Internationaler Kunstkritikerverband, Sektion der BRD

Evelyn Weiss is Dead

Among representatives of German museums, Evelyn Weiss was one of the few personalities of international stature. She moved in the international art scene like a fish in water, from London to New York, Paris to Hong Kong, Moscow to Cologne. The daughter of a Hungarian mother and an English father, she was a polyglot. She was fluent in most major world languages and a few others as well. Weiss was born in Rome, studied art history in Bonn and Vienna, began her career in Paris, and until March 2003, held the office of deputy director at the Museum Ludwig in Cologne.

As she completed her first steps within the museum world at the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, a female German museum director was still the exception. Her many voluntary leadership positions, in national and international museum and art critics' committees, attest to her fame, which emanated far beyond Germany. For many years she was vice-president of AICA, the international art critics' association, and often represented its German section at the annual international board meetings. "We will miss Evelyn," wrote AICA President Henry Meyric Hughes in a letter to Walter Vitt, "her knowledge, her friendliness, her wonderful ability to cooperate." Full of bite but reported with winning charm, her lively and opinionated accounts of international congresses, given at the German annual meetings (and which sometimes did not spare critical remarks), are alive and well in the memories of all participants. As Kasper König, Director of the Museum Ludwig, frankly admitted, Evelyn Weiss was the secret "secretary of state" of the house. With deftness and diplomacy, she guided the institute out of many a shallow spot into which it sailed during its then brief history. Her name is associated with important exhibitions such as retrospectives of Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Kasimir Malewitsch, Aleksander Rodtschenko, Ljubowa Popowa, Jürgen Klauke, Bernard Schultze or Ursula.

Evelyn Weiss was a commissioner of the São Paulo Biennial several times, and helped numerous artists such as Klaus Rinke, Georg Baselitz, Hanne Darboven, Sigmar Polke, Palermo or Anselm Kiefer gain international prestige. Under my aegis at the Rheinisches Landesmuseum Bonn, she organized Kiefer's first solo exhibition in a museum. I worked with her often, most intensely at the documenta 6. We were members of the documenta board whose task it was to conceptually prepare the next documenta after the shock of the fifth, to which Harry Szeemann even sought recourse on the part of the city of Kassel. Instead of doing this, the collected expertise had a complete falling out. It was the two of us who, in addition to suggesting postponing the exhibition for a year, also launched the famous (or notorious) media concept. Though no less controversial than its predecessor, the sixth documenta finally established photography as a legitimate artistic medium, and marked the beginning of the age of multimedia in the art world.

First and foremost however, Evelyn Weiss was a passionate curator. The aspect of collecting for the public and for future generations always stood in the focus of her professional interest. She was Peter Ludwig's confidante, and thanks to her foresight and dedication, numerous masterpieces of contemporary art made it into permanent public possession. I valued her enthusiasm, her spontaneity and her candor. The intense discussions during trips we took together on artistic and curatorial missions decidedly enriched my view of art. Especially when we didn't agree. In the early hours of 12 November 2007, Evelyn Weiss passed away much too soon, at age seventy, following a difficult illness. The German AICA will miss her grievously as well.

Bonn, November 2007
Klaus Honnef

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