The Exhibition

With around 50 artworks, Reiner Ruthenbeck forms an important part of the collection of contemporary art at the LWL-Museum für Kunst und Kultur. On the occasion of the eightieth birthday of  the artist who passed away last year, the museum is showing a selection of his artworks in the light atrium of the original museum building in the form of the exhibition “Idee und Form” [Idea and Form]. Ruthenbeck had a close connection with the city and its region due to his long-term teaching activities at the Münster Academy of Art. The exhibition reminds  us of the highly diverse artist and brings together two important aspects of his œuvre: his drawings and works with paper.

Ruthenbeck considered his drawings  to always be an artistically independent method of expression in addition to his sculptural installations. He articulated ideas and designs for conceptual sculptures within the drawings which, however, simultaneously manifest the quality of autonomous expression. In their design and structure, and analogue to the arrangements of his room installations, they feature a conscientious implementation that was typical for Ruthenbeck. For the first time drawings from the collection of the museum and from the Westfälische Provinzial Versicherung surround Ruthenbeck's “Bodenraute 130 / 1300” [Floor Diamond] in the exhibition, the latter being first witnessed in Münster as a light atrium installation in 1991. Paper itself was an important component within Ruthenbeck's repertoire of sculptural materials. The artist created various versions of paper heaps and floor diamonds that he usually specifically created for the particular location. In addition to the sets of drawings, the concept for the floor diamond entered the museum collection as a gift of the artist.

The series of floor diamond works, of which Ruthenbeck created a total of six in his lifetime, were preceded by a series of installations based on the raw material of paper. In contrast to textiles which formed a further important material for Ruthenbeck, paper is not immediately compliant to the force of gravity. It can also be simply moulded into form: his paper heaps shown for the first time in 1970 and consisting  of crumpled black or white sheets of paper are a primary example of this. Ruthenbeck's installations generally dispense with narrative or contextual elements to place  a focus on a clear language of design and a specific material. The works were usually additively created in a systematic way  by a compression and densification of materials that remains comprehensible for the viewer. This also applies to the first room-filling floor diamond created by Ruthenbeck in 1989 in the Galerie Dacic in Tübingen, Germany. For the purpose  he layered A4 sheets of paper next to each other and one above the other so that the middle of the room remained visible as a part of the floor in the form of  a linear diamond: this however could only be experienced from a distance because the white paper formed an almost natural border that did not prompt the viewer  to enter. He produced the floor diamond in the same way in Münster in 1991 that was a version of the so-called light atrium installation that have took place since the 1970's. Although with around 170 square metres it occupies the complete space  of the inner courtyard in the current exhibition, the work is characterised by  a discreet sense of purity and clarity.

The drawings by contrast have a playful and spontaneous essence but without forfeiting any of their apparently effortless sovereignty. Reiner Ruthenbeck precisely formulated ideas and carried out studies that, as with his sculptural practice, always rendered the production process itself visible – disclosure of the method formulates the artistic strategy. While the earlier drawings can be understood to be studies, and in a similar way to a photograph may evoke a correlation between depiction and production, later graphic sheets relate more significant structural considerations. At the same time the drawings expose a repertoire of Ruthenbeck's concepts that he consistently varied and implemented but also left in the space as mere possibilities. Among other factors it is this innate tension between vestigial sketch and actual realisation that releases the drawings of the artist from their function of servicing and highlights their artistic independence. Reiner Ruthenbeck produced his drawings predominantly on sheets of A4 paper often using, in addition to lead pencils, colored pencils or felt pens. The museum collection includes 39 of his drawings, 15 of which are on permanent loan from the Westfälische Provinzial Versicherung Aktiengesellschaft.


Reiner Ruthenbeck, born in 1937 in Velbert, Rheinland, Germany, is today one of the most important German sculptors of his generation. Following a photography apprenticeship, he studied under Joseph Beuys at the Düsseldorf Academy of Art. Already during his studies he developed a unique artistic language based on the concepts of surrealism, although primarily integrating the strategies of minimal art and conceptual art. His international career was based on his participation in the pioneering exhibition “When Attitudes Become Form” in the Berner Kunsthalle  in 1969 and his contribution to the German Pavilion of the Venice Biennale in 1976. Ruthenbeck held a professorship at the Münster Academy of Art from 1980 to 2000. In addition to many national and international exhibitions and prizes, he was also awarded the Konra- von-Soest-Prize in 1982 by the Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe and took part four times in the documenta and twice in the Sculpture Projects. His concept “Begegnung Schwarz/Weiß” [Black/White Encounter] was posthumously implemented in Marl as part of the Sculpture Projects 2017. Reiner Ruthenbeck passed away in December last year at the age of 79.

Events and guided tours

Friday, 8 December 2017, 8 pm

Curator’s tour with Marijke Lukowicz

Thursday, 8 February 2018, 7.30 pm

Dr. Mario Kramer, Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main in conversation with Dr. Marianne Wagner

Reiner Ruthenbeck, Bodenraute, 1991, Installationsansicht 2017. © VG Bild-Kunst Bonn, 2017. Foto: LWL / Sabine Ahlbrand-Dornseif, Anne Neier