Art and Friendship

Mary Bauermeister by Hans Namuth, 1965.

Mary Bauermeister created the present work over the course of two years in the 1960s not long after she moved to New York from Germany, seeking (and finding) more artistic freedom. Upon settling in the city, she very swiftly entered the art world, joining Galeria Bonino in the winter of 1963 and mounting her first solo exhibition in 1964. She would remain in New York for ten years and developed many lasting friendships with fellow artists and creators, among them Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, and Hans Namuth.

Namuth, like Bauermeister, was a German native. A photographer, he specialized in portraiture and photographed many important artistic figures at work in their studios, including Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Robert Rauschenberg, and Bauermeister. He and his wife, Carmen, ran in the same artistic circles as Bauermeister, who gifted the couple the present lot after crossing paths and becoming close friends. One can only imagine Hans and Mary’s shared experiences as both native Germans and restless creative spirits strengthened their bond.

Art is for Centuries is an exceptional example of her work from the period, incorporating two and three-dimensional elements as well as the written word. Bauermeister’s specific interest in “a nostalgic memory of a predigital epoch” can be seen in her inclusion of not only words, but hands holding various implements, harkening back to a time before computers or digitization. The title itself is somewhat cheeky, in keeping with Bauermeister’s penchant for humor: art is for centuries whereas we, humans, are not. As is the case with all of her creations, Bauermeister mentally engages the viewer and asks us to do more than simply look, rather, she encourages us to delve deeper and consider our broader existence in the universe.

40 Years of Lost City Arts

Jim Elkind, founder Lost City Arts—of one of the most influential design galleries in New York City—has design in his DNA. Elkind grew up in a modernist house full of mid-century modern furniture and spent many weekends traveling into New York with his mother, visiting museums and exploring the city. He fondly recalls her pointing up at the skyscrapers and their architectural details, encouraging and instilling in him a curiosity about his surroundings and an attention to detail that would go on to shape his future career.

The idea to open a gallery originally came to Elkind during a visit to the annual juried art show at University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he attended college. The vetted show featured several hundred artists, many of whom, he realized, were extremely talented but would never make it into the mainstream art world. Taking a page from his entrepreneur father’s book, Elkind imagined opening a gallery in New York called the Gallery of the Unknown Artist where he would feature work by up-and-coming artists from universities around the country.

Mary Bauermeister

Multidisciplinary artist, musician, and performer Mary Bauermeister is one of the most influential and accomplished artists of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Born and raised in Germany, she began her artistic path in secondary school creating works in charcoal, colored pencils, and pastels on paper. Bauermeister went on to study for one year under Max Bill and Helene Nonné-Schmidt at the School of Design in Ulm followed by two years at the State School of Arts and Crafts in Saarbrücken where she experimented with photographic techniques. Following her studies she moved to Cologne and began her career as a freelance artist. Her studio in the old quarter of the city swiftly became a popular haven for avant-garde poets, composers, and artists, including those from the newly formed Fluxus movement, which prioritized the artistic process over the finished product.

Bauermeister’s debut solo exhibition was held in 1962 at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and in 1963 her works were included in group exhibitions alongside those of Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Alfred Leslie, and Richard Stankiewicz. Rauschenberg and Johns’ work so inspired her that she decided to move across the Atlantic and continue her career in New York City. With the support of Galeria Bonino, Bauermeister successfully entered the New York market and exhibited her works there throughout the 60s. She showed her first lens boxes in 1964 and by the end of the decade had taken part in numerous group shows across the US and Europe.

In the 1970s Bauermeister moved back to Germany and was honored with her first retrospective exhibition at the Mittelrhein-Museum in Koblenz to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of her career. That same year she had her first solo exhibition in Italy at the Arturo Schwarz Gallery in Milan. By the end of the decade, she became involved in designing pleasure and meditation gardens and experimenting with water surfaces, crystals, and prisms. Through the rest of the 20th century Bauermeister expanded her artistic horizons, exhibiting her work worldwide and participating in important events including the International Crystallography Congress at Bielefeld University.

Bauermeister did not slow down in the 21st century: she published her first autobiographical book in 2011 and the following year was honored with another retrospective exhibition, this time at the Frauenmuseum Bonn in Germany. In 2015, she created a new series of pointillist works on canvas utilizing techniques she developed in the 60s. Several years later, Bauermeister was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany by German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier. A tireless creative force and collaborator, Bauermeister’s output continues to this day and she is now exclusively represented by Michael Rosenfeld Gallery in New York. Her work can be found in permanent collections throughout Germany and the United States, including the Rheinisches Landesmuseum Bonn, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum of Art in New York.

Auction Results Mary Bauermeister