Gallery Poll, Berlin Mitte. Mother Eva Poll with daughter Nana Poll. Photo: Mike Wolff
Eva Poll in conversation with Konstanze Wolter about Lambert Maria Wintersberger.
In October 1968, Gallerie Poll opened in West Berlin and Eva Poll worked with Lambert Maria Wintersberger for many years. Konstanze Wolter visited Ms. Poll in August 2018 and talked extensively about Lambert Maria Wintersberger, who also belonged to the close circle of friends of Gallerie Poll.
In the inventory, we checked all the literature and looked at which pictures are cataloged. We noticed that “Gallery Poll” appears again and again. Right from the beginning you exhibited Wintersberger and in 2016 even presented a kind of retrospective. How did the cooperation with Lambert Maria Wintersberger come about?
This has to do with the artist cooperative gallery Großgörschen 35. Lambert Maria Wintersberger was a founding member of this first artists’ cooperative gallery in Germany in 1964 and exhibited there. There we met. In contrast to the other Großgörschen members, he was already well-known. Later, he went to America.
Yes, he worked in America from 1971 to 1972. How did you come to work with several of the 16 members of Grossgörschen 35?
My husband is a lawyer and studied in Tübingen, Stuttgart, Berlin and Bonn. During his studies in Stuttgart, he met Franz Rudolf Knubel. When we came to Berlin in 1963, my husband met Franz Rudolf Knubel again. Knubel told us about Grossgörschen 35 and invited us to stop by. From that point on, we regularly went to the openings and met with the artists in the pub. Opposite to the College of Arts in Grunewaldstraße, where Sorge and everyone else had studied or used to study, was the Puszta-Stuben. There one went in the evening and flipped, talked and drank. At that time, Markus Lüpertz was still tapping behind the counter. The artists and art students had rented a former workshop in the Großgörschenstraße 35 in the backyard. They had the goal to exhibit there. At that time, there were only three or four established galleries in West Berlin, but they were not interested in young or art students. So they took it into their own hands, rented the said space and had to do everything themselves there: hang the pictures, supervise, sell and so on.
This is actually a prototype, which is very common today.
Yes, Großgörschen 35 was the first German producer gallery, apparently they founded it until it was time to go to school, because later on there were a lot of such artists run galleries. However, once everyone has exhibited, interest diminished as is often the case in such communities. Some finished studying, the others went away, and then they asked my husband to become the manager.
So to speak, the Gallerie Poll grew out of Großgörschen?
Yes. There were still several exhibitions, such as “1 year Großgörschen” with catalog, which my husband organized. But in 1968, the whole thing fell apart. Some went to school, others to their hometown, and the rest became freelance artists. Everyone did something different. And there were many requests to open a gallery. And we did that in October 1968 as well.
And what did you think of the idea?
I was a teacher and was really happy with teaching. But then our daughter was born in 1966, and I left the job. Since we were new in the city, we had no relatives there who could have taken care of the child. But I did not think a gallery would come into the way of taking care of the child, so I was not averse to the idea of opening a gallery. Also, I always went to the Galerie Großgörschen and the Puszta-Stuben, and I found that all very exciting. We then opened the gallery in our apartment on Niebuhrstraße in Charlottenburg. There was also the famous Berliner Zimmer, which connected the back and the front of the apartment. This Berlin room, an office and another small room were then the gallery rooms. We started with Peter Sorge, to whom we now dedicate the exhibition to our 50th anniversary. Also Lambert Maria Wintersberger, Bettina von Arnim, Wolfgang Petrick and some others from the Großgörschenern, which we did not care for later, because they did not really fit into the concept of the gallery, were there.
If you give the names of the artists you’ve been caring for, it somehow sounds like the “who’s who”, they all became big names.
Yes, but sometimes more or less forgotten. If you read today in the art market reports, which shows up by name, then Sorge and Petrick are rare.
And yet they are known.
Yeah sure, if someone is not just one-sidedly oriented to the blue chips, then the names are already known.
Let’s go back to Lambert Maria Wintersberger. In the 1980s you did three solo shows with him. In my opinion, he has an absolute factory break before he started to paint these fingertips, this pop-like painting. We saw the early works, and we could not spontaneously explain what happened, that he developed a completely different style from day to day, but that is also so memorable and ultimately that’s what we still know about him today.
There was a collector who had become rich through the invention of an ointment for varicose veins and as well as investments in car washes, who had interests in very early Lambert Maria Wintersberger, Sorge, Berges and collected them. There were also Americans and Englishmen, who were interested in them. I believe in 1979, he wanted to leave Berlin and sell his collection, and also he had bought the house am Waldsee. There were also the New Realists exhibited, where a lot of the early Lambert Maria Wintersberger pictures were there, and they were very different.
Those are also the first ones, which is not representative of his style.
I bought these pop art pictures from this collection, eight or nine pictures, and then, more or less, gradually sold them to Galerie Beyer. Those sat in Pforzheim and specialized in these early collections. In the meantime, this gallery is no longer available.
In the 80s, you then showed three solo exhibitions by Wintersberger in the gallery.
We visited Lambert Maria Wintersberger and his third wife Dolores in Stuttgart. There he was involved with the Gallery Müller. Hans-Jürgen Müller has done a great deal in the way and made sure that Lambert Maria Wintersberger artworks landed in various collections. This Hans-Jürgen Müller also founded Atlantis. I do not know if you’ve heard of this before?
- How was it founded?
