René Block

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René Block (* 1942 in Velbert in the Bergisches Land ) is a German gallery owner , art publisher, art collector and curator .

life and work

Block, who grew up in Weeze and attended high school in Kevelaer, had his first contact with art through his acquaintance with the painter Hanns Lamers in Kleve . He applied as a student of glass painting at the Krefeld Werkkunstschule, where he made his first artist friends of the same age with Markus Lüpertz and KP Brehmer . From 1961 he did an apprenticeship with the glass painter Hein Derix in Kevelaer on the Lower Rhine. At the same time Sigmar Polke learned the trade at the Derix stained glass factory in Düsseldorf- Kaiserswerth . Brehmer and Lüpertz switched to theKunstakademie Düsseldorf , where she often attended Block for guest lectures. He drove with Brehmer to the Beuys van der Grinten collection in Kranenburg (today in Moyland Castle ) and to historical places such as Xanten and Kalkar . He visited Dutch museums with him, where he was particularly impressed by the works of the CoBrA artists. In 1962 he won the Illustrated Youth competition of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The prize was a seven-day stay in Paris for two people, including a flight. He took Brehmer with him, and both of them visited museums and galleries during the day and accepted an invitation to Stanley William Hayter's studio , and in the evenings they could be found in concerts and in small variety theaters. After reading Alfred Döblin's book Berlin Alexanderplatz , Block decided in early summer 1963 to move to West Berlin . Brehmer followed him in the autumn of the same year.


At the beginning of 1964, at the age of 22, Block opened the Grafische Cabinet René Block in Berlin's Kurfürstenstrasse and on September 15, 1964 at Frobenstrasse 18 in Schöneberg under the title “Neodada, Pop, Décollage , Capitalist Realism ”, with works by KP Brehmer , Karl Horst Hödicke , Herbert Kaufmann , Manfred Kuttner , Konrad Lueg , Siegmund Lympasik , Sigmar Polke , Lothar Quinte , Gerhard Richter and Wolf Vostell a first exhibition. The second, still in 1964, was a solo exhibition by Richter, entitled Pictures of Capitalist Realism .

In 1965 René Block worked on the realization of the happenings Phaenomene and Berlin 100 Events by Wolf Vostell . Both happenings took place in Berlin. Vostell created 50 drawings for Phaenomene , which were exhibited at Block.

As the youngest gallery owner in Germany, he was accepted into the "Association of progressive German art dealers" in 1967.

From October 22 to November 17, 1967, Block organized the 20th exhibition Hommage à Lidice , to which he invited numerous artists to contribute works. In the campaign in favor of Pro Lidice attended, among others, Joseph Beuys , KP Brehmer, Bernhard Hoeke , Jörg Immendorff , Konrad Lueg , Blinky Palermo , Polke, Richter, Günther Uecker and Wolf Vostell part. The pictures were first seen in the gallery and were then brought to Prague as a gift for the planned Lidice Museum .

At the 3rd Cologne Art Market 69 organized by the Association of Progressive German Art Dealers , which took place from October 14 to 19, 1969 in the Kunsthalle Cologne, he presented a new work by Joseph Beuys on his stand : The pack (the pack) . It was created in the same year and showed a closed VW bus , built in 1961, as well as 24 wooden sleds , each of which was equipped with grease, felt blankets , belts and a flashlight . While setting up the exhibition, Block saw a large picture by Robert Rauschenberg that was awarded DM 110,000 and decided “... that the sculpture by Beuys should cost as much as a large picture by Rauschenberg or Warhol .” He also set this price for Beuys -Plastic on. On the last day of the fair, the group of objects was bought by Jost Herbig, who built up an art collection as the heir of the Cologne paint factory Herbol-Werke . Beuys' work was the first work of contemporary German art to be sold for over DM 100,000.

Opened in 1974, at the address block 409 West Broadway, SoHo , in New York district of Manhattan gallery, which existed until the 1977th It started with an action by Joseph Beuys I like America and America likes Me . When Beuys arrived at the airport, completely wrapped in felt blankets, he was driven by an ambulance to the gallery, where he spent several days with a coyote named "Little John".

