Ruth Baumgarte. A Rush of Colour at the Boiler

With the exhibition Ruth Baumgarte. Farbrausch am Kessel, the Städtische Kunstsammlungen directly reference the role of the city of Salzgitter as one location of the steel industry. This way, the Städtische Kunstsammlungen connect the exhibition to the museum’s collection, which is being compiled since 1975 and is focussed on the topic of Arbeitswelt (working world). The collection includes art works belonging to the period of classical modernism as well as contemporary art. Among others, Jasper Johns, Käthe Kollwitz, Max Liebermann, A. R. Penck, and Neo Rauch, are represented in the collection. The Städtische Kunstsammlungen (municipal art collections) are furthermore known for the Salon Salder, an annual venue where contemporary, artistic positions from Lower Saxony have been presented successfully since 1990.

The Ruth Baumgarte exhibition is centred around the heavy industry of (West) Germany, its momentous reconstruction in the post-war years, its following modernisation as well as its impressive development and growth in the second half of the 20th century. The artist portrays and documents people just as well as production sites.

The works‘ intense, partly expressive colourfulness tends to dissolve the workers’ portraits into the surrounding manufacturing halls, yet the persons she portrays never appear lost, but graceful and vivid in their connectedness to the production processes. Thus, Ruth Baumgarte’s artistic sensitivity gives profound insight into the workers’ substantial performance in the context of the production processes and is able to show their physical strain as well as the seriousness of their work.

Press articles

Ruth Baumgarte is one of the few women in art history who artistically confronted herself and her work with topics such as technology, (manual) work, and heavy industry, and, in addition, produced her art works on-site at the warehouses. Her skilled eye not only captured the massive spatial dimensions of the heavy industry (and iron processing especially) but technical details and workflows, too. Her skilful portraits together form an artistic monument that simultaneously captures the workers’ hardships as well as pride. In her work, however, she distances herself from many of her contemporaries’ positivistic industry images and, instead, takes the topic of the political worker’s image into the actual reality of the workers: the warehouses and production sites.

In the context of the exhibition, a reading with Hannelore Hoger took place on 10th January 2016 at 11 am. The actress read literary texts by Martin Walser and Egon Erwin Kisch that were focussed on the topics of (manual) work and (heavy) industry. 

Accompanying the exhibition, a 160-page print publication including an essay by Sandra Mühlenberend was published.