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Frank Bowling (*1934 in Bartica, Guyana) is awarded the Wolfgang Hahn Prize 2022 by the Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst. The award ceremony is linked to a purchase for the Museum Ludwig collection. 

Frank Bowl­ing, Flogging the Dead Donkey, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Museum Ludwig.

As part of the Wolfgang Hahn Prize 2022, the Society for Modern Art has made the first acquisition for a public collection in Germany thanks to the generosity of the artist. Frank Bowling’s painting Flogging the Dead Donkey (2020) will become part of the Museum Ludwig collection.

The title of the work is an ironic statement by the artist about his preoccupation with abstract painting. Bowling’s interest in abstraction began in 1966 during his early years in New York when he encountered the work of Ad Reinhardt, Barnett Newman, Clyfford Still, Marcia Hafif and Mark Rothko, all of whom experimented with monochrome painting and its variants. The overall composition of Bowling’s painting pays homage to previous generations of colourists and illustrates his ongoing exploration of monochrome painting. With the complexity of the surface textures and the extraordinary intensity of the red tones as well as the subtle flashes of other colours and remains of gold pigments, this late work illustrates his maxim,

Flogging the Dead Donkey will be shown in a presentation at Museum Ludwig from November 16, 2022 to February 12, 2023. The edition developed by Frank Bowling from a print of the drip edge of the purchased picture will also be presented. Archival material and quotations outline Bowling’s diverse preoccupation with art as an artist and author. A film by his son Sacha Bowling combines photos and footage from his entire artistic career with a recent interview between author-critic Mel Gooding and Frank Bowling.

“The artist experiences the appreciation of his work at the end of a long career and at the beginning of an art-historical classification as a classic. Frank Bowling creates a unique abstract painting that remains subversive to a clear attribution in its thematic and material complexity. Through the purchase for the Wolfgang Hahn Prize, the Museum Ludwig is the first public collection in Germany to receive a painting by Frank Bowling, thus opening up the possibility of an in-depth reception of his work. We are very grateful to Frank Bowling for his generosity,” says Mayen Beckmann, Chairwoman of the Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst.

Yilmaz Dziewior, Director of the Museum Ludwig: “Ever since 2017, when I saw Frank Bowling’s exhibition ‘Mappa Mundi’ in the Haus der Kunst, I have wanted a work from him for the Museum Ludwig collection. Because within our important and multi-layered collection of abstract tendencies, a work like Flogging the Dead Donkey, 2020, in which the spirit of American colour field painting and British abstraction combine to form an incomparable, very independent position, has so far been missing. I am pleased that we can now make it possible for Frank Bowling’s work to receive due attention in Germany.”

The exhibition will be on view from the 16th of November, 2022, until the 12th of February, 2023. For more information, please visit the Museum Ludwig.

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