When the central memorial event for the victims of the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001 was held in New York on Saturday, silence also fell at the estate of the sculptor Fritz Koenig in Ganslberg near Landshut. Many guests had gathered there, punctually at 2:46 p.m., like the people in America, they fell silent for a minute of remembrance. The fact that the property, which had been orphaned since Koenig’s death in 2017, was full of life before and after the minute’s silence, had a gratifying reason.
For the first time ever, the so-called Kugelhalle was made accessible. The hall in which Fritz Koenig completed the large spherical caryatid 50 years ago, an ore work of art that was shipped from here to New York. There the monumental sculpture, which is called “The Sphere” in America, formed the center of a plaza in front of the Twin Towers for 30 years. The fact that this work of art was buried by the ruins of the towers but not destroyed continues to astonish to this day. In 2017 the sculpture returned to the site and now, according to the Fritz Koenig Circle of Friends, “looks out from Liberty Park with its cyclops eye over the wide area on which the tallest towers in the world once stood.”
No wonder, then, that visitors to Ganslberg were amazed that nobody in this magical place can escape. The name Fritz Koenig will be remembered simply because of the almost surreal connection between New York and Ganslberg. There is undoubtedly a piece of world history stuck to Ganslberg. A work of art was created here that mutated into a memorial after the attacks in 2001 and, overall, has similar unfathomable features to its creator, around whom many memories were entwined on Saturday.
Some guests reminded that Koenig’s work was permeated with premonitions at all. Paper cuts from 1994 entitled “Quake” appear to show the twin towers before they collapsed. A charcoal drawing from 1998 looks like it shows one of the towers being hit by an airplane. “When I see that, I sometimes get goose bumps,” confessed Fritz Koenig himself.
In Landshut itself there is little evidence of Koenig’s international standing. Which is also expressed in the tussle about his estate and, last but not least, about his Ganslberg estate. For the Fritz Koenig Circle of Friends there is no question that the Kugelhalle should be seen as a unique place in Bavaria and the only suitable place to open an exhibition on Koenig and the Kugelkaryatid on the day of the September 11, 2001 memorial.
Carl Graf von Soden-Fraunhofen, who values Koenig’s work very much, was among the guests. “This is a piece of home to show off,” he said, “Landshut can be proud of Koenig, even if you get the impression that this is not always the case.” He will never forget the opening of the Koenig retrospective in the Uffizi in Florence in summer 2018. He is still deeply impressed today by how prominently Koenig and Landshut were presented in the world museum. However, it is also a fact, as several visitors noted, that only sparse notice was taken of this event in Landshut.
During the conversations it was clear why the relationship between Landshut and the sculptor was complicated. Koenig was also a stubborn stubborn head. Sebastian Stanglmaier, the mayor of the Altdorf community, to which the Ganslberg district belongs, confirmed that the locals did not have a close relationship with Koenig. The artist had forfeited sympathies. He was positive that many people from Altdorf visited the exhibition in the Kugelhalle.
The Ganslberg property, about the future of which a feasibility study is currently being drawn up, is not only a historical testimony, but also an architectural jewel. Koenig had acquired several hectares of land on the hilltop in the early 1960s and built a house, horse stables and exhibition halls there. He integrated everything so harmoniously into the landscape that the ensemble itself is a work of art. You can understand how annoyed Koenig was when the most beautiful part of the property was taken away from him because of the construction of the A 92 motorway.
For the Bavarian Chamber of Architects, the Kugelhalle was a major reason to participate in the exhibition, said its president Lydia Haack. Koenig had it built especially for the construction of the sculpture. It lives from simple, clear forms, everything is functional. Koenig, who received the Bavarian State Prize for Architecture in 2009, always dealt intensively with the location, which is actually a basic requirement for any building, as Stanglmaier said. The result is that robustness that also protected the bullet from the violence.
The actor Stefan Hunstein then read out Koenig’s favorite passages from literature, including a section from Thomas Bernhard’s novel “Old Masters”. There Bernhard castigated the state of admiration as a state of mental weakness. “Fritz Koenig loved this place very much,” said Hunstein, the audience laughed. Martin Scharrer from the Fritz Koenig Circle of Friends replied, “So we have to cancel our admiration for Koenig. Hopefully we can do that.”
It was generally regretted that after the death of his wife Maria some things got out of hand in Koenig’s life. The artist was by leaps and bounds, surrounded by many admirers, which was good for him, but led to the fact that 80 works of art are missing from the legacy of the Fritz and Maria Koenig Foundation, the whereabouts of which are unclear. Saturday ended with the generally confirmed hope that at least the Ganslberg ensemble will be used satisfactorily.
The exhibition “Fritz Koenig. Large Ball Caryatid New York. From Artwork to Memorial” is again on 25/26. September in the Kugelhalle Ganslberg (registration at: [email protected]). After that she will go on a wandering tour until September 2022.