New acquisitions

A museum thrives on its research activities, the intensive communication of that scholarly work, and not least of all the expansion of its holdings. With targeted purchases and gifts, we continually enlarge and round out the collection, while also developing it further with regard to quality.

New acquisitions make their way into the collection by many routes: purchases are carried out with funds from our own budget or support from foundations or private persons. In keeping with longstanding tradition, the Städelscher Museums-Verein also buys works for the Städel. What is more – entirely in the spirit of Johann Friedrich Städel – we are frequently the recipients of generous gifts from private persons and artists. In the area of contemporary art, new acquisitions also come to the collection through the dedication of the Städelkomitee 21. Jahrhundert, a support society unique in Europe. The following is a selection of the Städel’s most recent acquisitions.

Our most recent purchases and donations

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    Heinrich Hoerle: Vordermann (1932)

    Heinrich Hoerle: Vordermann (1932)

    Heinrich Hoerle, who died at an early age, was one of the Cologne Progressives, a group of artists who turned against bourgeois-capitalist society in the 1920s and early 1930s, but also distanced themselves from the social criticism of New Objectivity. Its founding members – Heinrich Hoerle, Franz Wilhelm Seiwert, and Gerd Arntz – wanted to change society and therefore opted for a reduced, clear language of form which, in its simplicity and unambiguity, was intended to be generally understandable.

    The drawing “Vordermann” (literally, the man or person in front) by Heinrich Hoerle, acquired in 2021, is also based on this principle. We see the brightly coloured back of the head of a male figure, the titular “man in front”. Hoerle rendered him as a type-like abbreviation and geometric abstraction – broken down into luminous colour surfaces, just as the composition as a whole, including the landscape with trees in the background, is composed of individual colourful segments of form that are colour-coordinated and richly structured. Hoerle, who, as a self-taught artist, demonstrated a great passion for experimentation throughout his life, discovered wax crayons for himself around 1931/32, which he applied in some segments in long, drawn-out lines, in others with dashed, then again in circular movements, and into the layers of which he scratched in various ways in order to expose the colour tones or the paper underneath. All this lends the drawing, which is, in principle, so strictly constructed, a surprisingly haptic and, above all, lively effect – despite its primarily surface-bound nature. In his own unique way, Hoerle incorporated influences from Pittura Metafisica, Cubism, and Constructivism.

    With this expressive pictorial work and the rare lithograph “Prosthesis Head” (Inv. 68035 D), also acquired in 2021, Heinrich Hoerle’s oeuvre is now represented in the Städel Museum at the highest level. At the same time, the two works complement the prints by the Cologne progressive Gerd Arntz already in the collection.

    Details in the Digital Collection

    Heinrich Hoerle (1895–1936)
    Vordermann, 1932
    Wax crayon on vellum paper, 425 × 355 mm
    Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
    Acquired 2021 with the support of Brigitte Emmerich, property of the Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V.
    Public Domain

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    Serge Poliakoff: Composition abstraite (1961/1966)

    Serge Poliakoff: Composition abstraite (1961/1966)

    With “Composition abstraite” (1961/1966), an exceptional work by Serge Poliakoff has entered the collection of the Städel Museum. The painting was acquired by the Städel Committee for the 21st Century. As a special position of geometric abstraction, it enriches the collection area of post-war modernism. Alongside Hans Hartung, Jean Fautrier, and Jean Dubuffet, Poliakoff is one of the most important representatives of the Nouvelle École de Paris, a loose international association of abstract art movements in post-war Paris.

    Created in 1961 and reworked by the artist in 1966, the painting “Composition abstraite” is an unusual and yet exemplary work within Poliakoff’s oeuvre. As in hardly any other work, he reduced the formal language to two opposing surfaces: The colour fields of red and ochre push energetically into each other. The polygonal contour of the coloured forms crosses the pictorial field diagonally. The abstract composition is characterised by the vibrant and harmonious presence of the paint itself, which is typical of the works by Serge Poliakoff. In contrast to the smooth ductus of hard-edge painting or American colour field painting, short, gestural brushstrokes structure the matt, sometimes grainy paint. Poliakoff mixed his diverse palette of colours himself with pure pigments. Poliakoff created the colour intensity typical of his work by superimposing various layers.
    With a sheer endless repertoire of forms, Poliakoff pursued throughout his life the endeavour to bring colour and form into a perfect relationship. The painting exemplifies Poliakoff’s unique visual language, as well as his tireless search for the perfect balance between pictorial space, proportion, and rhythm – or, in the words of the artist, the “silence complete”.

