8 Quotes From Heinz Mack on His 85th Birthday

He remembers the time when he couldn't afford heating.

Heinz Mack Photo: Hannes Wiedemann, courtesy of Arndt Art Agency, Berlin

In 1957, the German artists Heinz Mack and Otto Piene founded the group ZERO, whose aesthetic and philosophy strongly shaped European post-war art.

The artists sought to banish the darkness of Nazi rule and the horrors of World War II by developing a radical new artistic practice that harnessed innovative materials to redefine commonly-held preconceptions of what art is.

The practices developed by Heinz Mack and his ZERO group collaborators was embraced by his native Germany throughout his career, as invitations to participate at documenta in 1964 and 1977 and at the 1970 Venice Biennale attest.

However, Mack and the ZERO group had to wait until 2014 to gain mainstream international recognition—and market success—with a wildly successful traveling exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum, New York; Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin; and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, which attracted over 700,000 visitors.

In celebration of his 85 birthday, we’ve compiled a list of quotes from the veteran artist.

Installation view "Mack: Review and Outlook" at Arndt Art Agency, Berlin

Installation view “Mack: Review and Outlook” at Arndt Art Agency, Berlin
Photo: Bernd Borchardt, courtesy of Arndt Art Agency, Berlin

On aging:

“When I get to the studio, I completely forget how old I am.”

On his artistic development:

“In my body of work there is no chronological development. Early work, mid-career, late work; this linear thinking is a completely foreign concept to me. I subconsciously revisit certain things I’ve done before that I can develop further. This circular thinking gives the work a certain cohesion.”

On the ZERO group:

“We’re from a post-war generation that experienced the war. When the war ended there was a vacuum, a material and intellectual vacuum. We were completely isolated from the world and had to find out very carefully what would happen to art after 1945.”

“And what has always meant a lot to me, up to the present day, is that it was an idea that imperceptibly became globalized all of a sudden.”

Installation view "Mack: Review and Outlook" at Arndt Art Agency, Berlin Photo: Bernd Borchardt, courtesy of Arndt Art Agency, Berlin

Installation view “Mack: Review and Outlook” at Arndt Art Agency, Berlin
Photo: Bernd Borchardt, courtesy of Arndt Art Agency, Berlin

On beauty:

“For me the word beauty is not taboo. I stand by the fact that things can be beautiful. And I am not afraid to make things that are beautiful.”

On not being able to afford heating as a young artist:

“So I put on my best suit and sat in the lobby of a five-star hotel with a newspaper to warm up.”

On his work ethic:

“I have four large warehouse spaces each measuring over 1,200 square meters (3,937 sq. ft.), filled with one picture next to the other. I was just incredibly hardworking.”

On the commercialization of art:

“The commercialization of art has become frightening. Aggregated over my 85 years, my monthly pay has been pretty modest.”

“Mack: Review and Outlook | A Special Selection – Hommage to his 85th birthday” runs through April 23, 2016 at Arndt Art Agency, Berlin.


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