Frame from the 17th Century, silver plated, hallmarked,
around Frida Kahlo‘s “self portrait”, 1946
Grey in grey with an accent
Coloured frame from Spain, 18th Century,
around Yves Tanguys “Surrealistic Composition”, 1927
Coloured spanish frame, 17th Century,
around André Masson’s “Massacre”, 1931.
Spanish frame from the 17th Century,
silver plated, painted with black ornaments,
around Diego Rivera’s “Flower saleswoman”, 1952
Collection Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch
One day, a friendly gentleman, around 45 years old, walked into Olaf Lemke’ store, “My name is Heiner Pietzsch. I am putting together a surrealist collection with my wife Ulla. Do you want to frame it?”
You bet Olaf Lemke wanted that job! It was a whole new challenge for him. To frame a collection of surrealist paintings needed a rethink. He had to adopt their mindset and find exceptional frames. For example, for a painting for a film script written by Salvador Dalí, which unfortunately never made it to the silver screen. Painting title: „The Surrealist Mystery of New York in 1935“.
Olaf Lemke says, “Rather than a ‘perfect’ frame, the depiction of the dissolution of the human body needs a frame that reflects the notion of destruction and shows the painting off to the best advantage. Ulla Pietzsch added female surrealists to her husband’s collection, including Dorothea Tanning, Leonor Fini and Frida Kahlo. The couple built a house in Berlin-Grunewald to showcase their collection of paintings and sculptures, including in the garden.
Over 40 years, Olaf Lemke found frames for the entire collection, including paintings by Balthus, Hans Bellmer, Victor Brauner, Salvador Dalí, Paul Delvaux, Max Ernst, Sam Francis, Wifredo Lam, René Magritte, André Masson, Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso, Francis Picabia, Yves Tanguy, and other painters.
On a milestone birthday, Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch invited their Berlin friends to Venice for an exhibition at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. It was a very special exhibition, a juxtaposition of the Guggenheim Collection and the Pietzsch Collection. Originally, Peggy Guggenheim had originally framed her collection in vintage frames, but during the war the paintings and frames had to be separated and re-framed after the war using white uniform frames. The contrast could not have been more stark: over hundred guests, including Lemke, stood in front of a Picasso in a plastic frame from the Guggenheim Collection, next to a Picasso from the Pietzsch collection framed by Lemke. The visitors were amazed; they had never seen such a convincing exhibition. Neither did Olaf Lemke. He saw himself more than vindicated with respect to his ideas and approach to framing.
A short story to finish: Pietzsch invited Lemke to his home for coffee. He had three drawings of American abstract expressionists from the 1940s. He asked Lemke to come up with some ideas as soon as possible. Lemke left, thinking this was a straight-forward job.
Weeks later, he received a call from Pietzsch, asking him about his ideas. Lemke panicked: He could not find the drawings. He searched for weeks on end. But he could not find the drawings! He called Pietzsch to offer to pay for the lost drawings.
Pietzsch, “Oh, you know what, just keep on looking.” No success. Search, search, search.
On Boxing Day, he received another call from Heiner Pietzsch, “Dear Mr Lemke, we moved the sofa to the side, and we found the three drawings lying behind it. They must have fallen behind the sofa during our intensive discussion over coffee. You know what: You have offered to pay for the drawings, and I have not sent a lawyer to breathe down your neck. I think we should be on first name terms. What do you think?”
Lemke swallowed. Relieved, he swallowed a few tears. Finally he could relax.
They have been on first name terms ever since. Once again, it was the beginning of a wonderful friendship.