“There is no art at all, there is only life. That’s absolutely all there is. Nothing else.” In Michael Buthe’s oeuvre, art and life constitute an inseparable whole. In roughly 40 diaries made by Buthe between 1963 and 1994, intimate memories interweave with drawings and colorful collages. Thirty of these volumes will be exhibited at Kunsthalle Mannheim.

Buthe’s early diaries contain minimalist drawings, but these are increasingly supplanted by a stunning world of color. In 1970, the artist began taking trips to Africa and the Middle East. After an extended stay in Morocco at the latest, his style and creative process underwent fundamental change. Collages formed of drawings, paintings, and glued-in everyday objects and materials cover the pages. Buthe used all conceivable materials, mostly drawn from everyday life, and combined these with ornaments, texts, and above all with varied, vibrant colors. His unselfconscious incorporation of symbols otherwise deemed tacky, such as stars, hearts, spirals, and glittery foil, established them as vital expressions of joie de vivre. Even on the outsize pages of some diaries, the space available to Buthe was never sufficient. And so he extended the pages, including sheets that folded out multiple times in every direction. With their aid the visual worlds expanded into the surrounding space.  

Buthe showed his work at Documenta in Kassel on four occasions, and his work was exhibited at the German Pavilion of the Venice Biennale in 1984. Few artists moved so naturally and unselfconsciously between the contemporary styles of Cobra, Zero, Art Informel, Art Brut, and performance art. He drew on them all and enriched them with his own experience traveling in Morocco, and his own personal everyday life.  

Curator: Dr. Thomas Köllhofer


Further exhibitions