Kiss, kiss.
In memoriam Lady Renate Gruber

December 3, 2022 – March 12, 2023

On Oc­to­ber 30, 2022, pho­tog­ra­phy col­lec­tor Re­nate Gru­ber passed away. The Mu­se­um Lud­wig now bids her farewell with a pre­sen­ta­tion in the Pho­tog­ra­phy Room. Works from the Gru­ber Col­lec­tion and Archive will be on dis­play to­gether with views of her home, which for many was a sort of in­sti­tu­tion in Cologne.

[Walde Huth: Ma­te­rial and Fashion, the ex­hi­bi­tion that was orig­i­nal­ly planned for this sea­son, will be shown at the Mu­se­um Lud­wig from Septem­ber 23, 2023, to Jan­uary 28, 2024.]

The ac­qui­si­tion of 934 works from the col­lec­tion of Leo Fritz and Re­nate Gru­ber in 1977 laid the foun­da­tion for the pho­tog­ra­phy col­lec­tion at the Mu­se­um Lud­wig. Span­n­ing works by Eu­gène At­get to Ed­ward We­s­t­on, the col­lec­tion re­flects what is now rec­og­nized as the canon of twen­ti­eth-cen­tu­ry pho­tog­ra­phy. Over the de­cades, hun­dreds of other pie­ces and archi­val ma­te­rial from their col­lec­tion have been add­ed. A cur­so­ry glance at the Gru­ber Col­lec­tion re­veals that their fo­cus was on im­ages of peo­ple. This is hard­ly sur­pris­ing in light of the cou­ple’s pas­sion for en­ter­tain­ing and their many long-stand­ing friend­ships with pho­to­g­ra­phers on both sides of the At­lan­tic. Their cele­bra­tions of the birth­day of pho­tog­ra­phy were le­g­endary. Ev­ery year on Au­gust 19, the friends of pho­tog­ra­phy met in their sa­lons. Kiss, Kiss in the ex­hi­bi­tion ti­tle al­ludes to the hos­pi­tal­i­ty of their el­e­gant­ly run sa­lon.

The pho­to­graphs that Can­di­da Höfer made in the Gru­bers’ house in Cologne-Brauns­feld in 2000 are de­void of peo­ple. L. Fritz Gru­ber bought the house in 1957, and Re­nate Gru­ber moved in with him in 1959. The pho­to­graphs show rooms that are filled with pic­tures and books, fur­ni­ture, vas­es, a grand piano, a bed, cloth­ing, a bright green car­pet, a sprig of mistle­toe that al­ways hung over the so­fa, and col­or­ful walls. Some of the works on the walls of the Gru­bers’ house are now part of the col­lec­tion of the Mu­se­um Lud­wig, in­clud­ing a paint­ing, a print, and a pho­to­graph by Man Ray in which two pairs of lips touch. Re­nate Gru­ber met the Amer­i­can artist and his wife, Julie, in Paris, when she and her fu­ture hus­band took their first trip to the French cap­i­tal in 1958. The cou­ples re­mained friends for the rest of their lives, as is doc­u­ment­ed in the Man Ray–L. Fritz Gru­ber Archive at the Mu­se­um Lud­wig.

The cou­ple’s life to­gether, their trav­els, and L. Fritz Gru­ber’s work as a col­lec­tor and ex­hi­bi­tion cu­ra­tor at pho­tok­i­na, Cologne’s in­ter­na­tio­n­al trade fair for pho­tog­ra­phy, are in­ex­tri­ca­b­ly in­ter­twined. Re­nate Gru­ber’s mul­ti­lin­guism, el­e­gant ap­pear­ance, and her hu­mor­ous, at­ten­tive con­ver­sa­tio­n­al skills con­tribut­ed fun­da­men­tal­ly to the cul­ti­va­tion of their cir­cle. Fol­low­ing her hus­band’s death in 2005, Re­nate Gru­ber’s at­tach­ment to pho­tog­ra­phy was undi­min­ished. Now she too has passed away. On her last con­tract with the Mu­se­um Lud­wig in 2021, she grace­ful­ly and cheek­i­ly signed her name as “Lady Re­nate Gru­ber.” The archive of the cor­re­spon­dence of pho­to­g­ra­phers that was ac­quired from Re­nate and Betti­na Gru­ber is cur­rent­ly be­ing eval­u­at­ed, pro­vid­ing a vivid ac­count of the his­to­ry of pho­tog­ra­phy.

Cu­ra­tor: Miri­am Szwast