The art historian, art critic and museum man Werner Spies (b. 1937) received an honorary doctorate from Berlin's Free University in appreciation of his extensive scientific and journalistic work for the art of modernity. It was awarded to the art expert, currently living near Paris, on the suggestion of the School of Historical and Cultural Studies on 7 May in the Art-Historical Institute. The laudatory speech was given by Professor Thomas W. Gaehtgens.
Many prominent figures participated in the celebration for Spies' honorary doctorate in a crowded Lecture Hall B, including former Federal President von Weizsäcker, the Berliner art collector Berggruen, and Schuster, Berlin's museum czar.
Werner Spies gave his lecture under the title "Picasso - Two Speeds (Picasso - Zwei Geschwindigkeiten)". He defended the often reviled, seemingly expressionistic, pictorial late work of the Spaniard, and described this style of painting as a result of a Picasso-esque "shortening of work time". Spies argued that Picasso still wanted to say so much in his later years, that he took only a brief, consistently fixed amount of time for each painting and for each drawing. For the graphic works, this time was sufficient for the detail-conscious creation, but not for the larger works of art - hence their simplified expressionistic air.
Werner Spies has belonged to the German AICA since the 1960s. He wrote his most important books about Max Ernst and Picasso, but also about Albers, Vasarely, Christo and Richard Lindner. His latest surrealism exhibition (Paris/Düsseldorf) has been voted "2002 Exhibition of the Year" by the German AICA. In a congratulatory mail to Spies from the AICA it states, the "persistence with which you augment and deepen your topics over the decades - and in a language which is understandable despite its scientific character - has always commanded respect. Heartfelt congratulations on this wonderful Berlin honor".
Cologne, February 2005