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A Love Declatation to the Art of the Past

The Posin Siblings in Berlin

I FIRST CAME ACROSS THE ART OF THE POSIN SIBLINGS IN 2008, WHICH HAPPENED TO COINCIDE WITH THE 70TH ANNIVERSARY OF ERNST LUDWIG KIRCHNER’S DEATH, THE EXPRESSIONIST MASTER. IT WAS FAIRLY OBVIOUS THAT A SERIES OF PRINTS DEDICATED TO THE ARTIST WOULD BE ON EXHIBITION AT THE BERLIN BRÜCKE MUSEUM. HOWEVER, I ALSO STUMBLED ACROSS THE FOLLOWING IN A BERLIN TABLOID: ‘KIRCHNER PAINTINGS: EXHIBITION IN MEMORY OF THE ARTIST IN NEUKÖLLN.’ NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL A SURPRISE IF THERE EVER WAS ONE. I WAS INSTANTLY CURIOUS.

A classic, contemporary artist in a multicultural metropolitan jungle, of all places? Not in a museum, no, with air conditioning and such, supervised and curated following cultural and historical guidelines? No. It was to be held at the ‘Kunstsalon Posin’, which I’d never heard of. I simply had to explore it! How had Kirchner’s paintings, which in the time being had become unobtainable for German museums, been ‘misplaced’ in such a place? Now, fair’s fair, and I have to say nothing out of the ordinary seemed to be going on when I arrived at the location on a small road. Quite normal, actually. The sign hanging over the ‘Kunstsalon Posin’ was in urgent need of some TLC. And then, I opened the door to the gallery, shedding light on the whole mystery. The three Posin siblings welcomed me amid a pall of smoke. They stood there, with a smile plastered on their faces, and for all I know they could have just stepped out of a group Portrait depicting the Russian intelligentsia of the 20th century, what with their wavy grey hair, and long, coarse prophet-like beards, and landed right in the middle of an atelier from Puccini’s La Bohème. But all these impressions paled in comparison with the shock I experienced when I saw the legendary street paintings from 1914 by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner lining up the wall. I couldn’t believe my eyes: was that really the ‘Potsdamer Platz’ from 1914? Wasn’t it hanging at the Berlin National Gallery? And look there, isn’t that the ‘Street Scene’ painting which was given back in 2007 from the Brücke Museum – as it had been object of Nazi pillaging – which had then been sold via Christie’s to Ronald Lauder’s New Museum in the New Yorker Upper East Side? And I thought I knew my Kirchner‘s: and so I did.

I’d seen the originals. It seemed impossible that anyone could replicate the intense, spontaneous strokes which characterised expressionism. Sure, forgers had been tinkering about with old painters and art time and again in galleries, but expressionism? The spontaneous art by definition? This was something akin to a miracle. Since that first encounter with the Posin siblings, I’ve often returned to Neukölln just to marvel at new works of art, and with art pundits who slipped into unbelievable wonder in the face of the vision which was occurring in front of their eyes. How did the Posins obtain this degree of mastery? All three fought hard to be admitted to the Repin Institute of Arts in Leningrad, and studied there between 1973 and 1979.

The academy firmly believed in teaching students the traditional way. After 1984, the Posins all moved to the German Federal Republic. This is where they first found their ‘calling’: Emulation as a form of art. The Posins’ aim is similar to creating a musical score for an orchestral concert. The score should not be replicated one square centimetre after the other but should be conceived as a rough copy, an overall impression. It’s all about charisma, it’s all about (you can’t get more Russian than this) the ‘soul of the artist.’ ‘You have to think like the painter.’ This also means that you should paint in line with the historical tempo of the time you’re living in. Renaissance paintings have to stay for days on end on a canvas, while expressionist paintings, what with their spontaneous brushes, have to be completed in a matter of hours. To paint a painting a second time is an act of love. Fear of making a mistake dissipates by being as close as possible to the artist. The round of El Grecos, Kirchners, van Goghs and Klimts in the Neukölln gallery is proof enough. Now, things get really weird when you go to Großräschen in Brandenburg to the ‘Fälscher Museum der Gebrüder Posin’ (The Forgery Museum of the Posin siblings). More than 100 paintings hang here, a grand tour across of European history of art.

It was commissioned by entrepreneur Gerold Schellstede. The SPIEGEL newspaper recently lauded the Posins’ art for the fact that their ‘forgeries are some of the best in the world.’ I don’t like the term ‘forgery’, even if the Posins themselves have played about with it for quite some time. If someone has commissioned a work from the Posins, then they know it’s not a simple business transaction, nor does it boil down to creating an extraordinary ‘object’. What the Posins do is a monumental, lifelong love declaration to the art of the past.

If you purchase a work by the Posins, your home will be enriched by the warmth such a painting brings with it. It does not deliver the same punch an original would upon being recognised as an authentic legendary painting. But it does radiate as much energy possible for a non-original painting. And we should be ever so grateful to the three inspired Russians for this.

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Author and Professor Dr Christoph Stölzl was born in 1944 and is a cultural historian. Between 1980 and 1987, he was the Director of the München Stadtmuseums (Munich City Museum); in 1987, he was appointed as the founding director of the Deutschen Historischen Museums (the German Museum of History) in Berlin. He was Berlin’s Senator for Culture and Science between 2000 and 2001, and Vice-President of the Berlin Parliament between 2002 and 2006. He was also a long-standing scientific collaborator for the Villa Grisebach auction house in Berlin. He’s been the Head of the FRANZ LIST Music High School in Weimar since 1 July 2010.

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