Snippet from Oskar Schlemmer, draft for a wall frieze in the Mendelsohn House, Berlin, 1930. Photo: Daimler Art Collection/ Andreas Freytag, Stuttgart.

From the archive:

From classic modernism to the contemporary art scene of the African diaspora: the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection collects in order to inspire. For this reason, its curator, Dr Renate Wiehager, presents a special highlight of the collection in every issue.

High-profile art collection.

The Mercedes-Benz Art Collection, founded in 1977, is one of the most prestigious corporate collections in the world. No other car company has amassed such a high-profile art collection. 

Oskar Schlemmer, draft for a wall frieze in the Mendelsohn House, Berlin, 1930. Photo: Daimler Art Collection/ Andreas Freytag, Stuttgart.

Oskar Schlemmer, draft for a wall frieze in the Mendelsohn House, Berlin, 1930. Photo: Mercedes-Benz Art Collection/ Andreas Freytag, Stuttgart.

Oskar Schlemmer: Envisioning a new view of humanity.

Decisive for its success are the quality and diversity of its works, which are selected with an emphasis on contemporary topics. Corporate collections are all about building bridges for people who have little to no contact with art and culture in their day-to-day lives, opening up worlds that may seem inaccessible to many at first, but which can also open up new perspectives and realisations at a second glance. For this reason, I would like to present highlights from the 3,700 or so artworks in the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection, presenting in each issue a brief story about the eternal drive for novelty in art. As the very first profile, I have chosen a true visionary from Stuttgart.

The multi-talented Oskar Schlemmer (1888–1943) is now considered one of the most experimental artists of the early 20th century. Trained in Stuttgart as a painter and a dancer, he also made a profession for three decades as a sculptor, illustrator, graphic designer and set designer for the theatre. As one of the teachers at the Bauhaus institute, which opened in Weimar in 1919, he shaped an entire generation of young creative minds who went on to carry his spirit with them into the world. 

The Mercedes-Benz Art Collection owns a representative selection of this artist’s works – including two sketches of wall friezes measuring 110 x 326 cm from 1930, which Schlemmer was commissioned to draw by architect Erich Mendelsohn for his private residence in Berlin. The wall frieze never came to fruition, however. The draft shown here is a beautiful example of Schlemmer’s ideal of the “new human”. 

Based on images from Ancient Greece, the space is subdivided by figures measuring out the room using horizontal and vertical gestures. “Space and humans”, according to Schlemmer in 1930, “is the general topic on a large enough scale to actually be able to glimpse the innermost self. However, the initial impression is of the feeling of the stream of the subconscious, of carefree creation.” New York’s Museum of Modern Art had already acquired one of the artist’s paintings back in 1933 – it is seen by the collection as one of the outstanding early modernist works of the German art scene.