Alf Lechner

(1925-2017), born in Munich. He is considered one of the most important German steel sculptors.

Biography 1925 - 2017

Alf Lechner was born in Munich on April 17, 1925, the only son of middle-class parents. He began his career as an artist in 1940 with the landscape and marine painter Alf Bachmann, who taught him to paint in oils and pastels in Munich and on Lake Starnberg. After graduating from high school and serving in the Navy, Lechner continued his studies with Alf Bachmann in 1946. In 1948, Lechner began an apprenticeship as a locksmith, after which he founded the company Litema (lighting technology and metalworking) and patented his own inventions. Among other things, he designed surgical lights for dentists. He also worked successfully as a commercial artist and built trade fair stands.

My whole goal in life is simplicity.

Alf Lechner's works became known to a wider public from the 1960s onwards. Subsequently, he was present with exhibitions in all major museums of contemporary art in Germany and received numerous awards. Renowned art historians such as Prof. Dr. Dieter Honisch and Prof. Dr. Armin Zweite have dedicated studies to him. His works are represented in the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, the Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst, Vienna, the Lenbachhaus, Munich and the Zeche Zollverein, Essen, among others.

In 1962, Lechner moved with his family to Degerndorf on Lake Starnberg, sold his company Litema and realized his dream: to devote his life entirely to art. It was here that he created his first steel sculptures. In 1968 his first exhibition took place in the Heseler Gallery in Munich. In 1972 he was awarded the Förderpreis of the city of Munich and shortly afterwards the Arbeitsstipendium of the Kulturkreis, which enabled him to produce large sculptures in the factory halls of the company Linde AG. He was awarded the Art Prize of the Academy of Arts in Berlin in 1974, which was followed by exhibitions in all important museums of contemporary art in Germany, such as the Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum in Duisburg, the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus in Munich, the Kunsthalle zu Kiel, the Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst, the Haus der Kunst in Munich, the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, as well as beyond the country's borders, such as the Museum Moderner Kunst, the Palais Liechtenstein in Vienna, and in Tokyo.

What offers no resistance does not interest me.

In 1979 he won first prize in the "Dimension 79" competition for contemporary sculpture organized by Philip Morris GmbH. The acquisition and conversion of a disused industrial building into a home and studio in Geretsried in Upper Bavaria allowed him to open up new production possibilities for large sculptures. His first sculpture park was created in the vicinity of the studio. Important trips to Saudi Arabia and Japan brought him his first international commission, namely to develop two sculptures for King Saud University in Riyadh.

There is so much complexity in simplicity that one cannot be simple enough. After all, real discoveries are only made in the simplest forms.

In 1988 Lechner won first prize in the competition "City Sculptor in the City Park Schloss Philippsruhe" Hanau. In 1990 he was awarded the medal "Munich shines" in gold by the City of Munich. 1990-1991 Alf Lechner was honorary professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. In 1991 he was awarded the Critics' Prize for Fine Art by the Association of German Critics in Berlin and the following year he was awarded the "Piepenbrock Prize for Sculpture". In 1994 he was guest of honor at the Villa Massimo in Rome for two months before being appointed a full member of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts in Munich in 1995. From 1998 to 2002, the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (ifa) presented a special exhibition of sculptures and graphic works by Alf Lechner in a total of eleven galleries/museums in Germany, Italy, France, Poland, the Czech Republic, Russia, and Hungary.

To see art you need two hands: you have to wipe your eyes with it.

In 1999, he established the Alf Lechner Foundation, based in Obereichstätt, before the Alf Lechner Museum was ceremoniously opened in Ingolstadt in 2000. In the same year, he received the Friedrich Bauer Prize for Fine Arts. In 2001, he and his wife Camilla moved from Geretsried to the former Royal Bavarian Ironworks in Obereichstätt, where he created a sculpture park on the site, which covers more than 23,000 square meters.

Sometimes quiet is louder than loud.

Alf Lechner was awarded the First Class Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2002, and in 2008 he received the Bavarian Constitutional Medal in Gold. In 2010 the Paper House in the Lechner Sculpture Park was opened, and in 2013 the large exhibition hall in the Lechner Sculpture Park was inaugurated. His important and multifaceted œuvre includes more than 800 sculptures, a multiple of models and more than 4500 drawings, some of them in large format, as well as pastels and oil paintings from his youth. Alf Lechner is today considered one of the most important steel sculptors of the 20th century. He died on February 25, 2017 in Obereichstätt.

Quotes from curators about Alf Lechner

Prof. Dr. Dieter Honisch, former director of the Nationalgalerie, Berlin

"Lechner has bent, bent, rolled and hammered, pierced and cut, heated and burst, erected and laid down, concentrated and strung together, realized steel inside and outside, in rooms and in squares (. ..) He has calculated the bodies, steps and divisions and developed them in countless drawings and models....) He has calculated the bodies, steps and divisions and pre-planned and developed them in countless drawings and models, and yet all his works seem quite spontaneous and quite original, like signs of another world, of an archaic time. They radiate a peculiar beauty and perfection, made of nothing but a complicated set of numbers."

