Twenty-four works by German-French artist Hans Arp (1886-1966) have been generously gifted to the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) as part of the largest global donation of the artist’s work to date.
With this substantial gift of twenty-one plasters and three bronze works from the artist’s estate, Stiftung Arp e.V, the NGV will house the most significant holdings of sculptures by Arp in the Asia-Pacific region.
Hans Arp was one of the founders of the Dada art movement which emerged during World War One and challenged conventional definitions of art. His experimental and radical works were also included in Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) and Surrealism exhibitions, and he became known for his ‘biomorphic’ style of sculpture, which echoed organic forms occurring in nature. The artist’s intensive use of plaster allowed him to make and remake, apply, and test dynamic modelling and sculpting techniques to produce his polymorphic forms.
The NGV is one of 10 museums worldwide – and the only institution in the Asia Pacific region – to welcome works from an extraordinary collection of 220 plasters and bronzes produced by the artist between 1933 and 1966.
This unprecedented donation also marks the first step in the establishment of a global network of museums that will collaborate on new models of cooperative research into Arp’s work, drawing upon across diverse perspectives and expertise.
“This magnificent gift of plaster and bronze sculptures from The Stiftung Arp e.V. will transform our ability to represent the ground-breaking work of Hans Arp. It will enable the NGV to house the leading collection of Arp’s work in the Asia Pacific region and share his important contribution and continuing influence for Australian audiences,” said Tony Ellwood AM, Director NGV.
“We are honored to share this important gift with a carefully elected group of museums that will continue to honor the importance of the artist’s processes and legacy for international audiences,” said Engelbert Büning, Director, Stiftung Arp e.V.
“Arp’s cultural identity was formed during a long period of charged nationalism; in reaction, the artist refused to confine himself to a single language, nationality, artistic movement, or material. Shifting between abstraction and representation, organic and geometric forms – his work continues to assert the importance of art as a way to break down boundaries.”
“By expanding research and dialogue around Arp, the donations ensure that scholars and audiences can deepen research into this important part of art history whilst recontextualizing how his output continues to resonate and hold relevance to audiences across the world today,” said Büning.
The donation expands on the wish of Arp’s widow Marguerite Arp-Hagenbach that the plasters are integral to understanding the artist’s work and, at the request of the artist, that the works should not be sold.
The other nine institutions receiving works from The Stiftung Arp e.V. are: Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, TX, US: Museum Beelden aan Zee, The Hague, The Netherlands; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, MA, US; Skissernas Museum, Lund, Sweden; Nasjonalmuseet, Oslo, Norway; Arp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck, Rolandseck, Germany; The Hepworth Wakefield, UK; ALBERTINA, Vienna, Austria; and Gerhard-Marcks-Haus Bremen, Germany.
Hans Peter Wilhelm Arp (1886-1966) was born on September 16, 1886, in Strasbourg to German-Alsatian parents. He co-founded the Dada movement in Zurich with Hugo Ball, Richard Huelsenbeck, and Tristan Tzara.
In 1925, he exhibited alongside de Chirico, Ernst, Klee, Man Ray, Masson, Miró, and Picasso at the first exhibition of the surrealists at the Paris Galerie Pierre, followed by his first solo exhibition at the Galerie Surréaliste in Paris in 1927. He was part of two major exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, including his first US retrospective in 1958.
Arp has shown his large-scale monumental sculptures internationally, including at the Cloud Shepherd for the University of Caracas in Venezuela, the Harvard Graduate Center in Cambridge, and the Venice Biennial (1954), where he was awarded the Grace Prize for Sculpture.
The gifted works will be on display at NGV from 2024. For more information, visit: www.ngv.melbourne for details.
Image: Hans Arp in Clamart, 1957 – photo by André Villiers, Archiv Stiftung Arp e. V. Berlin