Tilman Osterwold (1943–2021)

The Württembergischer Kunstverein mourns the unexpected death of Tilman Osterwold a few days ago. The art historian, born in Hamburg in 1943, was director of the Kunstverein from 1973 to 1993 and had a lasting influence on its history and present. Osterwold always brought the political and social contexts of art to the fore and negotiated them within a broad cultural-scientific framework.

He showed early exhibitions on Nazi art (1975), devoted himself to art in prison (1974), the political poster (1975), the ambivalent relationship between man and nature (1977) or the history and present of homelessness (1982). In the catalogue for the comprehensive exhibition on the political lithography of the Paris Commune (1976), he published a court case against the communist Gerhard Schneider in solidarity with him, who had publicly denounced a fatal police operation and was to be punished for it.

In addition to the relationships between political and aesthetic practices, Osterwold was interested in popular culture and border areas of art. He investigated the cultural history of the shop window (1974) as well as the phenomenon of the photo wallpaper (1975), scenes of folk art (1981) or the youth aesthetics of the 20th century (1986) and dealt several times with the Prinzhorn Collection and its so-called outsider art. In 1979, together with Ute Eskildsen, he restaged one of the most legendary early photo exhibitions, Film und Foto, which had taken place in Stuttgart in 1929. With solo exhibitions of artists such as Panamarenko (1973), Ferdinand Kriwet (1975), Reinhard Mucha (1985), Dennis Oppenheim (1979), Alica Aycock (1983), Astrid Klein (1984), Clegg & Guttman (1988), Tim Rollins + K.O.S. (1990), General Idea or Elaine Sturtevant (1992), he opened the house to the various contemporary approaches and methods in art. In his work for the Kunstverein, he was always open to local, nationwide and international collaborations.

Tilman Osterwold's profiling of the Württembergischer Kunstverein as well as his attitude are still of great importance to us today. Our deepest sympathy goes to the relatives and we wish them much strength.

Hans D. Christ and Iris Dressler, July 1, 2021
Directors of the Württembergischer Kunstverein

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Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart