On view from 27.09.2022 until 26.02.2023
Guest curator: Frits Gierstberg, curator of the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam 

Exhibition opening: Sunday, 25 September 3.45pm

From 25 September 2022 to 26 February 2023, the Bonnefanten in Maastricht is presenting the first retrospective ever by the illustrious photographer Werner Mantz (1901, Cologne-1983, Maastricht); 40 years after his death. Mantz is regarded worldwide as one of the most important architectural photographers of the Neues Bauen movement. But this is just part of his multifaceted oeuvre. To date, his work has attracted great attention locally, regionally and internationally, but oddly enough not in the Netherlands, at least not outside Limburg. In The Perfect Eye, the Bonnefanten gives conclusive evidence for why Mantz’s oeuvre also belongs in the canon of Dutch photography. He occupies a unique position in history, due to his visual idiom, use of natural lighting and craftsmanship – Mantz had the perfect eye.

The Perfect Eye

In his work and (working) life, the person and photographer Werner Mantz gives recognition to the commonplace. The compilation of the exhibition The Perfect Eye in the Bonnefanten brings everything together in a retrospective of around 300 (vintage) photos. Three narratives are thus permanently interwoven: his life and autonomous work, his architectural photography and his portrait photography. And at the same time, various historical and art-historical periods in Cologne, Central Limburg and South Limburg are linked together.

Werner Mantz, Canarische Eilanden, 1931. Waarschijnlijk gefotografeerd door Karl Mergenbaum. Collectie Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam
Werner Mantz, Canary Islands, 1931. Possibly photographed by Karl Mergenbaum.
©Werner Mantz/Nederlands Fotomuseum

The missing link and a great source of inspiration 

Mantz has been called the missing link in the evolution of photography in the 1920’s. His work bridged the gap between the artistic avant-garde of his day and a purely artisanal, functional photography practice. It was the period when the historiography of photography really took off. The artistic potential of the medium gained recognition retroactively, and Werner Mantz was ‘rediscovered’ as a photographer. His architectural photos then appeared at one of the most prestigious international art exhibitions: the Documenta of 1977, in Kassel. 

Nowadays, it is clear that the quality of Mantz’s photography is a combination of three characteristics: his craftsmanship, his understanding of the nature of his subjects and his great creative ability to develop a personal and coherent visual idiom within the often tight parameters of a commission. Furthermore, Mantz is a great source of inspiration to photographers today. 

In collections all over the world 

Both during his life and after his death, Mantz’s work has been shown fairly regularly in group and solo exhibitions. His work is represented in the collections of more than 30 museums around the world, spread over four continents, including the Bonnefanten, the Nederlands Fotomuseum (Rotterdam, the Netherlands), Museum Ludwig (Cologne, Germany), the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles, US), The Museum of Modern Art (New York, US), the Canadian Centre for Architecture (Montreal, Canada), the Tate (London, UK), Centre Pompidou (Paris, France) and the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum (Tokyo, Japan). Presentations of his work have been restricted to his German period, or to thematic parts of his extensive oeuvre, and his work has never been exhibited and published cohesively and in its entirety. To date, that is. 

Mantz’s photography is also very popular with collectors, and his work nearly always appears at the international art fair Paris Photo. 

The exhibition has been realised in collaboration with the Nederlands Fotomuseum and the Werner Mantz Foundation. Special thanks go to the lenders Museum Ludwig and Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Cologne. 

Publication Werner Mantz–The Perfect Eye and exclusive photo print 

The exhibition is accompanied by an extensive publication, entitled Werner Mantz-The Perfect Eye, published by Hannibal Books in collaboration with the Werner Mantz Foundation. It includes texts by Frits Gierstberg, Stijn Huijts, Clément Mantz, Charlotte Mantz and Huub Smeets. The book is available in Dutch, German and English versions from the Bonnefanten museum shop and from online bookshops. Price: € 50 (EN-NL) or € 55 (EN-DE) ISBN: 978 94 6436 673 0. 

For the occasion of the exhibition, an exclusive photo print will be available in a limited edition, signed by the Mantz heirs. In combination with the book, the photo print costs € 750 and is available only from the Bonnefanten museum shop, through Hannibal Books and through the Werner Mantz Foundation. It is a unique opportunity for collectors. 

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Note for press: for more information and press images please contact Esther Wagemans via pressoffice@bonnefanten.nl or +31 (0)6 28 63 42 94

Header: Werner Mantz, Portrait of a woman, 1935. ©Werner Mantz/Nederlands Fotomuseum