Günther Uecker's Portrait - Photo by Frank van Groen

Gunther Uecker /   Günther Uecker

Germany 1930

Kinetic Art, Op Art, Zero Movement

Gunther Uecker
Günther Uecker
August 28, 2016
Nina Karaicic is a journalist with experience in TV and radio media. Born in 1989, she had studied at the University of Belgrade – Faculty of Political Sciences (Journalism). Interests: Photography, Art, Film, Folklore, Video Games

The artist whom one object has definitely marked the whole career, Günther Uecker for the first time used nails as a most important part of his artwork in 1967, simultaneously exploring the avant-garde ideas of Suprematism or Unism. Growing up in the East Germany during the Second World War, these traumatic experiences would later influence, deeply permeate and largely direct his artistic practice, but also the way he faced life. Symbolizing the paradox of “healing by hurting”, the nail refers not only to his personal trauma but has a historical meaning whose clearest example of the ritual use is found in Christianity.

 years 2011 and 2016 in march were the years of exhibition in white gallery
Günther Uecker – Sandmühle (Sand mill), 2014 – Image via ccslifestyle.com

From Social Realism to Conceptual Works and Installations

Born in 1930 in Wendorf in Mecklenburg, Uecker gained his education at the Art Academy of Berlin-Weissensee from 1949 to 1953 where he was directed toward Socialist Realism. Everything changed after his further artistic training under Otto Pankok, famous Expressionist printmaker at the Academy of Art in Düsseldorf. During the 1950’s he started to show the interest in repetitive practice, particularly archery and purification rituals, such as Gregorian chants, gradually developing his own rituals – extensive, repetitive, meditative hammering of nails, implementing the theoretical ideas into his artistic practice. The nails have appeared for the first time in his work in 1957 when he used them on canvas with the aim of creating relief structures. Followed by the implementation of corks and cardboard tubes, his reliefs crossed beyond the boundaries of the two-dimensional pieces that explored the traces of light and shadow produces by destructive act of piercing the canvas. Resulting in the works deeply imbued with approaches of the dominant Expressionism and Informal Art, the artist strived to develop a more concrete relationship between the viewer and the artwork. Modifying his treatment by including kinetic elements and adopting auto-generative organic aspect through the use of the engine, Uecker revealed his 1965 installation New York Dancer which was the first example of these new methods[1]. A column sculpture draped in a piece of canvas with nails hammered like their sharp ends were sprouted on the exterior of the column, were designed to move, rotating around its axis while the nails flew upward with speed.

Uecker’s reliefs go beyond the boundaries of the two-dimensional painting that explores the traces of light and shadow, more resembling the sculpture

During the years 2011 and 2016 in march press released the articles about white fairs where has been held a museum exhibition where he showed his nail pieces. They achieved the contact with this artworks
Günther Uecker – TV with Nails, 1963 (Left) / The New York Dancer, 1965 (Right) – Images via museumkijker.nl and hdaguillaumehun.blog.fr

Günther Uecker as a Part of the Zero Group and Important Exhibitions

In 1960, Uecker became a part of the Zero Group, along with Heinz Mack and Otto Piene. They advocated the new beginning of art, as the opposite of the German Informel, considering the fact that, following the horrors of the Second World War, art need to return to a zero degree in order to overcome the violent and destructive experiences. As a result of the joint studios at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam where three artists worked together emerged the installation Salon de Lumiere showed at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Exploring the medium of light, Uecker researched optical phenomena and structures that included the viewer into the visual process by kinetic or manual intervention[2]. During the years, the artist created numerous of different artworks with hammered nails using the pieces of furniture. After the split-up of the members of the Zero Group in 1966, Uecker once more changed the direction of his interests, this time toward Conceptual and Land Art, designing the stage sets for several operas. Beside exhibitions with the Zero Group, the artist’s work participated in a number of important shows, such as Venice Biennale (1970) and his first solo exhibition when the American audience had a chance to see his kinetic New York Dancer was held at the Howard Wise Gallery on West 57th Street in 1966.

