THE CABINET OF RAMON HAZE at Museum Abteiberg, photo: Martin Klindtworth 

THE CABINET OF RAMON HAZE is the estate of an art detective, collector and artist who rediscovered the art of the 20th century and remarkable things within it. It includes nine unknown urinals by Marcel Duchamp found in Dresden, where Duchamp left them in 1912 and was never able to retrieve them. This might explain why Duchamp published an edition of multiples in the 1960s. There are two strikingly similar children’s playpens, one well-known as the work of Russian artist Ilja Kabakov, the other by a completely unknown Colombian artist who was either Kabakov’s role model or followed, by pure coincidence, the same train of thought that Kabakov did; evidence shows that Kabakov could not be the one who inspired him. Far more than 160 pieces make up the total collection of Ramon Haze, some of them still unexplored for lack of sources; 158 objects are published in an annotated catalogue raisonné.

The collection itself is a rediscovery. It was made public in 1996 by two young artists, Holmer Feldmann and Andreas Grahl, who first exhibited it in the basement of a derelict industrial hall in Leipzig. A preserved film from this period shows the guided tours by Leipzig acting students conducted at the time. Three years later, the collection was shown again in the newly opened main building of Dresdener Bank in Leipzig, where it was recorded in the aforementioned catalogue raisonné. The collection is a post-historical fiction created in the period after 1992, when the Leipzig School and the art market as such celebrated the triumph of visual art that was at once avant-garde and opportunistic, at pace with the 20th century times. Of the fictions that artists have brought into the world in recent years, that of Ramon Haze and his future cabinet of 20th-century art is likely the most puzzling and touching, and perhaps the most meaningful as well.
There’s the condition of Jeff Koon’s basketballs in a dry aquarium, because no museum has been in a position to take care of them anymore. There are abstract forms and colors with opposing content and ideological functions. There is the hitherto unknown model of Constantin Brancusi’s Endless Column. There are ideas, visions, spinning mills of art = life, such as those in the original model of a VW Beetle, Archetype, 1934, which Ferdinand Porsche devised as a shell for the modern family. There are socially and radically critical art concepts, some moderately visual such as the large group of sculptures Verführer und Verführte (“Seducer and Seduced,” Kurt Helm, 1996), and explicitly terrorist ones such as as the Salpeter (“Saltpeter”) ensemble, which, according to Ramon Haze, was made by West German left-wing militant Andreas Baader around 1970–1972.

Twenty-two years later, Haze’s “total installation” of his estate at Museum Abteiberg brings the Ramon Haze collection to its actual destination, a museum. With it comes a question raised in 1996 that has almost been forgotten in the present: What was modern art? It does this with relics and objects left over from the 20th century’s entire world of things. The transitions between the Museum Abteiberg collection and that of Ramon Haze turns disconcerting and fluid; the reason for the objects becomes a guiding question in this scholarly fiction.

The exhibition will completely change the museum’s spatial effect. Viewers encounter the living room of Ramon Haze, the cabinet that initiates them and creates an entrance to the collection, the adjoining scenery consisting of heavy duty shelves, racks, displays and hangings of the widest variety of objects in the open spaces at street level. Advertising pillars with texts create an oversized room description––alluding to the lack of wall texts at Museum Abteiberg, which some perceive as elitist and undidactic. The plot of the work descriptions and interpretations is reinforced in a number of ways by the fortunately preserved film of the actor-led tours in Leipzig in 1996 and a new series of experimental tours that will be tested in the exhibition.

The CABINET OF RAMON HAZE AT MUSEUM ABTEIBERG is the most extensive and “museum-like” project this season. In focusing on modern art as a subject matter, it supplements the history of artist museums that Johannes Cladders once made in Mönchengladbach along with Joseph Beuys, Marcel Broodthaers, Daniel Buren and others––taking up a little-known chapter of recent history. Holmer Feldmann and Andreas Grahl, who studied with Astrid Klein at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst in Leipzig in the early 1990s, created THE CABINET OF RAMON HAZE as curatorial, journalistic and performative fiction that succeeded as a joint effort with other authors and actors: “collector colleague” Piotr Baran, hired acting students; Xenia Helms, Joe Kuss, Jan Wenzel and Valentin Wetzel as co-authors of the work descriptions, graphic artist and typographer Markus Dreßen, along with Jan Wenzel, co-founder of the publishing house Spector Books in Leipzig, which published the large-format illustrated volume. Klaus Werner, then the founding director of the Galerie für zeitgenössische Kunst in Leipzig, was the main sponsor of the cabinet’s second presentation in 1999.
THE CABINET OF RAMON HAZE has been brilliant in its combination of a critique of art history and contemporary history, and its critical moment is perhaps only clearly visible today: as the setting of a clear disregard or misinterpretation of 20th century art and the creation of a fundamental distance to the art of predecessors, relegating all of their ideals, visions, concepts and values to the past.

Holmer Feldmann and Andreas Grahl represent a biographical connection between West and East: Feldmann comes from Schleswig-Holstein, Grahl from East Berlin. They embody an artistic generation that, in the 1990s, reflected very vigilantly on the aesthetic and ideological fields in East and West, recognizing that visual art in the 20th century had just put all avant-garde struggles behind it only to end up as a marketplace and site of neoliberalism. 

On the occasion of the exhibition at Museum Abteiberg, Ramon Haze’s long out-of-print catalogue will be published in a new, revised and expanded edition on 16 December 2018. The publication includes new photographs of the installations at Museum Abteiberg. Edition of 500, numbered, special price during the exhibition 49 euros, book retail price 79 euros.


11 November 2018, 12 pm
2 pm EXHIBITION TALK with Holmer Feldmann and Andreas Grahl

2 December 2018, 4 pm
FILM PRESENTATION with Piotr Baran, Holmer Feldmann and Andreas Grahl in attendance

16 December 2018, 4 pm
CATALOGUE PRESENTATION with Holmer Feldmann, Andreas Grahl, Markus Dreßen and Martin Klindtworth

Third Thursdays
15 November 2018, 20 December 2018, 17 January 2019, 21 February 2019, 21 March 2019 and 18 April 2019, 7pm
EXPERIMENTAL TOURS with various interpreters
There will be experimental guided tours and readings on the third Thursday of every month of the exhibition––each with extended museum opening times until 10 pm. Descriptions of works and interpretations become a particular point of focus here.

This project was realized with generous support from The Ministry of Culture and Science of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia and the Hans Fries Foundation.