Prof. Dr. Armin Zweite, former director of the Kunstsammlung Nordrheinwestfalen K20, K21
"Alf Lechner emerged as a sculptor at the end of the 1960s in an environment that was still largely dominated by figurative sculpture, especially in Munich. His preferred, indeed exclusive, working material is steel, and his formal vocabulary initially owes much to the constructivism of the 1920s and thus to Euclidean geometry. Between Conceptual Art and Minimal Art, however, he then very quickly found his unmistakable style. He is not concerned with the combination and variation of common basic shapes such as square, circle, cube, cuboid, sphere, but rather with their dissection, division, splitting and refraction.

The process of making thus plays a central role in Lechner's work, testing the properties of steel, i.e. its strength, hardness, ductility, corrosion resistance. The evocation of feelings of weight and heaviness, the relationship of measure and weight, the differences of forging and rolling, cutting and scarfing, and the contrast of compressed mass and emptiness or of concrete and imaginary form determine the character of his works. His extensive oeuvre, which spans a period of half a century, is thus repeatedly concerned with the relationship between technique and art, rationality and emotionality, reflection and process, calculation and chance - ultimately between rational procedure and downright irrational result. In the process, the complex aesthetic effect competes with the often simple, but sometimes difficult to comprehend working principles. The entire oeuvre is determined by an inner consistency and logicality, which in times of a radical expansion of artistic practices and complete dissolution of quality criteria has something immensely captivating about it. How young, innovative and capable of development his oeuvre has remained until now, could be observed until very recently. "My whole goal in life is simplicity," said the artist, only to continue: "There is so much complexity in simplicity that one cannot be simple enough. Real discoveries are made only in the simplest forms. The more overloaded a form is, the less one sees the essential."

Alf Lechner's oeuvre reveals two things: On the one hand, his emphatic reticence towards the spirit of departure, optimism, the visionary (which Zero artists in the Rhineland propagated), but on the other hand, an unmistakable turning away from the sculptural procedures that had been common up to that point. Whereas, from Gonzalez to Chillida, one always welds in order to produce a certain shape and make it a symbolic medium of expression, Lechner is concerned with the relationship between measure and material, proportion and process, geometry and physics. In addition, the processual plays an important role. A special attitude manifests itself in his work, which on the one hand links him to important German sculptors such as Norbert Kricke, Erwin Reusch, Erich Hauser, but on the other hand also relates him to Richard Serra, Carl André, Donald Judd and Sol LeWitt. Seen in this light, the dialogue between Europe and America continues in his highly original oeuvre."

Works by Alf Lechner in public collections
  • State Gallery of Modern Art, Munich
  • Sculpture Museum Glaskasten, Marl
  • Lenbachhaus, Munich
  • New National Gallery, Berlin
  • Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg
  • Kiel Art Gallery
  • State Gallery Stuttgart
  • Federal Collection of Contemporary Art, Bonn
  • Mannheim Municipal Art Gallery
  • State Gallery of Modern Art, Vienna
  • Franz Marc Museum, Murnau-Kochel
  • Sprengel Museum, Hanover
  • Sculpture Park Phillippsruhe Castle, City of Hanau
  • Rhenish State Museum, Mainz
  • Ingolstadt City Museum
  • Zollverein Colliery, Essen
  • Bavarian State Painting Collection, Munich
  • Museum Art Collection K 21, Düsseldorf
  • Städel Museum, Frankfurt
  • New Museum, Nuremberg
Alf Lechner - Awards

1972 Award for Fine Arts of the City of Munich

1974 Art Award of the Academy of Arts, Berlin

1979 1st prize "Dimension 79" (competition for contemporary sculptures)

1988 Art Promotion Prize "City Sculptor of the City of Hanau 1988".

1990 Medal "Munich shines" in gold of the City of Munich

1991 German Critics' Prize for the Visual Arts

1992 Piepenbrock Prize for Sculpture

1993 Honorary Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich

1998 Ring of Honor of the City of Geretsried; highest award of the city

2000 Friedrich Baur Prize of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts

2002 "Pro meritis scientiae et litterarum" of the Bavarian State Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts

2002 Federal Cross of Merit 1st Class of the Federal Republic of Germany 2008 Cultural Award of the District of Upper Bavaria 

