Ulrich Rückriem‘s major work “40 Bodenreliefs“ at the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin until January 14, 2024

Ulrich Rückriem: “40 Bodenreliefs“ (detail).

The artist‘s cuboids make the square floor tiles by Mies von der Rohe seem to grow in height

Ulrich Rückriem’s main work “40 Bodenreliefs“ (40 Floor Reliefs) can be seen in the upper hall of the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin until January 14, 2024. The installation of square granite cuboids pays homage to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

Rückriem donated the work to the Nationalgalerie in 1998. At the time, he had laid out his 40 flat cuboids in the empty glass hall of the Neue Nationalgalerie. The dimensions of the stones, 120 x 120 cm, correspond exactly to the dimensions of the floor panels.

According to the artist‘s idea, his cuboids should be distributed across the hall floor in a loose “chessboard-like“ form, so that one panel lies on each longitudinal track. Rückriem thus countered the strict grid of the interior with the playful rhythm of his stones.

Ulrich Rückriem: “40 Bodenreliefs.“ Photo: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Roman März Ulrich Rückriem: “40 Bodenreliefs.“

What‘s more, while Mies‘ floor tiles are only two-dimensional, Rückriem‘s cuboids leap into the third dimension. Here, however, they abandon the strict geometry, as they remain unhewn on the upper side.

This in turn has the fascinating effect that the viewer suddenly becomes aware of the strict square grid of Mies‘ architecture: suddenly you can see the infinite number of right angles in the floor, in the glass walls and also under the ceiling.

Ulrich Rückriem installing the “40 Bodenreliefs,“ September 1998. Photo: Roman März

Rückriem is known for his massive stone sculptures. They include – on the lawn on Reichpietschufer right next to the Neue Nationalgalerie – the large stone massif “Granit Bleu de Vire“ (1985), also known as “Granit (Normandie),“ and the “Stele for Mies“ (2004). Measuring 120 x 120 cm, the stele again corresponds exactly to the “40 Bodenreliefs.“ Its height is roughly equivalent to 40 superimposed cuboids.

Ulrich Rückriem was born on September 30, 1938 and has reached in 2023 the age of 85. The anniversary is the occasion for this special exhibition. “What I do is the minimal, the simple,“ he said in 1977, adding: “I believe that it … makes people look more closely when there is little to see.“

The artist has always been interested in placing his sculptures in a way that creates a dialog with the surrounding space. “I look for places for my sculptures in the city or in the landscape. I often only start them once I have found an environment.“

With the “40 Bodenreliefs,“ the Neue Nationalgalerie is continuing the architectural interventions by artists dedicated to Mies van der Rohe and his architecture.

Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin

Ulrich Rückriem: “Granit Bleu de Vire“, also: „Granit (Normandie)“.Ulrich Rückriem: “Stele für Mies“.
View from the terrace into the sculpture garden of the Neue Nationalgalerie.

(26.12.2023, USA: 12.26.2023)