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March 2005

Modest Art

Munich's New Star Has Emerged from the Shadows

Florian Süssmayr painted in obscurity for many years. As he himself admits, “There was a time when I didn’t want to show my pictures at all, to anyone. That changed when it became clear that I simply couldn’t avoid it.” After ten years of painting and holding occasional exhibitions, Süssmayr has suddenly received acknowledgement, indeed accolades, from the Munich art scene. In September 2004, he held a 10-day exhibition of 20 paintings in an abandoned shopping center near the Central Train Station. He invited friends, acquaintances and a few gallery owners to attend. On the final day, Susanne Gaensheimer, a curator at the Lenbachhaus, attended the installation. Impressed by the paintings, she convinced Süssmayr to extend his exhibition by a few days. The next day, she encouraged several important colleagues to view the work of this talented new artist. Chris Dercon, director of Munich’s Haus der Kunst, responded to her invitation and personally visited the show. Dercon was equally enthusiastic. Months after this fortunate encounter, Süssmayr’s paintings are now to be exhibited at two major art museums in Munich.

At 41, this native of Munich has followed a circuitous path to success; indeed it is his colorful personal history that informs his paintings. In his youth, Süssmayr was a member of the punk-movement Freizeit 81. He combined artistic and musical talent, contributing photo collages to Freizeit 81’s fanzine while founding and playing in the band Lorenz Lorenz until 1984. To this day, the popular punk band The Ramones remains one of his sources of inspiration. An avid soccer enthusiast, Süssmayr has also played for Munich’s amateur soccer league since 1987. And, before turning his focus to painting, Süssmayr was involved in the film industry for about ten years. He worked behind the scenes, as a cameraman and light technician, and was frequently involved in experimental or documentary films. Süssmayr’s love of soccer, his experience in the punk movement and his work in documentary filmmaking are all evident in his current artistic work.

Süssmayr paints the ordinary and the overly familiar, places and objects most people overlook—graffiti on subway walls, tabletops at a restaurant, an old man at a café. Süssmayr transforms these unremarkable subjects into beautiful, compelling images by rendering them in minute detail. The images are appealing because they are so familiar, lingering at the edge of our consciousness. With titles such as Stachus Untergeschoss or Bahnhof Freising 2, we realize we may have passed the original “works of art” without attaching any importance to them.

Süssmayr’s twin passions for soccer and punk music are manifested in many of his paintings. A soccer ball is wedged, inexplicably, behind the sign above the door in Zur neuen Post, and Dee Dee Ramone features the torso of the famous punk musician. About his own work Süssmayr says, “…the themes are simple, perhaps unfriendly; they show a particular attitude, skepticism, aloofness… Basically, I just find my motifs, i.e., I find a part of my world. It’s all about seeing and recognizing.”

Süssmayr typically paints in oils, often working from a photographic image of his subject. He paints in two dimensions, without foreground or background, which, combined with his painstaking detail and choice of commonplace subjects, gives his work the documentary feel of a photojournalist. Süssmayr works from a palette of dark hues, creating an undercurrent of disquiet. Wordlists are often painted into his pictures. For example, in Rosis Bar 2, a handwritten menu appears inked over the main image.

Süssmayr’s exhibition at the Haus der Kunst, “Paintings for German Museums,” will be on show in the former Ehrenhalle of the museum. It will comprise some 40 paintings created between 1998 and 2004. The show runs from February 17 until May 1. Throughout the exhibition, the Haus der Kunst will be offering evening talks on and tours of Süssmayr’s work. On March 1 at 8 pm Süssmayr and Susanne Gaensheimer of the Lenbachhaus will give a joint presentation. Guided tours by art experts will be offered at 7 pm on March 17 (Dominik Wichmann of the Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin), April 21 (Courtenay Smith of Lothringer 13) and April 28 (Stefan Kalmar and Daniel Pies of the Kunstverein München).

In addition to the Haus der Kunst exhibition, Süssmayr’s work will have simultaneous showings in two other Munich locations. From February 12 till May 16, his paintings will be part of the group exhibition “New Art in Munich,” held in the Kunstbau der Städtischen Galerie at the Lenbachhaus. From March 10 till April 9, the Galerie Rüdiger Schöttle will hold an exhibition of Florian Süssmayr and Thomas Helbig’s work. <<<

To preview Süssmayr’s paintings before attending an exhibition, visit the following Websites: or

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