    About the artist

    Serge Poliakoff (1900-1969) was encouraged artistically at an early age – initially, however, primarily in the field of music. After fleeing the Russian Revolution in 1917, he arrived in Paris in 1923, where he later settled. In addition to his full-time work as a musician, Poliakoff began to study painting in 1929. In the late 1930s, he turned to abstraction – encouraged by Wassily Kandinsky, Otto Freundlich, and Robert Delaunay. His works are now in the most important international collections, including those of The Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York; the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin; the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam; and the Tate in London; as well as in the Musée National d’Art Moderne and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.

    Details in the Digital Collection

    Serge Poliakoff
    Composition abstraite, 1961/1966
    Oil on canvas, 130 x 97 cm
    Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
    Acquired in 2021 with funds from the Städelkomitee 21. Jahrhundert, property of Städelscher Museums-Vereins e.V.
    © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022

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    Leiko Ikemura: Floating Face (2009)

    Leiko Ikemura: Floating Face (2009)

    With “Floating Face” (2009), the Städel Museum has acquired a special work from the multifaceted oeuvre of the Japanese-born artist Leiko Ikemura (b. 1951). The painting, acquired with funds from the Städel Committee for the 21st Century, is not only representative of the artist’s main work from the first years of the new millennium, but also enriches the holdings of the Collection of Contemporary Art with a female position in figurative painting. In particular, it expands various thematic focal points, such as the examination of the portrait and the image of humankind in contemporary art.
    Sleeping figures, primarily women, have been a key motif in Ikemura’s pictorial cosmos since the 1990s. They usually lie on their sides or float in space. “Floating Face” belongs to an eponymous group of works created in the early 2000s.

    Like a flame, the face virtually appears to be burning. Below it is a bright strip of colour which, in the works of Ikemura, represents the horizon and appears time and again in both her figurative works and abstracted landscape depictions.

    The motif of the horizon serves her as a visualisation of the fleeting moment between day and night, this world and the next. In “Floating Face”, the bright strip of colour also marks this transformational passage, within which the resting face seems to be located.

    The transcending of borders – be they geographical, cultural, or artistic – is a characteristic of Leiko Ikemura’s work as a whole. In addition to the connection between Western and Asian culture, Ikemura deals with the issue of being foreign. The works can be read as metaphors for philosophical questions in which the motifs stand for transformation and metamorphosis.

    About the artist

    Originally from Japan, Leiko Ikemura (b. 1951) studied literature in Osaka and Spain and later painting at the Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes in Seville. She lives and works in Berlin and Cologne. In the 1980s, she lived in Zurich, where her paintings were still in the tradition of the Neo-Expressionists and were already quite successful. Her international breakthrough, however, came with her depictions of floating and reclining girls, of women’s bodies, of spherical landscapes and surreal beings, which have characterised her oeuvre since 1990. Ikemura is represented in numerous international collections, including those of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Kunstmuseum Basel, the Kolumba in Cologne, and the Museum Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf.

    Details in the Digital Collection

    Leiko Ikemura (*1951)
    Floating Face, 2009
    Tempera on canvas, 80 x 110 cm
    Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
    Acquired in 2021 with funds from the Städelkomitee 21. Jahrhundert, property of Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V.
    © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022

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    Andreas Mühe, Under the Tree (2008)

    Andreas Mühe, Under the Tree (2008)

    In 2008, Andreas Mühe created what is still his best-known work: For “Under the Tree”, as the work’s simple title reads, he staged Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany at the time, in the most unusual surroundings imaginable in Berlin’s Botanical Garden.

    The large-format photograph is an important addition to the Städel Museum’s Collection of Contemporary Art. Playing with our viewing habits, Mühe’s work is linked to other photographs in the Städel by his colleagues Rodney Graham and Thomas Demand – to the monumentally inverted tree portrait of the former as well as to the latter’s supra-temporal re-staging of events surrounding the reunification of Germany.
    At the same time, the Städel as a place of politically and socially critical art and painting of the Federal Republic of Germany – from Anselm Kiefer to the portraits of Lenin and Trotsky by Eugen Schönebeck – is expanded by an important, current, and “East German” position. While classical, feudal portraits of rulers have found little expression in the Städel Museum’s civic collection, the portrayal of political representatives of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Frankfurt am Main, the “birthplace of democracy”, plays a significant role in the city’s self-image – we are reminded, for example, of Max Liebermann’s popular portrait of the Frankfurt mayor, Franz Adickes, in the Städel.

    Details in the Digital Collection

    Andreas Mühe (*1979)
    Under the Tree, 2008
    Pigment print, 167,7 × 135,8 cm
    Acquired in 2021 with funds from the Städelkomitee 21. Jahrhundert, property of Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V.
    © Andreas Mühe, VG Bild-Kunst Bonn, 2021

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    Mary Ellen Best: Der Italiener-Saal im alten Städelschen Kunstinstitut an der Neuen Mainzer Straße (um 1838-39)

    Mary Ellen Best: Der Italiener-Saal im alten Städelschen Kunstinstitut an der Neuen Mainzer Straße (um 1838-39)

    In the spring of 2021, the Städel Museum’s Department of Prints and Drawings was able to acquire a watercolour and gouache drawing depicting the ‘Italian Room’ of the Städelsches Kunstinstitut in the building in Neue Mainzer Straße, which the museum used from 1833 to 1877.

