March 11 - May 29, 2011
Berlin, Germany

The Museum of Modern Art
Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin

Compass in Hand:
Selections from The Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection

untitled, 1978
graphite on paper


untitled (Peter Berlin)
graphite on paper

This collection is shaped in its foundation by a dual trajectory of figurative practices on the one hand and abstract, Minimal, and Conceptual vocabularies on the other, tracing a rough chronology of each mode from the 1950s right up to the moment of the collection’s completion in 2005.

Among the artists represented in the collection are many of the greats of the twentieth century, including Tom of Finland, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Donald Judd, Agnes Martin, Edward Ruscha, Lee Bontecou, Martin Kippenberger, Sherrie Levine, and Paul McCarthy, a number of well-known contemporary artists such as Kai Althoff, John Currin, Arturo Herrera, Lucy McKenzie, and Paulina Olowska, and introduces into the Museum’s collection artists such as Christian Holstad, Nick Mauss, Seb Patane, and Amelie von Wulffen, all of whom have works presented in this exhibition.

The Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection, acquired by the Museum in 2005, is an extraordinary collection of over 2,500 contemporary works on paper. Through a selection of more than three hundred works, this first comprehensive presentation of the gift surveys the various methods and materials within the styles of gestural and geometric abstraction, representation and figuration, and systems-based and conceptual drawings. The exhibition brings together historical works by Tom of Finland, Lee Bontecou and Joseph Beuys; Minimalist and Conceptual works by Donald Judd and Hanne Darboven; detailed narrative drawings by Elizabeth Peyton and John Currin; collages by Amelie von Wulffen, Mona Hatoum, Lucy McKenzie and Paulina Olowska; and large-scale installations by Nate Lowman and Ján Mancuska, to name just a few. In its exploration of diverse artistic tendencies at the turn of the twenty-first century, this exhibition proudly celebrates the panoramic state of drawing today.

Organized by Christian Rattemeyer, The Harvey S. Shipley Miller Associate Curator of Drawings, with Cornelia H. Butler, The Robert Lehman Foundation Chief Curator of Drawings.

Note from Durk Dehner, ToFF president and cofounder


The Judith Rothschild Foundation is the current owner of #79-18, also known as “Tom’s Masterwork”. This drawing had previously been in the possession of Robert Mapplethorpe and eventually was sold in his estate auction at Christie’s, yet is still unclear if Mapplethorpe actually paid for the drawing. It had been included in a solo exhibition at the Robert Samuel Gallery in NYC from which many of the works either went missing or for which payment was never received. It was some time later when I discovered that the Robert Samuel Gallery had a silent partner: Robert Mapplethorpe. I interviewed Mapplethorpe just before his death, let him know how Tom of Finland felt about the experience and he stated that he didn’t know at the time of his partner’s unethical business practices. I encouraged him to do what he could to correct the situation, as it was very destructive in the area of artist/dealer relationships. In the end, Mapplethorpe never approached Tom with any apology or financial compensation.

Harvey Shipley Miller, trustee of The Judith Rothschild Foundation, called this drawing a masterwork. He also said that Tom did several masterworks in his lifetime and few artists ever do any. Miller stated, “That as an artist, Tom was superb; as an influence, he was transcendent.” Miller went on to explain how Tom’s influence was so evident in the expression of culture and how Tom opened a pathway for other artists in approaching and dealing with the subject of sexual response. Yes, Tom of Finland has been absorbed into the culture and it is exemplified in how that culture expresses itself — its music, its fashion and its artwork.

The Judith Rothschild Foundation acquired this drawing with the intent of donating it, along with other Tom of Finland pieces, to The Museum of Modern Art, New York. As the time drew closer, Miller realized that MoMA wasn’t ready to receive such a work, as they would have difficulties with the subject matter. Still pledging to fulfill its destiny, Miller revealed, that they were going to wait until the museum was ready for such an important work, “ So we shall wait till that time is right, for timing is everything, and until then it is hanging on the wall in my bedroom.”

“Tom’s Masterwork” and all of its preliminary sketches are very personal to me. They invoke a passion that inspires and gives me the fortitude to go that extra mile in keeping Tom’s message alive in popular culture. Tom’s work is still finding new audiences 19 years after his passing.

The Coming of Age graphic shows the five Tom of Finland works that are part of the The Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection. The Collection was formed by Miller, donated to MoMA in 2005 and was conceived to be the widest possible cross-section of contemporary drawing made primarily within the past 20 years. It includes artists from 30 countries around the world.

I have been working with Tom’s art for 30 years and I scratch my head — will society ever be ready to just accept and enjoy who we are as Queers? Is it our time?

— Durk Dehner

Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin
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Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin Website

MOMA Compass In Hand Webpage

The catalog for this exhibition is available from MoMA here.

A New York Times review of this exhibit can be viewed here.

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