Jean-Christophe Ammann came to Frankfurt am Main in 1989 and on 6 June 1991 opened the MUSEUMMMK für Moderne Kunst in this city. He was to remain its director until 2001. As one of the most important art historians in the German-speaking area, he played a substantial role in shaping the museum’s course during its founding phase. The MMK has him to thank for its reputation as one of the world’s most prominent museums of contemporary art.
When he took his leave in 2001, Ammann donated his archive to the museum. This archive documents his curatorial work at the Kunsthalle Bern, the Kunstmuseum Luzern, the Kunsthalle Basel and the MMK in Frankfurt over a period of thirty-five years. It is not only extremely valuable as a research source, but also offers insights into an unmistakably sensitive, subjective historiography. Its 266 archive boxes contain material on 257 artists, including numerous notes and room sketches as well as several hundred hitherto unpublished letters. Ammann also collected photographs of exhibitions and performances as well as invitations, posters, artists‘ books, exhibition catalogues, periodicals, audio records and cassettes, films and video recordings. This material is not to be understood as mere archival documents but – in its often unusual forms – as realizations of artistic concepts.
Over a period of several years, two volunteers gained a general overview of the archive and, thanks to financial support from the society of friends of the Museum für Moderne Kunst, its contents are now stored in keeping with conservatorial requirements.
A database of the material is currently being created with the aim of publishing it on this website. Through support from the Hessischer Museumsbund, the MMK is moreover now in a position to study selected sections of the Jean-Christophe Ammann archive in depth and digitalize them.
Thanks to a gift from the gallery owner Paul Maenz, the archive and literary estate of the artist Peter Roehr has been in the possession of the Museum für Modern Kunst since 2011. Despite Roehr’s very brief productive period from 1962 to 1967, he left behind an oeuvre of more than 600 works. He is today recognized internationally as one of the first and most uncompromising protagonists of minimal art in Germany, but also as a pop art photo artist and a pioneer of 1970s conceptual art. The numerous and group and solo exhibitions featuring Peter Roehr all over the world today testify to a sustained interest in his work.
Roehr made the acquaintance of Paul Maenz in 1964 and the two became close friends; in his will, he entrusted Maenz with the administration of his artistic estate. In 2011, Maenz gave the complete Peter Roehr archive to the MMK, which in return agreed to subject it to thorough scholarly analysis. The archive comprises a catalogue of the estate as well as correspondence, letters, private memos, manuscripts, reviews and newspaper articles, numerous photos and printed matter as well as various collections of accompanying materials and catalogues, more than 2,500 individual items in all.
The museum has carried out a research project to inventory, catalogue and digitalize the holdings. As a result, the archive went online in December 2016 and now offers broad access to the material for research purposes.
When he retired from the MMK directorship in 2001, Jean-Christophe Ammann donated his archive, documenting thirty-five years of his career, to the museum. At the Kunstmuseum Luzern in the 1970s he had curated widely noted exhibitions in which bodies and bodily experience played a key role (for example Visualisierte Denkprozesse, 1970; Transformer: Aspekte der Travestie, 1974; Giuseppe Penone: Bäume Augen Haare Wände Tongefäss, 1977). In the 1980s, now at the Kunsthalle Basel, he carried out group and solo presentations that sparked controversy because of their focus on the body and sexuality (Drei New Yorker Fotografen: Peter Hujar, Larry Clark, Robert Mapplethorpe, 1982; Miriam Cahn: Das klassische Lieben, 1983; Francesco Clemente, 1984; General Idea: The 1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion, 1984; Hannah Villiger, 1985; Bruce Nauman, 1986; Gilbert & George, 1986), while also developing an extensive performance program.
The research project reconstructs exhibitions and their contexts on the basis of correspondence and other archive documents. The aim is to gain an understanding of Ammann’s curatorial activities as integral to the upheavals of the 1970s, from which new perspectives on the body, sexuality, and gender emerged. With his curatorial strategies, Jean-Christophe Ammann brought queer artists into exhibition spaces and thus into the public eye. By conceiving of his shows as part of an exhibition practice shaped predominantly by male curators, the project asks to what extent his approach led to the destabilization of binary gender constructions and conventional corporal demarcations.
With the aid of archival materials from Ammann’s time in Lucerne and Basel, the project moreover contextualizes selected works he acquired for the MMK collection in the 1990s and sheds light on historical shifts of perspective on diversity, gender relations, and conceptions of body.
Initiated in 2022, the research project is being carried out by Prof. Dr. Antje Krause-Wahl (Heisenberg-Professur für Gegenwartskunstgeschichte, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main) in cooperation with the MUSEUMMMKFÜR MODERNE KUNST. Laura Waas is supporting the project as research assistant.
For more information, please contact:
Head of Digital Matters and Archives
+49 69 212 30445