He opened an island in the Mediterranean off Spain, called Mariposa, where the artists were to build something and later to bury. There is a voluminous book about it. This 1984 project was the first and was called Atlantis. Lambert Maria Wintersberger was very familiar with the gallery owner Müller. The woman still lives today and runs a gallery in Stuttgart. In any case, we visited him in Stuttgart. At this point, he was already with Dolores. She knew the art business and encouraged Lambert Maria Wintersberger again and again, set prices and was later even in Walbourg here. Dolores died of cancer in 2006. Since then Lambert Maria Wintersberger did not feel well and he was lonely at his train station, he was practically alone. He was already prone to depression and later he suffered from some illness. One day before his surgery, he took his life. We also visited him before. It was all very bad. And, as I said: as long as Dolores was alive, he was well-up.
Was she something like his manager?
Yes. She was his muse, as she always said, but she was also his manager. We exhibited Lambert Maria Wintersberger at the fair in Los Angeles at that time, that was one thing for the 750th anniversary of Berlin. Los Angeles had started a mass and invited galleries in Berlin because Berlin and Los Angeles are twin cities. The stall rent was reduced, and the Senate had taken over the transport costs.
- When was it?
I believe in December 1986. You had to apply, and every gallery chose an artist. We had chosen Wintersberger. The fair took place in downtown. That was a no-go area in Los Angeles at the time. There was no participation from the rich.
Because it was dangerous. And we stood there, we poor Berliners, had no idea of Tuten and bubbles and waited for visitors. But none came. One day a group of older people came and one of them, a gentleman, said he wanted to buy a watercolor by Lambert Maria Wintersberger. After these experiences, I did not believe that. One woman said that I believe the Lord that he would really buy it. Well, so he said, “I’m Mr. Wilder.” I did not respond, and he repeated the name. I answered, “Billy Wilder? I thought he was already dead. “(Laughs). The pictures and we were back in Berlin, then Wilder then ordered a large nude picture, which was then shipped back to Los Angeles.
And it was, so to speak, not clear at that moment, whether this man would keep his word and pay?
Billy Wilder is a big guy, right? He was of course a world star! We also visited him later, he invited us to his home and later to the famous Italian restaurant Spargo. In any case, the convention in Los Angeles had far-reaching consequences at the convention center, because not only Billy Wilders bought pictures of Lambert Maria Wintersberger, but also later invited him to a scholarship.
And so happened the stay in America?
Yes, in Omaha, where he painted the American Journal. Afterwards we showed the American diary in the gallery.
There is another break, because in this American diary everything is figuratively funny and somehow metaphorical.
Yes, but figuratively, he also painted before.
I rather call this Pop Art phase, as he never painted this again.
No, he did not paint Pop Art anymore. He was a loner anyway, actually he was always. He was always looking for new topics and exhausted these picturesquely.
There were also these bunkers that are in France.
Yes, the Maginot Line. There he was in France. He has always reacted to his environment, for example the forest or mushroom pictures, which now hang in the collection at Würth.
Yes, wonderful mushroom pictures. And in my eyes there was really a break after this phase. Did he have enough of painting like that?
This “American phase”, with the outlines and injuries he had had over.
He had now, as it were, let off steam?
Yes, as the saying goes, it was no longer a challenge for him. He was able to do that, and he sold it well, but it did not interest him anymore. He then wanted to paint wildly, and the first picture we had was a motorcyclist with a bandage on his head. That was, if I remember correctly, his first wild picture. He had also painted a very wild race car, which has acquired a collector from Dusseldorf. It did not interest him any more, so to speak, he had exhausted this smooth kind of painting.
Repeating oneself or forcing oneself, that was not his style?
No, obviously that has depressed him, always the same. He did not want that anymore.
How would you personally classify the complete works of Lambert Maria Wintersberger in the context of German art history?
I would judge him as a very strong artist who was a loner and had his own style, perhaps even comparable to Tadeusz, who was also an outsider and whose work is not properly acknowledged. Since his death, the images at auction have been priced higher, especially in England, but still underestimated. It’s similar with Lambert Maria Wintersberger.
They took the price into account. But if you look at it without the price, would you say that Lambert Maria Wintersberger’s work can also compete with that of Lüpertz or other works of great artists?
Yes, I would say that. Only Lambert Maria Wintersberger had the handicap that he hardly said anything.
Would you say that this is an important feature for a work to be properly appreciated?
Billy Wilder bought pictures of Wintersberger, and Dolores tortured me until I gave her the address of Billy Wilder. When Wintersbergers were in America, they visited him and he also invited them into the Spargo. Hellmuth Karasek was the biographer of Billy Wilder, and he wrote the memoirs of him. This is a scene in which Billy Wilder is completely horrified and says: “He says nothing the whole evening! He says yes the whole meal about nothing! “. He could not go outside.
How did you do the exhibition openings for such an extremely introverted artist?
Dolores spoke for him, she did not leave him alone. We had a guest apartment at Lützow-Platz, and the two lived there during this time. After the exhibition openings, we went to the restaurant next door. Of course, when the old comrades and colleagues came, he also talked to them. But there were always long stretches of silence.
But you got along well with him?
- Maybe it had something to do with whether he had confidence. Again during the exhibition 2016, what kind of a resonance did you experience?
It was above all the early pictures of Lambert Maria Wintersberger, that is the 60s, that was very well received. But there were also recent work, such as the Matterhorn.
That also happens in the Würth collection.
There were always topics that have packed him, which he then lived out in different variations. The Matterhorn appears several times, as well as the mushrooms. And when he was in Bali, he also painted dancers, palms and coconuts. With these motifs, there is also a whole series of carton cuts. We have once exhibited them in the gallery of the Kunststiftung Poll, in whose collection there are also some works by Wintersberger. He has devoted himself to very different topics, but always very intense.
- Thank you for your time.