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Hauser & Wirth Gallery Takes on Estate of Gustav Metzger, Who Made Destruction an Art Form

Hauser & Wirth Gallery Takes on Estate of Gustav Metzger, Who Made Destruction an Art Form

The estate of Gustav Metzger, a pioneering artist whose work evinced an anticapitalist and anti-establishment spirit, is joining one of the world’s biggest galleries as it goes to Hauser & Wirth, which operates 10 galleries and a bookstore across three continents. A first exhibition with the Metzger estate is planned for 2021.

The move marks the first time Metzger, who helped lead a mid-20th-century art movement known as auto-destructive art, has ever been represented by a commercial gallery.

“Metzger was a complete visionary and a radical thinker,” Iwan Wirth, a cofounder of the gallery, told ARTnews. “He saw art and life as interconnected. When we were approached by the estate and foundation to take on representation, I didn’t hesitate. It is an enormous honor to help safeguard his legacy.”

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Philip Guston, 'Lower Level,' 1975, oil

Metzger, who died in 2017 and was based in London, was known for creating hard-to-classify art that drew on activist tendencies. When he began making auto-destructive art—a style in which works degrade or break down over time—he did so as a protest-minded gesture. Some of his early works, made in protest of nuclear war, were paintings made with acid that, over the course of their exhibition, broke down their canvases. “Auto-destructive art re-enacts the obsession with destruction, the pummeling to which individuals and masses are subjected,” Metzger wrote in his 1960 “Auto-Destructive Art Manifesto.”

Other gestures by Metzger, who was born in Germany and moved to Britain as a refugee during World War II, were even more outré. Between 1977 and 1980, he stopped making work altogether, as part of a larger art strike that involved a refusal to create. Environmentalist concerns also fueled some of his activism: in 2007, he created the Reduce Art Flights initiative, through which art workers were encouraged not to travel by plane, partly as a way of fighting the influence of art fairs around the globe.

Wirth said that Metzger’s ideas continue to resound. “His urgent call to take action, act as a one global community, and shape the future by drawing from the lessons of the past,” the dealer said, “is as relevant today as it will be tomorrow.”

Published at Thu, 30 Jul 2020 12:15:52 +0000

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