Ante Glibota prepared a rare bibliophilic book (83 x 63cm.) with Otto Piene’s lithographs and Fernando Arrabal’s poems
INTERVIEW ANTE GLIBOTA - JUDITH EILERS FOR REVUE ARTINVESTOR, MUNICH
Q. J.E.:Are you currently working on exhibitions or book projects? If so, what is it you are working on this period of vacation?
A.G.: I am actually working on several projects of books that I should finish this year, also several museum exhibitions in Croatia, which are on stage right now with 4 retrospective exhibitions of Chinese artists (Yin Yang, Li Zhuo, Zhou Yingchao and Shi Liru), and that will be presented in the fall and next year in different European countries.
I have just finished by the end of June, one rare bibliophilic book (83 x 63cm.) with Otto Piene’s lithographs and Fernando Arrabal’s poems and my introductive essay, which gave me a lot of pleasure and emotion. Both are close friends and unbelievably strong artists, world intellectual figures, two authentic geniuses, and working on the book with them gave me a feeling of intensity, like being in paradise.
I am sorry but this looks like a provocative question, because from my early age since I started working, I have never stopped in rhythm of 16-18 hours a day and until today. Never or rarely I say that I am tired or exhausted, because this is an essential thing, which I do, which I love. When people ask me when or where are you going on vacation? I answer, what vacation? I have been all my life on vacation! Because if you work in the art world and with curiosity, intensity, seriousness, devotion, life gives you rewards that you can’t measure with any material or financial gain or results. You just receive an immense interior reward, a spiritual, intellectual, aesthetic, visual emotion, which is financially incommensurable.
Q. What is planned for the future?
Firstly, in next two months will be completed one book called "The Light Silo", which I have elaborated for the last two years with Elizabeth Goldering and Otto Piene, composed with 36 poems by Elizabeth Goldering, American poet, and with Otto Piene’s exceptional original drawings and sketches concerning Elizabeth and Otto “Art Farm “ in Groton, Massachusetts, and my introductive essay. This book with them has been almost settled, and Otto Piene has been extremely involved, with his extreme meticulous look on every single page decision. We had serious discussions, about every single caption for image, and it is sad that this work couldn’t come out before he left us and that he couldn’t see it.
I am also working on an important monograph, including 450 pages on Chinese artist Li Zhuo, which is one of the most talented artists among the younger Chinese generation, and that will be completed in November, and followed by an exhibition tour in the same European museums. One important book on Chicago architect Lucian Lagrange, who I follow closely since 1981, is on progress. It is important to note my preparative work on Swiss multimedia artist Franziska Megert, who I consider as one of the most important artist in this field, whose book also I am really dreaming in one special way. But you must understand that for me, publishing a book is a process of meditation, sometimes it comes immediately, sometimes it comes after 25 years of serious work, documentation, reflection on every single detail, before receiving my definitive imprimatur. From other side I am also working now on the prefiguration of the Museum of Fernando Arrabal in the city of Madrid, Spain, and also one another Museum in Croatia is underway. Series of other exhibitions, conferences, lectures on “Industry of Culture” at Tsinghua University in Beijing on the fall and on some others Chinese University invitations. All this, with my constant travels to see the events, artists, artistic creativity, keep me as you imagined, quite busy.
Q. You are about to turn 70. Time to settle and stop working? Or do you consider your work to be your life and thus a lifetime job?
Not yet, I am still in this mythical beginning of 69 years old, but I never think about age as a limit. When I was very young, my closest friends were very old people, and I listened to them very attentively and in a respectful dialog. One of them was a very prominent theater director, another one was a leading Shakespeare and medieval literature professor, both with world reputation, another was an old farmer autodidact, kind of old sage… and we discussed very openly on every subject. I respect age but my spirit has emerged out of such consideration, because we are oppressed by age, torturing often our body and our spirit for looking younger, nicer… and fortunately I am not in such mood, whatever will happen…I have still curiosity like a young boy before starting going to school, with whole innocence and ludic spirit, attached to interior and spiritual side of value.