2008 Bavarian Order of Merit

2010 Bavarian Constitutional Medal in Gold

Alf Lechner - Solo exhibitions

1968 Heseler Gallery, Munich

1969 Gallery Hella Nebelung, Düsseldorf

1969 Lempertz Contempora, Cologne

1970 Defet Gallery, Nuremberg

1970 House of Art, Munich

1971 Stangl Gallery, Munich

1971 Mannheim Art Association

1971 Gallery m, Bochum

1972 Otto Stangl Gallery, Munich

1973 State Gallery of Modern Art, Munich Galerie Stangl, Munich

1973 Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe

1974 Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg

1975 Museum Folkwang, Essen

1976 Municipal Gallery Old Theater, Ravensburg

1977 Freiburg Art Association

1977 Art house Bocholt

1977 Municipal Gallery in the Lenbachhaus Munich

1978 Kiel Art Gallery

1978 Gallery D + C Mueller - Roth

1981 Municipal Gallery in the Empty Bag, Regensburg

1981 Art Association Hochrhein

1981 Trumpet Castle, Bad Söckingen

1981 Theater Ulm

1981 Museums of the city of Regensburg

1982 Gallery Rupert Walser, Munich

1983 Gallery Reckermann, Cologne

1983 Gallery D+C Mueller-Rot. Stuttgart

1984 Municipal Art Gallery, Mannheim

1985 State Gallery of Modern Art, House of Art, Munich

1986 New National Gallery, Berlin

1986 Museum of Modern Art, Palais Liechtenstein, Vienna

1987 Gallery Rupert Walser, Munich

1989 Gallery Hans Strelow, Düsseldorf

1989 Freising Art Association

1989 Institute for Modern Art Nuremberg

1989 Gallery kö 24, Hanover

1990 Municipal Gallery in the Lenbachhaus, Munich

1990 Wilhelm Hack Museum, Ludwigshafen

1990 Kiel Art Gallery

1990 Lorraine Street 13

1990 Gallery Rupert Walser, Munich

1991 Gallery in the Ganserhaus, Wasserburg/In

1992 Dominican Church Art Gallery and Museum of Art History, Osnabrück

1992 Dr. Luise Krohn, Badenweiler

1992 Piepenbrock Group of Companies, Osnabrück

1993 Reutlingen Art Association, Hans Thoma Society

1993 Reutlingen Art Association

1994 Museum St. Wendel, Mia Minster House

1994 Gallery Rupert Walser, Munich

1995 Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg Bauhütte Zeche Zollverein, Essen

1995 Museum Morsbroich Castle, Leverkusen

1995 Sculpture Museum Glass Box Marl

1995 Von der Heydt Museum, Wuppertal

1995 Hans Strelow, Düsseldorf

1995 Zollverein colliery building works, Essen

1996 Ruhr University Bochum

1996 Museum of Modern Art County Cuxhaven

1998 Gallery of the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations, Bonn

1998 Goethe-Institut Rome and Naples

1999 Spazio Zero, Palermo

1999 Goethe Loft Lyon

1999 Gallery BWA, Wroclaw

1999 Polish Sculpture Exhibition Center, Oronsko

2000 Museum of Contemporary Art, Skopje Museum of Fine Arts, Prague

2001 Muchina (formerly Stieglitz Palace), St. Petersburg

2002 Kiallitahaza Gallery, Budapest

2005 Gallery Defekt, Nuremberg

2014 New Museum and Sculpture Garden, Nuremberg

2018 Catholic Academy in Bavaria, Munich

2018 Gallery LAProjects, Landshut

2019 Gallery Nagel Draxler, Berlin

2019 Study Church of St. Joseph, Burghausen

2020 Heidelberg Sculpture Park, Heidelberg

2020 Gallery LAProjects, Landshut

2021 McLaughlin Gallery, Berlin

2023 KOENIGmuseum, Landshut

Exhibitions at the Lechner Museum, Ingolstadt

2000 Alf Lechner, opening exhibition

2002 Nikolaus Koliusis | Alf Lechner, Iron Sea Blue

2003 Werner Haypeter | Alf Lechner

2004 Alf Lechner, Sinking

2004 Alf Schuler | Alf Lechner

2005 Alf Lechner, Fire and Flame and Time Division

2006 Susanne Tunn, Pearls of Stone I Alf Lechner, Bizarre Surfaces

2007 Alf Lechner, Cuts

2009 Alf Lechner, Poetry of Chance

2010 Alf Lechner, Diagonale

2012 Alfons Lachauer | Alf Lechner, Colors over the Sea

2013 Alf Lechner, Steel Sculptures since 1960

2014 Alf Lechner, Rust on steel - pencil on paper

2016 Alf Lechner, Calottes and Fads

2017 Alf Lechner, Beginning and No End

2018 Alf Bachmann | Alf Lechner, Sky Water Steel

2018 Sigrid Neubert, Architecture and Nature I Alf Lechner, Labyrinth 

2019 Hermann Nitsch, The Total Work of Art

2019 Alf Lechner, emotionally rational 

2020 Rupprecht Geiger I Alf Lechner, ROTxSTAHL

2020 Braschler/ Fischer, DIVIDED WE STAND

2021 NOW II, A Homage to Then - in the Now

2022 Susanne Tunn, Power of Silence