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>> An Interview with Hanns Egon Wörlen
>> Chronicler of poses: Peter Holl
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"One must keep knocking, knocking, knocking"

A talk with Hanns Egon Wörlen

Since November 22nd 2003 (until 2nd January 04) Deutsche Bank shows Richard Artschwager: Up and Down / Back and Forth at the Wörlen Foundation - Museum Moderner Kunst in Passau. Over 45 drawings, sculptures, paintings and multiples (1965 - 2003) comprizing a considerable selection from the Deutsche Bank Collection and private collections are presented. Dr. Ariane Grigoteit got together with the architect and founder of the Wörlen Foundation - Museum Moderner Kunst, Mr. Hanns Egon Wörlen (88) exclusively for db-art.info on the occasion of the opening of the exhibition.


Hanns Egon Wörlen on May 17th 2002 in front of his Museum Moderner Kunst

Dr. Ariane Grigoteit: How did your first encounter with art come into being?

Egon Wörlen: I was lucky enough to be born into a family of artists. My father Georg Philipp Wörlen was a distinguished artist. The Albertina, Vienna owns approximately 50 works of his. Two great works of my father were shown in the exhibition Masterworks of the Leopold Collection, Vienna (Die Meisterwerke aus der Sammlung Leopold Wien). I was born in Mannheim/ Palatinate. Aged five I came to Passau. That was extremely good for my father, for myself and also to the city of Passau.

Grigoteit: Was your family big?

Wörlen: No. I am the only son. I only met my father when I was four years old. He was based in a Bavarian regiment and only returned at the beginning of 1920. The relationship to my dad was nevertheless throughout my life excellent. My father was a cosmopolitan. He had a head of his own, he was an exception among artists. I assisted in the studio. Even during the war I was sawing frames, cutting mounts and kept reordering paint. I was integrated into the creative production of my father.


My father made some very interessting books following the advice of the renowned Vienna art author Arthur Rössler, which I am particularly proud of. We were friends with Rössler and were allowed to tend his flat in Vienna for six weeks during vacation time, which was a great mention for us. Arthur Rössler, who had already discovered Egon Schiele, back then told my father: I made Schiele popular, now it is your turn. When the Third Reich and the war began, that however, was over. After World War Two the young artists gained popularity - a breakup against the national socialist era.

Today I am a great ambassador of contemporary art. My house has been errected with the assumption that there will be an institution which will mediate contemporary art from the culturally significant location of Passau, from east to west.

Grigoteit: Did your father witness these beginnings respectively this development?

Wörlen: Not the beginnings, but my development. I drew a little in those days. My father fold me: If you want to become a painter, you must become better than I am. That prevented me from doing so and I became an architect, which was also good, since it was also an artistic profession and I could involve artists. Painters, sculptors and authors from the whole of Germany and Austria used to get together at my father’s home. I used to be included in their conversations, thereby I grew into artistic circles. It was my aim to be able to say towards the end of my live: This is what you have achieved. You did not live in vain.

It is compulsory for me to invest a 6-digit amount of Euro into the museum, annually and hence I have to take the problematic decision over and over again: Do I close the museum down and collect privately art or do I hold temporary exhibitions to introduce people to art. I consider it my duty to introduce people to art. A great director of a museum in Salzburg once said to me: If you make catalogues, take into account that only one in fifty visitors buys one. And only 1.5 percent of people surrounding you have access to art. The inhibition threshold to visit a museum is immense. I hold a close relationship with the local university that cultivates international ’Cultural economists’. This way we published a thesis entitled “The museum, the patron, the founder“ for the museum.

I am planning to open a branch, in which I will incorporate, coach and exhibit other foundations. A great patron would have to be found to support this project. Then, artists’ names would remain in peoples’ conscience instead ot getting lost. One must keep knocking, knocking, knocking!


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