In the latter half of the twentieth century a Dusseldorf lawyer was compiling one of the most comprehensive and extraordinary collections of multiples and limited editions. Confined by a small budget and driven by his love of the unconventional, Heinz Beck immersed himself in the sensational developments that were then taking place in serially-produced work.
Proving the importance of being in the right place at the right time, Beck started collecting serially produced work in the 1960s, plunging into one of Europe's most thriving art scenes—Dusseldorf and the surrounding Rhineland. This was the place to be; full of young artists, eager to experiment and explode the boundaries of traditional art production and perception in a radical democratization of culture. Beck's collection unwittingly captured the spirit of the age as he amassed over 2600 prints, objects, and artist books over the years, developing close friendships with publishers and gallerists along the way. It now boasts some of the most sought after and valuable pieces of the era, including Joseph Beuys' felt-covered water bottles, Timm Ulrich's rattling tin boxes, and even a pyramid by Roy Lichtenstein.
Donated to the Wilhelm Hack Museum, Ludwigshafen, on Beck's death in 1988, the collection boasts a wealth of American and British Pop Art—from Warhol, Rauschenberg, and Oldenburg, to Blake, Hockney, and Hamilton—as well as fascinating Fluxus pieces and numerous examples of conceptual art from the 60s and 70s. The incredible array of works ranges from prints and objects to vinyls and postcards, showcasing the multifaceted nature of the multiple. Beck once said that his ultimate aim was to build up the most comprehensive collection of its kind—undoubtedly he succeeded.
His collection is at once focused and wide-ranging, rare in its concentration on serially produced work yet covering a broad spectrum within the field itself. Collecting anything from OP Art, to concrete poetry and new music, Beck's great achievement was in transmitting a vivid impression of the atmosphere of artistic liberation that permeated the culture of the 60s and 70s. As curator Kerstin Skrobanek notes, "You couldn't only change the art, but also change the world. You could become active. And this call to participate was what shaped the art of the time." This attitude towards art becomes tangible in the range of playful, interactive objects that form the heart of the Heinz Beck collection.
At the end of the month Beck's unusual collection is being honored in the exhibition American pop art: Masterpieces en masse by Robert Rauschenberg to Andy Warhol from the collection of Heinz Beck at Ludwiggalerie Schloss Oberhausen. Using a selection of Pop Art multiples to capture the democratic, irreverent spirit of art production in the 60s and 70s, the show lays emphasis on the friendships forged between different artists and tracks developments in the art market at the time. Don't miss the chance to see works from Beck's rare and utterly fascinating collection from the 24th January onwards in Oberhausen!