Stefan Szczesny 2008
|Birth name||Stefan Szczesny|
9 April 1951|
Munich, West Germany
|Field||Painting, Drawing, Sculpture, Printmaking, Ceramics|
|Works||The Living Planet (2000)|
Stefan Szczesny was born in Munich as the son of the philosopher and publisher Gerhard Szczesny and his wife Martha Meuffel, a theatre producer. Upon attending primary and secondary schools in Munich, he acquired his first training as a painter at a private art school in Munich (1967–9). From 1969 to 1975, he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. His mentor there was the abstract painter Günter Fruhtrunk. During this time, he also attended lectures in art history and philosophy at Ludwig Maximilian University and worked as a freelance art critic.
Under the influence of his mentor Fruhtrunk Szczesny experimented in these years with abstract and minimalist art. A major turn-about occurred in 1975-76, when Szczesny was in Paris on a scholarship of the German Academic Exchange Service. The encounter there with the paintings of Delacroix caused Szczesny to rethink abstract and minimalist tenets and to return, eventually, to figuration.
The break was not immediate: in 1979, for instance, he exhibited relatively abstract paintings at the Kunstforum of the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus; many of the works created during a stay at the Villa Romana in Florence in 1980, too, display abstract features. Nonetheless, it was as a figurative painter that Szczesny eventually gained wide public attention, in particular as the organiser of, and participant in, the 1981 exhibition Rundschau Deutschland. Rundschau Deutschland brought together works of a number of young German-speaking figurative painters who later came to be known as the Neue Wilde.
Szczesny was one of the protagonists of the Neue Wilde. In 1982, he participated in a number of "Neue Wilde"-related exhibitions, such as "5 aus Köln" ("5 from Cologne", with Walter Dahn, Jiri Dokoupil, Gerhard Kever and Andreas Schulze) and "Die neue Künstlergruppe Die wilde Malerei" ("The new group of painters: Wild painting"), both in Cologne. From 1984 to 1988, he edited the journal "Malerei. Peinture. Painting", which offered an important forum for the new figurative painters.
More than other Neue Wilde painters, however, Szczesny was (and still is) interested in art historical tradition. In a 1985 interview, for instance, Szczesny remarked: "If Cézanne paints Bathers, whom Titian, Delacroix and Courbet had painted before, and Renoir paints them and Picasso paints them again, and Matisse paints them again, then Szczesny, too, paints them again!" It is in line with this declaration that in 1982/83, the year after the Neue Wilden explosion, Szczesny – in Rome at the time, as the recipient of the Rome Prize of the Prussian Academy of Arts – turned his attention to the roots of European art. He created a series of "Roman paintings" exploring the world of Greco-Roman myth. Similarly, in 1984 he created a number of paintings focusing on the (Ovidian) theme of metamorphosis; these were exhibited in one of Szczesny's largest early exhibitions, alongside ancient sculpture at the Glyptothek and Staatliche Antikensammlung in Munich.
The first comprehensive retrospective of Szczesny's work followed in 1988, curated by Klaus Honneff at the Rheinisches Landesmuseum in Bonn.
In late 80s and early 90s, Szczesny's work was shown in many exhibitions. The artist, during these years, discovered his love of the Caribbean, evinced for instance in his Jamaica paintings of 1990. But Szczesny was engaged in other projects, too. For instance, he painted a series of portraits of personal "culture heroes", from Bach to James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Glenn Gould and Jimi Hendrix. He also created comprehensive stage designs (e.g. for Gert Pfafferodt's production of Schiller's "Kabale und Liebe").
In 1994, Szczesny relocated to New York, setting up his studio at 12 Warren Street. The exposure to the New York art scene (post Andy Warhol) had an important effect on the artist. He began better to understand art as a professional business. One of the results was the founding, in 1996, of the "Szczesny Factory". The Factory is modelled on the large-scale workshops of the Italian Renaissance and Warhol's Factory. It has since allowed him wide-ranging activities, including book publications, architectural projects and collaborations with fashion labels (such as Escada).