Of course, I will be working until my last breath. I don’t look too much on what I did but my own interest is always turned on future projects. Believe me or not, I am planning to do a lot of things in the future if God gives me the strength. What I did in my life is, of course, quite a quantity of work, hundreds books, catalogs, studies, publications, hundreds major exhibitions, events in all arts fields, on all continents, but the intensity of my action is turned towards tomorrow not towards yesterday, either if as an historian I look attentively about facts of time. Probably in the future I will be more oriented to do some synthesis publication what is my view and my vision of arts of tomorrow in prospective sense.
Q. Have you ever worked on a project dealing exclusively with paper in an artistic context? If so, which artists were involved and in what way did they work with paper?
Well, I have always being attached to paper as medium of art. Actually, I have been personally involved in 1980 in the organization, and as Member of the Jury of the first Biennale of "l’ Art et le Papier" organized by the city of Le Touquet, France, in Palais of Europe, where I brought some major contemporary important artists like Pierre Soulage, Hartung, Messagier, Malaval, Kulmer, Canogar, Saura, Dorazio, Perilli, Franzheim, Appel…. I have also collaborate for many years with the Biennale of original drawing on paper at the Museum of Modern Art of Rijeka leaded in time by Boris Vižentin, to who I sent or recommended many artists, and several of them received the Grand Prix of the Biennale of Rijeka. One another biennale where I have also been involved directly at the beginning was the Biennale Art Print on Paper in Pusan in South Korea. I initiated also works with some artists and producers of art paper, like the collaboration of the American artist Elizabeth Franzheim with Canson & Mongolfier, which resulted then several exhibitions. They just gave for free one tone of paper at the disposal of this artist, and later they continued with some others artists, but I had no time to follow all of this…
Q. But you did some important rare book, bibliophilical maps of exceptional value?
Yes, more recently, in 2009, I made, with some major Chinese artists like Zhang Xiaogang, Yue Minjun, Wang Qingsong, Wang Guangyi, Yang Shaobin, who are big stars and great artists of the Chinese and international art scene, exceptional rare books. They were made with a special paper specifically produced for these particular books, about which former director of Spanish National Library said that since the Renaissance period nothing similar has been produced with such an artistic achievement as an art form but also as an aesthetic trait. These 5 books were published in a very limited edition, there are only between 90 and 130 copies, each, including 20 original signed lithographs of each artist and 20 signed poems by great Spanish poet and playwright Fernando Arrabal. Each book also includes an introductive essay I wrote specifically for each artist, as well as poems in English, French and Chinese languages. All lithographs and poems are inserted in metal relief boxes (124 x 86 x 11cm.), with two chiseled sculpted metal reliefs. Only on the boxes of the books, 35 artisans, funders, chiselers, artists have been working for 2 years and half. That is why each box is different, treated separately and casted in the way old Chinese bronzes were casted during the Shang dynasty period, which stayed for me really exceptional experience.
Ante Glibota, ballerina, and Zhou Yingchao
, who painted her.
Photo from the monograph of Mr. Ante Glibota, on this web with permission of the author.
By the way, did you know that Croatian ballerina Mia Slavenska
was one of the greatest in the 20th century.
At the end, once all was achieved, I presented all five books first at the Biennale of Venice in 2009, in the Atheneo Veneto, and this event provoked a great surprise, as countercurrent in our highly technological time. Actually, I made a project worthy of Duke Cosimo I or of the Royal court of Medici’s… We worked with very old fashion techniques to get highly artistic achieved art books-objects, with the best engravers and lithographers. Some lithographs consisted in more than 30 or 40 plates or passages, on hand made 350-400 grams paper, cent per cent pure cotton… becoming bibliophilic books of wonders. Finally, I did after that one book on the making of regarding these 5 rare books, with all stages of process and realization, which clearly showed all the efforts and result of such an artistic adventure, which is of course conceptual. Book’s weight is 61kg in total, which was the weight of poet Fernando Arrabal in time of making.
Q. What is the price of one exemplar of book of wonders?
At the beginning, a book was sold for 250.000,00 Euros, but last year some were sold for 360.000,00 Euros in public sale in Paris. I will not be surprised if within some few years owners of such rare books get few millions for it, seeing position of those artists on international art scene. When researching your person and your projects, I could hardly find any information. Eventually, I found out that you curated and co-lead the “Museum of Art and Urbanity Shanghai” and on the museum’s website further information was provided. Unfortunately, the website does not seem to be updated. It said that you organized about 400 exhibitions and authored and edited over 200 books.
