We have been familiar with Beate Kuhn and her work for a long time now.
Taken as a whole, Düdelsheim, the artists’ colony, was always a ceramic highlight. People met there, there was a lot to see, and in particular the many meetings and conversations with the Scheids, the Voglers and of course Beate Kuhn were always a valuable experience.
That we set out for Düdelsheim every two years was thanks especially to Hanne Vollmer, who infected us with the ceramic virus. In between, there was the exhibition, Glasur und Form (“Glaze and Form”) in the Jahrhunderthalle in the Höchst district of Frankfurt. It was the event. Strangely, when I look back I realise that I can remember many things in detail but I cannot visualise Beate Kuhn’s work. Back then, our attention was trained upon entirely different artists. Access to her forms – what Dr Lokau once called “ceramic wonderland” – only came much later. To completely grasp her whole oeuvre, new aspects are still being added today. Sculpture of this complexity is a challenge to the viewer. It has to be learned. There were a number of exhibitions with Beate Kuhn in Johannesberg with the London Group, Gruppe 83 or, particularly exhilarating for me, with Doris Kaiser. Working through the fruits of her inexhaustible imagination is one of the reasons for putting on this exhibition.
I have invited a number of companions, collectors and friends of Beate Kuhn’s from various areas to write brief statements. Some are quoted on this page. They can all be heard at the opening ceremony on 15 March 2020.
The first piece from Beate Kuhn that I bought at auction brought her a record price. I was impressed by the originality of the invention in the piece Ballet. It is my conviction that many of her works, although not all, bear comparison with fine art. She was the great naïve artist of ceramics, which had a very positive effect on her. She developed her own style of amorphous abstraction, only slightly influenced by stylistic trends. I am consciously excluding her figurative works as playful experiments owed to the context of ceramics. Yet she had at her disposal an unconventional freedom that she bore beyond the frontiers of ceramic standards into the realm of fine art.
The contribution of Beate Kuhn to the uninterrupted flowering of European ceramics over several decades in the second half of the previous century knew no parallel during this period, even in the countries outside Europe that have always been of outstanding importance to the continuing development of ceramic art.
Kuhn differed from all her contemporaries through her craftsmanship and technical mastery as well as through the subjects and scope of her work. She was a unique artist – yet one who always remained unassuming. It was thus hardly remarkable that the retrospective presented in Munich in 2017 – two years after her death – with work held in a major private collection surprisingly attracted more attention than almost any comparable exhibition.
Kuhn did not forgo the use of the tradition-rich potter’s wheel, but she had a mastery of free modelling; she fired her work like a classic potter; she was familiar with both abstract and figural modes of representation in small-scale or monumental formats. Precise observation of nature and imagination are balanced in her works, where structural and musical, rhythmic elements combine quite naturally. Her abstract sculptures assembled from thrown elements are reminiscent of plants – cacti perhaps – or of smooth agglomerations of stones polished by water. Her animal sculptures reveal how precisely she observed a cat lying in wait for its prey or a horse rearing, often with a quiet sense of amusement.
She never abandoned vessel ceramics, enriching the discipline with imaginative inventions, not least through glaze painting.
In a word, the main characteristic of her oeuvre is a rich diversity that has become rare today.
Beate Kuhn – as a human being and an artist unique.
My association with Beate Kuhn existed for decades, beginning with the early years in Lottstetten and the ceramics from this period, which were acclaimed during our exhibition travels to many towns and cities, as were the new pieces, created year for year, among the droves of pilgrims from Germany and abroad in the Museum of Modern Ceramics in Deidesheim and now in the Palace Villa Ludwigshöhe in Edenkoben as a part of the Hinder/Reimers Collection of the State of the Rheinland Palatinate.
Her wealth of inventiveness seemed inexhaustible, as was her ability to realise her inventions in terms of ceramic technique.
Every time we met it was abundantly clear that Beate Kuhn was a person of integrity with an alert intellect, interested on many levels not only in contemporary music but also in art and nature.
Her works, held in museums and private collections around the world, are evidence of this, guaranteeing her an undying and unforgettable place in the history of modern ceramics.