Markus Raetz (1941-2020) is considered one of the most important representatives of Swiss contemporary art. His refined, poetic, and playful work also attracts extensive international attention. The exhibition is, for the first time, focusing on his three-dimensional works and mobiles. It is divided into thematic groups while also enabling the numerous interconnections that informed the artist’s multi-layered work since the 1960s to become apparent.
Raetz wanted to collect “anything casting shadows” in the catalogue raisonné that has been compiled in recent years in collaboration with the Schweizerisches Institut für Kunstwissenschaft (Swiss Institute for Art Research [SIK-ISEA]). In doing so he made clear that any purely formal definition of his work would fall short and aspects lying beyond the three dimensions of his sculptural works should likewise always be considered.
The exhibition is bringing together central works from the artist’s oeuvre, encouraging discoveries concerning the ways in which Raetz developed differing concepts of space by providing imagery with sculptural form, permitting drawing to extend into space, or combining several works into large-scale installations. The route through the exhibition is intended to make Raetz’s various spatial concepts visible while enabling visitors to have surprising encounters with space. The works of art succeed in transcending the boundaries of real space and reach into the imaginary.
MARKUS RAETZ. oui non si no yes no makes use of the spatial conditions of the museum's historic building, discovering appropriate ways of presenting widely differing works: intimate spaces for small-scale installations and expansive, well illuminated areas for objects that can only be fully apprehended by visitors moving, or are themselves in motion. Particular attention has been paid to the hanging objects and mobiles that had been produced in recent years and have, as yet, only been presented in isolated cases to a wider audience. They are now being exhibited for the first time in a more extensive group allowing them to be appreciated within the overall context of the artist’s oeuvre.
In the Realm of Drawing
Markus Raetz is one of the most important draftsmen in Swiss art. Drawings played a central role in his practice. Likewise, the wide-ranging body of sculptural work repeatedly demonstrates that the artist thought outwards from drawing. It functions as an Markus Raetz is one of the most important draftsmen in Swiss art. Drawings played a central role in his practice. Likewise, the wide-ranging body of sculptural work repeatedly demonstrates that the artist thought outwards from drawing. It functions as an instrument for sketching projects or outlining plans for works, but also as an autonomous means of artistic expression. Larger groups of works or series frequently emerge, enabling the process of drawing and the continuous development of subject matter, forms, patterns, and trains of thought to manifest themselves. This becomes particularly evident in the notebooks. Many of them were created during the 1970s, when drawing was Raetz’s exclusive medium and served as a storehouse of ideas for his later work. While various notions of space are proffered for discussion in the exhibition, it is particularly the selected drawings and books that not only enables visitors to immerse themselves in the artist’s mental space but also discover how his spatial vision developed in the medium.
Drawing in Space
At the end of the 1970s, Markus Raetz increasingly expanded his drawings into space and found various ways of making graphic elements three-dimensional. The Neapelfries (Naples Frieze) is rendered as a large encyclopedia comprising various motifs that Raetz had developed during previous years and which would continue to occupy him in the future. At the same time, the frieze marks the beginning of a series of works in which the artist utilized such materials as twigs and eucalyptus leaves to produce distinctive, drawing-like wall installations. The “stick figure” also appears in the Neapelfries (Naples Frieze), which would subsequently make a career for itself in Raetz’s output as MIMI, existing in various sizes and positions, through to the large-scale model of a reclining figure, which only reveals itself at second glance from within an array of heavy wooden beams.