If for you 20000 or 30000 information about me on Google.com are not enough, I am sorry. Well, all of this information which you mentioned is old information, because it corresponds with a state of information period, until 1995, when I have been director of Paris Art Center for almost 15 years, when I had people who worked on me. I have really never given very big importance to such work concerning my own records. For me, it is important to do important projects, live real artistic adventures, which could provoke reflection, new ideas, and new ways of thinking about art. My main focus has always been devoted to other people, to artists of all sorts, to my creative surrounding, to people I bring to work, to create together, not myself. But you must realize the fact that a very big part of my early work, or of my carrier, took place in a time without Internet. Again, one contradiction, precisely from this period, without Internet, my different secretaries kept quite precise records. But you now some of my project like “150 Years of Chicago Architecture”, had several thousand articles, on the front pages of influential press and magazines around of the world. I don’t change my style of work for it. I remember that director of United Sates Information Agency (USIA) came and asked me “What you did for having such a media impact on your exhibition?”. He told me that his Agency has spent hundreds of million dollars on propaganda and they never got such a success. I answered him politely: ”Sir, I just do good exhibitions”. 17 years later, French influential newspaper Le Monde selected this exhibition in his Millennium issue as Exhibition of XX century, when I almost forgot my exhibition. In 1987, I did a very important monograph about German/American architect Helmut Jahn, some people criticized importance of the book because he was just 47 years old, but a few months later 5 most important newspapers and magazine of USA elected him as Architect of the Year in USA. In 1991 I did for television a 6 hours program “Portrait of France”, which was in fact a collage of the documentary films I did on some creators or companies that were from my point of view the most creative in this country at that time and that could be selected as important for the future. I have been criticized then about my choices, but the people that I chooe like architect Christian de Portzemparc who became, a few years later, Pritzker Price (1994), as Jean Nouvel in 2008, or Prof. Luc Montagnier who became Nobel Price for medicine in 2012. Some other personalities becoming Immortals, Members of the French Academy…so history and life approved my choices.
Q. How come a man with such influence is hardly present on the Internet?
It is strange what you said, but do you now that I worked on the concept of Internet before Internet, with my friends Prof. Vladimir Bonačić and his bcd team and Prof. Raymond Daudel, President of the European Academy, many years before the existence of Internet. I either published one book, "Vision for Cybernetic Art" and we presented the whole project in an international colloquium at the Italian Academy of Science (LINCEI), in Roma, with UNESCO and European Academy of Science, Arts and Humanity, with simultaneous instantaneously communication on the five continents based on Galois fields concept, on September 29,1987, supported by Compaq Computer Corporation. Of course, this concept had required a lot of work many years before these presentations. My text for this presentation was entitled "Instantaneousness as a Measure"!, which I wrote during the spring 1986. I remember that on the occasion of this presentation in LINCEI, the President of luxury group Cartier, told us that “this is a joke what you imagined and spoke about “. Of course, we had been speaking about what is the matter of communication today for billions peoples around the world, who can communicate instantaneously without limits. But at that time, it looked as far as a dream. So, I hope that you understand my message?
Q. Is it due to personal choice that you keep yourself in the background?
Space is over polluted, you have a lot of "actors" who play the same role, and they are aggressive, self-sufficient in promoting their egos. I don’t need this and I don’t wish to come ever in such a position. I like serious work in relative intimacy, with people that I am interested in as subject of my investigation, and avoiding over media exposure. This is also possible because of my frequent travels, so it is difficult to follow me constantly. I prefer direct contact, face to face with the artist, face to face with real art works, rather than to be overexposed. As this situation makes me feel comfortable, happy, I am not much disturbed in my essential works and research. But don’t worry, real actors know my works and scope of these works, they know my preference concerning communication.
Q. How important is it for curators and art historians to be working internationally nowadays?
It is very important, I have been working internationally all my life, in America, Japan, Korea, China, Europe, Russia…I have published and worked with all major artists, from different tendencies, and I have presented their works in group or in personal exhibitions, and of course I have published books, documents, video projects with a lot of people. I privilege personal contact, without intermediary but through a straight, direct dialog and collaboration with confidence with the real actors, artists, writers, poets, musicians, architects, philosophers, dreaming total art. This possibility gives you the opportunity to have a precise idea of the state of creativity on a global scale. I also fly to go often to see some precise exhibitions to visualize the state of advancement in museology, presentation, which gives you the opportunity to capture really where are the real professional people, as amateurs are more and more present in the domain of curators and historians of arts. But a great number of my projects are traveling exhibitions, which bring you inevitably a good collaboration on international scale.