Günther Uecker lives and works in Düsseldorf and St. Gallen, Switzerland.


  1. Anonymous. Biography, Dominique Levy [August 28, 2016]
  2. Anonymous. Günther Uecker, Wikipedia [August 28, 2016]

Featured image: Günther Uecker’s Portrait – Photo by Frank van Groen

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2016Günther Uecker - Hammerschläge Galerie Terminus, MunichGroup
2016Günther Uecker: Verletzte FelderDominique Lévy Gallery - London, LondonSolo
2016Sammlung mit losen EndenKunst aus NRW, AachenGroup
2016Beckmann, Picasso, Giacometti & moreKunstmuseum Liechtenstein, VaduzGroup
2016Sammlung Kunsthalle Göppingen und GästeKunsthalle Göppingen, GöppingenGroup
2016Accrochage - Punta della DoganaFrancois Pinault Foundation, VeniceGroup
2016Günther Uecker - der geschundene MenschKunsthalle Rostock, RostockSolo
2015Günther ÜckerTEA Tenerife Espacio de las Artes, Santa Cruz de TenerifeGroup
2015Günther ÜckerGalerie Terminus, MunichGroup
2014Günther Uecker Axel Vervoordt Gallery, AntwerpGroup
2014Günther Uecker Museo de Bellas Artes Cuba, HavanaGroup
2013Arbeiten auf PapierGalerie Geuer & Breckner, DusseldorfGroup
2013Günther Uecker - Das Buch Hiob / Kann Fruchtbarkeit auf Asche gründenAkademie Franz Hitze Haus, MünsterGroup
2012–2013Sandspirale in Ends of the Earth - Land Art bis 1974, Haus der Kunst, München, GermanyGroup
2012–2013Günther Uecker und Enrico Castellani, Ca’ Pesaro, Galleria Internazionale d’Arte Moderna, Venice, ItalyGroup
2012Honarhaye Moaser Tehran - Teheran Museum of Contemporary Art, Teheran, IranGroup
2010Günther Uecker, Handlungen Ulmer Museum, Ulm, Germany Solo
2009Target Practice: Painting Under Attack 1949-78, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, USAGroup
2009Art of Two Germanys-Cold War Cultures, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Broad Contemporary Art MuseumGroup
2009Günther Uecker - Das Buch Hiob, Kunst-Raum des Deutschen Bundestags, Berlin, Germany Solo
2008Gunther Uecker: Post for Ordos, Ordos Art Museum, China Solo
2008Günther Uecker: Nagelobjekt, Prägedrucke, Galerie Roland Aphold, Basel, Switzerland Solo
2008Tàpies, Hartung, Uecker, Förg, Kunstmuseum, St. Gallen, SwitzerlandGroup
2008Günther Uecker - works on paper, Kunsthalle Jesuitenkirche, Aschaffenburg, Germany Solo
2007–2008Homenaje a Picasso, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago de Chile, ChileGroup
2007Brief an Peking, National Museum of China in Beijing, China Solo
2007Ewerdt Hilgemann - Günther Uecker,Galerie Roland Aphold, Basel, SwitzerlandGroup
200730 Jahre walter storms galerie, Walter Storms Galerie, Munich, GermanyGroup
2007Der Geschundene Mensch (The Human Abused), National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai, India Solo
2006–2007Shelter - Kunst für zwangsprostituierte Frauen, Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, GermanyGroup
2006–2007UntitledZERO Musée d´Art Moderne, Saint-Etienne, FranceGroup
2006UntitledMuseum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf, GermanyGroup
2006UntitledMuseum der Moderne, Salzburg, AustriaGroup
2006UntitledGalerie Haas, Zürich, SwitzerlandGroup
2006Günther Uecker, National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, India; National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai, India Solo
2005EXIT_AUSSTIEG AUS DEM BILD, ZKM, Karlsruhe, GermanyGroup