The subject of metamorphosis determined the direction of Markus Raetz’s three-dimensional works from the late 1980s onwards. The majority of them are round sculptures on plinths likewise conceived by the artist. They require viewing in a dynamic, process-oriented manner, only becoming wholly apprehensible when transforming or reversing themselves as the viewer moves around the work. From each point of view a different image emerges. There is no verso and recto, no top and bottom, and no right and wrong: the bottle becomes the glass, and the glass becomes the bottle, the head displays different profiles or appears in two vertically mirrored views. In between there are always mixed forms that leave us perplexed, until a familiar image becomes once again discernable, the image of a flat silhouette emerging from the sculptural distortion. Raetz was able to find numerous variations on such effects. Form im Raum (Form in Space) alternates between a character from popular culture (Mickey Mouse) and the wealth of forms available to abstract art. While the iconic pipe, referencing art history, dissolves in smoke, multiple questions relating to art theory arise. The mirror becomes a fundamental reflective plane in two senses. The word sculptures are of particular significance, whereby opposite meanings become inscribed in complex structures of lettering.
In addition to the metamorphic sculptures that fully reveal themselves only when viewers walk around them, selecting different perspectives, Markus Raetz began setting his objects in motion from the mid-1990s onwards, creating an initial group of kinetic works and moving models, both evoking, in abstract form, the contours of human bodies in motion. In the rotating forms which followed, stylized female torsos become discernible between two moving elements. Raetz concurrently began developing his mobiles, a series which was to define his late work. He again relied on a familiar canon of forms, submitting hanging wire profiles, mobile faces, but also such objects as a bottle, glass, or pipe to continuous, patient perception. What is, in fact, floating freely in space momentarily acquires distinct form, only to quickly evade the fixed gaze once again or to revolve around its own axis as a model of endless movement. Just as sophisticated are the hovering geometric bodies which, sometimes alone but frequently in pairs, reveal a type of movement that could be perceived as filmic. The hanging sculptures made of sheet aluminum likewise appear “the same and different.” If in the linear wire sculptures spatiality is simulated by means of perspective, then they additionally evoke material heft, revealing the interplay of two-dimensional objects and their three-dimensional interpretation. Our perception is constantly being challenged.
In his early work 11 Punkte ∞ Situationen (11 Points ∞ Situations), Markus Raetz made it clear that he thought of space differently in his art, expanding it beyond the limits of the visible. Eleven small metal plates were distributed to eleven recipients to carry with them, generating a virtual spatial network that changes continuously depending on the recipients’ locations. For Raetz, space had a conceptual dimension and was linked to the imagination, which the artist deliberately nurtured and promoted in works in various media. A series of watercolors leads us into the “realm of the possible,” in which flowing ink evokes landscape imagery; or viewers may believe they are seeing atmospherically different views of the sea in Zeemansblik, depending on the incidence of light, guided and accompanied on their visual explorations by a figure with binoculars. Raetz repeatedly proved to be a master of suggestion, discovering points of departure to new pictorial worlds and imaginary mental journeys in everyday situations. His extensive reading activities as well as his knowledge of art history served him well. Lewis Carroll and his Alice in Wonderland or Through the Looking-Glass were just as much a role model for him as Robert Walser or the Surrealist poets.
The Neapelfries (Naples Frieze) had already made it clear that Markus Raetz developed his graphic elements from a flow and was less interested in individual imagery than in larger associative contexts. In 1983 he created 24 individual works for the so-called “Berner Raum” (Bern Space) in a large-scale installation, combining a range of subject matter that was occupying him at the time. The act of observing observation was being negotiated, whereby the gaze is directed both outwards and inwards and we as visitors do not remain impassive but are invited to challenge our own visual perceptions. The “Berner Raum” is likewise interesting as a template for exhibitions, since it also provides clues to how Raetz understood the interplay between his works. The artist developed a further large-scale installation during the last years of his life, the so-called “Wolke” (cloud), in which he combined several small-scale, hanging wire sculptures in the shape of the cone of vision. As the elements rotate, they can be viewed separately from each other from the side, or from a different perspective they overlap to form a dense accumulation of linear structures. Raetz was once again making it clear how closely his three-dimensional works are connected to his drawing.
