The exhibition MARKUS RAETZ. oui non si no yes no | The Kunstmuseum Bern
With MARKUS RAETZ. oui non si no yes no, the Kunstmuseum Bern is devoting the first large-scale posthumous retrospective to the artist who died in 2020. The exhibition concentrates on his three-dimen-sional works and mobiles, and runs from 8 September 2023 until 25 February 2024.
With his delicate, poetic and playful work, Markus Raetz (1941–2020) was one of the most important representatives of Swiss contemporary art. From the late 1980s his three-dimensional works were defined by the theme of metamorphosis. Most of these are sculptures. They disclose themselves as the viewer walks around the work, and thus demand to be looked at in a dynamic, process-driven way. Different images present themselves according to the viewer’s vantage point. From the mid-1990s Raetz made moving models and mobiles. The latter have been previously shown singly or not at all.
The exhibition in Bern, where Raetz spent most of his life, casts a new light on his oeuvre from the perspective of his three-dimensional works. Various stages of Raetz’s artistic development are shown: from his early drawings and relief works via the famous metaphorical objects to the installations and mo-biles of his last years. The thematic structure of the exhibition also opens up numerous cross-references that shaped the artist’s multi-layered work from the 1960s onwards.
From drawing into space
Markus Raetz began his career in the 1960s in the medium of drawing, which would remain the basis of his artistic thought process throughout the whole of his career. In a 2007 interview he said: “At any rate drawing is almost always the first step – even with the sculptures. What leads to them leads there via drawing.”
In the course of the 1970s Raetz developed a characteristic method for trans-lating his drawn elements into space. In notebooks and early installations, the exhibition brings together many motifs that are recognisable in Raetz’s three-dimensional objects. In this way, drawing is clearly revealed not only as being a store for ideas, but also as a tool for the representation of space. Recurring motifs from the drawing repertoire include for example the “stick figure” Mimi.
The sculpture consists of 14 heavy lengths of wood and is not recognisable at first glance as a human figure. It is an archaic-looking form that also has a vulnerable appearance.
OUI or NON: objects and mobiles as a matter of perspective
From the late 1980s onwards Raetz’s three-dimensional work was defined by the theme of metamorphosis, a process by which the motif is transformed into a completely different form. These ingenious and humours objects are of-ten sculptures on a purpose-built plinth. They are conceived in such a way that they show different images from each perspective, and only reveal them-selves completely when the viewer walks around the work. Hasenspiegel (Hare Mirror) (1988/2000) consists of fine copper wire and a mirror resting on a piece of wood. It shows a hare by a mirror. As the viewer walks around it, it turns into a man in a hat. Its reflection is transformed as well. This is not any old man, but the artist Joseph Beuys. Markus Raetz is playing on his 1965 art action Explaining Pictures to a Dead Hare.
One particularity of the metamorphic objects lies in word sculptures, each of which combines two opposing meanings. The famous OUINON sculptures gave the exhibition its title: according to where they are standing, viewers can see the sculptures as reading OUI/SI/YES or NON/NO/NO.
Raetz’s three-dimensional works do not only invite visitors to move, however, they also have their own dynamic. From the mid-1990s the artist has set his objects in motion. At the same time Raetz began work on a group of delicate mobiles that would shape his late work to a great degree. Especially impres-sive are the hanging wire sculptures that challenge our imagination to assem-ble them constantly in different ways: where a bottle could be seen just a sec-ond ago, a glass appears in the next fleeting moment.
A new perspective on the complete works
In its retrospective, the Kunstmuseum Bern is showing for the first time a spatial installation planned by Markus Raetz but never previously executed, which in his sketches he called “Wolke” (Cloud) (2020). This work assembles different existing mobiles in a big cone of vision, the frontal view being a “swarm”, while from the side view individual images can be discerned – as in a drawing that has become a sculpture. With the Cloud the exhibition clearly reveals the fundamental connection between Raetz’s three-dimensional work and his drawing.
To coincide with the exhibition, the catalogue Markus Raetz. Atelier is being published in German and French with essays by Stephan Kunz, artistic direc-tor of the Bündner Kunstmuseum Chur and curator of the exhibition, and art historian Didier Semin, as well as photographs by Alexander Jaquemet (Verlag Scheidegger & Spiess AG, Zürich).
The retrospective in the Kunstmuseum Bern is based on the recently pub-lished catalogue raisonné Markus Raetz. Das plastische Werk, a research pro-ject by the Swiss Institute for Art Research (SIK-ISEA).
The opening of the exhibition will take place on Thursday, 7 September 2023, from 6.30 pm. Admission to the exhibition is free on this evening. Speakers include Nina Zimmer, Director Kunstmuseum Bern - Zentrum Paul Klee, Stephan Kunz, Artistic Di-rector Bündner Kunstmuseum Chur and curator of the exhibition, and Philippe Müller, President of the Government of the Canton of Bern.
Stephan Kunz, Artistic Director Bündner Kunstmuseum Chur
Livia Wermuth, Kunstmuseum Bern
With the support of
Canton of Bern, Verein Freunde Kunstmuseum Bern, Arts Foundation Minerva, Mobiliar, Foundation Erica
Public Guided Tour in English
MARKUS RAETZ. oui non si no yes no
Tuesday 10 October 2023 7:30pm
Tuesday 21 November 2023 7:30pm
Duration: 1 hour Cost: Entrance fee exhibitions + CHF 5
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, München-buchsee (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 Schwei-zer 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 Feb-ruary 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.
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).
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 in Berlin and the Kunsthalle Basel, as well as participation in Documenta 7 in 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 fol-lowing year to the Serpentine Gallery, London and the Musée Rath, Genf.
Solo exhibitions in the Museum of Contemporary Art KIASMA in Helsinki, the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris, the Lindenau-Museum Alten-burg, the Aargauer Kunsthaus Aarau, the Carré d’Art, Musée d’art contem-porain de Nîmes and the Museum für Moderne Kunst in 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, OEuvrekataloge Schweizer Künstler und Künstlerinnen 30, Zurich 2023