2005Old Worlds, New Expressions, German Artist Günther Uecker, Deustchen Kulturzentrum National Museum of History, Taipei, Taiwan Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, Kaohsiung, Taiwan Solo
2005UntitledGalerie Michael Haas, Berlin, GermanyGroup
2005FARBE FLÄCHE FORM, Galerie Neher, Essen, GermanyGroup
2004Monocromos de Malevich al Presente, Museo Nacional Centro de Art Reina Sofia, Madrid Solo
2004UntitledGalerie Neher, Essen, GermanyGroup
2004Zwischenspiel mit goldenen Affen, Neues Museum Weserburg, Bremen, GermanyGroup
2004Beuys - Chillida - Uecker, Galerie Löhrl, Mönchengladbach, GermanyGroup
2004SOMMERLUST - KUNST-STÜCKE , Galerie Rothe, Frankfurt, GermanyGroup
2003–2004Berlin-Moskau - Moskau-Berlin, Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin, GermanyGroup
2003–2004Alles auf eine Karte... , Walter Storms Galerie, Munich, GermanyGroup
2003Konkrete Kunst - Die Sammlung Holze, Von der Heydt Museum, Wuppertal, GermanyGroup
2003M_ARS - Kunst und Krieg, Neue Galerie, Graz, AustriaGroup
2002Iconoclash, ZKM, Karlsruhe, GermanyGroup
2001–2002Outside the network ?, Edith Wahlandt Galerie, Stuttgart, GermanyGroup
2000Kunst aus den achtziger Jahren, Galerie Andreas Baumgartl, Munich, GermanyGroup
2000Der Geschundene Mensch, Mazedonisches Museum für Zeitgenössische Kunst, Thessaloniki, Greece Solo
2000Das fünfte Element - Geld oder Kunst, Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf, GermanyGroup
1997–1998Deutschlandbilder, Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin, GermanyGroup
1996Günther Uecker Der geschundene Mensch, Museu de Arte Moderna, Goethe-Institut und Instituto Cultural Brasil-Alemanha, Rio de Janeiro Museu de Arte Moderna, Sao Paulo Solo
1991Zone D – Innenraum, Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst, Leipzig, GermanyGroup
1986–1987Von zwei Quadraten, Wilhelm Hack-Museum, Ludwigshafen, GermanyGroup
198225 Jahre, Galerie Schmela, Düsseldorf, GermanyGroup
19793rd Biennale of SydneySydneyGroup
1977UntitledDocumenta 6, Kassel, GermanyGroup
1972Amsterdam Paris Düsseldorf, Guggenheim Museum, New YorkGroup
197235th Venice BiennaleVenice Group
1972Uecker Kreis Kreise, Galerie Schmela, Düsseldorf Solo
1970UeckerPalais des Beaux-Arts, Brüssel Solo
1969Between 2, Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf, GermanyGroup
1968Collaborates with Gerhard Richter in Leben im Museum-Museum Können Bewohnbare Orte SeinGroup
1968UntitledDocumenta 4, Kassel, GermanyGroup
1966UntitledMcRoberts & Tunnard Gallery, LondonGroup
1965The Responsive Eye, The Museum of Modern Art, New YorkGroup
1964–1965ZERO Presentation: Lichtraum, Dokumenta III, Kassel.Group
1964UntitledDocumenta 3, Kassel, GermanyGroup
1964Uecker Benagelte Objekte im Pianohaus Kohl, Pianohaus Kohl, Gelsenkirchen Solo
1962Salon de Lumière, in collaboration with Mack and Piene, Heinz Mack, Otto Piene et Günther Uecker-Dynamo, Palais des Beaux-Arts, BrusselsGroup
1962NUL, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The NetherlandsGroup
1958Das Rote Bild (The Red Painting), Heinz Mack and Otto Piene Studio, DüsseldorfGroup

Verletzungen-Verbindungen 1Sold
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Verletzungen-Verbi...Gunther UeckerBergamin & Gomide109 x 70 cm Mixed Media
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Wind , 2000Gunther Uecker100 x 70 cm Prints
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