Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Goodbye Neo. Goodbye Leipzig.

Replacing Neo Rauch as a professor is not going as smoothly as one might have hoped here at Leipzig’s Academy Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst. As Die Tageszeitung’s Robert Schimke reports, the Cologne painter Heribert C. Ottersbach has been selected as the successor to Rauch after the international star of the Leipzig School decided to give up his professorship, due to his workload. According to Schimke, Rauch had his own favorite replacement: the Belgian artist Michaël Borremans. Yet Borremans fell through the hiring process because he does not speak German well and lives too far away from the academy.

After convincing Borremans—both a painter and a filmmaker—to apply for the Leipzig position, Rauch reportedly believed that the artist’s twin specializations would be a nod to a portion of the faculty that has no warm feelings for the traditional Leipzig school of painting, including the academy’s rector Joachim Brohm. While Brohm insists that he was not involved in the hiring process, it doesn’t help matters that Ottersbach is a friend of Brohm and one of three painting professors who come from the Brohm’s Rhineland home in western Germany.

“Already in the past,” writes Schimke, “the rector had earned the reputation of taking his network into the Leipzig professorships.” Schimke doesn’t believe that the conflict represents a mere East-West career skirmish but rather a “cultural clash,” which began as a formalist debate in the 1950s in former East Germany and in the vilifications between state-branded German Democratic Republic painters and liberal-minded painters from the West.

Another antagonism lies in the marginalization throughout the 1990s of the Leipzig painters by new media art and more discursive artistic practices. Schimke speculates that Brohm—a photographer socialized by the arts scene in the Rhine region during the ’70s and ’80s—might just be quickening the end of the Leipzig School.