An Inheritance Without Equal ( Eine Erbschaft Sonderglei- chen) addresses a complex, tragic, and troubling event in the history of 20th-century art. In 1937, the Nazi govern- ment seized artwork from the Kaesbach Foundation at the Städtisches Museum Mönchengladbach(now the Abteiberg Museum). The 72 works seized were officially auctioned off by the German government in Switzerland. Their ultimate goal was to remove from German society art they considered degenerate. This action resulted in the loss of
a vital part of contemporary art collections from German museums. This exhibition is an attempt to reclaim the lost artwork as well as deal with its history of demise from
a post world war II perspective through a collaborative project between the Abteiberg Museum and the German/ American artist Rainer Gross. Gross worked from black- and-white reproductions appropriating images from the original seized artwork combining them with Nazi ap- proved and cotemporary and contemporaneous imagery drawn from consumer-based culture. The works were executed from 1985-87 with some additions in 90 and
91 The project has been exhibited at the old museum in Mönchengladbach and at the Anderson Gallery School of the Arts , Virginia Commonwealth University Concerning the Keasbach Project.
In 1983 at our first meeting, still in Mönchengladbach,
I spoke with Rainer Gross about possibilities of making references through painting to the collection of the Abtei- berg Museum and its special nature. I was highly impressed with his works. I was aquainted with the exhibition in Lausanne which Gross had conceived together with Erika Billeter. So I showed him my publication concerning the lost Mönchengladbach Expressionist collection of Walter Kaesbach and was able to incite the painter to take up these paintings, most of which were only present in blach- and-white photographs, and to re-awaken them to new
life. Rainer Gross was enthused by this idea, so congenial to to his artistic conception: of uniting his own painting with previously formed pictorial ideas. He quickly went to work and had already concerned himself with Lembruck and Nauen - when I went to Wuppertal as director of the
Von der Heydt-Museum. Consequently our project rela- tive to Mönchengladbach, the beautiful idea of seeing
the Expressionist collection filtered through the eyes of a contemporary artist, was for the present unrealizable at the Abteiberg Museum. Fotunately, however, some results of this project could be seen at the 1986 Cologne Art fair.
For Rainer Gross’ paintings relating to the Kaesbach col- lection, in which he has workes with quotations, are ulti- mately independent and can stand on their own. You don’t have to hang “The judgement of Paris” by Marcantonio Raimondi (after Rapfael) beside Manet’s “Dejeuner sur l’herbe” in order to to enjoy and comprehend the latter.