The New Leipzig School

Paint, Paint, Paint – Then and Now

When it comes to painting as a medium, the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst /Academy of Fine Arts in Leipzig has always asserted itself confidently and with great dedication against prevailing trends in art. As far as the professors here are concerned, painting was never dead. Not when everyone was talking about video and performance art, and not when it was announced that art needed to be political. The results would tend to confirm the school’s program. Flouting all expectations, the painters who trained at the HGB during the 1990s became international stars virtually overnight. A renowned US-American art critic noticed a painting by Neo Rauch shown by Galerie Eigen und Art at an art fair in New York. She composed a hymn to him – and the rest is history. As a galerist, Judy Lybke became as famous as many of his artists. Neo Rauch’s success, meanwhile, brought attention to his students, and to those of Arno Rink. Both members of the older generation of teachers of the Leipzig School.
In the recent history of contemporary art, the success of this generation of younger painters is unprecedented. There have always been spectacular personalities, of course, but an entire group of students from a single art academy drawing an international art public to Leipzig? This was something new.
Fifteen years later, it is worthwhile casting a glance backward. What has become of these artists in the meantime? In retrospect, how do they perceive the hype that grew up around their pictures? Did the success they enjoyed back then benefit them in the long-term, or have they found it difficult to acclimatize to normality? And today, is such a label a blessing or a curse?
The notion of a New Leipzig School, by now well-established, is actually misleading, for it suggests a group with a cohesive position. This is by no means the case, and moreover never was. All of these artists were painters, to be sure, but each was fully independent, remote from any distinctive or shared formal tendency. Which makes it all the more interesting to observe today how the work of these artists has developed freely in relation to the label.
This documentary, the first comprehensive film devoted to the school, asks how the present relates to the past – and whether these artists must free themselves from it. We discover how these artists recall those heady times from a present-day perspective, and where they currently stand artistically. We visit major artists in their studios and at exhibitions, interview collectors from the early days, and meet with the most important gallery owners in the famous Spinnerei in Leipzig.

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