Block closed his Berlin gallery in 1979, just as spectacularly as he had started 15 years earlier: with a Beuys exhibition and action on September 15, 1979 under the title Yes, we are breaking the shit here , a sentence that Beuys formulated in 1964 and which rang out one minute from a brown cross speaker box on a gray iron desk. In the now bare, plasterless rooms, Beuys had stored memories from the 15 years that had connected the artist and the gallery: Among other things, a grease wedge , a filter corner , stretched in a corner of the room; in the middle of the room a cube of dry potato tops; not far from there is a pile of sprouting and rotting potatoes; in the next room a legless grand piano, on which lay a gray felt hat and parts of a violin painted green; a music stand hung with sauerkraut and entitled Sauerkraut Score ; A brown cross felt hat with a two centimeter punched hole on a broken wall ; just behind this wall an empty metal shelf, which was held by a long Filzkeil from imminent fall in the room, and other utensils, like a stack of Wall Street Journals , a pile of hay and sweat-soaked hat the artist from the action Coyote of 1974, as well as two cut toenails by the artist and two models of atoms turned from hair . Beuys: "It has to be said where the culture takes place: Not in the Mies-van-der-Rohe building , but here."


In 1966, Block set up the Block edition in the rooms of the gallery, which had moved to Schaperstraße in Berlin-Wilmersdorf that same year, in which prints, objects, records, portfolios and books were to appear in the following years. The focus was on works that combined visual art and music. In this context, Evervess ΙΙ 1 , the sixth multiple by Joseph Beuys , was created in 1968 . It consisted of two soda water bottles, one of which was wrapped in a strip of gray felt, that were in a wooden box. The wooden cover was printed in black with the title, the edition information and another text, the edition was 40 copies. One of them is now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) in New York. From 1969 to 1972 Block designed the "En Bloc" object, an office roll cabinet with artistic contributions by 18 German artists: Beuys, Brehmer, Bazon Brock , Imi Giese , Hödicke, Knoebel, Lueg, Palermo, Polke, Richter, Dieter Roth , Gerhard Rühm , Reiner Ruthenbeck , Wolf Vostell and Stefan Wewerka . For this, as well as for the other of his editions, Block designed professional “sales brochures”.

After two years in advance and after lengthy experiments in industrial companies, Richard Hamilton completed a series of objects called The Critic Laughs in 1972 . Also from 1972 is the Beuys edition of silver brooms and brooms without hair : a broom made of wood and horsehair with a silver coat, copper and felt. In 1977 the object was featured on the cover of the art magazine Art in America . In 1974 Marcel Broodthaers ' Multiple The Manuscript found in a bottle (Le manuscrit trouvé dans une bouteille) was published in an edition of 120 copies. It consisted of an ordinary Bordeaux bottle, on which the words The Manuscript and the year 1833 were branded in a transparent black below the bottle neck . It was wrapped in wrapping paper and was in a cardboard box printed in three languages.

Since Block was engaged in his New York gallery between 1974 and 1977, only a few new multiples appeared during this period: by Robert Filliou in 1975 A World of False Fingerprints and in 1976 Sweet Wall / Testimonials by Allan Kaprow . In 1977 the vinyl long-playing record 1965/1-∞ by Roman Opałka was released with recordings of 22:10 min and 20:43 min duration. The edition was 400 copies. In 1978 Nam June Paik published the first video multiple at Block The Thinker - TV Rodin : A small bronze replica of the well-known Rodin sculpture The Thinker looks at himself on a television monitor. The installation made reference to Paik's previous video sculpture TV-Buddha .


When his gallery was closed in 1979, Block was already doing a curatorial work: the exhibition For Eyes and Ears. From the music box to the acoustic environment . It was shown in 1980 at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin and is considered to be one of the first comprehensive presentations of sound art objects . He then worked until 1996 as curator of large overview exhibitions for the Academy of the Arts, the Berliner Festwochen , the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Institute for Foreign Relations (ifa).

From 1982 to 1992 Block was project manager for the visual arts of the Berlin artist program of the DAAD, where he supervised visual artists and composers as scholarship holders and organized exhibitions and concerts. In 1993 he moved to Stuttgart as head of the art department at the Institute for Foreign Relations , which he left in 1995 after increasing political disputes with its General Secretary, a former CDU member of the Bundestag.

From 1997 to 2006 Block took over the artistic direction of the Kunsthalle Fridericianum in Kassel. In 1998 he showed a comprehensive, retrospective exhibition of his friend KP Brehmer, who had died shortly before, under the title All Artists Lies, and designed an extensive catalog. In one article he describes the common paths that connected the artist Brehmer and the gallery owner and curator Block for over 35 years.

In 2003, Block set up a curator's workshop in the Fridericianum , in which young international curators could accompany the Fridericianum's exhibition program and develop their own exhibition projects. Since 2008 he has been an honorary professor at the University of the Arts in Bremen . In the same year, he opened new exhibition spaces near Berlin Central Station under the name “Edition Block” and “Tanas - Project Space for Contemporary Turkish Art” and “Kunsthal 44 Møen” in Askeby, Denmark.


