Rafael Vostell bears the burden of his famous father with dignity. Even more: the son of the great artist Wolf Vostell (1932-1998) has made the best of his fate. "My school was my childhood home," says the 47-year-old art dealer, who grew up with large-format art in his children's room. Art hung everywhere, even in the toilet, and when the family needed money, a work "I had just gotten used to" was suddenly gone, he says.
That's how it came about that Rafael, the younger of the two sons of the German-Spanish couple Wolf Vostell and Mercedes Guardado, today not only manages his father's estate, but has also been dealing in avant-garde art of the 1960s for more than 20 years, by Joseph Beuys, Nam June Paik or Yoko Ono. He closed his galleries in Berlin and Madrid a few years ago, and is now a freelance curator and dealer. Next week, for example, the exhibition "Walking on faces" by Mallorcan Bernardí Roig will open in Berlin, coinciding with the ITB tourism fair. Vostell curated it and arranged it in the exhibition venue Halle am Wasser. The commission from the Balearic government was the first that Vostell received in his new home Mallorca.
He tells it in a quiet tone of voice, in a Palmesan café. Rafael Vostell is a well-groomed, alert man who expresses himself fluently with a slight Berlin accent. At the same time, he looks like a southern Spaniard - an interesting mixture. Vostell's life path now takes him to Mallorca. The island is the most beautiful corner of Spain, Vostell says with a smile, and you have to believe him. After all, he has been commuting between Germany and Spain since he was a child, has family here and there. A finca near Artà has been the new residence of Vostell and his partner, photographer Miriam Peppler, for a few weeks. The two are beaming as they talk about their new phase in life, full of joy as they describe their discoveries and experiences on the island.
They have come to stay. Vostell wants to curate exhibitions, show works from his collection, especially the works of his father. 200 to 300 works by the radical, anti-bourgeois conceptual artist are waiting to be shown in various warehouses in Germany and Spain: Environments, sculptures, installations, many of them bulky, large-scale and uncomfortable, cars cast in concrete, televisions stacked on top of each other, 40 vacuum cleaners lined up, piles of computers. Wolf Vostell has also left behind large canvases with bleeding bulls, collages and assemblages, or such cheeky objects as the "Automatic Telephone Answering Machine." The work: a number on a sheet of paper. The idea: anyone who dialed it between October 1 and 31, 1969, could hear different ideas from Vostell on the phone every day. Preserving all this is a challenge for the heirs.
Fortunately, there is a Vostell hoard. The center of the artist universe is in Malpartida, a nest near Cáceres in Extremadura. There is a museum there, and the widow and David Vostell, Rafael's older brother, live there. The museo was a gift from the mayor, in the mid-70s. Today it is considered one of the first Spanish museums of contemporary art. It houses not only the family archive but also the large Fluxus collection of Gino di Maggio, as well as works by artists such as Antonio Saura and Daniel Spoerri. It is located in a protected landscape area and is housed in a renovated wash and shearing house for sheep that were cared for there twice a year on their migration from southern to northern Spain.
"The place has a great energy," Rafael says. His mother is from Extremadura. She met Vostell in 1958 in the pilgrimage town of Guadalupe. The young artist had traveled there from Cologne to admire Francisco de Zurbarán's portraits of monks. The local teacher, small and dark, and the artist from the Rhine, light and tall, fell in love. "The rest is history," Rafael says with a laugh.
Rafael Vostell now adds a chapter to the family history. The new location Mallorca is not only the most beautiful spot in Spain, but is also far away from Malpartida. Living there would be unimaginable for Vostell junior. The nearest international airport is a three-hour drive away, he says. Perhaps his father is also too present there. There is only one visible reference to him on the island: the bronze sculpture "Nike" at the intersection of Paseo Mallorca and Avinguda Jaume III, which Vostell's gallery owner at the time, Joan Guaita, sold to the town hall after his death. "It is indestructible, only the tree would have to be trimmed once," says Rafael Vostell after the photo session with the MZ. But fortunately, that's not his job.