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Bernhard Heiliger 1915-1995: A Sculptor's Cosmos

BERLIN, GERMANY.-The Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin will present Bernhard Heiliger 1915-1995: A Sculptor’s Cosmos from November 5th 2005 to January 15th 2006. This retrospective, made possible with support from the German Lottery Foundation, will take place in the ground floor and atrium of Martin-Gropius-Bau upon the 90th anniversary of Bernhard Heiliger’s birth. The conclusive catalog raisonné of his work, the result of almost ten years of research by the Bernhard Heiliger Foundation, will also be published at this time. Thematically, the exhibition will emphasize the 1950s and 1960s, and is to reconstruct Heiliger’s outstanding artistic role in post-war Germany.

The exhibition’s centrepiece will be the hanging of Kosmos 70 in the atrium of Martin-Gropius-Bau. This large, two-part hanging sculpture (9 x 18 x 4 m) hung in the foyer of the Berlin Reichstag from 1970 until 1994, and was removed during the building’s recent renovation by Sir Norman Foster.

Bernhard Heiliger is one of the most important sculptors in post-war Germany. His diverse work spans half a century, ranging from small-scale sculptures and drawings to huge sculptures in public places, such as the seven-metre bronze Flame (1962/63) in Ernst-Reuter-Platz in Berlin. Heiliger’s work reflects the development from the figurative to the abstract. Central aspects of his work are the lifting of volume and capturing the static moment in movement, to the limits of the material.

The artist was born in Stettin in 1915 and trained as a sculptor from 1933 to 1936 at the Stettin School of Creative Works, after which he studied with Kurt Schwerdtfeger until 1938. He then began a course of study with Arno Breker at the United State School of Free and Applied Art in Berlin, and met Richard Scheibe. He went to Paris in 1939 and this brought him into contact with works of International Classical Modernism by people such as Malliol, Despiau and Brancusi, but his stay ended abruptly in 1941 when he was called up to fight in the war. It was not until 1945 that he was able to resume his work as a free sculptor in Berlin.

After a lectureship at the College of Applied Art in Berlin-Weißensee (1947-49), Heiliger was offered an appointment as professor at the College of Arts by Karl Hofer, teaching there until 1986. He was elected to the Berlin Academy of Arts in 1956.

It was Heiliger, along with Hans Uhlmann and Karl Hartung, who re-established the international reputation of German sculpture. His design for the memorial to the Unknown Political Prisoner (1953) was awarded the Federal Government Prize and the Appreciation Prize of the Institute of Contemporary Art. He also rapidly attained international recognition through his participation in documenta I and documenta II in Kassel (1955 and 1959) and the Venice Biennale (1956).

Numerous individual exhibitions and important commissions followed, such as the Tree of Figures for the World Fair in Brussels in 1958. Heiliger was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1974, the Lovis Corinth Prize of the Federal Ministry of the Interior in 1975, and honorary membership of the German Association of Artists in 1984. Following the last retrospective, which was held in 1995 in the Federal Art and Exhibition Hall in Bonn, there was a posthumous exhibition in 1998 in the National Museum in Heiliger’s birthplace, Stettin. Heiliger’s portrait heads were shown from 2000 to 2002 in six German museums, and in 2005 in the Beelden aan Zee Museum in Scheveningen (Holland) and the Museum of Modern Art in Passau.

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November 5, 2005

Bernhard Heiliger 1915-1995: A Sculptor's Cosmos

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