René Block's art collection is one of the most important collections in the field of Fluxus . In addition to its own editions such as Joseph Beuys' Ja, Jetzt aber wir den Scheiß ab den Scheiß aus 1979, it also contains objects acquired later such as Ben Vautier's if life is art why hang this up? from 1990. Under the title Who Killed the Painting? Works from the Block collection , it was shown in 2009 at the Museum Weserburg in Bremen .


  • 2015/16: I don't know a weekend. From René Block's archive and collection. New Berlin Art Association and Berlinische Galerie , Berlin; Lentos Art Museum Linz


Curatorial work

  • 1973: Graphic Techniques , Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Berlin.
  • 1974: Multiples , Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Berlin.
  • 1976: New York - Downtown Manhattan: SoHo , Akademie der Künste, Berlin.
  • 1980: For eyes & ears , Academy of Arts, Berlin.
  • 1981: Art Allemagne aujourd'hui , Musee d'art moderne de la Ville de Paris.
  • 1982: 1962 Wiesbaden Fluxus 1982 , Nassauischer Kunstverein , Wiesbaden.
  • 1990: The Readymade Boomerang , 8th Sydney Biennial .
  • 1991: Transformations , National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul.
  • 1992: With your head through the wall. Block's collection , Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen.
  • 1993: About painting. 300 years of the Academy of Fine Arts , Academy of Fine Arts , Vienna.
  • 1995: Orientation. The Vision of Art in a Paradoxical World , 4th Istanbul Biennale.
  • 1997: Pro Lidice , Museum of Fine Arts, Prague.
  • 1998: Echosounder or nine questions to the periphery , Museum Fridericianum , Kassel.
  • 1999: Chronos & Kairos , Museum Fridericianum, Kassel.
  • 2000: Eurafrica , section of the 3rd Kwangju Biennial, Korea; The Song of the Earth , Museum Fridericianum, Kassel.
  • 2001: Lost and Found , Apex Art, New York; Looking at You , international video works, Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel.
  • 2002: 40 years: Fluxus and the consequences , Nassauischer Kunstverein, Wiesbaden.
  • 2003: In the gorges of the Balkans. Balkan Trilogy # 1 , Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel; In the cities of the Balkans. Balkan Trilogy # 2 , Belgrade, Sarajevo, Zagreb a. a.
  • 2004: Love It or Leave It , 5th Cetinje Biennale, Montenegro.
  • 2006: Art, Life & Confusion , October 47 Salon, Belgrade.
  • 2010: starter. Works from the Vehbi Koç Foundation Contemporary Art Collection , Arter, Istanbul


  • René Block: Graphics of Capitalist Realism 1: Catalog raisonnés up to 1971. Edition Block, Berlin 1971.
  • René Block: Graphics of Capitalist Realism 2: Catalog raisonnés of printmaking September 1971 - May 1976. Edition Block, Berlin 1976.
  • René Block, Gabriele Knapstein , A long history with many knots. Fluxus in Germany. 1962-1994. Institute for Foreign Relations , Stuttgart 1995.
  • Marius Babias, Birgit Eusterschulte, Stella Rollig (eds.): René Block. I don't know a weekend. Exhibition projects, texts and documents since 1964. Walther König, Cologne 2015, ISBN 978-3-86335-811-2 .

Web links


Individual evidence

  1. Lucius Grisebach: Laudation to René Block on the occasion of the award of the ARTCOLOGNE Prize on October 28, 2005 in Cologne ( Memento from December 25, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) (Weeze, Düsseldorf or just Niederrhein are also mentioned as the place of birth)
  2. ^ Ronald Feldman Gallery, New York, René Block, Berlin: Joseph Beuys. From Berlin: News from the coyote. November 1979, p. 62
  3. Stephan Strsembski: Capitalist Realism. Object and Criticism in 1960s Art. Kovač, Hamburg 2010.
  4. ^ Vita Wolf Vostell in the Inge Baecker gallery. Retrieved April 7, 2014.
  5. Joseph Beuys. From Berlin: News from the coyote. P. 11 ff.
  6. René Block: Do pictures also lie? In: KP Brehmen - All pictures are lies. documenta and Museum Fridericianum, 1998, ISBN 3-927015-13-X
  7. Who Killed the Painting? on the website of the Weserburg Museum of Modern Art