Markus Raetz on the train between Basel and Bern, 1991, photo: Ad Petersen © Estate Ad Petersen
Markus Raetz is born on 6 June in Bern and grows up with two older siblings in Büren an der Aare (Canton of Bern).
Trains as primary school teacher at Hofwil teacher training college, Münchenbuchsee (Canton of Bern). During his training period he works in the holidays and at weekends in the studio of the artist Peter Travaglini (1927-2015) in Büren an der Aare.
Moves into the studio on Neuengasse in Bern.
Meets Harald Szeemann (1933-2005), director of the Kunsthalle Bern. He goes on to take part in various group exhibitions in the Kunsthalle bern.
Participates in the group exhibition Wege und Experimente. 30 junge Schweizer Künstler at the Kunsthaus Zürich. Participates in Documenta 4, Kassel.
In June moves with his partner Monika Müller to Amsterdam, where they will live until 1974.
Marries Monika Müller.
Travels in January with his wife Monika to Carboneras (Andalusia) and in February on to Morocco (Fez, Marrakech and Essaouira), where they stay until the end of March. Back in Carboneras from April till June.
Birth of daughter Aimée.
Participation in Documenta 5, Kassel.
First solo exhibition in a museum: Markus Raetz. Zeichnungen, Objekte, Kunstmuseum Basel / then in altered form in the print in the Cabinet d’estampes of the Musée d’art et d’histoire, Geneva.
Solo exhibition at the Goethe Institut in Amsterdam.
Spends the summer with his family in Carona (Canton of Ticino).
Solo exhibition in the Kunsthaus Zürich
At the end of the year returns to Bern with his family.
The studio on Neuengasse in Bern and many works are destroyed in a fire.
Solo exhibitions in the Kunstmuseum Bern and the Kunsthalle Bern.
New studio at 3 Sandrainstrasse 3 in Bern (until 1990).
From 1978 repeated, mostly annual visits to Ramatuelle (FR) with his family in spring and autumn (until 2010).
Studio in Amsterdam as guest of the Stedelijk Museum.
Solo exhibition in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.
Stay in Berlin as a guest of the artists’ programme of the Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst DAAD.
Solo exhibition in the Aargauer Kunsthaus Aarau.
Solo exhibition in the daadgalerie, Berlin.
Solo exhibition in the Kunsthalle Basel.
Participation in Documenta 7, Kassel.
Major retrospective in the Kunsthaus Zürich. Subsequently travels to Moderna Museet, Stockholm, and the Kunstverein Köln.
Represents Switzerland at the 43rd Venice Biennale.
Solo exhibition in the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York.
Solo exhibition in the Kunstmuseum Basel, Museum of Contemporary Art.
Moves into a new studio in a converted orangerie on Laubeggstrasse in Bern.
Solo exhibition in the Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla, San Diego (California).
Solo exhibition devoted to his graphic work in the Kunstmuseum Bern and Cabinet des estampes of the Musée d’art et d’histoire, Geneva.
Solo exhibition in the IVAMCentre Julio Gonzales, Valencia, travelling the following year to the Serpentine Gallery, London and the Musée Rath, Genf.
Solo exhibition in the Museum of Contemporary Art KIASMA, Helsinki.
Solo exhibition in the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris.
Solo exhibition in the Lindenau Museum Altenburg.
Solo exhibition in the Aargauer Kunsthaus Aarau.
Solo exhibition in the Carré d’Art, Musée d’art contemporain de Nîmes.
Solo exhibition in the Museum für Moderne Kunst, Salzburg.
Documentary film about Markus Raetz by Iwan Schumacher.
Retrospective of the artist’s drawings in the Kunstmuseum Basel.
Catalogue raisonné Die Druckgraphik, 1951–2013, edited by Rainer Michael Mason.
Solo exhibitions in the Kunstmuseum Bern and Musée Jenisch, Vevey.
Beginning of collaboration with the Swiss Institute for Art Research (Schweizerisches Institut für Kunstwissenschaft, SIK-ISEA), Zürich, for the catalogue raisonné of the sculptural work.
