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Batch CCXCI. Schwarzwald, Thursday October 19, 2017 NO. 47
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Thomas Grässlin

Black Forest Avantgarde

In national terms, the Black Forest is an institution; internationally, it is a hilly creation. For the former, it is typified by cured ham and a climate with therapeutic qualities; for the latter, cuckoo clocks surrounded by fir trees. Tourists from near and far enjoy a quick trip to the Triberg Waterfalls. Although you're more likely to wander into nearby St. Georgen, with its 13,000 inhabitants and, quite possibly, just as many onomatopoeic clocks. A provincial backwater slumbering in provincial tranquility? No way! The Grässlin family has caused quite a stir in this quiet little community. With art. And not only in its own galleries, but also outside, in the town. Not that the coarse locals have no understanding of art, although this is usually rooted in their own culture, unpretentious and tangible. Grässlin's avant-garde exhibits, on the other hand, are met with a shake of the head by the locals. Or with tolerance in its truest sense; anything that attracts people to spend money there is endured. Maybe even quietly admired: He's a canny businessman, that Grässlin. Even though he has effectively turned St. Georgen into a local version of Kassel's fashionable "Documenta" exhibition.

Thomas Grässlin, the initiator of this big art in a little town, was born locally in 1957. Inventors have always been at home in the Black Forest and, as an engineer, he carried on the family tradition of manufacturing light meters. Before, during, and afterwards, art always had a prominent position in the Grässlin's lives as the female line ventured out into galleries and other art venues with their creative license. In St. Georgen, names such as Vincent Tavenne, Kai Althoff, Georg Herold, Burkard Kunkel, Ina Weber, Rüdiger Carl, and many more, leave discerning connoisseurs salivating in appreciation at their creations, scenic miniatures, sculptures, and so on. And then there is Martin Kippenberger. This unorthodox performance artist (his "Design for an Administration Building for Convalescent Mothers in Paderborn" is legendary) was a keen drinker. Possibly too keen, as he died aged just 44. He inspired Thomas Grässlin's sister, Sabine, with her restaurant/café/bar "Kippys" in St. Georgen. The name suits Kippenberger doubly; firstly, as a cute diminutive, and secondly, because Kippenberger was a frequent visitor to a restaurant of the same name in L.A. What makes the creative spirit of the Grässlins so wonderful is that their works are not secreted away. They are ubiquitous in St. Georgen and intended to be touched. Their audience should be like the Grässlins themselves: neither arrogant nor with the air of a supercilious expert. Upon request, art is explained in a disarmingly jovial way. The café is an ideal place for reflection. The Italophile menu delights guests with its lean prices. If it is served by someone wearing an endemic "Bollenhut" hat, no-one would bat an eyelid. And there is genuine Black Forest gin, too. It's name? Monkey 47, of course. So St. Georgen really is worth the trip!

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