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NO! NO! NO! DON’T DESTROY DIETMAR’S ►NO!art WEB SITE
The Villager, New York, Volume 80, Number 43 | March 24 - 30, 2011
The Villager has run a couple of articles on Boris Lurie and his NO!art movement (►www.thevillager.com). Until 1941 Boris and his family lived in Riga, Latvia. Boris and his father survived four years of Nazi imprisonment. His mother, one sister and grandmother were all murdered by the Nazis. Boris’s art reflected his life experiences. Because his work was too caustic, too rude, too brutally honest and in your face, he was unable to establish a traditional art career.
In the late 1980’s, Boris asked me to be a member of his NO!art movement. NO!art is a form of social art, a protest art. It is anti-art-market trickery — it is about seeking the truth in society and the consequences that telling the truth, as an artist, brings with it.
I did whatever I could to support him. In 1993 I gave Boris and NO!art their first New York City show in 29 years. Over the years, I included him in other art shows, got him a substantial amount of press, published articles in books, helped create a documentary, supported his inclusion in other movies, and, finally, helped get his obituary in ►The New York Times. I did what I could, but the real supporter, the real champion of the NO!art movement and Boris Lurie, is Dietmar Kirves. I was holding down the Western Front (North America) and Dietmar Kirves the Eastern Front (Europe).
Dietmar worked with Boris for more than 30 years. One of Dietmar’s initial projects was the first NO!art anthology, published in 1988 (Hundermark, Cologne, Germany). He then became instrumental in getting numerous other works published. Dietmar was influential in setting into motion the first major museum exhibition of NO!art in Berlin, then followed that with a show at the Buchenwald Memorial Site. (Boris’s and his father’s last camp was Magdeburg, a satellite of Buchenwald).
Dietmar has accumulated the largest archive of communications with Boris, as well as other material associated with NO!art. But his more serious, publicly accessible work in support of NO!art is the NO!art Web site. The site, which was created at Boris’s request in 1999, is a wealth of material that has helped to educate people all over the world about the history, ambitions and social significance of NO!art. It was with Boris’s oversight that Dietmar turned the written page into a veritable virtual archive for the movement.
Dietmar, now retired, spends just about all of his time dedicated to working on the Web site. The site averages more than 80,000 visits a month (►http://no-art.info/_statistics/en.html), and has more than 3,000 back-links connected to universities, newspapers and other movements. When Boris was alive, he gave Dietmar a stipend per month to run the site and create an archive. After his death, when the money stopped, my wife, Elsa, and I sent some money whenever we could. But it was devastating to have this small amount of money cut off.
Why would anyone — particularly an uptown New York City art dealer by the name of Gertrude Stein — want to destroy Dietmar’s work, eliminate the public access to the valuable but obscure content of this site, cut out of history and public recognition any connection to Dietmar Kirves and NO!art? Other than a couple of art shows in the 1960’s, Stein did very little to further the NO!art movement or Boris Lurie’s art career. Stein, a casual, on-again-off-again friend of Boris’s, was mysteriously able to take control over the Boris Lurie estate. Turns out that the Boris Lurie estate is worth $80 million (►ARTnews, April 2010).
Stein set up the Boris Lurie Foundation with the mandate to provide art-related services to preserve and promote the legacy of Boris Lurie and the NO!art movement. This is exactly what Kirves has spent much of his adult life working on — so my conclusion is that this hostile takeover is about the potential gain of money. The foundation is made up of four partners — one in Liechtenstein (►Dr. Peter Sprenger, a politician); one in Switzerland (►Dr. Geo Campanovo, another politician); one who jumps back and forth between London and New York City (►Dr. Pepper, a lawyer); and Gertrude Stein in New York. There are no artists — or anyone connected to the NO!art movement — on the foundation.
It is curious that the foundation, since it is dedicated to preserving NO!art, has done nothing to get in contact with me about that section of my archive, which includes extensive video, photography and other ephemera related to NO!art and Boris Lurie. And it seems that the foundation has no interest or respect for Dietmar’s archive. Without permission, they skilfully removed some articles from the Web site, and then reproduced them in catalogues for two recent art shows, leaving no trace or sign that the articles could be traced back to Dietmar’s Web site.
Does this mean that I can trademark Pop Art or Dada, and then lay claim to everything related to these art movements? This is a self-centered attitude completely inappropriate for the legacy of any deceased artist, especially one who dedicated his life to rebelling against these kinds of institutions and who would not stand for this sort of injustice. And for what? For $80 million! We need more NO!art movements. It is time for people to stand up and be counted — that was Boris’s dream.