    The watercolourist Mary Ellen Best, who created this drawing, came from a wealthy background in northern England and had trained as a draughtswoman in her youth. As a young woman, she travelled to continental Europe, especially to Germany, and watercoloured along the way whatever pleased and interested her. With a fine power of observation and skilful drawing techniques, she created her watercolours, which capture the everyday life of the time, not for sale but rather for her own pleasure and collected them in albums that remained in the family.

    From the sale of one such album in the 1980s, several views of rooms of the Städelsches Kunstinstitut were already known, which Mary Ellen Best had drawn in 1835 during her first stay in Frankfurt am Main. The newly acquired watercolour was painted in 1838 or 1839 during a later visit to the Main region. In well-preserved colour, the details of the paintings are reproduced so accurately that they can be identified. On the right is the bust of the founder Johann Friedrich Städel, which today stands in the entrance hall of the Städel Museum. The beautiful watercolour is not only an informative source on the history of the museum, but also a drawing of high quality, which, with its depiction of the light and mood of the hall, conveys the impression of a visit to the museum in Frankfurt in the late 1830s.

    Details in the Digital Collection

    Mary Ellen Best (1809–1891)
    Der Italiener-Saal im alten Städelschen Kunstinstitut an der Neuen Mainzer Straße, ca. 1838 – ca. 1839
    Watercolor and opaque colors, partially heightened with gum arabic, and graphite pencil on vergé paper
    320 x 295 mm
    Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
    Acquired in 2021, property of Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V.

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    Maximilian Klewer: Self-Portrait (1924)

    Maximilian Klewer: Self-Portrait (1924)

    The art of Maximilian Klewer (1891–1963) is idiosyncratic: precise and naturalistic in its rendering, enigmatic and ambiguous in its message. Klewer, who was born in Barmen (now Wuppertal), began studying in Berlin in 1911 and taught drawing at the Academy of Fine Arts there from 1919 onwards. His strongest works were created in the years between the two world wars. Klewer developed his art out of the academic tradition.

    In terms of content and form, he drew on numerous past and contemporary sources. His works thus reveal echoes of the Symbolist imagery of Franz von Stuck and Gustav Klimt. Inspirations from variety entertainment and silent film can also be found in his works. Above all, however, for Klewer, the self-portrait became a means of critical questioning and a field of artistic experimentation. With animatedly, pantomimically exaggerated expression, Klewer made himself the protagonist of his pictorial worlds, the moods of which range from ironic to surreal-symbolistic.

    Details in the Digital Collection

    Maximilian Klewer
    Self-Portrait, 1924
    Oil on canvas, 90,2 x 70,5 cm
    Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
    Acquired in 2020 with funds provided by a private donor
    © Evelyn Lehmann

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    Max Beckmann: Self-Portrait with Champagne Glass (1919)

    Max Beckmann: Self-Portrait with Champagne Glass (1919)

    It is one of the most prominent acquisitions in the more than two hundred years of the Städel Museum’s history. Support from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, the Städelscher Museums-Verein, the Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung, the Kulturstiftung der Länder and five private patrons has made the acquisition of Max Beckmann’s “Self-Portrait with Champagne Glass” for the Städel Museum possible.

    Executed in 1919, the painting is one of the artist’s most well-known and important works. It has been on loan to the museum since 2011. Thanks to the acquisition, it will now remain in the Städel permanently as part of the Beckmann collection.

    One of the most important artworks dating from Max Beckmann’s Frankfurt years, the “Self-Portrait with Champagne Glass” has become widely known as a symbol of the interwar period and the Weimar Republic. It was the third self-likeness Beckmann executed after World War I. Whereas in the first two he had portrayed himself as a medical orderly and an artist in his studio, now he presented himself as an elegant dandy at a nightclub – probably the bar of the Frankfurter Hof where, according to contemporary witnesses, his drink of choice was champagne. In search of motifs, he also frequented the restaurant in the waiting room of the main station. In the glare of the artificial light, the artist sits at a bar with a foaming glass of champagne in one hand and a cigar in the other. Yet he does not convey an impression of carefree gaiety; his pose is affected, his smile cold. A grotesque-looking character laughs in the background; in the mirror at the left, the same face laughs back like a menacing echo.

