ISBN 3-931876-30-6 .
  • Wolfgang Urban (arrangement): Günther Uecker [Ill.] - ash pictures and graphics. Exhibition in the Diözesanmuseum Rottenburg 2001 . [Catalog for the exhibition Günther Uecker: ash pictures and graphics / catalog edited by Wolfgang Urban. Texts by Michael Kessler ...] (= publication of the Diözesanmuseum Rottenburg , No. 9). Diözesanmuseum, Rottenburg 2001, ISBN 3-88294-315-7 .
  • Christoph Brockhaus: Günther Uecker. GRAPHEIN, writing. To paint. Drawing , 72 pages, Mainz 2002, ISBN 3-931876-46-2 .
  • Hanns-Josef Ortheil: Günther Uecker. Water Venezia, Accqua luminosa; Watercolors by Günther Uecker , Mainz 2005, ISBN 3-931876-45-4 .
  • Britta Julia Dombrowe: Duty to speak and fluency in silence. On the form, meaning and function of Günther Uecker's bibliophile works . Dissertation, University of Cologne, Mainz 2006, ISBN 978-3-931876-62-3 .
  • Günther Uecker, Alexander Tolnay: Günther Uecker . Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2005, ISBN 3-7757-1584-3 .
  • Günther Uecker. Twenty chapters . With contributions by Wulf Herzogenrath, Dieter Honisch, Britta Schmitz, Alexander Tolnay, Stephan von Wiese and Kazuhiro Yamamoto. Neuer Berliner Kunstverein / Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern-Ruit 2005, ISBN 3-7757-1584-3 .
  • Günther Uecker: letter to China; works on paper . Geuer and Breckner, Düsseldorf 2006. ISBN 3-939452-01-7 .
  • Dorothea van der Koelen and Martin van der Koelen (eds.): Günther Uecker. Opus Liber. Directory of bibliophile books and works 1960–2005 (with a foreword by Günther Uecker) . Chorus-Verlag for Art and Science, Mainz 2007, ISBN 978-3-931876-66-1 .
  • Günther Uecker: Actions . Geuer & Breckner, Düsseldorf 2010, ISBN 978-3-939452-11-9 .
  • Eckhard Hollmann, Jürgen Krieger (Hrsg.): Günther Uecker: Written pictures . JOVIS Verlag Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-86859-178-1 .
  • Dorothea van der Koelen (eds.) And Günther Uecker: Günther Uecker - Lebenslinien (editions 1986–2012) . Chorus-Verlag, Mainz 2015, ISBN 978-3-931876-92-0 .
  • Günther Uecker: Poetry of Destruction - In Dialogue with Michael Kluth, 1988–2018 . Mitteldeutscher Verlag, Halle (Saale) 2018, ISBN 978-3-96311-038-2 .
  • Literature by and about Günther Uecker in the catalog of the German National Library


  • Günther Uecker 1961: “When you see my works, you will notice that they get their reality through the light. Its intensity can be changed by the impact of the light and can be changed by the location of the observer. These objects challenge your activity and thus maintain their liveliness. "
  • Günther Uecker 1961: “To make the course of a movement visible, as a state of liveliness in which the person participates in creative repetition, in monotony, is indeed an exciting action that can be experienced spiritually like a prayer. My objects are a spatial reality, a zone of light. I use mechanical means to overcome the subjective gesture, to objectify it, to create a situation of freedom. "
  • Günther Uecker 1969: “Today's artist produces and realizes ideas that can serve as an example for a new environment. The idea is realized in the object as a product. These real objects are illustrations of a new way of looking at things. These objects have no object value, they have fulfilled their purpose at the moment when they are absorbed into consciousness. "

Web links

Commons : Günther Uecker  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b Manfred Rohde: Günther Uecker and Rotraut Klein-Moquay. Two world-class artists and their youth in Groß Schwansee . In: Moin! Magazine for art and culture in Northwest Mecklenburg, issue 1/2019, pp. 68–71, here p. 68.
  2. a b Cornelius Tittel: Günther Uecker - with nails against the Russians. In: Die Welt , May 31, 2012 (interview).
  3. Günther Uecker . In: Café Germany. In conversation with the first art scene in Germany , March 31, 2016, accessed on July 29, 2020.
  4. ^ Max-Stefan Koslik: Günther Uecker. The goal of longing is to come home . In: land to live. People in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. 25 portraits . Hinstorff, Rostock 2015, ISBN 978-3-356-01892-9 , pp. 100-105.
  5. ^ Vita at Guggenheim Museum ( Memento from December 16, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  6. ^ Vita at Guggenheim
  7. ^ Manfred Rohde: Günther Uecker and Rotraut Klein-Moquay. Two world-class artists and their youth in Groß Schwansee In: Moin! Magazine for art and culture in Northwest Mecklenburg, issue 1/2019, pp. 68–71, here p. 70.
  8. The forbidden Wustrow peninsula. In: Schweriner Volkszeitung , August 20, 2015, online .
  9. ^ Gartenstadt Atlantic ( Memento from March 22, 2006 in the Internet Archive )
  10. ^ Spiral I, [1] . Retrieved November 21, 2018
  11. Feld, [2] . Retrieved November 21, 2018
  12. Gottfried Sello : One doesn't talk about prices. What German museums bought in 1970 . In: Die Zeit vom March 19, 1971, accessed on July 29, 2020.
  13. Mark Brown: Art that starts: Christie's puts on first UK show of kinetic works for decades in The Guardian, February 24, 2014 (accessed June 1, 2015)
  14. ^ Annette Bosetti: Günther Uecker paints with nails in Rheinische Post from March 11, 2010 (accessed on June 1, 2015)
  15. ^ Anne Lenz book: The strong women behind the artists in Die Welt, February 9, 2013 (accessed June 1, 2015)
  16. Kulturportal Deutschland - Archive: News from cultural policy from October 18, 2001 ( Memento of the original from June 9, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (accessed on October 8, 2012) @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.kulturportal-deutschland.de
  17. ^ State library is given the name Günther Uecker. Press release. State Office for Culture and Monument Preservation Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania , March 3, 2015, archived from the original on August 18, 2017 ; Retrieved August 19, 2015 .
  18. Schirn-Magazin: Die Schleifende Zeit , www.schirn-magazin.de, accessed on October 20, 2011
  19. Rose-Maria Gropp: The beauty of imposition and the will to improve the world. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , April 21, 2015.
  20. GÜNTHER UECKER. Retrieved July 31, 2017 .
  21. quoted from Dieter Honisch / Museum Folkwang Essen (ed.): Lenk mack pfahler uecker, XXXV biennale di venezia padiglione tedesco, Essen and Stuttgart 1970, booklet "uecker" p. 4
  22. quoted from: ZERO. The international art movement of the 50s and 60s, exhibition cat. Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin 2015, p. 488.
  23. quoted from Dieter Honisch / Museum Folkwang Essen (ed.): Lenk mack pfahler uecker, XXXV biennale di venezia padiglione tedesco, Essen and Stuttgart 1970, booklet "uecker" p. 4


  1. The information on this varies. Some sources state 1953, for example the Berliner Zeitung . Among other things in an interview with the world is represented in 1955. The website of the Federal Agency for Civic Education classifies his departure after 1954.