Two major art projects implemented during these years (and in the Szczesny Factory framework) were the "Kempinski Art Project" in 1998, which involved the comprehensive artistic design of the Kempinski Hotel Bahia in Estepona/Marbella; and the "Living Planet" art project at the Expo 2000 in Hanover, which involved the creation of twelve painted murals, with dimensions of H 300 x W 830 cm each, depicting a map of life and suggesting the importance of protecting endangered species.
In the mid-90s, Szczesny also began visiting the island of Mustique. He has travelled there regularly since and has created a number of Mustique-inspired paintings. His relation to Mustique is documented in his book on Mustique (2002).
In 2001, Szczesy moved to Saint-Tropez in South France. In view of Szczesny's love of nature and the Mediterranean, this was a logical step. In taking it, he also continued the tradition of painters such as Paul Signac or Henri Matisse who had lived and worked in Saint-Tropez.
In 2001/02, Szczesy spent some time in a studio in Seville, Spain, where he created a number of Flamenco-inspired artworks. In 2002, a film documenting his achievements ("Szczesny – The film", directed by the Austro-American director Curt Faudon) was presented at the 55th Cannes Film Festival. In 2005, Szczesny began producing his so-called "shadow sculptures", cut from black steel plates and depicting lush vegetation and sensual female figures as symbols of life. In 2007, the exhibition "Mainau – The dream of an earthly paradise" offered a comprehensive overview of Szczesny's wide-ranging artistic output. On the occasion, Szczesny transformed Mainau island into a total work of art, creating a large number of ceramics in various shapes and sizes, large glass stelae and many other objects, including a bridge and a painted zeppelin NT. In 2008, Szczesny began work on a series of "golden paintings"; in these, Szczesny uses the powerful symbol that is gold and its associations with bounty and glory to celebrate life's beauty. In 2010, Szczesny opened his large new studio in Saint-Tropez.
In 2011, Szczesny began to collaborate with the car company Jaguar, as the company's brand ambassador. The collaboration has allowed the artist to realise major art projects. In 2011, Jaguar presented an exhibition of Szczesny's shadow sculptures in St. Moritz, on Sylt and in Saint-Tropez. In 2012, around a large number of sculptures, ceramics and paintings were shown in Frankfurt (and in particular in Frankfurt’s Palmengarten).
- Donald Kuspit: Szczesny: Neue Wilden works from the 80s. Szczesny Factory & Publishing GmbH Berlin, Berlin, 2012, ISBN 978-3-9813406-8-6.
- Andreas Lueck (Hrsg.): Szczesny. Shadows. St. Moritz - Sylt - St. Tropez (Jaguar Art Collection). Szczesny Factory & Publishing GmbH Berlin, Berlin, 2011, ISBN 978-3-9813406-1-7.
- Frédéric Ballester: Szczesny. Mediterranée. L'esprit du sud. Monographie. Szczesny Factory & Publishing & Gallery GmbH Berlin, Berlin, 2011, ISBN 978-3-9813406-4-8.
- Andreas Lück: Szczesny. Saint-Tropez. Szczesny Factory & Publishing GmbH, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-9808881-8-9
- Stefan Szczesny: Szczesny. Best of Mustique. Szczesny Factory & Publishing & Gallery, Saint-Tropez, 2009, ISBN 978-3-9813406-0-0.
- Andreas Lück: Szczesny. Tegernsee. Ein Sommer am Tegernsee. Szczesny Factory & Publishing GmbH, Berlin, 2008, ISBN 978-3-980881-9-6.
- Stefan Szczesny: Szczesny. An earthly paradise. Szczesny Factory, Saint Tropez, 2007, ISBN 3-9808881-7-7
- Stefan Szczesny: Szczesny. Insel Mainau. Ein Traum vom irdischen Paradies. Prestel Verlag, München, 2007, ISBN 978-3-7913-3916-0
- Stefan Szczesny: Szczesny. Mustique. teNeues Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, Kempen 47906, ISBN 3-8238-5591-3
- Stefan Szczesny: Luxe, calme et volputé... ou la joie de vivre , La Malmaison - Cannes, 2001, Catalogue.
- WWF und Expo 2000 (Hrsg.): Szczesny, The Living Planet. Szczesny Factory, Köln, ISBN 3-00-006163-0
- Donald Kuspit: Szczesny. DuMont Kunstbuchverlag, Köln 1995 ISBN 3-7701-3399-4.
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