Painting, in particular European painting from the late 19th century to the present day, is the undisputed highlight of the Hilti Art Foundation’s collection.
It is also the principal focus of the current exhibition, which includes 28 works by such artists as Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Lovis Corinth, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Pablo Picasso, Verena Loewensberg, Imi Knoebel, Sean Scully, Hanns Kunitzberger and Callum Innes. These enjoy the company of eight sculptures by Medardo Rosso, Alberto Giacometti, Henry Moore and others, which are the secondary focus only in terms of quantity. The encounter between the two genres is far from casual, for the works respond to each other both in form and content.
The exhibition thus draws attention to a medium that shows an exceptional diversity of materials, above and beyond any subject matter that is depicted. Painting is ordinarily applied to a flat support of wood, canvas, cotton, aluminium, cardboard, paper or other suitable materials. The medium itself, that is, the paint, consists of extremely fine-grained pigments combined with binders such as egg yolk, casein, glue, oil, acrylic or synthetic resin. Depending on the agent, the paint looks matt or shiny, opaque or transparent. Its consistency may vary from a pastose layer to a thin diluted wash and it can be applied with fingers, paintbrush, roller, spatula, squeegee or spray gun. In addition to all of these factors, the personal signature of the artist is ultimately the most important in determining the appearance of the painting.
It is the material properties of painting and sculpture that invite the eye to take a closer look and enjoy the pleasure of appreciation, a pleasure that is all the greater the more intense and precise the visual enquiry. As the painter Gerhard Richter put it in 1990:
"It is always only about seeing … You can paint anything. Seeing if what you do is good or not is more difficult. But it is the only thing that matters … Seeing is, of course, also the decisive act that ultimately equates producer and viewer."
The exhibition is curated by Uwe Wieczorek, curator of the Hilti Art Foundation.