Rarely do we have the opportunity to peer over the shoulder, so to speak, of a graphic artist at work and witness the creation of a masterpiece we would normally only get to view once the artist has deemed it complete, ready to leave the studio. It is all the more fortunate that, starting in 2013 and with the generous support of a small group of patrons at the initiative of HRH Duke Franz of Bavaria, it was possible to acquire the extensive suite of test prints for Georg Baselitz's artist's book Malelade from 1990 for the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München. The exhibition Georg Baselitz – Malelade now offers the first opportunity to study the genesis of this unique book project, comprising 41 large-format drypoint engravings, step by step and in its entirety.
The 148 test prints not only complement the extensive Munich collection of Georg Baselitz's works. Created ahead of the edition print, they also provide insights into the work's genesis and the creative process with all its fleeting moments. This process, which varies from sheet to sheet, can range from the first tangible form, through distortions and corrections, all the way to the final iterations. It is unique to be able to experience a suite of work of this artistic caliber already in its very beginnings as a comparative overview.
Without a doubt, Malelade is a major work by the peintre-graveur Baselitz and an incunabulum among artists' books from the second half of the 20th century. Georg Baselitz's "Gemütstagebuch" ("Mood Diary") takes a further temporal-historical excursion, looking both back and forwards as the artist focalizes the essence of German history and destiny as tonal images. Even the wordplay of the title Malelade oscillates between the extremes of an infantile, idiotic use of language, or "Idiotensprache," as Baselitz puts it, and the far-sighted intellectual verdict of a peintre maudit – in the French Existentialist sense of an artist cast out into the world. Continuing rudimentary snatches of words – such as romantic / broken or come being much night alongside against protection / and without dress / stupid boy donkey – all design a cosmos of meaningful and at the same time paradoxical references. None other than the artist himself hides behind this inner dialogue. The awkwardly erratic handwriting of the sharply engraved lettering once again underlines the contradiction of semantic and syntactic inconsistencies of the word images and merges with the motifs of Baselitz's personal iconography. Baselitz creates a multifaceted picture of torn German sentiment that cannot rest, caused by a cultural breakdown in 20th century German history "that was and is so vehement that it is actually beyond repair."
At no other time has Georg Baselitz summed up the actual state of the modern-day human condition in prints with such powerful language and images. On the occasion of his 85th birthday and in honor of Georg Baselitz, the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München is presenting the complete series of test prints in an exhibition for the first time now. At the same time, this project is once again an homage to our long-time patron HRH Duke Franz of Bavaria. As one of the early collectors of Georg Baselitz's works he remains closely associated with the artist to this day. It is solely thanks to his generous donations that the graphic artist Georg Baselitz can be represented so extensively and in such exquisite quality in the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München. It is thanks to his patronage and continuing enthusiasm for the ever-changing work of Georg Baselitz that the body of graphic works for the collection can be continually extended.