In the past, I have optimal collaboration wit some French leading historian or intellectual figure like Andre Chastel, René Huyghe, Michel Tapié, Michel Ragon, André Fermigier, Pierre Restany, Dominique Bozo, Derrida, Baudrillard, but also foreigners like Julio Carlo Argan, Carmelo Strano, Giuseppe Marchiori, Armando Verdiglione from Italy, Philipp Robert-Jones from Belgium, Rudi Fuchs from Holland, José Augusto França from Portugal, Vladimir Maleković from Croatia, Jusuke Nakahara from Japan, Dore Achton, Thomas Messer, Frederick S. Wight, James Speyer, Henry Martin, William Rubin from the USA, Harald Szeemann from Switzerland, Dieter Ronte from Austria, Udo Kultermann, Peter Spielmann from Germany and of course Fernando Arrabal from Spain … that we could all consider as the elite of the world artistic scene, which marked the time. Each of them is a monument in his/her respective field, they are kind of living encyclopedias of acknowledge and ideas and good test in art creativity in art history. Today is much different situation, we speak different languages, with completely different ideas, with a lot of ignorance of basic acknowledge as mode of success, and so go the world
Q. You live and work in France and China. Why Paris and Shanghai? How do these cities differ and what do they have in common after all?
Both Paris and Shanghai are very international cosmopolitan cities. Both generate very strong artistic activities. Shanghai has progressed very fast and the interest about arts is really so strong, incisive, with some precise opportunities. You have almost every month one new museum on the horizon. We see more and more new private museums, galleries, cultural centers that produce very creative exhibitions, art atmosphere. You have also more and more foreign artists arriving there to create in situ. Conceptual art, particularly, found quite a good receptivity in Shanghai. Public spirit of the city authority displays a lot of concern about enlarging the infrastructures to show public sense for developing a cultural atmosphere and presence of art in public space. Shanghai is on different aspects the first place in China with openness and presence in the city of almost 2 million of foreigners. Shanghai helps a lot to this vision for arts in the future, but for the moment Beijing still plays a most important part for arts in China.
Q. How about Paris?
In Paris, arrive every day a great number of important actors of the world art scene. Paris still presents some focus and interest on the worldwide art chart, not in the art market unfortunately, which left Paris to America in the early seventy’s of last century, and which finally left America now for South of Asia, first for China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Singapore.
From my personal perspective, it is quite comfortable to tell to some artists, to some actors of the art community, to come to Paris and we go see, have discussion and spend a pleasant time. Prestige regarding the numerous cultural possibilities of the city is still very important, either if French people are a little conservative in the apprehension of new ideas and adoption of vanguard tendencies, but they are not in hurry to collect them immediately. For this reason you can see that major movements in art in the last centuries like Impressionism, Cubism, Futurism, Dada, Surrealism, which were generated mostly in France, were adopted by foreign museums in the sense of exhibitions, in the sense of interest for collections, in USA, Japan, Germany, Italy, England, Russia…Attentiveness you pay before or latter. It is difficult to make a good exhibition when art works are located elsewhere, for example. So, to get them back, you must pay for transport, insurance and fee for borrowing art works sometimes.
But I think that both of those cities, Paris and Shanghai, are very receptive, they have nice and excellent friendly atmosphere about artistic creativeness and by consequence it is pleasant to work in both of them in such an atmosphere, which I feel, very positively, to answer precisely your question. Shanghai followed in providing more and more good infrastructure for art development, so we go to see. Paris should also push with removals not just feel asleep on tradition and on passed good time. It is not sufficient in time which hurried us so fastly.
