Zentrum Paul Klee Bern Founded by Maurice E. and Martha Müller and the heirs of Paul Klee
Paul Klee, Remembrance sheet E1924, 122, Ölfarbe und Feder auf Grundierung auf Papier auf Karton, 39,5 x 28 cm, private collection, Italy -
Paul Klee, Remembrance sheet E1924, 122, Ölfarbe und Feder auf Grundierung auf Papier auf Karton, 39,5 x 28 cm, private collection, Italy
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Exhibitions 21/10/14—01/02/15

Paul Klee. Special class – not for sale

‘Special class – not for sale’ was a particular category that Klee used  within his own system of classification for his works, to which he actually assigned various price ranges. Paul Klee's own and personal retrospective.

The exhibition brings together over a hundred works from the category "Special class" for the first time in an art-historically in-depth exhibition. Between 1928 and 1933 Paul Klee classified about 300 of his works in colour with the abbreviations "SKl" or "Scl" as a label for special class works. In this way he withdrew them from the art market and distinguished them from the works for sale, which were divided into eight price classes. The selection contains a personal view by the artist of his own work: first looking back at his creation over almost three decades, from 1928 referring selectively to his current artistic production. Klee considered the paintings which he designated as special class to be of particularly high quality or personally significant.   

The Zentrum Paul Klee is in the fortunate position of having a large number of special class works in its collection. The Zentrum Paul Klee’s selection of works is complemented by a series of significant loans from German museums and private collections. A variety of documents and other works from the archives also illuminate exciting connections and backgrounds from Klee’s systems of price and special classes.

In 1925 Klee’s situation in the art market changed with the foundation of the Klee Society and his break with Hans Goltz’s gallery in Munich. This is apparent in the meticulous documentation of his work and also in the strategy of determining the prices of his paintings himself. In parallel with his business contacts with the art dealers Alfred Flechtheim and Rudolf Probst, from 1928 he deliberately categorised certain works as special class and stopped putting them up for sale. Previously he had only designated individual works as "not for sale" or "meant for collection of the estate". One important criterion for the designation special class was exhibitions that were particularly significant for Klee with retrospective reference to the Weimar Bauhaus period. We also come to grip how it was that Klee selectively assessed his current production between 1928 and 1933. For him the special class was a selection of works with a very personal tinge. The special class classification came to an end with Klee’s emigration in December 1933 and the collapse of the art market in Germany. After his return to Switzerland Klee made a series of special class works available for sale once more. For these works he created new, higher price classes from IX to XVIII. 

This is an area under examination in a research project at Zürich University sponsored by the Ernst von Siemens Stiftung, in collaboration with the Zentrum Paul Klee and Leipzig Museum of Visual arts. The results of the project will permeate the exhibition.

As well as other works by Paul Klee, with 100 ‘special class’ works the exhibition will include about a third of the total ‘special class’ holdings. An extensive publication featuring the research results will be published to coincide with the exhibition. After Bern, the exhibition will be shown in a slightly different combination at the Museum of Visual Arts in Leipzig (01/03-25/05/15).

Selected works from the exhibition

Programme from August to October