Otto Herbert Hajek: Germ Cell Erlangen
Otto Herbert Hajek was born June 27, 1927 in Kaltenbach in the Bohemian Forest and as a seventeen year old was enlisted as a soldier for war in 1944. After the war, the family was ousted from their home. Otto Herbert Hajek arrived alone in 1946 via Lauf an der Pegnitz in Erlangen. Until 1947, the then nineteen year old attended the Ohm-Gymnasium. Financially he stayed afloat by carving wood, among others chess figures made from wood. His school works and the carvings he accomplished in an inn in the birthplace of the painter Otto Grau in the Obere Karlstraße 22. There, he occasionally got food “without food stamps”, which he could recall all his life.
The meaning the city of Erlangen had for Otto Herbert Hajek, emphasized Josef Adolf Schmoll, called ‘Eisenwert’, a well-known art scholar from Munich, in his honorific speech, quote, “The city spared from the destruction of war offered with its historic center a picture of a special urban neatness that made a great impression on me as a growing artist. (…) Especially this constructivistic element of his mature art was perhaps unconsciously inspired also through the tactile perception of the chessboard and grid structure of the urbanistic layout of the Franconian Hugenot, recidency, and university town.
In 1947, the artist gravitated away from Erlangen—to Stuttgart, where he attended the art college and stayed there until his death in the year 2005. In 1958, he took part at the Biennale in Venice and 1959 and 1964 he participated at the documenta in Cassel. From 1972 to 1979, he acted as president of the Deutscher Künstlerbund (Association of German Artists). In this position he played an influential cultural-political role: He represented the German art scene at numerous official delegation trips and actively spoke for the East-West and North-South cultural dialog of the Federal Republic of Germany. Further, within the context of the KSZE conferences he advocated for a transnational cultural communication.
In 1987, the Germanisches National Museum in Nuremberg honored Hajek with a great work exhibition—on the occasion of the cession of his written legacy.
At the center of the works of the artist Otto Herbert Hajek is the close relationship between form, color, and space to the human and society. To set art into an intense and constantly changing discourse in relation to its surroundings was his concern. “To make a mark—marks for people” is his plea for a basic right for the people to an aesthetic design of their environment. He understood space mainly as a human context that could be perceived as a moldable environment.
Kunstpalais Erlangen assembles, next to a retrospective overview with pictures and sculptures, which can be seen on the basement floor of Kunstpalais, numerous urban design plans of the artist, also not implemented design plans for public spaces, and asks—coming from Hajek’s idealistic approach—for the contemporary needs concerning the design of public spaces.
For this reason, we dedicated the whole upper floor to the topic of the design of spaces for the exhibition. Chronologically the exhibition begins with the Frankfurter Frühling of 1964, one of the first environmental art in art history. Following that, a non-implemented plan for Hannover and space design for Karlsruhe, Schwelm, and Düsseldorf are shown. Finally, the biggest space of the artist in the Australian Adelaide, which was opened by Queen Elizabeth, and the extensive as well as unique design of the spa Leuze in Stuttgart as a total work of art.
In the final exhibition room shows the artist’s certificate for having passed the Abitur (German university entrance qualification), a letter of his art master, numerous photos from his life, and a film about his impact as an internationally acting artist.