Munich (kk) - A newcomer to the field but driven by the desire to become an art dealer, Roman Norbert Ketterer founded the Stuttgarter Kunstkabinett in 1946. From his release from internment as an American prisoner of war in December 1946, his brother, Wolfgang Ketterer, who was nine years younger, gave his brother his full support in the business as of January 1947.
September 1947 saw publication of the first auction catalogue, featuring Max Slevogt drawings and prints. Comprising 183 entries, it was printed in an edition of 500. Despite the hardships of the postwar years, the auction was a great success. A market niche had opened up between satisfying the basic needs of life and the yearning for beauty.
A later auction was scheduled featuring Expressionist prints, ranging from Max Beckmann, Oskar Kokoschka to Erich Heckel and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. This was a bold venture indeed since it was the first time in Germany that works of art banned as 'degenerate' and confiscated in the Third Reich were offered for sale on the free market. The result of the auction confirmed what the Ketterers had long suspected: man does not live by bread alone. Even in hard times like the years after the second world war, the soul needs more sustenance than wooden clogs and turnip bread. Consequently, the two brothers set out to meet these deeply felt longings for creativity and beauty at Eberhardstraße 65 in Stuttgart, thus helping numerous artists who had been outlawed until then to renewed status and worldwide fame that surpassed all expectations.
By the time the catalogue for the second auction was issued in February 1948 in an edition of 3000, work by such luminaries as Chagall, Corinth, Dix, Feininger, Kirchner, Kollwitz, Kubin and Toulouse-Lautrec was offered for sale. This auction was succeeded by further triumphs and in the space of only a few years the Stuttgarter Kunstkabinett had become established as the leading auctioneers of Modern Art. It was a venue for great artists, connoisseurs and distinguished representatives of the cultural, economic and political spheres.
In 1954 the paths taken by the two brothers from the south-eastern Black Forest diverged. Wolfgang Ketterer opened a gallery of his own in the Hackländerstraße in Stuttgart and Roman Norbert Ketterer assumed the responsibility of executor to the estate of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner that same year. After moving to Campione d'Italia on Lake Lugano in 1962, Roman Norbert Ketterer devoted himself to writing extensively on his favourite artists. The unswerving commitment he showed to Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's work in particular ultimately came to fruition in the founding of the Kirchner Museum at Davos in 1992. Ten years later, Roman Norbert Ketterer, who died on 19 June 2002, was buried in the Waldfriedhof cemetery of Davos-Frauenkirch next to the grave of the great Expressionist whose work he had so admired. His work for the gallery and his commitment to the Kirchner Archives are now in the hands of his son Günther Ketterer, his daughter, Ingeborg Henze-Ketterer, and his son-in-law, Wolfgang Henze, in Bern-Wichtrach.
By 1965 Wolfgang Ketterer had moved his gallery from Stuttgart to Munich. The mansion once owned by the 'Salon painter' Franz von Stuck was for many years the seat of what was now an institution on the Modern Art scene until 1982, when the spacious Carolinenpalais at Brienner Straße 25 advanced to the status of Wolfgang Ketterer's head office in the city on the Isar. Designed by the architect Gabriel von Seidl, the superb Carolinenpalais saw two distinguished Modern Art auctions annually.
Nearly 20 years later the family business moved back to Prinzregentenstraße in the immediate vicinity of the Stuck Villa. Since June 2001 the undertakings and fortunes of the auction house have centred on Prinzregentstraße 61.
In 1989 Ketterer Kunst widened its scope to include a branch in the far North of Germany, taking over the prestigious F. Dörling, Auctioneers of Rare Books, founded in Hamburg in 1795. This acquisition enabled Ketterer Kunst to enlarge its range considerably. Today the auction programme of the house on the river Elbe comprises two auctions annually of Old Masters and Modern Art / Marine Art and two yearly auctions of Rare Books - Manuscripts - Authographs - Decorative Prints.
With the move in June 2001 in Hamburg from Neuer Wall to the Meßberghof, an ideal location between the Speicherstadt and the Binnenalster, Robert Ketterer, who has been managing the company since the retirement of his father Wolfgang, increased the exhibition and auction space to 1500 sqm. Having thus tripled its floor space, the Hamburg branch established a central cataloguing office in the former Ballin House. Research for the numerous Ketterer auction catalogues and special publications can since be handled even more efficiently.
Although Ketterer Kunst are first and foremost specialist auctioneers, the company also reaches out actively to host special events. Here it enjoys functioning as an interface, where the energies and skills of various partners converge. In November 2002, for instance, Robert Ketterer invited Munich Technical University to lecture on 'Art and Counterfeiting'. He was concerned in this instance not only to convey more background knowledge of art to his clients but also to those of his two partners, ArabellaSheraton and American Express.
In addition, next to occasional charity auctions, themed exhibitions are events frequently organised by Ketterer Kunst. Particularly noteworthy have been shows of work by Expressionists such as Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, an artist with whom Ketterer Kunst has always had a strong affinity. Another recent stellar event has been the Tom Wesselmann touring exhibition devoted to the work of this contemporary artist. Local celebrities such as Herbert Achternbusch have also been highlighted.