Since the 1960s, René Block has been a key figure in the European art world. In 1964, he opened a gallery in Berlin that was to shape art history. In 2022, now aged 80, he is artistic director of the 2022 Riga Biennale taking place from mid-July to early October.
For more than twenty years, Neues Museum has had the honour of hosting large sections of the Block Collection, including major works by Joseph Beuys, Sigmar Polke, Wolf Vostell and many Fluxus artists on whom Block focussed special attention. Based on this close link to Nuremberg, Neues Museum will be opening an exhibition on the history of Edition Block in the autumn of 2022 that will travel to other venues across Europe.
With Edition Block, that began work in 1966 on Schaperstrasse in Berlin, the gallerist created an instrument for the “democratization and socialization of the art market”. Edition Block is among the oldest publishers of multiples and limited-edition prints by international contemporary artists. Being able to offer originals at affordable prices corresponded with Block’s aim of bringing contemporary art into society – in the spirit of the Fluxus utopia of a merging of art and life.
At the start, the works for the Edition came from artists represented by the gallery, who were later joined by others. Today, the list of those involved reads like a who’s who of recent art history, as well as documenting Block’s travels of discovery, leaving well-trodden paths to explore the peripheries of Europe. Famous multiples like the sledge or the felt suit by Joseph Beuys even proved to be lucrative investments. But that was never Block’s objective. For him, art was always about ideas, with the potential to change society.
As the title for the exhibition Drei Hubwagen und ein Blatt Papier (Three Pallet Trucks and a Sheet of Paper), Block chose the description of a multiple by Alicja Kwade: her twisted and thus dysfunctional pallet trucks in the three primary colours become an artwork thanks to a sheet of paper, the certificate. Works like this prove that René Block’s credo, “the future belongs to the multiple” remains as persuasive as ever.