Q. What fascinates you about Asian Art?
My fascination and connection with the Asian world date from 1970, during the Cultural Revolution, in which I saw all kinds of signs of terror on the art scene and in everyday life, either if I had then very short time to get more precise idea. Then, latter when I have been working on the Olympic project of Art for the Olympic Game in Seoul, South Korea, where I spent three years working and traveling between Paris and Asia, I discovered art of Asia in its substance and its essence, more precisely when traveling extensively in Japan, Thailand, India, Singapore, Indonesia, China, and meeting the artists, who I selected with my colleagues and friends Pierre Restany, Thomas Messer, Yusuke Nakahara... As curator for the Olympiad of Art in Seoul I created there, one of the largest world sculptures Park in center of Seoul on a 300 hectares surface with 220 monumental sculptures, all what is essential in sculptural creativity in second part of the XX century. Museum of Contemporary art in Seoul was also enlarged with 170 major paintings we have selected and that became by the same occasion one of the most important Asian collection of Modern Art…. All is in my book entitled Olympiad of Arts, published by Olympic Committee, in 1988, which many people called “Bible of XX century art creation”.
But before these travels and visits, I had already a lot of apprehension of this culture from the extraordinary work of Sinologist Joseph Needham who introduced me in the inner sense of Chinese civilization, and history of scientific thought. I discovered later on the diversity of the artistic creativity, with fascinating artistic trends and tendencies, diversity of artistic and aesthetic ideas, as a prolongation of the fascinating Chinese civilization seven thousand years old. All of this is what brings me closer to this fabulous continent. I have been one of the rare European people who openly spoke about creative potentiality of Chinese art, in 1986, and which became in the last 15 years the most demanded hit in a world of global culture.
Q. See and published is kind of your credo, which is received well in China and what is about Japan?
My discovery of course was enlarged by my numerous travels in China, where I have not just been studying but also meditating with a precise observation from short distance, thought direct contact, in traveling, in living everyday life of Chinese reality, thinking about message, about lucidity that was sent by the complexity of Chinese civilization, not just in its historic verticality, but also in its contemporary creativeness.
The result, for the moment, of my personal interest was the publication of some 15 books, which I devoted to contemporary Chinese creativity and also a great number of new undertakings on which I am working as my future research projects. Yet in 2004, I have being nominated by China as adviser for cultural exchanges of the China with the rest of the world, and in 2008 I curated the Olympic exhibition “Art in Sport“, organized for Beijing Olympics which was presented in seven of the most important museums of China, and during the Olympic Games at the Museum of Art Today in Beijing, with a great success.
But I have also excellent relationship with Japanese art circle for many years. I published many books, catalogues and presented quite a big number of exhibitions about Japanese artists in France and in the rest of Europe, in USA and Japan too. In next future I will be publishing a book about excellent younger Japanese artist Suzuki Matsonuri…
Q. How does it differ your work from its European counterpart? What is your method of work?
I travel to meet artists in situ, with my usual, natural curiosity to find emotion through a direct confrontation of view with the artists and their creativeness. I have spent days, weeks, years with the artists, looking every paper in their studio, photographing all works myself, making video of our conversation, imagining and preparing future meetings, future books for exhibition, selecting precisely what side of the work I will show to the public. I took time, to think about and to come back, again and again to the artist, to the creator. Sometimes, it takes a short time, sometimes it takes 5,10, 20 and more years for finalizing. I don’t like to perform in hurry with serious matters. Majority of European counterparts, wait in their place, looking at catalogues and receiving documentation, books, surfing on internet, and acting in consequence. They listen the voices of some important art dealers, whose interests are very particular. In one word, lazy spirit, and of course you have often very expensive and very bad exhibitions, bad catalogue as consequence… But pretention, self-sufficiency of those people is as high as Mont Everest.