    Here Beckmann adopts the role he will appear in frequently in the years that follow: of the detached observer of nightlife. In his depictions he exposed the bourgeois hedonism of the post-war period; again and again, its superficiality and extravagant manifestations provided him with impulses for his art. The “Self-Portrait with Champagne Glass” stands for Beckmann’s departure from the Late Impressionist painting manner in favour of the bold outlining of forms and expressive exaggeration of figures that would become characteristic of his style. It is thus key to Beckmann’s development, and to understanding him as an artist.

    Details in the Digital Collection

    Max Beckmann (1884–1950)
    Self-Portrait with Champagne Glass, 1919
    Oil on canvas
    65.2 x 55.2 x 2.3 cm (without frame)
    Signed at upper left in oil paint: Beckmann
    Inscribed at upper left: Frankfurt a/M Sept. 19
    Cat. rais.: Göpel 203
    Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, joint property with Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V., Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung and Federal Republic of Germany
    Acquired 2020 with the support of the Kulturstiftung der Länder as well as private Donors
    Photo: Städel Museum

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    Wilhelm Morgner: Astral Composition VI (1912)

    Wilhelm Morgner: Astral Composition VI (1912)

    This work by Wilhelm Morgner (1891–1917) is one of a series of 26 oil paintings and numerous works on paper entitled Astral Compositions and executed by the artist in the brief span of time between 1912 and 1913. Formally, Astral Composition VI (1912) testifies to a decisive turning point in Morgner’s approach to painting. Beginning in 1910, he had developed a mode of ornamental, representational composition structured by distinctly contoured zones. Now, practically overnight, he abandoned that style with the aim of giving greater independence to pure colour. He also wanted to emancipate himself more from outward reality in favour of a focus on inner processes. Throughout this transformation, he remained true to his key thematic complex: the human being tilling the fields. Usually depicted bent over their work before the broad horizon of the Soester Börde, his figures now merge increasingly with the surrounding space, thus symbolizing the metaphysical unification of man and nature. Astral Composition VI represents an advanced stage in this stylistic development, even if we can still make out the hazy silhouette of a figure in the middle ground. The contour lines have disappeared, however, making way for a systematic application of the paint in short, parallel brushstrokes that – after the manner of Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890) – set the entire surface of the painting in rhythmically vibrating motion. The work strikingly conveys the state of limbo between representation and abstraction that put Morgner in a category of his own within German Expressionism.

    Details in the Digital Collection

    Wilhelm Morgner (1891–1917)
    Astral Composition VI, 1912
    Oil on paperboard, mounted on hardboard
    Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
    Acquired in 2019 with funds from Volker Westerborg
    Property of the Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V.

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    Eugen Schönebeck: Crucifixion (1964)

    Eugen Schönebeck: Crucifixion (1964)

    The generous gift of the painting Crucifixion by Eugen Schönebeck adds a prominent work to the Städel Museum’s 1960s painting holdings. Thanks to the longstanding dedication of the attorney and art collector Hanspeter Rabe of Berlin, not only a number of important early drawings but also several major works by Schönebeck are now permanent features of the collection. The Städel is thus the only museum in Germany capable of portraying Schönebeck’s oeuvre in its various facets.

    Both temporally and in terms of motif, the painting is one of a series of four Crucifixion scenes that, executed in 1963–1964, fill a gap between the two key workgroups making up the artist’s extremely brief creative period. Some three years after authoring the Pandemonium Manifesto (1962) with Baselitz, Schönebeck changed his painting style from fleshy, chapped structures to smoother colour surfaces, and his pictorial protagonists from grim, formless creatures to ambiguous socialist “hero portraits”, for example of Lenin, Trotsky, and Mao.

    Crucifixion visibly testifies to the transition between these two contrary work complexes. In front of a uniformly light blue background, a dark T-shaped Saint Anthony’s cross bears a fleshy, misshapen body. It appears to have been hung over the wooden cross like a sacrificial offering. At its top end is a detached bald head with piercing eyes; at the bottom it tapers to a hand-like appendage. The artist has here combined organic forms distinguished by an informalist application of the paint with the clear, monochrome colouration of his later portrait paintings.

    With this highly symbolic motif, Schönebeck was addressing several art-historical themes at once. Iconographic depictions of Christian motifs interweave with allusions to the isolated, suffering—and at the same time creative—artist. It is ultimately left to the viewer to interpret the insistent gaze of the deep-set eyes.

    About the artist

    Eugen Schönebeck was born in Heidenau near Dresden in 1936. He grew up in Eastern Germany and moved to West Berlin in 1955. Along with Georg Baselitz, he was one of the first German artists to lend expression to the atrocities and traumas of World War II in their paintings. He ended his painting oeuvre ended abruptly in 1967, after just ten years.

    Details in the Digital Collection

    Eugen Schönebeck (born 1936)
    Crucifixion, 1964
    Oil on canvas
    162 x 130 cm
    Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
    Acquired in 2020 as a gift from Hanspeter Rabe
    © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021

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