An Art historian in Germany has finally recovered an impressive art work that had been commissioned by the STASI, the redoubtable East German Secret Police in 1979. before the Berlin wall came down. Richard Otfried Wilhelm was the artist who created this 3 ton, 65 foot wide, 10 foot high glass mural. Lenin’s portrait is clearly identifiable. Mr. Wilhelm titled the work “Revolution: Frieden unserem Erdenrund” (Revolution: Peace to the Whole World), an incongruous title for a symbol of a repressive regime. In the centre is an image of Lenin, and there are two doves, symbolizing peace — both common iconographical elements in East German monuments, Mr. Melching said, an expert in German Cold War history at the University of Amsterdam.
The work will be shown in a pop up Galerie at NETZWERK during Art Basel Miami Beach Fair. It is for sale for over $21.million.
Erich Mielke, the Stasi Agent, who died in 2000, commissioned in 1979 the artist Richard Otfried Wilhelm, who was then the chief master of glass for public works in the German Democratic Republic, and one of the few East German artisans trained in Gothic stained glass techniques dating back to the 14th century.
The 10-foot-high X 65 feet glass wall is pigmented with precious metals — including 55 pounds of gold — and has a hammer and sickle symbol, a slogan of the international communist movement and references to the French Revolution.
After the Berlin Wall fell, the Stasi headquarters were closed in 1990, and the agency’s assets were sold through the Deutsche Reichsbahn, the state railroad company. Eberhard Dümmen, the owner of an art logistics company and Mr. Holzmann’s uncle, learned about the work from one of his employees who had worked for the Reichsbahn. He bought it for an unknown sum — records of the sale have been destroyed, and Mr. Holzmann said Mr. Dümmen does not recall what he paid — loaded it into a shipping container, and placed it in a storage lot in Berlin.
Mr. Holzmann said “I knew about it all these years, but for all these years, I, like everyone else, was forgetting what was forgotten,” Mr Holzmann asked about the fate of the glass work several years ago. When Mr. Dümmen said it was still probably where he left it, Mr. Holzmann tracked it down in the Berlin neighbourhood of WeissenSee.
He called Susanna Lilienthal, a conservator who played a central role in the restoration of the sixth century B.C. Ishtar Gate at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. She saw the work in August 2015. “When the container opened, history came out,” she said.
Mr. Holzmann, who is representing his uncle in the sale, said the craftsmanship and the extraordinary story are what make the piece worth $21.4 million. He said he hoped to sell it to a museum or a private individual who will donate it to a public institution.
But Mr. Melching said he would be surprised if it brought anywhere near that price. “Maybe a couple of hundred thousand euros, but millions is a bit ridiculous,” he said.
Sjeng Scheijen, an associate researcher at Leiden University who curated an exhibition about Stalin-era propaganda art at the Drents Museum in Assen, the Netherlands, agreed. “The quality of this piece is certainly not exceptional from an artistic point of view,” he said. “If they will sell it for this price, you will see a storm of the same kind of art coming on the market, because many of these kinds of stained glass windows are very often in buildings from the ’70s and ’80s that aren’t used any more.”
With thanks, From the Iron Curtain to Miami by Nina Siegal
Article inspired by a feature in the New York Times International Edition. Culture. by Nina Siegal. Courtesy & with thanks.