Q. You spent 23 years completing the monograph of Otto Piene. What made you start this project?
This is quite a long story. My very first contact with Otto’s work took place when I saw one small smoke painting of him in a group exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary art in Zagreb, in 1966, and which intrigued me very much. Later on, when working as director of Paris Art Center I have been very interested in environmental art, urban dimension of art and relation between arts, sciences and technologies, a research that we developed together with UNESCO, and European Academy of Science Arts and Literature, World Academy of Science, Foundation Gulbelkian and my friends Prof. Raymond Daudel, Prof.Carl-Göran Heden and Prof. Augusto Forti, director of Sciences at UNESCO at this time. We organized many international meetings, symposiums, with many prominent artists, scientists, philosophers, sociologists, writers. I invited Otto Piene to take part in some event, knowing perfectly well the importance of his work on this field, as an artist, but also as an educator and director of Center for Advanced Visual Study (CAVS) at Massachusetts Institute of Technology(MIT), which has been a model for many similar institutions in the world at that time. We were together with Jesús Rafael Soto, Pol Bury, Nicolas Schöffer, Max Bill, Jean Messagier, Achille Perilli, Yaacov Agam, Carlos Cruz-Diez, René Huyghe, André Chastel…and Otto gave a fabulous conference in the presence of General Director of UNESCO Mr. Federico Mayor and several Nobel Price recipients. All of us were impressed by his visionary speech by his intellectual, philosophical and artistic pertinence and vision for the art of tomorrow. From this first meeting, we became friends. Several years later, we started planning his important book, which took us 23 years. I came to MIT on Cambridge, Mass. and also to Otto and Elizabeth’s Art Farm in Groton many times. They came often to Paris, but we also met everywhere in Dusseldorf, Groton, Paris, Berlin, Reims, Cologne, Gordes, Delft, island of Ikaria, in vacation in Dubrovnik and island of Hvar, keeping on in parallel to construct, to discuss and to elaborate this book. Otto had appreciated some of my important traveling exhibitions such as “150 Years of Chicago Architecture”, which I presented at the same time in seven museums and galleries in Paris and which marked the international artistic scene, but also ”Geometric and kinetic adventure”, as well as the first exhibition ever made on Marquis de Sade “Petits et Grands Théâtres du Marquis de Sade”…We had a lot of points in common. He was a great artist and it was evident that we should produce something like this book, for me it meant an exceptional book about a very, very exceptional artist and thinker and philosopher of art. Curiously I thought several months before the book came out in 2011, that I will never finish the book. So one day, I told my daughter Adeline that if I didn’t have the chance to do it during my life, I would ask her as a heritage, as a moral obligation to finish Otto’s book on which I had been working for such a long time. This shows you clearly my commitment to Otto and importance of his works, but also the amount of work, and the signification of his impressive creative opus in my spirit. But Otto had a lot of opportunities to do such a book with other people, but he told me that he really wanted that I do this book. Elizabeth Goldering, great poet, Otto’s companion and wife in more than the three last decades, was also with us, helping with her pertinent conclusions, also as an arbiter, through her ideas. She contributed immensely to this book, and of course, naturally, I dedicated this book to her. On the end, I want testify that the three of us, Elizabeth, Otto and me, we had a lot of fun in doing this, either if it took almost a quarter of a century. Of course, it is an evidence, that I am proud of this book.
Q. Working with Piene, how did he inspire you?
Otto has been at the same time a father, a brother and a friend. At the beginning I deeply understood his artistic postulate and view that always stayed as basis of my deep respect. In every way he expressed himself, in every artistic expression and form of expression, there was a conscience of the existence of great visionary works, with unbelievable creative poetic forces. The artist’s vibrations, which come from his work and irradiate us, irradiate public so strongly, so evidently, that you can’t be insensible to it.
From my side, as an historian I also should take distance, make investigation and check and recheck everything. Because, in modern art history, we are confronted also with a lot of not smart things. There is a lot of manipulation in terms of fairness, real history facts, interest of group, galleries… I tried to put it in a real, definitive manner, confirmed by all necessary facts, with the very idea of what Otto’s work really meant and what was the radiance of his works on a planetary level, situate his contribution in historic perspective. Otto Piene has been from many sides a real pioneer, frontrunner, and he, as a generous man, did not carry a lot about it. But some “historians” tried to manipulate history, disadvantaging his creative contribution, but I hope having re-establish the reality with my work on Piene.
Q. You had the chance to be on opening the “MORE SKY Event” in Berlin this year (2014) and thus met Piene a few days before he passed away. How did you react when the news reached you?
