Robert Rotar, ‘Untitled’, Koller Auctions

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Robert Rotar was one of the most extraordinary artistic figures of the second half of the 20th century.

Born in Berlin in 1926, Rotar drove a tank during the Second World War. After the war he trained as a cabinetmaker, then went on to study painting as well as furniture and interior design in Cologne and Bremen. In 1947/48 he first began to deal with the spiral in his artistic works. His work as interior designer and manager at the newly established furniture design firm Knoll in Stuttgart, and from 1957 in Düsseldorf, brought him into frequent contact with contemporary artists such as Joseph Beuys and James Lee Byars, with architects like Mies van der Rohe, as well as with the leading gallery owners and art dealers of the 1960s. Rotar was by all accounts an introvert, but maintained long relationships with certain of his acquaintances, especially Beuys and Byars. From 1973 on, Rotar decided to devote himself exclusively to his painting and photography. Over the years he distanced himself more and more from the art market, and died unexpectedly in August 1999.

Rotar’s artistic work was dedicated to one single form: the spiral. “I paint spirals in all different forms,” said Rotar. “What fascinates me about them is how they develop through centrifugal force. Just as in the theory of Relativity, I use the phenomenon of time in combination with rotation as a fourth coordinate in space. When I connect two subjective ‘fixed’ points, the spiral tendency becomes visible.” (quote from Robert Rotar in 1969, from: “Rotar often painted in a trancelike, meditative state, entirely concentrated on the spiritual situation. His artistic impulse was not directed by spontaneous gestures, but rather by a spiritual dialogue with the spiral motif. The spiral – which symbolized for Rotar the infinite, the primeval and the eternal – was the theme that enabled him to most effectively address fundamental issues about the cosmos and being.” (ibid.)

Since science and philosophy carried the same weight in his world view, his knowledge covered a broad range of topics. In the realm of science, Rotar studied astrophysics, nuclear physics, molecular biology, and brain and genetic research, and was personally acquainted with the leading scientists in these fields. His philosophical interests included Hermeticism, ancient magic and astrology, alchemy, the Kabbalah and the Tarot, world religions, Neoplatonism, ancient mystery religions and esotericism, runic writing, numerology, and much more.

Image rights: Courtesy of Koller Auktionen

The work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonnée by Ingrid Skiebe and is registered under the number: G 2709.

Private collection Switzerland.

About Robert Rotar

German, 1926-1999, Berlin, Germany