40th Annual Meeting- Book and Paper Session May 09: “Change the Frame and You Change the Game?:Research and Re-evalution of the Presentation Formats of the Kunstammlung’s Paul Klee Collection” By Nina Quabeck

The focus of this presentation was the search –or self-described quest- by the staff of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf to return their collection of Paul Klee works to their original presentation formats.  The speaker began by giving the genesis of the Paul Klee collection at museum which has recently acquired their 100th Paul Klee artwork. 

Through study of photographs of Klee’s studio and gallery exhibitions combined with the detailed handwritten cataloging Klee himself kept of completed artworks (predominately if not exclusively paintings) lends much insight into the manner in which the works on paper were likely displayed as well.  The studio catalog was transcribed in entirety in the nine volume catalog raissone of Klee.  Currently the collection of works on paper is predominately framed in a typical “gallery” style format with a gilded molding and textile covered wooden liners.   It is likely these frames were the addition of owners or dealers to increase the cache of the artworks as Klee’s original presentations were likely very modest.  The research into what the original or appropriate presentation style of these works has lead the conservators and curators to choose to display the works on paper in a uniform manner as they are not able to recreate the original presentation of each individual work.  The selected presentation format will be a simple, thin wooden molding frame, reminiscent of the plain strip frame used for many of the paintings, with a dark stain and white mats. 

In addition to the discussion of the framing of Klee’s works the speaker also touched on the topic of Klee’s use of a secondary support on which he typically made notations about the work.  She presented several examples from the Kunstsammlung’s collection in which the works have been removed from these secondary supports.  This lead to a discussion of the role these secondary supports played in Klee’s original presentation and the challenges this will present in proper display in the future. 

This was a very interesting presentation about a project which is taking a strong look at just how important presentation and framing formats can be to the intended aesthetic of a work.  While for some artists framing/presentation are secondary thoughts if thoughts at all but the scholarship of Paul Klee clearly shows that it was important to him and an integral part of the completion of an artwork prior to leaving the studio.  In this presentation Quabeck asserts that it is the duty of the conservator and curator to respect this in a similar way in which they respect the integrity of the image.