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2014.07.22 Tue, by Translated by: 梁舒涵
Otto Piene, ZERO Group Founder, dies at 86

Not so often does one think of death as a friend. However, in the case of Otto Piene, the famous German artist who died this Thursday at the age of 86, one cannot help but admire the perfection in the timing of his passing. On the way home in a taxi after the openings of his exhibitions at Deutsche Bank KunstHalle and Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, he returned to “Zero”.

“Zero ist die Stille. Zero ist der Anfang…” was part of the manifesto of the artists’ movement Zero, which was founded by Otto Piene and Heinz Mack in 1958 as Germany’s answer to Lucio Fontana, Yves Klein and Piero Manzoni.

Otto Piene, “The Proliferation of the Sun”, installation view, 2014 (Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin; photo: David von Becker)
奥托•皮纳,“扩散的阳光”,展览现场,2014 (柏林新国家美术馆; 图片:David von Becker)

“Zero is silence. Zero is the beginning…” was the artists’ attempt on a “Stunde Null” (Zero hour), a complete new beginning after the terrors of the Second World War. It was abstraction, it was light, it was pure energy. The movement that quickly grew to some forty or fifty artists transported German audiences into a blissful notion of the future. The USSR had just launched the Sputnik and the sky was the limit. Otto Piene certainly was reaching for it and for at least two decades his work was front and center in almost every museum in Germany. Ironically it was the fall of the Berlin wall that pushed aside the Zero artists, as a new future was about to start. So during the past twenty-five years or so, a strange sentimentality about a future-past began engulfing the artworks of Zero and also those of Otto Piene. In Berlin one can witness the grand finale of an energetic artist whose work now is history.