Solo exhibition at the Museo d’arte della Svizzera italiana (MASI), Lugano.
Markus Raetz dies on April 14 in Bern.
For a detailed biography, list of exhibitions and bibliography, see: Markus Raetz. Das plastische Werk, (Swiss Institute for Art Research, Œuvrekataloge Schweizer Künstler und Künstlerinnen 30), Zürich 2023.
- Drawing in Space
- In the Realm of Drawing
- Spatial Installations
- Spatial Installations
- Perceptual Spaces
Audio Guide Stations
Incrocio I (2001)
Kopf I (1992)
11 Punkte ∞ Situationen (1968/1969)
Im Bereich des Möglichen (1976)
Chambre de lecture (2013–2015)
7 Konturen (1995–1997)
Robert Walser (1978)
Gleich und anders (2016)
Madame et Monsieur (2009)
Ohne Titel (Berner Raum) (1980–1983)
Ohne Titel (Wolke) (2020)
Public Guided Tour in English
Tuesday 10 October 2023 7:30pm
Tuesday 21 November 2023 7:30pm
Duration: 1 hour
Cost: Entrance free exhibitions + CHF 5
MARKUS RAETZ. oui non si no yes no
08.09.2023 – 25.02.2024
Curator: Stephan Kunz
Curatorial assistant: Livia Wermuth
Design: Salzmann Gertsch
Adaptation Digital Guide: NETNODE AG
Exhibition catalog: Kunstmuseum Bern, Stephan Kunz, Nina Zimmer (Hg.), Markus Raetz. Atelier, Verlag Scheidegger & Spiess AG, Zürich 2023
Catalogue raisonné: Schweizer Institut für Kunstwissenschaft SIK-ISEA, Franz Müller (Hg.), Markus Raetz. Das plastische Werk. Catalogue raisonné, Verlag Scheidegger & Spiess AG, Zürich 2023
Thanks: Monika Raetz; Markus und Monika Raetz Stiftung, by name Lukas Raetz, Annatina Menn, Philippe Bertherat and the unfortunately in the meantime deceased Thierry Barbier-Mueller; Roger Fayet, Franz Müller, Tabea Schindler and the team of SIK-ISEA; numerous private and institutional lenders; Verlag Scheidegger & Spiess AG, Zürich, by name Thomas Kramer, Anthonie de Groot and team; Stephan Kunz; Didier Semin; Alexander Jaquemet; Iwan Schumacher and many more
With the support of:
Media partner: SonntagsZeitung
Team Kunstmuseum Bern:
Director: Nina Zimmer
Managing Director: Thomas Soraperra
Head of Facility Management: Bernhard Spycher
Sponsoring: Birgit Achatz
Registrars: Franziska Vassella, Rebecca Birrer
Head of Exhibition Management: René Wochner
Technical Services: Roman Studer, Martin Schnidrig, Raphael Frey, Mike Carol, Andres Metscher, Peter Thöni, David Brühlmann, Markus Imgold, Volker Thies
Head of Conservation & Restoration: Nathalie Bäschlin
Restoration: Philine Claussen, Dorothea Spitza, Matthias Läuchli, Katja Friese, Katharina Sautter, Jan Bukacek
Head of Provenance Research: Nikola Doll
Research Associate: Renato Moser, with the support of Anne-Christine Strobel
Head of Communication &: Marketing: Anne-Cécile Foulon
Graphic Design: Jeannine Moser
Marketing: Noëlle Gogniat, Stefania Mazzamuto
Digital Communication: Katrina Weissenborn, David Oester, Andriu Deflorin, Martin Stadelmann
Communication & Media Relations: Martina Witschi, Louisa Dittli, Cédric Zubler
Heads of Art Education: Magdalena Schindler, Anina Büschlen
Art Education: Etienne Wismer and the team of freelancers
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