Well, the story is quite different. I came several days before the opening to be with Otto, with Elizabeth, with all Otto’s friends and family in Berlin. People came from all around the world. Two years ago, when asked about his dreams, Piene mentioned two of them: First, he wished to finish two silos in his Art Farm in Groton, Mass., the second, is to make a Sky Event on the top of Mies Wan der Rohe building of Neue National Galleries in Berlin. His first wish has been accomplished last year. We participated all in the two openings in Neue National Galleries and Deutscher Bank Kunsthalle in Berlin, and everybody was very happy, there were several thousands people in communion at the opening, and the director of the Museum Mr. Kultermann said that Berlin never saw such an opening. Otto was radiant, happy, we all were so excited with such a reception and the media salutes on front pages, full of compliments. The day after the opening, we have to prepare the meeting about Sky Event scheduled two days later on 19th of July. Otto gave all instructions to everybody, he repeated and reminded that he was in charge of everything, giving at the same time very nice compliments to all staff, assistants and people involved. After we had lunch together at the National Galleries, Otto, Elizabeth and me, and he asked me to accompany him in taxi in his apartment in Berlin. What I did. We discussed normally in taxi, he was very happy, reminding me a lot of stories and we laughed… but suddenly in half way of the travel, he had an attack in the taxi. We called an ambulance and the terribly thing happened that he left us, next to me. Two days later we had the Sky Event as he wished, so his last wish has been satisfied, but without him, which made all of us very sad. So, hundreds of thousands Berlin people paid a tribute to him during his ultimate Sky Event on Postdamer Platz, and, I am sure that from the Sky, he smiled to us as he smiled to me the day before and to all his friends present there. To answer completely your question, I am still under the shock one month after he left us, and I probably will be for a very long period.
Q. Will you continue to promote Piene’s work and life after his death?
I am sorry I am not a promoter, I haven’t any particular thing to promote, but yes I am attached to Otto Piene’s works, as an historian and as a friend. Working with him, I have seen very precisely the scoop and the importance of his art message, his signification for art now and in the future. Of course, I will do everything what is in my view important to share with many other people the images of the life and work of Otto Piene in concordance with the action of his wife Elizabeth Goldering-Piene.
Just on last June, I finished with Otto Piene and Fernando Arrabal one another book, a bibliophilic edition with 10 poems by Fernando Arrabal and 10 lithographs by Otto Piene which are his last works produced in Paris in lithographer studio of Stéphane Guilbaud.
We also prepared with Otto and Elizabeth also one book called “Light Silo”, which will be finished in September or October. Based on 36 poems by Elizabeth Goldering and on original sketches by Otto Piene inspired by their Art Farm in Groton.
With Otto, we had plan a book about his whole paintings and another one about his whole sketches, I have already all photographed material, but of course this is to be seen in the future.
For almost 30 years, I have carefully prepared one documentary movie or series of documentary movies, and this work is to be finished very soon. This, for sure, will be my ultimate tribute to this great artist and my dearest friend.
Q. Piene was a multimedia artist who worked on light art, environment, sky art, lithography and other genres. Which art form fascinated you the most?
I have rarely found among our contemporary artists, an artist who excelled in different media and always giving his personal touch, which is immediately recognizable. Look at his last show in the National Galleries in Berlin with the monumental projection of images, which he painted by hand on glass on a surface of 5 x 5 cm, in 1964,1965 or some recently, but that have a capital importance and help us to understand Piene message when he said “raise our eyes and look at the world beyond the limits of art”. Of course I will be happy to see his retrospective in one important Museum, with his Sky event, light ballets, fire paintings, lithographs, astonishing sketches, his wonderful ceramics, grace of his light sculptures, architecture…one Total Piene, that people could caped fully what he left as an heritage in his great creativity and generosity.
Q. What is your favorite work of art by this exceptional artist and why?
To have just one work of this artist is a big personal fortune, by the delight of vibration that his art work procure to you, and also the feeling that this artist and his work give you the sense of positiveness, human elegance, fervor of intellectual straight and poetry! What would you wish or ask more of art works? So, I love his More Sky! All his work is More Sky!
Q. Do you collect art yourself or have you ever considered doing so?
I have never been very attached to material things, such as houses, cars, property, but I love art works. Yes, I collect them and exclusively works or artistic objects in correspondence with my philosophical, esthetical and poetic standards. Not necessarily what market loves and demands more. It is very important to live in an environment which is fulfilled with objects that irradiate our living space with some positive energy, vibrations that give you the feeling of a good companion, which we can tactilely touched, transmitted and received emotion, to which we can speak like to a human being and live with in a perfect harmony. I love also books and they don’t leave too much place to art works. I am surrounded with more than 40000 books and they are my best companions, but they are present everywhere and more and more, so I keep them also in a storage as it is impossible to have them all in my working space.
Paris, 20th August, 2014.
Formated for CROWN by Darko Žubrinić
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